Get to know your destination.
Review the many add-on activities and excursions your resort offers beforehand, and plan ahead to make sure you take advantage of those that are most important to you, such as zip-lining through the rain forest canopy in Costa Rica or hiking through Chile's mountainous Tierra del Fuego National Park. To get the most bang for your buck, try pairing a budget-friendly walking tour one day with a higher-end three-course cooking class and sit-down meal the next.
Once onsite, you can also check with the activities desk for local tips, such as inexpensive or free things you can do in the area. Be aware that not every activity is offered daily, and some of your top picks may overlap. Make the most of your time by crafting a preliminary schedule that includes both top picks and alternative options, and then pre-book any must-do activities to help make your holiday worry-free. AAA Complimentary Travel Agents can help craft an itinerary and book your activities in advance for a truly stress-free getaway.
“As far as shore excursions go,” says Tomasino, “We encourage people to get off the ship and experience the beauty of a place. Most [of our island] cruises have three ports-of-call, so it's a sampler of destinations.” Many ships offer complimentary walking tours. Combine these with one or two more in-depth excursions that cater to your particular interests, such as Seattle's “Future of Flight and Boeing Factory Tour,” a popular choice on Alaska-bound cruises.
Use all of your additional credits.
Many all-inclusive resorts and cruises provide additional credits depending on your length of stay, which can then be used for everything from romantic beachside dinners to room upgrades. “They really add up if you take advantage of them,” Powell says.
Some “credits” are actually coupons, meaning buying two bottles of wine may get you a third one free, and properties such as Palace Resorts offer resort credits that are almost like complimentary cash. “For instance,” Sylvester says, “You may get a $500 resort credit and be able to use it on a scuba diving experience for both you and your partner.” Sylvester says these resort promotions vary by date and property (and your number of nights booked), and are provided at check-in as incentives for taking part in activities that would otherwise cost extra.
Bonus: AAA Members receive additional onboard credits on most cruises and additional activity credits on most resort packages in Mexico and the Caribbean when they book with AAA Travel.
Make use of your resort's nearby sister properties.
Along with complimentary shuttle service between the sister resorts, guests are typically able to extend their dining options between them, meaning “you can conceivably stay 10 days and eat at a different restaurant nightly,” says Sylvester.
However, be sure and read the fine print. “There are all inclusive properties out there that do not advertise the fact that they only allow dining at a la carte restaurants a certain number of nights based on your length of stay,” she says, which means that on some days, the crowd-pleasing buffet might be your only option. With AM Resorts, guests have access to the restaurants of sister properties, but not, say, the pools. While at a resort like Sandals, you can enjoy all the amenities of any other sister property in the vicinity. AAA Travel Agents can help you quickly determine what you have access to at a nearby property so you can make the most of your destination.
Take advantage of on-site offerings.
Rather than paying extra for an off-site experience, take advantage of complimentary on-site offerings such as beach volleyball, trivia nights, disco dance parties, and zip lines. Sylvester recommends reading the resort's or cruise's daily newsletter and posted activities so you don’t miss out.