My long-time readers probably remember our very eventful trip to Jamaica few years back. Lots of things went wrong and I vowed to never go there again. Well, I say a lot of things and then I change my mind later on. But let me explain why, and maybe you’ll support me in my decision. I hope.
As I’ve mentioned a few times, my kids absolutely loved the place, especially my daughter. For the last couple of years she kept begging me to go back to Jamaica and stay at Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay Obviously, I don’t let my kids dictate where we get to vacation, but the topic just wouldn’t die. Even my husband said we should give this place another chance. He is a total pushover when it comes to his little girl.
So, about a month ago, my kids were reminiscing about Jamaica and fun time they had swimming in the sea:
Apparently, my son forgot all about him throwing up during the last day. My husband turned to me and said: “Why don’t we go there for Spring Break?” Mind you, this is a man for whom a vacation means taking several naps per day. At home.
I was thinking about saying No, as I usually do, but this time was a bit different. You may remember that few months ago my husband and I missed our flight to Aruba I managed to get a refund of all the points (hotel and airline). But there was a small wrinkle. The international taxes of $140 (for both of us) would have to be used up by June of 2017. Otherwise, we would lose the credit. Also, the flights would have to be booked in our names, so I wouldn’t be able to gift it to someone else.
It looked like we would indeed end up losing $140 because unlike most in this hobby, we don’t fly somewhere every weekend. We are planning on going to Europe at the end of May, and adding another major trip around that time would be out of the question. Then, of course, there is school schedule to worry about. But in this case, we would go during Spring Break (early March) and my husband said he would be able to take time off. Not to mention, he is the one who suggested this trip in the first place. Truly, a miracle.
To go or not to go? Jamaica me crazy!
I already had a three-night stay booked at Holiday Inn Club Vacations Cape Canaveral Beach resort. We did stay there in the past, and I think it’s a terrific (and relatively affordable) place for a middle-class family. The cost is 35,000 IHG points per night, the same as an all-inclusive in Jamaica. Award availability, on the other hand, is horrendous, especially during peak season and holidays. I documented my frustration with trying to book two rooms in I love IHG, I hate IHG post. So, I was hesitant to give up this redemption. Note to new readers: the easiest way to accumulate IHG points is by applying for their co-branded credit card or participating in current Accelerate promotion.
I decided to check the cost of flights from Orlando to Montego Bay. To my delight, we could get there for 10,000 Rapid Rewards points apiece. But, and it’s a big one, taxes run at $135 per person roundtrip. These Caribbean islands’ departure taxes can really take a wind out of your sails. For a family of four, they do add up. We could buy a LOT of food at Cape Canaveral resort for what we would save on taxes, and we wouldn’t have to spend 40,000 Rapid Rewards points on flights. Then, of course, there are taxi and airport parking costs, et cetera, et cetera.
However, there is one thing all-inclusive resort in Jamaica has that sets it apart: complimentary Kids’ Club. My children really enjoyed it last time, since they had all kinds of crafts and activities throughout the day. Of course, let’s be honest, Kids’ Club truly is a wonderful gift for parents! It would allow my husband and I to have some time alone and use adults-only pool area. Kids’ Club cost can add up to $110 for two kids for just half a day in many US-based resorts. Obviously, I would never pay that much on a daily basis, but it’s nice to have it included to begin with, so you don’t have the dilemma of “saving money vs. relaxing with your spouse.”
And of course, having food included takes a lot of stress out of your trip as well. Not wondering what to order, and not wrestling with various minor decisions is a wonderful thing for an OCD person like me. I was reading Nancy’s trip report of all-inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta and found myself thinking how nice it would be to do something like this again.
While we are not currently in a position to pay cash for an all-inclusive in Caribbean or elsewhere, in this case, we could use IHG currency to cover lodging costs. And we have a decent amount of Southwest Rapid Rewards points. Additionally, I had $700 worth of Southwest gift cards (collected through Citi Prestige airline credits), just sitting there gathering dust. I didn’t really want to sell them at a loss, but had no upcoming plans to use them either.
The $140 Southwest airline credit that tipped the scales
Or was it the outstanding jerk chicken? Yum. Anyway, as I’ve mentioned earlier in the post, it was the case of “use it or lose it” kind of thing. So, my thinking was: if we are going to go back to Jamaica at some point, why not do it for $140 less than it normally costs. It’s extremely unlikely that IHG will reduce the price in points on this particular all-inclusive.
Speaking of, it looks like the price will increase to 40,000 points on January 15th, 2017 (see IHG announcement in PDF form). And flying there for 10,000 Southwest points roundtrip in high season is pretty much as good as it gets. Plus, my kids really want to stay at that place. Sometimes you do stupid things as a parent. I decided to go for it.
So, to recap: We are paying 140,000 IHG points for the hotel, though we should get 14,000 points rebate due to having IHG credit card. I’ve previously acquired this amount for around $420 via various promos, which works out to $105 per night for four people. I booked a basic room with king bed, but hopefully, we’ll get upgraded to a suite like we were last time. By comparison, a room at this property goes for $310 per night during spring months. If you have Chase IHG Visa, you can use your annual renewal certificates at this place. We also paid 40,000 Rapid Rewards points for non-stop flight from Orlando, plus $400 in taxes (after credit, and covered via gift cards).
As you can see, this trip is far from free. After all, I could have sold my Southwest gift cards and get around $300 out of them. I could also redeem 40,000 Rapid Rewards points for $400 Walmart gift card, which is almost as good as cash. But it is fair to say that the trip should have a minimal out-of-pocket cost, and that’s really my goal. After all, I wasn’t planning on redeeming my Southwest points on Walmart purchases and I didn’t like the idea of selling my existing gift cards at a significant loss. Since the points were just going to sit there and do nothing for the foreseeable future, they were worth exactly nothing at that time. So, I decided to make them worth something: a trip with my family.
Why no Hyatt love?
Most of you know that Jamaica has a new all-inclusive Hyatt resort for families: Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall Since I became somewhat of a Hyatt convert lately, how come I’m giving this place a pass? Simple: it’s too expensive for my family. Rooms cost 25,000 Hyatt points per night for double occupancy, and each child will cost 12,500 points extra. Ouch!
Obviously, you might as well get two rooms for 50,000 Hyatt points per night. Since I’m an infrequent traveler, the only way for me to get Hyatt points is via 1:1 transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards. I could redeem that amount for at least $500 or I could book three nights at Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort (with club lounge access) and have myself an almost all-inclusive. Compare this to $105 I’m paying for IHG property and let’s just say, I’m willing to put up with quirks for that kind of difference. We are not one-percenters, otherwise, I would probably feel differently. But as it stands, Hyatt in Jamaica is too rich for our middle-class blood.
Will this trip turn into a bust…again? It might. Recent TripAdvisor reviews of IHG property are decent, but we know that this is not a luxurious place, so our expectations are set accordingly. I also have Priority Pass access via my CSR card, which will allow us to skip lines at horrible Montego Bay airport. So, I’m rolling the dice on this one.
Well, readers, am I indeed crazy? Tell it like it is, don’t be shy.
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Leana is the owner and 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.