For the longest time I’ve wanted to stay at an all-inclusive resort. We almost did visit one in St.Lucia in 2010, but then I got pregnant and we decided to cancel since medical facilities on that island are mediocre. Ever since then, I have been trying to convince my husband to go, but he is a die-hard cruise fan. All of these are first world problems, of course.
Anyway, after learning about Holiday Inn Sunspree All-Inclusive Resort in Jamaica, I had my heart set on it. We have a lot of IHG points, and 35,000 points per night is quite a bargain during high season, considering the fact that 2 kids under 12 can stay and eat free when sharing their parents’ room. If your child is over 12, you get charged an extra $75, and some rooms can fit 5 total.
Jamaica is a beautiful, mountainous country with very friendly people. It feels exotic, almost like visiting Africa, though in a similar fashion, contains many displays of poverty.
Since Southwest recently started to fly non-stop from Orlando (1.5 hours away from our home) to Montego Bay, where the resort is located, I wanted to go there during my daughter’s spring break in March of 2015. Convincing my husband was another story. He wanted to stay in a local beachfront Holiday Inn, and would not even consider Caribbean.
Well, a few days ago I was talking to him about our next year vacation plans, and casually mentioned what a good deal that all-inclusive in Jamaica is points-wise. To my shock and disbelief, he said we can go there if I wanted to. What? Why not agree to it to begin with? It probably had something to do with that new iPad he just got. Sometimes quid pro quo in marriage can be a beautiful thing!
Even though it was 10 PM, I wanted to “seal the deal” before he could change his mind. We could only go during specific week because that’s when my daughter will be out of school. I expected to see somewhat high prices, but to my delight, this is what came up.
Yes, 4,900 Rapid Rewards (plus tax) one way! And here is the return flight below.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Less than 40,000 points for 4 non-stop roundtrip tickets from Florida to Jamaica is quite a bargain. BTW here is what revenue roundtrip flight would cost per person. If you deduct taxes, you are getting almost 1.8 cents per point in value.
Avios award alternative
The only cheaper option to get to Jamaica is American Airlines’ Miami-Montego Bay route, bookable with Avios (British Airways program). It costs only 4,500 miles each way. In fact, I searched it out of curiosity and 4 seats were available for the dates I needed. A side note: First annual fee on Chase British Airways Visa Signature card is currently waived for a limited time, normally $95. The offer pays me commission and you can read more on it in my list of bonuses.
Below you will see what it costs for 4 people to fly roundtrip from Miami to Montego Bay on AA flights, booked through Avios program. By comparison, if you redeem through AAdvantage, you will pay 35,000 miles for just 1 roundtrip economy ticket on the same exact flight in March. You can read more on best Avios bargains for family in this post.
However, Miami is 3.5 hours away from us, much longer drive compared to Orlando. On top of it, with Southwest you get to bring 2 bags per person free of charge, and are allowed to redeposit your points into your account penalty-free. Rapid Rewards really is an amazing program for family.
Southwest also flies non-stop to Montego Bay from Atlanta, Baltimore and Chicago. I checked rates for March and quite a few dates came at 20,000 points roundtrip plus tax. That’s not bad at all, considering it’s high season. I did it a few days ago, so prices may have changed since then. You can check your specific city at Southwest.com and see what comes up. I suggest you don’t delay, because these prices can only go up, especially for Baltimore and Chicago.
So, the flights were quite affordable, and now I just needed to find availability for resort during that specific time frame. Thankfully, it was there. In fact, for 35,000 points you could get an oceanfront suite with a living room, that was going for $469 per night. Wow! That’s the room I reserved.
Aside from PointBreaks hotels, this resort just might be the best bargain of IHG program when it comes to family travel. And unlike Bora Bora, Jamaica is only 2 hours away from Florida and is reachable via Southwest. Going during holidays or high season gives you the best bang for your buck.
I got everything booked, and we are all set. So to recap, if we were to pay for this vacation out-of-pocket, the flights would add up to $285.63 X 4= $1142.52 total. The resort would cost $469 X 3= $1,407. Grand total comes up to $2,549.52 for 3 nights for a family of four. Instead, our out-of-pocket cost is $440 in government taxes.
To be clear, this is not “an almost free” vacation per se, because there is a significant opportunity cost involved. My IHG points came from various promotions that did cost me real money, probably around $250 for 94.500 points (after 10% rebate) I’ll end up using for that resort. Additionally, I could have redeemed my 40,000 Rapid Rewards for $400 Amazon gift card. So, you can say that total is really $440+ $250+ $380 (value of Amazon gift card bought at 5% off)=$1,070
Still, $1,070 is way more palatable than $2,550, and for us meant the difference between going and not going. So I’m quite OK with calling it a deeply-discounted vacation. And being in a resort with kids’ program and food included, really is a vacation for a mother. It may not be travel in a true sense of the word, but it should be fun nonetheless.
Credit cards to help you get the points to pay for this vacation
First, by the time you complete the minimum spending, the rooms may not be available on points. Still this is an excellent time to apply for Chase IHG MasterCard. Here is a non-affiliate offer that according to many reports, comes with 80,000 points after spending $1,000 in 3 months. If both spouses get one, you will have enough for 4 nights at this resort with some points leftover.
There is a non-affiliate offer for Chase Rapid Rewards Visa, but you most likely won’t get approved for 2 personal cards from Chase at one time. You can try this link for business version that comes with 50,000 points, but it doesn’t have a landing page. Apply at your own risk. I saw some reports on Flyertalk that you can call Chase and request this offer over the phone, no guarantees.
Readers, who else is going to this resort next winter? If you’ve been there, please, offer some tips.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.