How We’re Going to Jamaica For FREE Next Year

Here we are with our Canadian friends in Jamaica....

Here we are with our Canadian friends in Jamaica….

Hey party people!  I’m currently in the midst of planning my family’s 2015 vacations and I thought I would share a little of my mad planning skillz with you.  Are you excited?  Yes?  Good. 

Now sit back and relax while I tell you how I plan to take my husband and kids to Montego Bay for Spring Break 2015 without paying anything at all.  (Okay, maybe I’ll pay a little bit).  Anyway, here’s how we’re going to Jamaica for free….and how you can do the same.

What I Love About Jamaica

First of all, Greg and I visited Jamaica for the first time this past February and fell in love.  It really is a beautiful country in every way- with crystal clear water, beautiful jungle scenery, and blue skies that seemingly go on forever.  We stayed at the Grand Bahia Principe Jamaica in Runaway Bay and had an absolute blast.  We laid around a lot, snorkeled, and spent some time with friends from Canada who invited us on the trip.  It was so awesome that I basically started planning another trip to the area right away.

Going to Jamaica for FREE

The pool area at the Holiday Inn in Montego Bay

The pool area at the Holiday Inn in Montego Bay

I’ve always wanted to take my parents and kids to an all-inclusive resort, and I finally have the opportunity.  That’s because we both signed up for the IHG Rewards Select Credit Card.  This is how it works:

With the IHG Rewards Club Visa, you earn 80,000 IHG rewards points after spending a petty $1,000 within three months of card membership. The annual fee is also waived for the first year. So basically, if you and your spouse sign up, you could net a total of 160,000 bonus points in addition to the 1 point/$1 spent anywhere, 2 points/$1 spent at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants, and 5 points/$1 spent at IHG resorts.

Boom.  Greg and I both met the spending requirement in about five hot minutes and earned our 80,000 bonus points.  When you add the bonus to the points we earned for regular spending, we currently have around 165,000 IHG points burning a hole in our pocket.  The good news: That’s almost enough for five free nights.

Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort All-Inclusive, Montego Bay, Jamaica

  • 35,000 points per night
  • FREE wifi
  • Kids stay and eat free

Remember, all-inclusive resorts include your food and beverages in the price of your room (including alcohol).  I can personally drink $100 per day in Mojitos easily, so this is going to be a huge money-saver for my family.  My goal is to put some additional spending on the card in the next few months and earn the extra 10,000 points I need for the 5th night.  (Note: If not, I have several other options including using IHG’s cash and points option or paying for an additional night with Ultimate Rewards points.  I’m going to wait and see where I’m at when I’m ready to book)

The other awesome thing about the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort in Montego Bay is that kids stay and eat for free.  You can even book a special kid’s suite with bunkbeds for the same 35,000 IHG points as a regular room.

Note: My parents also signed up for the IHG card and earned their own points per my instructions.  So no, they will not be sleeping on our floor.

Paying for Flights with Points

Isn't she beautiful?

Isn’t she beautiful?

My husband and I both earned enough Southwest Points to get the Southwest Companion Pass earlier this year.  That means that our “companions” fly for free, even when we pay with points.  We have earned about 250,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points in the past year or so and currently have around 150,000 left to burn.  Flying the six of us (myself, Greg, the two kids, and my parents) to Montego Bay is going to cost me approximately 77,800 Rapid Rewards points and $588 in taxes and fees.

I don’t have an affiliate link for this card, but you’re welcome to head over the Frugal Travel Guy to sign up.  The current 50K offer is still available for now, but it won’t be forever.

And that’s where the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard (affiliate link) comes in.  This really is the best travel rewards card out there because you can use it for random travel spending like airline taxes and fees.  The deal is this: Spend $3,000 within three months of card ownership and earn 40,000 bonus miles.  You also earn 2 points/$1 spent, which means that meeting the minimum spending requirement will net you 46,000 miles.  The cool thing is, those miles can be redeemed for $460 in travel credit for things like flights, hotels, train tickets, and more.  The $89 annual fee is also waived the first year, making this an automatic no-brainer for anyone who truly likes free stuff.  If you want to sign up, please do so here.

The Final Word

When all is said and done, I expect to spend less than $500 to take my family to Jamaica for Spring Break next year.  And that’s only because I plan to bring a few hundred dollars for tips and will hire private transportation to and from the airport.  I might also get my kid’s hair braided or pay for a private snorkeling tour or something like that.  We’ll see.

What do you think about my crazy Spring Break travel scheme?  Do you have the IHG Rewards Select Credit card or the Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard? 

 
About Holly

Holly Johnson is a wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She is the co-founder of Club Thrifty and a staff writer at Get Rich Slowly, Frugal Travel Guy, and U.S. News and World Report's "My Money Blog." Holly has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Fox Business, and Daily Finance.

Comments

  1. Sounds like a pretty great plan! This just goes to show that with a lot of foresight and advance planning you can do awesome things like this. I’ve never been to Jamaica but it sounds like a great place to go!

  2. I’m glad that you guys are having such a blast with the travel hacking. Sadly we haven’t been able to maximize it the way you have because our work schedules aren’t nearly as flexible as they would need to be to make it work out this well. =/

  3. We went to Jamaica for our honeymoon. It was pretty amazing, to say the least. We stayed at a Sandals resort and the only complaint was the annoying “entertainment department” at the main pool. Besides that it was an awesome vacation.

    We still have about $800 from the Barclaycard so I don’t see us churning anything else anytime soon. With my new job I need to figure out when the best time to take PTO is and schedule it around that.

  4. Very cool Holly! I think you just convinced me of the other card I’m going to sign up for. :) At $1,000 that’s a pretty sweet minimum spend to hit. We’ve got some points burning my pocket to and we’ve got to get to planning on where we’re going to go next year.

    • That’s what I thought. There is also an all-inclusive you can take the kids to in Mexico (Los Cabos, I think) as well. You could get a free vacay for all of you.

  5. Chase IHG card is hands down the most underrated card out there. Not only do you get a decent sign-up bonus, but you get a free Platinum status as well as a free night each year. Everyone should get it! We got so many nice upgrades due to this card, it’s insane!
    I agree on this resort. It’s a good use of IHG points, no doubt. I was tempted to go there as well, but my husband prefers cruises. First world problems!

  6. Ugh… don’t transfer ultimate rewards points to IHG that’s such a poor use. Just use the backdoor points buying trick to get those 10K points for about $70.

    • LOL, stop!

      I might end up paying for a 6th night outright with cash-back credit from UR. The rooms are only $153 per night right now on Expedia. That’s nuts!

  7. I just signed us up for the Starwood AMEX card yesterday, but it seems like there’s always another one just as shiny! Those rewards are pretty exciting :) Hope you enjoy your time in Jamaica!

  8. This is awesome Holly. You are the master at this! :)

  9. Yea Mon!! Sounds like fun! My co-worker is Jamaican and keeps telling me I should go. Going for free makes it very enticing! Thanks for the tip…80,000 IHG points is awesome…I usually only see 50,000 point offers.

  10. Greg’s not gonna get his hair braided? #disappointed

  11. You need to start a business of planning vacations through rewards cards for people, Holly, an alternative travel agency of sorts. This is amazing! I love all-inclusive resorts, because like you, I can drink my way through a lot of alcohol, especially when hanging out on the beach. When I am in the Caribbean, it is pina coladas, though. And the resort sounds amazing, especially the kid deals! I can’t wait to hear what you think about it.

  12. I use my miles for over seas travel every other year. I started to use a Hilton card for hotels too.The trick is to use it at hotels that offer a free (hot) breakfast. You can eat late and just worry about dinner.

  13. Whoa! I’m just working on getting our passports, but I’m pinning this for future reference!

  14. Soooo…you definitely need to put a pin it button down with all the other share buttons :-)

  15. Your mad rewards skills continue to amaze me. I’ve been using cards for cash back rewards, but I just recently broke my travel rewards cherry with the Chase Sapphire. Nothing too fancy, but we’ve at least earned enough for a free flight sometime next year!

  16. I’m glad I’m not the only one with 2015 already planned. Jim got the IHG card a couple of months ago, and I probably will get it later this summer or I might get the Marriot one. I don’t know how many more Chase is going to let me have. We are planning on using it in Europe next year. Jim just threw in that he wants to see the British Open in Scotland while we are there. Now I have to figure out how to do that if possible, but I love travel planning. It keeps me sane.

  17. Great plan, thanks for sharing!! I tend to plan for my vacation ahead of time myself so it’s really awesome how you’re able to finance your vacation with with your rewards. I’ve never been to Jamaica but it sounds like a great place for Spring Break. Have fun!

  18. Hi Holly, you have a special talent coming up with these deals and putting them together into meaningful vacations. Currently I am trying out the Barclay’s to earn my points but gotta reach the $3000 spending mark first. I was wondering if you are affected by these credit cards in your credit report or see a credit score drop. I know Barclay’s placed a hard inquiry for me which dropped mine a few points. Thanks for all the information you provide us with, Enjoy!

    • Yes, it does affect your credit score. Ours have gone down from the low 800′s to the mid 700′s since we started this hobby a few years ago. It doesn’t bother me, but that’s something to keep in mind.

  19. Congrats on all your savings! Sounds like this is perfect for you. I, personally, am not a huge fan of Jamaica, but this makes me think I should give it another shot (maybe our resort just wasn’t that great?). Looking forward to seeing some pics from your trip!!

  20. I have the Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard but in all honesty I’m looking for new cards to churn. I’m shocked everyone hasn’t churned that one already. I appreciate you pointing out some new cards here and there in addition to the Barclaycard because Victoria and I both have our Barclaycard rewards just waiting for us to use! I used one on a hotel in Des Moines for my cousin’s first communion a month or so ago, and plan on using it for two more hotels for a friends wedding (splitting the rooms w/friends so I will get some of it back in pure cash! yeah!).

  21. You can’t complain with that bonus! Nice work on getting a trip for the whole family with rewards points. I need to jump back into this churning game.

  22. We’ve done Jamaica only on cruises before so my experience there is limited. It’s beautiful from what I saw. Sounds like a cool trip!

  23. These posts get me fired up to keep working on my churning game. So many opportunities

  24. Holly, you’re a friggin genius. I never thought these types of articles were true or that churning could be so great until I started earning points myself a little over a year ago…gotta love free! I’m learning a lot from you!

  25. This sounds awesome. We will be getting the Southwest Companion pass at the beginning of 2015. I can’t wait to hear about how your $500 trip to Jamaica will be. It sounds incredible and that you’re spending those points where they count!

  26. Love it, Holly! And I bet your parents are so excited to join you. I love all-inclusive resorts because it’s so nice to have everything taken care of for you. You feel so pampered. Even better with all the money you saved, now you can use it on all those extras, like snorkeling or getting your daughters hair braided. My girls would love that!

  27. Oh my! That is amazing!! And to have an entire vacation planned so far in advance is awesome.

  28. Wow! You really rock this travel hacking Holly! Just to clarify, you have to pay $588 taxes + another $500 for tips, transportation, snorkeling, braiding right? So total $1188 for 6 people for 6 nights? That’s insane! KUDOS!

  29. Wow Holly – you truly are a travel hacking queen! 5 or 6 nights in Jamaica for free is just insane!!! Great work :-)

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