I have nothing against resorts. They’re often beautiful hotels, set in idyllic locations. They have spas, on-site restaurants, easy-to-choose day excursions for hire and gorgeous architecture.

They’re just not for me.

Many who read this are going to tell me I’m missing out: missing out on resort culture, missing out on places I could go and missing experiences I could have.

I’ll tell you otherwise: I’m skipping the resorts for the real thing. Here’s why Dan and I have never stayed at a resort together, and why we don’t plan to take our kids to one.

We like to experience cultures authentically

A few winters back, we went to the Dominican Republic for both our first times. When we mentioned it to friends, they asked if we were going to “Punta Cana.” We said nope.

We did something not many people do: we went backpacking in the DR. We landed in Puerto Plata, arrived at our one-bedroom Airbnb near downtown, and walked around on our own. Dan even got a haircut at a local barber. We put together this Dominican Republic North Coast travel guide based on everything we did.

This, for us (especially the haircut) is how we travel best. We saw the local sights of Puerto Plata (Pink Street! Umbrella Street! The old fortress!), sat down for breakfasts of eggs and fresh fruit and talked to the owners of local bodegas in Spanish.

You can see visuals of everything we did at our Dominican Republic North Coast photo gallery.

The trip didn’t end there, though! We took a local guagua bus (a minivan crammed full of locals) to Cabarete, where we stayed in a surf hotel with other nomads from Remote Year for a week. Cabarete has resorts of its own, but the beaches were all mostly the same.

And they were beautiful.

Staying at a resort is almost synonymous with “not leaving the resort” because if it’s all-inclusive, it means you’ve already paid for meals and the beautiful spots to sit at, and having your room made up.

What’s less interesting to me, though, is missing out on all the flavors of the local and authentic culture that are worth seeing with your eyes.

(Also, don’t get me wrong: having three wonderful meals a day and sitting at a stunning pool with manicured surroundings and impeccable service sounds incredible. It’s just not something I’m doing in this decade.)

We have too much energy to just sit by a pool or beach

A few times, when Dan and I have been trying to figure out where to take a trip, I exasperatedly say, “OK, why don’t we just go to a resort and relax?”

Dan will look at me like I have nine heads. “Because we don’t stay at resorts,” he’ll say.

“Oh yeah, you’re right,” I confirm.

This happened when we needed a winter escape a few years back. The best flights from NYC to Mexico were to Cancun, and getting my body to an 86-degree tropical location seemed ideal, as I started out the window at frosty and windy Brooklyn.

I’ll let you in on a secret: we did wind up booking the flights to Cancun. But we didn’t stay there. We got off our flight in the Cancun airport and made a beeline for the ADO bus ticket counter, where we purchased one-way “tiquetes” to Merida, Mexico, where we’d be staying in an Airbnb apartment for two weeks.

While I do enjoy a beach day here and there, several days back to back sitting in a lounge chair with a cocktail just isn’t our cup of tea. On top of that, neither Dan nor I are “ocean people” (I do love a good swimming pool, though).

We’d rather be out getting 10,000 steps, taking photos, eating at local restaurants or maybe even getting lost. I’m I’m going to leave my home city and go far, far away, I want to see all the cool landmarks, experience the cultures, tire myself out and come back with unique memories.

We can’t justify the cost of resorts

I don’t often look into just how much resorts cost, but sometimes I do, especially if friends are sourcing recommendations of where to stay in Punta Cana or Playa Mujeres.

You might be surprised (but of course you won’t be) that Dan and I went to Tulum, Mexico, and stayed in a hostel. We describe it in our Tulum travel guide.

We had a really nice time! Given, this was years ago during our backpacking era, and in fact, it was before Tulum’s popularity skyrocketed to the five-star luxury destination it is today.

Our travel budget allows us to take several trips a year, not just one. We’re not the types to throw all our funds into one week-long trip to a resort where we sit at a pool.

Therefore, we try to keep the sunk cost of accommodation to a minimum. In the past, we did this with hostels. Did you know that in Southeast Asia, as well as in Latin America, you can find hostels in tropical places that have their own pools? It’s great!

Now that we changed our style by traveling with a baby, we need more space. Through figuring out how to share a hotel room with a baby, we decided having two bedrooms is a top priority.

This probably means that if we were to stay at a resort, having a two-bedroom suite would be a pretty penny. It’s just not in the cards, with how we want to have continual funds for more trips here and there, and to be able to travel when we want to.

We can’t justify the $800 a night that a two-bedroom hotel room with swim-up pool access and all the fixings of three meals a day would cost. It’s not worth it to us.

We’d rather rival the experience of a resort by booking our own accommodation and being beach-adjacent, with choosing where we go out for food in the “real city” of where we’re traveling. Sure, it’s not as fancy, and it’s certainly not all-inclusive, but it’s our preference.

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