When it comes to saving money on tropical beach vacations, it’s hard to beat the value of all-inclusive resorts. All-inclusive properties bundle your lodging, entertainment and food and drink (including alcohol) for one nightly rate, making it easy to budget for your whole vacation upfront. And, since most all-inclusive resorts are located in the Caribbean, they make it easy to save on family fun.
All-inclusive resorts can help you relax and enjoy the beach without feeling nickel-and-dimed. They’re also amazing when you have kids. We have taken our two girls (ages 6 and 8) to properties like this throughout the Caribbean, and we love enjoying the sand and surf without worrying over food prices or whether to splurge on ice cream after dinner. When everything is included, it’s a lot easier to enjoy each other’s company and forget about life — and money — for a while.
The past few years, we have gotten into the habit of paying for some of our all-inclusive stays with credit card rewards. With travel rewards, we’re often able to travel further from home, try new places and stay longer wherever we go. This year’s spring break trip is a perfect example of how we make this work.
Here’s how we covered our trip to Jamaica with rewards this year.
Free Night Certificates
Last year, both my husband and I signed up for the Hyatt Credit Card when it was offering two free nights at any Hyatt property worldwide as a signup bonus (after spending $2,000 in the first three months). With four free nights available across our two accounts, we chose to cash in three free night certificates for a standard room at the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall all-inclusive resort.
Since two kids ages 12 and under can stay free with paid adults when you cash in free night certificates, we’ll get to stay three nights at this hotel for free.
A Combination of Free Nights and Points
Three nights isn’t nearly enough time in Jamaica, so we needed to plan more nights at another resort. We chose the Holiday Inn Jamaica Resort located in Montego Bay — one of the many cheap travel destinations that offer all-inclusive stays.
Since we both have the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card, we each get a free annual night at any IHG property worldwide. We cashed in our two free nights to cover half of our four-night stay, then paid a combination of points and cash to cover our other two nights.
A recent devaluation means this hotel now costs 50,000 IHG Rewards points per night, but it was only 35,000 points per night when we booked. To make our points stretch further, I opted to use the IHG Rewards “points and cash” feature, which let us pay 25,000 IHG points plus $99 per night.
As a result, this four-night stretch of our vacation set us back two free night certificates, 50,000 IHG Rewards points and $198. Kids ages 12 and under stay free with adults at this property as well, so this worked to our advantage.
Airline Miles: Using Points
Southwest Airlines is considered one of the most family-friendly airlines for a reason. Not only do they let you check two bags for free, but they let families with small children aged 6 and under board and select seats in between the A and B boarding groups. They also offer one of the easiest-to-use rewards programs among all airlines, Southwest Rapid Rewards. With Southwest Rapid Rewards, the price of award seats is based on the price of airfare and they don’t limit the amount of award space on specific flights.
I used to have a co-branded Southwest credit card, but I no longer carry it. As a result, I rely on my Chase Sapphire Reserve card to rack up points that can be transferred to Southwest. In case you’re unaware, the Chase Ultimate Rewards program lets you transfer points to popular airline and hotel loyalty programs, including Southwest Rapid Rewards, at a 1:1 ratio.
Ultimately, I transferred approximately 83,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest to pay for our four round-trip flights from Indianapolis to Montego Bay, Jamaica. In addition, I had to pay around $400 ($100 per person) in government-mandated taxes and fees.
Total cost for our four round-trip flights: $400
In addition to the $598 we’ve spent in cash on hotels and flight taxes and fees, there are other expenses we have to pay for this trip. The first one is airport parking, which will set us back $9 per day, or around $72 for the week. We’ll also bring $300 to $400 in cash for tips so we can tip housekeepers, drivers, restaurant servers, bartenders and anyone else who helps us during our vacation.
Last but not least, I am paying around $120 for transportation to and from the MBJ airport and between the two resorts.
With spring break almost here, I am pumped to spend another week in the beautiful country of Jamaica with my family at an insanely low cost of cost $1,200! Of course, this is only possible because we planned ahead, booked early and used credit card rewards strategically. Obviously, we are also debt-free and dedicated to staying that way. So, while we used travel rewards to our advantage, we used credit only for purchases we planned to make anyway and paid our balances in full every month.
If you’re angling for a cheap all-inclusive getaway of your own, there’s no reason you can’t craft a similar itinerary. By researching travel rewards programs, signing up for the right cards and using credit wisely, you could have a trip booked with rewards in less time than you think.
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