Tips for staying at an All-Inclusive (Diabetes and Otherwise)

After getting back from our All-Inclusive in Jamaica, I realize there are some things I wish I knew or planned better. So let me share my newly found wisdom with you.

Book early for discounts

When deciding on a place, read reviews online, like Tripadvisor (they have lots of pictures), to get an idea of where you want to go. Some resorts are family friendly, others are adult only. Some are more for couples while others aren’t. Some have more of a party vibe while others are pretty laid back. There’s something out there for everyone, and you’ll find the answers in the reviews. I usually go to Tripadvisor reviews and then search key words like what you’re looking for like “drinks” “food” “activities” “paddle boarding,” etc. For getting a good price, if you can plan early, do that! Costco travel has a lot of great deals, and hotel booking websites like Agoda.

Don’t skimp on sunscreen

Compared to where I have lived and traveled to in the US, the sun in the Caribbean is much more harsh. We actually got a burn on our first day from the glare of the pool decking. 😱 Like, are you kidding me? We took a redeye flight so hung out by the pool in our swimsuits while waiting for our room to be ready, but didn’t do sunscreen because we were going to be 100% in the shade. And we were. Still got burnt. So pack lots of sunscreen because is pricy if you have to buy more at the resort.

Burt’s Bees Aloe & Coconut Oil After Sun Soother

Always bring some after sun treatment as well, because you never plan for a sunburn when it happens. I’d recommend this Burt’s Bees after sun lotion. If I could give my stamp of approval to only a handfull of things, this would be one of them. It’s light and cooling and not gross like Aloe vera, and it smells SO good. I’d also recommend chapstic with an SPF. I’m basically addicted to aquaphore, but my lips were pretty crispy after a few days since it doesn’t have an SPF.

Diabetes regimen options

How you manage your diabetes is a matter of personal preference. I have found when I go to the beach, I do best with MDI (multiple daily injections) or tubeless pump (or pump at night/inject at the beach). I think going tubeless at the beach is the easiest way, whatever that means for you. If you have the option to use a tubeless pump (Omnipod) I’d go for that, otherwise I would do MDI. Even if I’m normally on a pump, I’d switch to long acting/injections for the vacay. You can definately use a tubed pump, just make sure you keep it safe, out of the sun and not in a place it can overheat, and be aware that you won’t be getting your basal insulin for the time it’s off. For me personally, I find it’s just so much easier to have a single pen/vial of insulin on the beach versus your tubed pump that you have to take off when you go in the water.

To keep your insulin cool, I’d recommend a Frio case. The Frio case would also make my short list of things I give my stamp of approval. I actually use these guys every time I travel because they are designed specifically for insulin, using evaporative cooling to keep your insulin cool. All you need to activate the cooling beads is water. Perfect for the beach, hiking, or even just travel when your insulin will be out of the fridge for an extended period of time. (It’s also nice to not rely on having a fridge where you’re staying, or if you do have a fridge worrying if it gets too cold and freezes the insulin. I’ve seen it before).

Get your devices to stick

Bring lots of Skin-tac liquid adhesive, and extra tape/patches to keep your devices on. Give your devices extra time to let the adhesive stick. I find that if I put a site on when my skin is clean, and I don’t face any water or humidity for at least 24 hours, + skin-tac, + an adhesive tape, my devices are almost impenetrable. Unfortunately I had poor planning, so I had a dexcom fall off after 2 days. 😭 Learn from my mistakes.

Pineapple tape from ExpressionMedTape

Sugary drink alternatives

One of the best parts of the all-inclusive is the endless drinks. Don’t get me wrong, you know I love a good Pina colada, but they can be harsh on the blood sugar and just a lot after a day or two. For lower sugar alternatives, try a vodka soda with splash of flavor (like cranberry or pineapple juice), or order a mojito less sweet.

Top shelf alcohol available

Most of these resorts have top shelf alcohol available, you just have to request it when you order your drink (I’d recommend looking into this during your resort review research if top shelf alcohol is your thing). The Secrets Wild Orchid we stayed at this trip had options like Grey Goose, Patron and Chambord. All you have to do is ask!

Keep moving

It’s so easy to just lounge all day, but with lots of food and drinks at an all inclusive, you’ll feel a lot better if you have some movement in your day. Starting your day with movement will help the blood shugies. The resorts have awesome gyms if that’s your thing, or take part in on of the resort activities like paddle boarding, snorkling, yoga class or whatever they offer.

Stay safe with water sports

Speaking of paddleboarding, make sure you stay safe and prepared. Here’s a pic of my waterproof box full of my diabetes things: low snacks, glucagon, insulin pen in the Frio case, then I use my phone in a waterproof case to read my blood sugars from my dexcom.

Sip water with every drink

Hydration is important.

Try not to overindulge in the food

At least sometimes. Having an overly full stomach tends to lead to spikes in blood sugar later on, at least from my experience.

Get on board with the prebolus game. Every time we went out to eat, I just gave a 45 carb prebolus on our way to the restaurant to get things going in the right direction.

Some good things to bring

Bring a raft/floating drink holders. I wish we’d thought to bring our cute floating drink holders from home, luckily some new friends we made gifted some to us, after they’d been gifted to them. We passed them along to the next generation of vacationers as we were leaving.

“Homer” and “Stevie”

I also wish we had thought to bring a reusable straw and insulated tumbler. The resort we were at used paper straws, which basically disintigrated in 5 minutes. Having a resuable straw is eco-friendly and would have been so nice. There were a lot of professional all-inclusivers there with their own tumblers and it was genius! Your drink never gets warm, so many less dishes and wasted straws from a sustainability standpoint.

Bring cash to tip

While it depends on your resort, tipping is not always necessary at all-inclusives but is definitely appreciated. If you have excellent service, or you’re hanging out with one bartender all afternoon a $5 or $10 (or $20 depending on the wildness of your drink orders) goes a long way with making the staff feel appreciated.

Go outside of the resort

One downside to resort travel is that you don’t get to see the true country or get a real feel for the culture of the place. In my option, resort travel is very Westernized, so if you want a more authentic travel experience you’ll have to go outside of the hotel. Go into the city, try some local spots, do some excursions to learn about the history. Unfortunately we weren’t able to this trip with the limitations from COVID. But after all of our times traveling, I will say the best experiences are when we get off of the beaten path. (In general, I’d recommend With Locals, Get Your Guide and Atlas Obscura for unique, authentic travel activities.)

That’s my experience with all-inclusives. Hope you get the opportunity to go sit on a beach and drink Pina coladas all day too! Drop a comment if you have any other tips I didn’t think of.


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