What's the Difference?

Anyone who has been looking for a vacation for any length of time has to have noticed that there is a wide price range. Resorts range from economical to quite expensive. What's the difference? What makes one resort worth more money than one that is less expensive?

Recently, our staff sat down and listed some generalities that define the difference between lower end resorts and those on the higher end.

First of all I want to emphasize that there are resorts for everyone. Not everyone would enjoy a vacation at a high-end resort. Not every trip calls for the most expensive resort. Our good friends are taking their three kids to Mexico for the first time next month. Since they've never been to an all-inclusive resort, the kids are going to be blown away even at a more moderate resort. If Mom and Dad were just going alone to get away for some togetherness, the trip might well call for a higher level of luxury.

Another point I want to make is that these are general differences between high end and economical resorts, not absolute rules. Each resort is unique.

Open air vs. Air Conditioned: The first general difference we observe is that many of the higher end resorts tend to have enclosed, air conditioned lobbies and restaurants. Typically, the less expensive the resort, the less air conditioning you'll find in the public areas.

Reservations vs. No Reservations: Higher end resorts are moving toward not requiring reservations for their Ala Carte restaurants. Most mid-range and lower end resorts still require you to queue up somewhere in the morning in hopes of getting one of the coveted dinner reservations. (Incidentally, it is my opinion that the buffets are usually just as good or better than an Ala Carte restaurant at a lower end resort, so I don't bother with the reservations anyway.)

Limited Specialty Restaurants: Many mid-range and lower end resorts also limit the number of times you can eat in the Ala Carte restaurants during your stay. Again, this doesn't make much of an impact on me since I prefer the buffet.

Wrist Bands: Several of the most deluxe resorts have phased out the use of wristbands.

Towel Cards: Higher end resorts also don't utilize towel cards. In fact, the staff keeps the lounge chairs supplied with fresh towels throughout the day so you don't even have to go anywhere to get a towel. They are ready and waiting for you.

Shower Only vs. Tub and Shower (and perhaps a Jacuzzi!): Many resorts feature just a shower in the bathroom. Many of the deluxe adult only resorts have not only a shower and a tub, but often a two person jetted tub as well.

Premium Liquors: Higher end resorts are more likely to have brands of liquor you will recognize from home. If you can only drink a certain scotch, be sure to let us know so that we can check to see if the resort you're considering carries it.

Beach Beds: In my opinion whoever invented the beach bed should win a Nobel Peace Prize. In recent years resorts have learned how much guests love to spend the day lounging in comfort. Higher end resorts have a multitude of the beds, so that no matter how late you sleep you won't have any trouble finding a bed. More economical resorts, if they have them at all, only have a couple that are taken early in the morning and stay occupied all day.

Spa Services: While basic massage is available at just about any resort, some of the more elaborate spa treatments are only available at higher end resorts. In fact, some of the finest resorts have spas that rival anything you'll find anywhere.

Quality of Food: Some higher end resorts have truly spectacular food. At the mid range and low-end resorts the food quality will be inconsistent. Somehow, however, people tend to weigh more when they get home regardless.

Room Service: Luxury resorts tend to have room service. Lesser resorts either have a limited room service menu or none at all.

Internet Access: This is probably the least consistent feature of all. The very newest luxury resorts are being built with Internet access in the rooms. Most resorts at all levels have at least kiosks in the lobby where you can pay a fee for access. Many resorts are now at least featuring wifi in the lobby. Some very fine resorts have not yet added it however.

Shopping: Higher end resorts tend to have a logo shop, a jewelry store, a shop that sells things like film and sunscreen, along with perhaps another specialty store or two.

Staff to Guest Ratio: The truly memorable resorts have lots of staff to make sure that guests are well taken care of. One of our favorite resorts, for instance, has three full time employees whose job it is to continually groom the beach all day so that it is beautiful for guests.

Keep in mind that these are not absolute rules. For instance, the resort that has the three "beach groomers" is also one where there is no wireless internet to be found anywhere. Another favorite high-end resort has a room type where there is only a shower, no tub. Finding the right resort your for your vacation is a job for a professional. Let us make sure that the resort you pick will most closely match your vision for this particular trip.