While it’s true that the cheapest prices on resorts tend to be the larger places, there are some compelling reasons to pay a bit more for a smaller resort instead. Especially in the Caribbean, where all-inclusive resorts are becoming more and more popular, it’s hard to find a really good price on a resort with under about 400 rooms.
In places like Cancun or on the Dominican Republic, the larger resorts have a competitive advantage because it’s more efficient to make meals for 1,000 people compared to the same meals for only 100 people. You usually get newer facilities in the larger places as well, but there’s more to a vacation than a new building.
Advantages of smaller resorts
Getting an upgrade might be easier
When you check into a resort with 500 rooms, there will be a long line of people doing the same thing at the same time. You might get lucky in that they’ve oversold the cheaper rooms, but usually they just put you in the room you paid for and that’s the end of it.
In smaller resorts, say those with 50 or fewer rooms, they will probably known your name even before you tell them the first time. If they only have 5 rooms checking in that day, and 3 are already in, they can usually figure out who you are as you are walking in the door. There is something really nice about this, and it usually carries on for your whole stay.
The best part is that if you are nice to them and ask if there might be any better rooms coming available during your stay, there’s quite a good chance that they’ll say they can upgrade you for free in a day or two, if not right away. These smaller resorts almost never get a surprising number of last minute guests, so if an ocean view room looks like it’ll be empty for a few days, they’ll often just put you in it.
Personalized service in other ways
I’ve stayed at scores of huge hotels and as much as I like them, you’ll be lucky if you ever even see the same waiter twice in a week, much less be recognized by them. But at boutique resorts they almost always make a point of remembering each guest by name.
Having someone know your name is nice, but it’s really the little details that make it even better. For example, if you like a certain item on the menu, they might find you the best portion of it in the following days. Or they will reserve a table for you at a crowded restaurant that normally has a waiting list. Or they’ll offer to arrange a custom tour of the local area for a very reasonable cost.
It’s not that employees in small resorts are nicer than ones who work in large hotels, it’s just that we all make more of a connection when we see the same small group over and over again. I’ve had the owners of small resorts drive me to the airport in their own car upon departure because they aren’t busy and we’ve become friends. It’ll usually cost a bit more, but it can be a better experience in the end.