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  • Writer's pictureJoel Shapiro

Create a 5 Star Vacation at your favorite VRBO

I recently read an article about the 15 Best All-Inclusive Resorts.  Of course, they all look wonderful with their beautiful pools, beautiful beaches, and comfortable lounge chairs with umbrellas.  Other articles I’ve read mention the advantage of all-inclusive vacations is that you don’t have to worry about paying for each meal or tipping service staff.  The disadvantage is that you pay a high per-day rate whether you use the available amenities or not. 

What if instead, you have all the benefits of an all-inclusive vacation while staying at your favorite vacation rental unit? This article is going to help you plan all the “extras”!

Typical amenities offered at All-Inclusive Resorts:

  1. All Day Dining

  2. Unlimited WiFi

  3. Open Bar

  4. Pools and Beach access

  5. Movies (in room and on outdoor screens)

  6. Games (board games, tennis, corn hole, ping pong)

  7. Fitness Center, Spa, Yoga Studio

  8. Water Toys (Floats, Noodles, Kayaks & Boards)

  9. Nighttime entertainment (Music, Tastings, Beach Picnic)

Many of the condos and beach homes on Navarre Beach and Pensacola Beach offer most of these!

I’ve seen ping pong and pool tables in the garage/ground floor area of homes. There are bikes, boards, floats, and yard games like corn hole available for guests to enjoy. If the unit you have rented does not offer these items, you can often rent and have them delivered to you.

Most all units offer upgraded WiFi allowing you to use the various streaming apps to watch just about any movie at any time.

Condos often have Exercise Rooms available for residents and guests.

Searches on VRBO and AirBnB can help you find homes with these extras included. 

The biggest disadvantage between an All-Inclusive and a Vacation Rental is that you will have to drive for services like yoga classes, spa or salon treatments, as well as dining and nighttime entertainment. Be sure to have a Designated Driver if you are going to be drinking or if staying on Pensacola Beach, use the Pensacola Beach Trolly.

Tips on each Amenity:

All Day Dining: In an All-Inclusive you have several restaurant options for dinner, and typically a poolside grill for snacks, and light meals. To create a similar experience at your Vacation Rental pre-plan meals with lots of variety. For example, Fresh Shrimp can be made NOLA style or served on a Pineapple Half for a Tropical feast. Check out menu ideas on Meal Planning.

Check out local restaurant options for items you don’t want to cook at your unit and to get a taste of the “local fare”.

Order grocery items like pre-cut veggies and fruit to reduce prep time.

To replace the Pool Side Grill—the menu is typically limited and easily duplicated with items from the grocery store.

  1. Chips and dip: (Potato Chips with Ranch or Onion Drip or Corn Chips with Queso, Salsa, and Guacamole).   

  2. Frozen pizzas, Egg Rolls, Sushi Rolls

  3. Sandwich Items (lunch meats/cheeses/assorted bread)

  4. Other Frozen items—Pretzels, Bagel Bites or Pizza Rolls, Breakfast Items

  5. Sweet Treats—Assorted Ice Cream flavors and Novelties, Cookies-fresh baked or favorite packaged cookies, and Candy (Chocolate, Sour Candies, Old Time favorites)

  6. Paper Items:  Most Pool Side Grills serve everything on disposable plates—you can too!

Unlimited WiFi:

During COVID many of the units upgraded their WiFi to accommodate multiple devices. Check the listing to see if WiFi is mentioned or send a message to confirm if you are concerned about speeds.

Open Bar:

Stock your favorite beverages and purchase extra lemons, limes, and cucumber to make “fancy spa water” to refresh you.  Spend a little extra for a better bottle of wine to enjoy with Pasta Night or make a Top Shelf Margarita to enjoy with Taco Night.  Be sure to have plenty of non-alcoholic drinks available as well. For easy Tropical Themed drinks, check out this list of Drink Ideas

At an All-Inclusive your poolside drinks are served in clear plastic glasses with a paper umbrella and straw. Create the same experience by purchasing colorful and fun disposable straws and drinkware. Dollar Stores carry multiple packs of napkins, straws, and seasonal items at low prices.

Pools and Beach Access:

Almost all condos and many of the larger homes have pools and hot tubs for you to enjoy. Condo guests, be sure to wear the wristbands required to let security know you belong there.

Local chair services are also available in front of most condo units, and you can call to reserve chairs, tables, canopies, and umbrellas from local services.

Pack and carry a cooler to the beach with both snacks and drinks.

Be sure to get extra sunscreen and after-sun care lotion as well. Rule of Thumb—the amount of sunscreen to apply is equal to a full shot glass—lather up folks!


Most TV screens in the living rooms of these Vacation Rental Units are LARGE!  You’ll be able to enjoy family favorites in the evenings.  And local restaurants offer movies on the beach during the summer.    Check out Lagunas in Pensacola for movies and sporting events with their largest screen on the island.   


Board and Card’s games are often available for you to enjoy at your unit.  Many of the beachside restaurants offer games like Jenga and Corn Hole. Or maybe, Frisbees and Nerf Balls are all you need. 

Fitness Center, Yoga Studios, and Spas:

Exercise Rooms or Fitness Centers are available in many of the Condos—check accessibility before booking your unit. Local YMCA facilities and gyms also offer day or week passes.

Navarre Beach Yoga and Elementree Yoga in Navarre offer a variety of classes and times each week as well as Yoga on the Beach. Check websites for schedules.

Spas: Depending on the spa services you are looking for; a list of local spas is available on VisitPensacola. Unfortunately, there are limited options in Navarre.

Water Toys:

Floats, Noodles, and various boards can be found at almost all grocery stores and souvenir shops. Kayaks and Paddle Boards can be rented. Again, many of the services will bring these to you and pick them up when you are done. Check out a recent Blog Article for more details on water toys: Back in The Water

Nighttime Entertainment:

Live Music is available at many of the local restaurants nightly. And some offer the always entertaining Karaoke night.

Pensacola Beach is the home of Bands on the Beach (April – October) every Tuesday night.   Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce co-hosts Tunes on the Dunes Thursday nights. The concerts are free.  Bring your own chair and refreshments. 

Sunset Beach Picnics, Local Craft Beer, and Wine Tastings in your Vacation Home are available through Grocery-Concierge/Offerings. Check out our availability calendar to schedule one today.

A few last random recommendations:

Order a small flower arrangement or candle to enjoy during your stay.

Purchase some special travel-size cosmetics or toiletries to place in the bathrooms.

Pack or download a “beach read”.

Enjoy both Sunrises and Sunsets and take a nap if you want (in the bed or by the pool).

With a little planning, your Beach Vacation can be a 5 Star experience without the All-Inclusive daily rate!

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