I'm travelling to Mexico in December and was wondering about a few things. I've read that the staff at all-inclusives will treat you well, but will spoil you if you spoil them. I was told that they enjoy presents of chocolate, gum and magazines. Is this true or out-dated? What kinds and how to you present them without seeming cheap? Or should I just tip them nicely? Although tipping is a problem for me. I never know how to do it smoothly. Any tips? Our resort has a disco and I was wondering what the legal drinking age is. I'm 18 yet I heard it was 21. I'm really excited for this trip and want to get the most out it. We're staying in Playa del Carmen and any hints and suggestions of where to go and what to say is really appreciated.
Chocolates, gum and magazines? Where did you hear that... someone was pulling your leg. Off course any present is welcome but if you really want to be well treated just give fair tips for a fair service and nice tips if you want more or you are a demanding person that expects an excellent service. A fine tip is around 10% to 15% of the cost of the service, in all inclusive resorts perhaps someone at the resort admninistration can tell you how much is the expected tip for every service, don't be afraid to ask.
By the way... you can't spoil the staff, if you are a civilized person that behaves acording to the moment, you are in vacations so some (or a lot of) joy is expected in your behavior. The staff must treat you well and you have the right to report any problem with that, they expects tips tough.
You are 18... you are free to get drunk in this country... just don't drive anything with an engine... that can get you in a lot of trouble. Just behave and let common sense guide you.
What do you like to do? Where are you from?... I hate putting tags on people but If I know what you prefer then I can give a wiser advise. You like Discos, nightime fun, etc., perhaps CanCun is better for you, it has a lot more life than Playa del Carmen, which is a place much more for the european travelling style, a place to relax and enjoy the beach. Visit Xcaret and Xel-Ha, both are parks for tourists with a lot of attractions, you are going to receive a lot of information about them when you arrive.
Have a nice trip.
Marianojf had some great points of info and travel advice for you. Playa del Carmen (known locally as simply "playa"). I spend about 10 months of the year in this area working in eco-adventure turism.
As Marianojf said, there is loads more to do in this area. The all inclusive hotels are great since they provide many of the comforts westerners are used to at home but they would prefer that you stay within arms reach since the more time you spend outside the resort area the less $ will end up in their pockets... They'll have loads of optional activities that'll sold to you regularily. They don't make much money (if any) on the hotel accomodations. It is for this reason that these all-inclusive packages can be sold for so little. They make their $ by selling the optionals for obscene profits.
Get outside the resort and wander. the buses in that part of mexico are great, for the most part they are clean and inexpensive. Along most parts of the highway there are local "combis" (small vans) that'll stop whereever someone needs a ride. They're great to get around with too.
Xel-ha, tulum and Xcaret are great places however, as the huge commercial turists have overflown cancun's borders and spilled into Playa del Carmen and the Mayan riviera changing their orginal laidback-ness, so have these, once pristine and unique locations, become spolied by loud, rude and culturally insensitive turists. They are now somewhat overpriced and filled with pushy vendors.
If you want to truly get out and see some unique and memorable places, go to Dos Ojos and do some jungles snorkling or go south to Coba or even further south to the Rio Bec archeological sites.
The two leaders in this area are www.liahonaquest.com and www.travelyucatan.com. You can get a load of info from them
As for tipping, Mirianojf is right on. Chocolates and stuff will not be as appreciated as cash. Another way the big hotelscan sell their "all-inclusives" for so little is due to the fact that they pay their employees next to nothing in salary, hugely reducing overhead costs. The rest is made up for in tips. Some of the employees make good money in the end but that is entirely dependant on tips.
On what to bring... Bring next to nothing. Everything you could need can be bought there. If you're not carefull you'll pay a lot for it but if you know where to go you can get great prices on nearly anything you could want. For more info on what to bring see www.onebag.com
I hope I have been of some help.
I'm sure you will have a great time on your trip.