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Few weeks ago we had a chance to stay four nights at a Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay and I wanted to share my experience with readers. Those who have been following my blog for few years probably remember that we stayed here in 2015. I recommend you reference that trip report, so you can see for yourself what changed and what hasn’t.
Few days before the trip my son started having diarrhea. Great! On top of it, I was concerned about my tooth situation since I was still experiencing some pain right before the flight. Should I go or should I stay (in Florida)? I decided to go and I’m glad I did.
Me in front of the resort (striking a pose?)
My expectations were very low, but I was pleasantly surprised. This was one of the best vacations we had and I definitely recommend the resort if you are a laid-back, non-fancy type family. Service at this property has improved considerably, but it can still be hit or miss at times. Adjust your attitude or you’ll be super frustrated.
I can’t stress the last part enough because I don’t want anyone to expect 5-star luxury accommodations with impeccable service. Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall it is not, though I haven’t stayed at that particular resort, so I’m basing my opinion on various trip reports.
That said, to me Holiday Inn Resort is a far better deal for a family of four because two kids (12 and under) stay for free. And you can’t beat free. If you are Chase IHG cardholder, you get a complimentary Platinum status as one of the perks. This is a big deal because in this resort almost everyone with Platinum status gets upgraded to an oceanfront suite instead of a regular room, bookable on points. And we were no exception.
Our spacious remodeled suite
If you’ve read my previous trip report, you probably remember that this was my biggest pet peeve about the property. Our suite was kind of dingy, the bathroom was old and had various tacky fixes to hold things together. It took 10 minutes to get hot water in the shower, which turned scolding rather quickly. Et cetera, et cetera.
Not this time. It looks like suites have been remodeled not too long ago, and I’m surprised that the property doesn’t prominently advertise that fact on their website. I peeked into regular rooms and it looks like they have been remodeled as well. Mind you, it’s still not a luxurious suite by any means, but it was way better than what we had last time.
Here is the living room portion:
Looks like they have replaced some of the furniture. The sleeper sofa was old and the rug wasn’t very clean (but not awful like last time). In retrospect, I should have rolled it up and stored it in the corner for the duration of our stay. But oh well. It doesn’t look too bad though, does it? Both a/c units worked well this time around. We requested a rollaway for my son, which was provided to us at no charge.
Here is the view from our patio:
Not too shabby, eh? I would have preferred a second floor, but beggars can’t be choosers.
And here is our bedroom:
There was a door separating it from living room, which gave my husband and I some peace and quiet while kids watched TV. The sheets were high quality, a nice treat. Bring an eye mask, though, because the drapes don’t block the light completely.
My three kids 🙂
Here is the remodeled, dare I say, luxurious bathroom:
When I saw the shower, my thought was a line from a Wiggles song: “What’s this button for?” I should note that the first night we stayed in a suite, it took me 5 minutes to get hot water. But we didn’t have problems after that. YMMV
The suite was clean and more than adequate for our needs. But as I want to stress again, don’t expect luxury and be willing to overlook minor imperfections if you want to enjoy yourself.
And how can you be unhappy when you wake up to this view each morning?
Enjoying the beach and pool area
As I’ve said in my previous trip report, this is a selling point of the resort and the reason why I was willing to give it another shot. The hotel is set in a gorgeous area, and the beach is perfect for young children.
Gal readers, I got my bathing suite for only $2.99 total courtesy of SYWR promo!
The tide was low, so we walked around the tiny island and saw all kinds of colorful fish
My kids also enjoyed the pool, even though it wasn’t heated
A fun fact. If you look straight ahead, you can see brand new overwater bungalows at Sandals resort, the first of its kind in all of Caribbean. So, you may want to bring binoculars. No, I’m not encouraging folks to be a Peeping Tom! Those bungalows cost $2,000 per night. Or you can spend 40,000 IHG points on a room at Holiday Inn Resort and just walk out to the water each morning. With the money saved, you can fly to Tahiti and stay in an overwater bungalow there instead.
Food: not gourmet, but good enough
Whether you love or hate food at this resort will ultimately come down to your individual taste. I think it’s safe to say that you probably won’t be wowed if you are a foodie. But I liked the food just fine. I’ve mentioned before that breakfast is incredible: individually prepared omelettes, poached eggs, pancakes, fruit smoothies and more. If you like IHOP breakfast, you will love it here.
They finally serve decent coffee! Last time it was nasty instant stuff. I brought my own giant YETI cup with me and filled it myself so I wouldn’t have to bug employees for refills. One time I was leaving the buffet, and one of the guests exclaimed using Australian accent: “Now that’s a cup!” All of you thirty and older, Remember “Crocodile Dundee”? Enough said.
Lunch and dinner at the buffet can be hit or miss. I can say that the food is better than what we eat at home, but I’m a terrible cook. Last time I didn’t get a chance to take any photos of the lunch buffet, so here we go:
Cookies and desserts
As you can see, the food is fairly basic, but to me it tasted pretty good. On the last night they even had sushi with a Jamaican twist, which I’ve enjoyed. Honestly, I didn’t come to this resort for gourmet food. I wanted to make sure that my kids would find something to their liking, and they did. The resort has huts that serve jerk chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs and nachos. My kids’ favorite was Ice Cream parlor:
Sit-down dinner options:
The resort has several restaurants, but you have to make reservations in advance in order to eat in them. If you have Platinum status, they will make them for you and give you vouchers when you are checking in. This is very helpful because restaurants are very popular and can only accommodate so many guests each night.
I really enjoyed seafood restaurant. I thought the food was pretty good, similar to what you’d find at Red Lobster (once again, I’m not a foodie). Here is fish cooked in banana leaf:
I also enjoyed Italian restaurant on the first evening, though we were pretty exhausted after the flight and ended up having a meltdown (as in, the whole family, not just the kids). Oh well, we’ll probably never run into these hotel guests again. Wrong! The next evening I’m sitting at a jerk hut and a guy looks at me and says: “Hey, you are that family who sat near us in Italian restaurant.” Awkward.
It’s unlimited and you can drink as much as your heart desires. Some drinks are watered down, but you can ask for extra alcohol and they will add it, no questions ask. Margaritas are quite good. I definitely got my money’s worth, without getting drunk, obviously.
At one point my daughter was talking to this older lady at the beach and said: “I don’t know why my mom loves alcohol so much!” The woman turns to her and says: “Well, let me call you in thirty years, when you have two crazy kids and lots of bills. I bet you’ll tell me you like alcohol too.” My daughter’s comeback: “I don’t mean to be rude, but there is a good chance you’ll be dead in thirty years.”
GULP! The lady just laughed, thank goodness. I can totally picture myself saying something like that when I was a kid. Where is my margarita?
As VIP guests, we were given an option to use a special lounge located in building 7 (adults only) where we could order complimentary alcohol and various food items. This is a good alternative to a buffet, and I thought the food was delicious. Plus, it was rather peaceful in the lounge:
There were maybe three other guests at lunch time. Tipping isn’t required, but we left a few bucks. I brought a stack of one dollar bills to the resort and gave it away, which was very much appreciated by employees. That said, you definitely don’t have to do it if you don’t want to.
Why you should consider this resort for your next Spring Break vacation
First things first. Vacationing in Jamaica (this resort included) is not dirt cheap for a family of four. The reason? Just airline ticket taxes add up to $135 per person or more, depending on the airport you are flying from. So, right off the bat, you are looking at the expense of $540. A great way to cover it is to sign up for an offer like Barclaycard Arrival Plus.
Fortunately, it gets better from here. This Holiday Inn resort costs 40,000 points per night. This may seem like a lot, but considering the fact that rooms go for $350 per night during high season, it’s actually a bargain. You can usually accumulate IHG points via various promotions for 0.4 cents apiece or less. Or you can buy them at 0.57 cents during regular sales.
I strongly recommend you sign up for IHG co-branded credit card if you are thinking about staying here (the card is not under 5/24 restriction). If you get upgraded to a suite, it would be worth it right there. The suites go for $550 per night or more and make vacationing with kids bearable. In addition, you’ll get a 10% rebate on your redemption. We were able to use my husband’s annual certificate for one of the nights, and you can too.
Flying to Jamaica usually doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Several carriers serve Montego Bay airport, including Spirit, Jet Blue and Southwest. We flew from Orlando and got roundtrip tickets for 8,000 Southwest points each. Obviously, flying from an airport in northern states will costs more, but it shouldn’t be too bad.
Southwest flies here non-stop from Houston, Chicago, Baltimore and Orlando, so if you have a Companion Pass and live near one of those cities, you may want to consider burning your points. If you are under 5/24 and are looking to sign up for one of three versions of Southwest card, you can find the links on this page. I have a personal referral link for Premier version ($99 fee, not waived).
To recap: if both spouses sign up for Chase IHG credit card (then match via SM to 80K points offer), and only one spouse gets Barclaycard Arrival Plus and Southwest cards, a family of four can potentially cover a stay at this resort for four nights during high season.
To me, the biggest reason to consider this hotel (aside from beautiful beach and scenery) is complimentary Kids Club. I can’t stress enough how wonderful it is to drop off the kids for few hours each day and just to relax. Seriously, I don’t know how I’m ever going to vacation without it. You can leave the kids from 9 AM to 12 PM, and from 1 PM to 6 PM.
To me, it’s worth the high airfare taxes and aggravation of getting to Jamaica. As you probably know, leaving two kids for few hours at a club in US-based resort will usually cost $110 or more. The ladies at Kids Club are wonderful. They do all kinds of activities, arts and crafts. My daughter absolutely loved it and begged us to take her to Kids Club instead of the beach.
So, if you are a family with two young children (12 and under), definitely consider this resort. If you have older kids, you’ll have to pay an additional $80 per person/per night, not ideal. But what about couples without kids? We’ve seen quite a few, and they appeared to have fun. Honestly, it’s not the kind of place I would choose for an anniversary celebration, but everyone is different.
There is an adults-only pool, but it didn’t look all that appealing:
In general, if you don’t like to be around small kids (I used to be that way, so ain’t judging), l wouldn’t come here.
1) Visa is not needed for American citizens, but make sure your passport doesn’t expire within 6 months. I saw that this is one of the requirements for visiting Jamaica. I’m not sure if it’s enforced, but better safe than sorry.
2) I recommend you buy medical insurance on Insuremytrip.com before you leave. I only paid $24 for four days and it covered my whole family. Once again, better safe than sorry.
3) Montego Bay area is relatively safe, so don’t be scared by all the information you see on the internet. Be aware of your surroundings and you’ll be fine. The resort has security guards patrolling the premises and I felt safe at all times.
4) Make sure to stick to official taxis or guides recommended to you personally. Email me and I can provide a phone number of a guy who helped us get around the area. He has a nice air-conditioned van, and seat belts work without any issues. Most importantly, he is a very safe driver.
5) Don’t be afraid to venture outside of the resort (with a trusted guide, naturally). I will have a separate post on the things we did in Montego Bay area, so stay tuned.
6) If you have Priority Pass access via credit card like Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can use it to enter Club Mobay at departure (not arrival) and skip immigration lines. I’ll have a short post on it next week.
We had a wonderful vacation at Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay. I honestly can’t say enough good things about it. The weather was decent, food was taken care of, and the kids were entertained for good part of the day. As a result, my husband and I got to relax and kick back. Plus, all that alcohol, oh my!
And we even did some sightseeing because I’m not the type to lay on the beach for very long. But if you are, you won’t be sorry if you choose this place. Well, as long as you are not “fancy pants” traveler, not that there is anything wrong with that. Jamaica is a beautiful island nation with gorgeous mountains and beaches. And it’s easily accessible from eastern portion of the United States, unlike Hawaii. Give it a shot! I think we just might go back in a few years.
P.S. My reader Clyn6 mentioned to me that she has stayed at this property as well as all-inclusive Hilton in Rose Hall. You can see both reviews in her Tripadvisor profile (she allowed me to link to it).
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.