Whether it’s the dead of winter – that time of year when those in colder climates often flock to warm-weather destinations to escape the frigid temperatures – or your annual summer vacation, resorts in tropical locations entice the traveling public with some downright bargain vacation packages, many too good to pass up.
But what if you’re not really a resort person? What if you are more of an independent traveler who abhors the thought of being cooped up in the same spot with throngs of other people and nothing to do but stare at the water?
Here are some ways you can still take advantage of the travel deals while surviving a resort atmosphere.
1. Select the right location.
The key to your success requires doing some homework and a fair amount of research to pick the right resort.
The ideal spot would not only be close to the airport, but would allow you the freedom to leave the property safely.
Find one that offers a good mix of activities that interest you on site as well as nearby. If the resort sits out in the middle of no-man’s-land while the nearest populated area is 45 minutes away, chances are you’ll feel more like a prisoner, than a traveler.
Keep in mind that choosing a west-facing location will afford you spectacular sunsets.
2. Avoid all-inclusive.
Nothing makes you feel stifled more than eating at the same place, looking at the same menu, the same food, day after day. Sounds more like home than a vacation.
Going with an all-inclusive package may be tempting, especially if you’re a budget traveler who appreciates quantity over quality. But often you’ll be bored stiff with your options after the second day, mainly because some resorts only provide one restaurant.
Instead, seek out some interesting spots to eat close by. Many islands boast both a wide variety of upscale gourmet restaurants and tiny ramshackle joints that offer the opportunity to sample local ingredients in recipes indigenous to the region.
3. Mingle with the locals.
The majority of independent travelers long to learn about the places they visit. They seek out opportunities to absorb the local culture, history and flavor of their destinations. An island resort shouldn’t cramp that style.
Chat up some of the locals working at the resort as well as those you come into contact with off-site. Ask them where they go, and what they like to do.
Most will jump at the chance to share stories and enlighten you on everything from island folklore to nightlife hotspots – or, sometimes more importantly, they’ll tell you what to avoid.
4. Get out and explore.
Most islands are breathtakingly beautiful. And while many resorts take up prime real estate on the best locations money can buy, there are still private, undiscovered treasures just begging to be uncovered.
If you can afford it, rent a car – even if just for a day – to drive around aimlessly and discover your own little slice of paradise.
Can’t afford a car? Check with the resort. Some may have easy access to affordable public transportation like a local bus or van service. Though you may not have the same freedom as with your own wheels, it still might accomplish the goal of getting you out and about.
5. Be adventurous.
Many resorts have an abundance of activities available to entertain you during your stay. Whether your vice is snorkeling, parasailing or a relaxing sunset cruise, there is almost always something for everyone.
You should partake, but don’t limit yourself to just the fun activities on the property. Branch out and explore more exciting and adventurous options all over the island.
Why not make this the time to engage in a once-in-a-lifetime experience? Swim with stingrays, get up-close-and-personal with dolphins, go horseback riding on the beach, take a bio-bay tour, climb a waterfall, have a scuba diving lesson.
The possibilities are endless.
6. Be flexible with your chill-time.
Everyone wants and needs to relax. After all, it is a vacation. Getting the most out of your down time requires a little flexibility on your part.
Get the lay of the land when you first arrive at the resort. Find out when the beach or pool areas are the most crowded and plan your time accordingly.
While everyone else is eating lunch, maybe you can grab a book and park it in an empty lounge chair.
When the crowds are getting to you, make that the time for a leisurely stroll on the white sand through the warm, foamy, surf.
Lounge chairs all taken? Head for the spa or sneak into that yoga class on the beach.
photo credits: picture for “mingling with the locals” by Chrissy Olson; all others by Robin Locker and may not be used without permission