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Am I Crazy to Give All-Inclusive Holiday Inn Resort in Jamaica Another Chance?

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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Author: Leana

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.

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34 thoughts on “Am I Crazy to Give All-Inclusive Holiday Inn Resort in Jamaica Another Chance?

  1. We are seriously considering going here but we would need two rooms as a family of five. Ugh. I don’t know if it’s worth it as we’d have to pay cash for one of the rooms. I’m still looking for a better location to use our IHG points but haven’t found one. HI Aruba was fantastic last year but we want to try somewhere new.

  2. Michelle, this is a tough one! Whether it’s worth it or not will depend on your preferences and travel style. Read my linked post if you haven’t seen it yet. This place is most certainly not fancy. The food is OK, not quite as good as what I had on cruise ships. But breakfast is wonderful, very tasty omelets. Do you have Chase IHG cards? They are currently not under 5/24 rule, so it could be worth applying for them.

    Also, you may want to contact the property and see if they let you add a third child. You would have to pay extra $75 per night, but it’s cheaper than getting another room. If you have Platinum status (via Chase IHG card), you are likely to get upgraded to a suite. My friend Holly from blog is taking her family there for the third time in three years. They love it that much. You may want to reach out to her. She told me they have remodeled some buildings but of course, there is no guarantee you’ll end up with a newer unit.

    It really depends on how many IHG points you have. If you have a ton, it may be worth it to go there, especially considering the fact that the price will increase to 40K points soon. You could also consider going in the fall. They usually do 50% off IHG properties around that time, but you would be risking hurricanes. Going to Jamaica requires a good deal of points and cash, for sure. Taxes are very high, so it’s something to take into consideration. We were in a spot where the stars aligned with us having points plus gift cards. Still, I was reluctant to pull the trigger. Lots of uncertainty.

      • @Audrey I think you might be right! Alas, we can’t really go in May, so March it is. I hate to drop so many points, but oh well. Email me if you decide to go and let me know your dates. I would love to meet up!

    • @Nancy Yes! We just came back from a short trip and I feel exhausted from running after the kids. We had fun, of course, but I’m looking forward to relaxing on that island with a margarita. 🙂

  3. I say, go for it! We stayed there a few years ago and enjoyed it. It was decent, not great food, and a rather chaotic atmosphere. But my daughter loved it – she made all kinds of friends, loved the small island you can swim to, and loved all the activities. So I would go back since it made her vacation so much fun.

    • @Denise L I agree with you completely! That was our impression as well. Very chaotic, but fun.The food was so-so, but it wasn’t bad. Certainly better than what we usually eat at home. Incidentally, my kids loved chicken nuggets, spaghetti and ice cream they offered at the resort. They are not very sophisticated eaters! We just took them to a Hyatt with a Club Lounge and they didn’t like anything there. I thought the food was great, but they were grossed out by grilled vegetables and fish!

      • I have the same experience. First class would be wasted on us – the kids’ food preferences actually rule our travels to quite an extent. We recently went to Hong Kong, where all I can say is it was fortunate there was a McDonalds almost every block…#sortofafailurebutohwell.

    • @Audrey I ain’t judging! When you travel with young kids, it’s about survival. You do what you have to do. People without kids simply have no idea what a challenge it is to keep them calm and happy. I wish baby tranquilizers were legal, LOL!

  4. So, the property itself is not the greatest. I think you’ve picked two extremes on the all-inclusive scale, Hyatt is definitely top end and the kids are unlikely to enjoy it as much (I think it’s a bit too quiet for my taste) whereas the property at holiday inn and food options aren’t as spectacular.

    Unless you do get them on a special though (and dependent on age of the kids), the all-inclusives can get a bit pricey, so if you are getting it for $105, there’s much fun to be had especially for the kids. It’s a pity you couldn’t use points or miles for a RIU, or similar type of property.

    • @Rupert I hear you! I’m not a foodie, so Holiday Inn didn’t seem too bad. I liked their jerk chicken and salads. But yeah, I’ve had better food, for sure. That being said, paying $105 for four people in high season isn’t bad at all. Plus, hopefully, we’ll get upgraded to a suite. I actually would love to stay in Hyatt instead, but there is no way we can afford it.

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  6. I’m curious to know the total it would have cost you if you’d paid for the whole thing in dollars vs the total of miles/points/dollars actually spent. Maybe I could have added up myself I suppose!?

    • @Amanda I definitely would have never paid cash, that’s for sure! I believe if you look at the retail cost, it would be approximately $2,400 for four of us. Half of it would be for flights, and half for hotel. As it stands, we are paying about a third of that amount if you count the original cost of points’ acquisition, plus taxes. So, it’s a deeply discounted all-inclusive vacation during high season. But it ain’t free!

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  9. I went to the IHG Montego Bay resort in late January 2017 with my husband, celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary, and we liked it. I had read mixed reviews so had low expectations and was pleasantly surprised. There was no rug in our room, just ceramic tile that was very clean. The bathroom doors did not latch, but it was just my husband and I so that was not a problem, if the doors were shut we knocked. Our room had 2 double beds and an old looking sofa bed, The sliding glass doors to the balcony did not close properly, but they had a metal latch that made me feel like it was secure. We actually liked hearing the sound of the waves so that was not bad. We were in building 1, 4th floor, facing the ocean, and the view was wonderful! We did not hear the music at all in our room, but we were there when it was not a normal school break time so it was not super crowded. We loved snorkeling around the outside of the island and seeing all the fish. If you go expecting affordable kid friendly place you will be happy. If you go expecting 4-5 star hotel, then you will need to pay twice the price somewhere else. We did stay at the Hilton Rose Hall for 2 nights and it was much nicer, but much more expensive as well!

    • @Clyn6 Thanks for your comment! I’m cautiously optimistic that our upcoming experience will mirror yours. I totally agree, it’s all about having realistic expectations. For the price we are paying, it’s a good deal, especially during high season.
      All-Inclusive Hyatt would cost us 50K points per night. No thanks!

      • I originally booked (4 months out) Hilton Rose Hall on points and could only afford 2 nights at 113,600 pts a night. About 2 – 3 weeks out they offered 28k points + $175 a night and I switched to that. I paid the $350 with my new Barclay Arrival points. The water park there was wonderful, and the food was higher quality. I would love to repeat our stay again, and again do 5 nights IHG and a few nights at the Hilton Rose Hall. I think Hilton gives you a 5th night free, so maybe I could swing that. We loved snorkeling around the island and feeding the fish at IHG, and we loved our full ocean front room. It was not a suite, and we did not have kids, but it was plenty big for us.

  10. another note for kids; bring a few small ziplock bags from home and put some Cheerios cereal in there from breakfast. They worked great for feeding the fish that gather close to the rocks around the island.

    • @Clyn6 Thanks for the tips. Done! I would love to try out Hilton Rose Hall all-inclusive one of these days, but I’m not sure when we’ll get to Jamaica again. It’s a miracle we are going now. I’ve been having tooth problems (still do), but hopefully, I won’t have a major development within the next few days. Fingers crossed!

      • I actually made an emergency visit to my dentist the afternoon before we left to check one of my teeth. Luckily it was OK. Pack some Ambosol and pain meds. Another thing I loved on my vacation was the Cali cell phone case I bought from Amazon. If you don’t have one and have time to order one I would highly recommend it.
        If you are interested I left detailed reviews on the 3 resorts, 3 tour companies, and 6 attractions we visited on TripAdvisor, look for username Lyn4444.

  11. More thoughts; The Italian restaurant had a fantastic beef filet wrapped in bacon. It was very tender and well seasoned. Yours kids would probably enjoy the lively show at the Japanese restaurant, but we only paid for 2 people. We were not offered a massage and I have Platinum, maybe that is gone now?

    • @Clyn6 Thank you so much for your tips! I greatly appreciate them. I’ll make sure to check out the Italian restaurant. That’s my favorite cuisine. I’ve heard they no longer offer free massage, but my husband hates those anyway.
      I’ll try to remember to link to your TripAdvisor reviews once I get back and write a post of my own. Hopefully, everything will go smoothly this time around. As long as my tooth doesn’t act up again, I’m good.

    • @Clyn6 We had so much fun!!! Our stay went very well, and I feel like we got fantastic value.Thanks for the tip on beef filet. Very good indeed. Hopefully, I’ll have a full report within a week or two. Those take a long time to put together, and I’m currently trying to go through my photos. Stay tuned!

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