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In just 12 days, the four of us plan to embark on a week-long all-inclusive vacation to beautiful and sunny Jamaica. Sounds expensive, doesn’t it? I mean, the trip requires four plane tickets and six nights at an all-inclusive hotel that will serve me unlimited BBCs for free.
The cool thing is, this trip wasn’t expensive at all, especially when you consider the fact that the retail cost for the vacation we booked is around $3,500. Here’s how we paid for a spring break for four using some of the best travel reward credit card points:
(Editor’s Note: This piece is from 2016. Credit card offers on this page may no longer available or up to date.)
Flying Southwest on Points
As many people know, Southwest merged with AirTran and inherited all of their international routes a few years ago. That means that, instead of just offering awesome domestic options, Southwest Airlines now flies to Aruba, Cancun, Nassau, San Juan, Costa Rica, Punta Cana, Belize, and of course, Montego Bay. My husband and I are avid Southwest credit card users and have accrued a ton of points, both through their sign-up bonuses and through regular spend.
What’s even cooler is that my husband and I have both earned enough points to get the Southwest Companion Pass these last few years. With the Companion Pass, your “companion” flies free, even when you pay with points, making it the best BOGO scenario I have ever heard of. Even though my Southwest Companion Pass expired at the end of 2015, Greg’s is still valid through the end of 2016. Because of that, we booked three round-trip flights for the same number of points it would normally cost for four.
In the end, that meant paying around 24,000 Rapid Rewards points each for three-round trip tickets. Our only costs were around $124 in government-mandated taxes and fees which you cannot cover with points.
Booking a Jamaican All-Inclusive Resort on Points
This year, we are staying again at the Holiday Inn All-Inclusive Resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
(Editor’s Note: The following offer is no longer up to date.)
To take care of our hotel stay, we both used points from our IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Cards. At the time, this property booked for 35,000 IHG points per night, but we opted to book their “points and cash” option for 25,000 points plus $70 per night.
That made the cost of our hotel stay 150,000 points plus $420 for six nights, which is super cheap when you consider everything that includes.
Since it’s an all-inclusive resort, all of our meals, snacks, and drinks are included in our nightly rate. And yes, that totally includes alcohol, which makes it an even better bargain. Beyond food and drink, plenty of other free stuff is included as well:
- A supervised kid’s club with activities
- Nightly entertainment
- Non-motorized watersports
- Free WiFi for up to four devices
We actually went to this resort for Spring Break last year, which is part of the reason we’re going again. Not only is it just 15 minutes from the airport, but it is the perfect place to bring two small children. With calm, clear waters, giant pools, and nonstop activities, the kids honestly cannot wait to go back!
What Else Will This Trip Cost Me?
Obviously, this trip won’t be free since there are other costs associated with international travel and vacation in general. Here are a few things I plan to budget for:
- Transportation: $60 – We hired private round-trip transportation with booster seats to and from the resort.
- Tips: $200 – Even though all-inclusive resorts include tips in your room rate, most people still tip for good service. We usually tip $1 for each drink and a few bucks with each meal.
- Airport parking: $63 – I hate paying for this. The extended parking lot charges $9 per day. There are other lots further away but we don’t want to deal with the hassle with two toddlers and a 6:00 a.m. departure.
- Club Mobay – This part is actually free. One of my rewards credit cards offers a travel credit that will cover the cost of VIP Arrival using Club Mobay for our trip. The normal cost for the arrival service is $50 per person, but we’ll get it free. What I will budget for is cash so I can tip people who help with our paperwork and our luggage.
How You Could Go to Jamaica Almost-Free This Year
Three main credit cards can help turn this dream into a reality for your family. Whether each spouse needs to sign up for a card of their own depends on the length of vacation you hope to take – plus how many points you can earn until you’re ready to book your trip. Here are the three cards you and a spouse should consider signing up for:
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
- IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card
The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card offers one of the best deals in domestic travel, but it’s also perfect for trips to the Caribbean. The sign up bonus is often enough to pay for two trips to the Caribbean!
As always, I would also consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. The current signup bonus is huge, sitting at 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on your card within three months. Besides that, Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio. If you got this card, you could earn points transferable to Southwest or IHG Rewards. More on that in a minute.
The IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card is offering 60,000 points after you spend just $1,000 on the card within 90 days. (Editor’s note: This offer has expired and the card is no longer available.) Of course, there are other reasons to keep this card as well, including automatic Platinum status at IHG properties and an annual free night at any IHG property worldwide. The best part is, the points you earn with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card also transfer to IHG Rewards at a 1:1 ratio. So you could get any combination of these cards and be on your way to taking a similar trip in no time.
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The Final Word
If you love all-inclusive resorts like I do, you already know this is one hell of a deal. And honestly, I cannot wait to go back! Make sure to check out our review of this property, which includes our thoughts on our stay, an overview of the food and entertainment, and plenty of pictures.
Good luck with your planning, and make sure to email me or tweet me if you have any questions.