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.
Wonderful trip! Great use of points and love the non-stop. We did Jamaica a few years ago (an all-inclusive) and really enjoyed it.
BTW, I know some people get caught up with opportunity cost, but don’t let that throw your value on this. You are right – the cost out of pocket is the one you want to look at since neither you or I are in this to get gift cards from our points :). If we were, we obviously would not be going to cool places like Jamaica. Enjoy the trip!
Charlie, thanks so much for your comment! It’s funny you mentioned the whole opportunity cost. I almost didn’t include that part, because you are right, it’s overthinking it a bit. 😉 I’m somewhat OCD (mild case for now), so tend to fixate on hidden costs.
I do think it’s important to at least be aware of other ways we can use miles and points, since my target audience is a regular family on a tight budget. This hobby allows normal folks do cool travel stuff and not feel guilty about it. I certainly have no regrets about using my Rapid Rewards points to get such an amazing deal in peak season.
Thanks for your comment and good advice!
This is the exact trip we’re going on March 31-April 6th. It is my daughter’s Spring Break! Our flights were a few more points since we’re coming from Indiana, but it is still a steal!
Holly, you are the one who has inspired me to burn my precious Rapid Rewards points! 🙂 Looks like our stays won’t overlap, would have been neat to meet you in person. Maybe next time! I’m really excited, it will be interesting to compare notes/posts on this resort. It is a good deal, no question about it.
what travel portal do you use when you want to “pay” with Rapid Reward points?
@Hilde You go to http://www.Southwest.com, log in to your account (assuming you have Rapid Rewards points stash) and do a search for it, just like you would with a regular Southwest flight. Except, you select “points” option to see the price. Check my screenshot that is second from the top. There is a choice of using dollars or points. You can also call Southwest and do it over the phone, but it’s easier online IMO
@Hilde I hope I understood your question correctly. I’m not aware of any portal that will give you cash back for Southwest award flights.
David T says
Hey, I was curious about redeeming IHG points. My wife and I both have the credit cards with 80k points each. Do we have to redeem stays separately or is there a way to combine points to make it one stay?
@David T Unfortunately, you can’t combine the points, not for free, at least. What I recommend you do is book both 2-night stays back to back, and add each other as an additional guest in the box where you put in your info. Then just let the resort know ahead of time, so that they link the reservations. I don’t foresee any problems. We’ve done it that way many times in the US.
It’s possible to get 2 personal chase cards approved within a short time span. I applied for Fairmont Visa on 8/1, then United on 8/6. Both were approved instantly, although understandably for the united one I was offered a lower credit line. I checked credit sesame later and only had one inquiry for both. With these two cards I currently have 4 chase cards in total.
I also read from a MMS comment that someone else got approved for two chase cards within a few days of each other, although they had to call recon for the second one. They also only had one inquiry.
So given that you would only get one inquiry, it doesn’t hurt to try 🙂
Katye, thanks for the data point. Yeah, I did see a few people say that they got approved for both personal versions of Southwest card on the same day. It’s a bit unusual for Chase to do that. It seems the rules are relaxing a bit in this area. I am a little hesitant to recommend this strategy to readers, though do plan to mention it tomorrow in my “Miles and points” segment. You are right, if the inquires merge, it doesn’t hurt to try.
How did I miss this post? Sounds like an awesome vacation. I’ve always wanted to try an all-inclusive resort.
@Nancy Glad you found the post! Yeah, I’m very excited, can’t wait.
The points are now 40k a night so if you booked at 35k a night you did well! They have 4 different points + cash offers as well if someone is a little short on points.