With temperatures dropping, you may be starting to long for some warmer weather. Patty and I are! So we will soon venture to the beaches of Jamaica to soak up some sun.
We’re heading to the all-inclusive Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall in Montego Bay for four nights. We’ll do so for way less cash outlay than you might expect and you can do the same!
The Zilara is an adults-only, all-inclusive resort with infinity pools, free standup paddle boarding, a Brazilian steak house and one of my favorite foods – Caribbean jerk chicken! We stayed at the Hyatt Zilara Cancun earlier this year and really enjoyed it so we’re amped up about visiting another resort in the chain.
(Note for travelers with kids: Adjacent to the Zilara is the family-friendly, but also all-inclusive, Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall.)
So what will we spend for this four day/night vacation? $116 per person, which covers lodging, food and airfare! And I’ll share a plan in this post for you to take the same trip for the same price.
How We’re Doing This Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall Trip
We’re using 25,000 points per night for our stay, for a total of 100,000 points. That’s a big chunk of points but for that outlay we get more than just lodging. Since it’s an all-inclusive resort, that will cover all of our food and drinks (including alcohol) for the entire stay!
Bookings at the resort even include transfers to and from the Sangster International Airport and use of a private lounge there.
We got the 100,000 points from Hyatt as a courtesy when our reservation at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar was canceled due to the hotel not opening on time (it still hasn’t opened!).
To get to Jamaica and and back, we’ll fly nonstop on Southwest. I booked my round-trip flight using 18,690 Rapid Rewards points. Though Southwest’s fares are no longer always the cheapest option, the Rapid Rewards program offers decent value. I have the Southwest Companion Pass so I was able to book Patty onto the same flight for free.
The only frustrating part of planning/booking this trip was seeing the airfare taxes/fees imposed by the US and Jamaican governments. They are ridiculous. For each person, they total $116!
The Value of This Trip is About $2,356
We were excited to check out the Hyatt Zilara in Montego Bay in general. Seeing the value we’re getting out of using points at the resort has us even more excited about the trip. A paid reservation for the type of room we’re booked in will cost almost $1,548!
As we used 100,000 points for the reservation, we theoretically got about 1.5 cents of value per point. That’s actually less than an average redemption value for Hyatt points as I value them right around 2 cents per point.
However, I’m pleased with the redemption because there are some additional elements to an all-inclusive trip that give it more value. If instead of using the points for an all-inclusive hotel we used the same points on a very high-end Hyatt hotel, we would probably still spend hundreds of dollars on food and drinks over the course of four days. Though in theory we may have yielded more than the 1.5 cents per point in value we received here, the actual out-of-pocket cost of the vacation would be higher. Trips like this one, costing less than $250 out of pocket, are so inexpensive that we can do them several times per year. That means that the value is greater than a simple cents per point calculation would indicate.
Adding to the value of this trip, the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall also includes quite a few activities in the price, including free non-motorized watersports!
On the airfare side, a cash booking for our itinerary would have cost $404 per person, including the taxes and fees. One Southwest benefit may increase the value proposition for us further. Whereas other airlines charge for checked bags, the first two checked bags per person are free on Southwest. If we decide we’re going to golf on this trip we’ll bring our clubs with us, saving about $55 per person in club rental cost.
If we add up the value of the lodging and airfare conservatively, we arrive at a figure of $2,356 (2*$404 for airfare + $1,548 for lodging). If we add in the cost of rental golf clubs we avoid, the total value rises to $2,466.
How You Can Do The Same Trip For $116 Per Person
If you don’t have enough Hyatt Gold Passport points for a booking at the Zilara Rose Hall, you may want to pursue free night awards, obtained with the Chase Hyatt Visa card.
If you use a simple trick, you may be able to get the card with a signup bonus that includes not just 2 free nights at any Hyatt, but also a $50 statement credit. The offer’s terms and conditions were recently updated to reflect that the offer is for applicants who recently stayed at a Hyatt. However, communications from Chase indicate that it is available to applicants who have an upcoming reservation at a Hyatt, so you can simply make a refundable reservation prior to applying for the card (and then cancel the reservation once you get the signup bonus).
With the double-up approach, you and your travel partner can get four free nights total and $100 of total statement credit. The minimum spending requirement for this card is a very reasonable $1,000 within 3 months of account opening.
The free night awards you receive from the signup bonus can be redeemed for a standard room. At many hotels and resorts there are plenty of standard rooms but at some high-end properties the standard rooms make up a moderate to small portion of the total room count. In such cases, you’ll want to make your booking well before your trip to ensure you don’t encounter availability issues. We booked our room about 3 months before the trip and didn’t encounter any challenge getting a reservation for the desired dates.
There are two great frequent flyer programs for flying between the US and the Caribbean: Southwest and British Airways. We booked our flights on Southwest. For us, it’s a no-brainer because we have the Companion Pass and a decent balance of Southwest Rapid Rewards.
Fly Southwest Using Rapid Rewards
With nonstop flights to Sangster International Airport to/from Baltimore, Chicago, Houston and Milwaukee, Southwest is a great option for Jamaica vacations for many people.
You can expect to book a roundtrip Jamaica itinerary on Southwest for about 20,000 points per person, or 40,000 points per couple, as long as you book a few months before your trip.
Southwest Rapid Rewards points can of course be racked up through flying and with some promotions that accumulation can be accelerated. If you’re flying on Southwest make sure you sign up for any applicable promotions.
Besides flying on Southwest, the other excellent way to rack up Rapid Rewards points is through acquisition of a corresponding credit card. As of writing the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier personal card is offered with a 50,000 point signup bonus. The annual fee for the card is $99. If you are able to book a trip to Jamaica for about 40,000 points per couple you’ll still have 10,000 points left over and they are worth more than the $99 annual fee. Nonetheless, I’ll include the annual fee in my calculations to be conservative. JULY 2016 UPDATE: The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card is available with a 50,000 point signup bonus (and the annual fee is $69 instead of $99).
If you want to be a bit more aggressive, consider going for the Southwest Companion Pass, one of the best travel perks around.
Fly American Airlines Using British Airways Avios
Another great option for booking flights to/from Montego Bay is using British Airways Avios points to book on American Airlines. British Airways’ reward program is distance based so there are quite a few good values to be found, especially on short flights, and American flies to/from Montego Bay nonstop from many US airports.
Note that there is an impending devaluation of British Airways Avios. Extremely short flights (less than 650 miles in distance) will increase from a cost of 4,500 Avios to 7,500 Avios (economy class) if booked on/after Feb 2nd, 2016.
Here are some example itinerary costs, based on using British Airways to fly nonstop on American Airlines flights, in economy:
- Chicago to/from Montego Bay, Jamaica (roundtrip): 20,000 Avios
- Miami to/from Montego Bay, Jamaica (roundtrip): 9,000 Avios if booked before Feb 2, 2016; after, 15,000 Avios
- Charlotte to/from Montego Bay, Jamaica (roundtrip): 20,000 Avios
- Dallas to/from Montego Bay, Jamaica (roundtrip): 20,000 Avios
As you can see from the list, roundtrip flights between Montego Bay and many eastern/central US airports fall into the 20,000 Avios bracket. The flight distance between Miami and MBJ is 524 miles putting it into a bracket that currently costs 4,500 Avios one-way (9,000 Avios roundtrip) at the moment. On February 2, 2016 that redemption bracket will change to 7,500 Avios one-way.
For most Americans, the only feasible way to rack up a substantial number of British Airways Avios is through acquiring the British Airways credit card from Chase. Signing up for a single British Airways credit card will yield you at least 50k Avios. That one signup bonus will cover roundtrip flights between many American airports and Montego Bay, and in most cases even leave you with some leftover Avios!
The annual fee for the card is $95. The 10,000-32,000 Avios you’d have left over if you booked one of the flight itineraries listed above are worth much more than the $95. I’ll include the annual fee though in my calculations to be conservative.
This Approach Saves You 90%
With the approach laid out here, a couple will pay $232 in airfare taxes and fees and either $95 or $99 for a credit card annual fee. That totals to, at most, $331 for the couple. Subtracting out the $100 in statement credits from two Chase Hyatt Visa cards, yields a net cash outlay of $231, or $116 per person. Four nights at an all-inclusive Jamaican resort, with flights, for $116 per person? You’d be paying only 10% of the value of the trip, and you would even have Rapid Rewards or Avios points left over for use on other trips. That’s hard to beat!!
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Look for full a review of the property once we return! Have you been to the Hyatt Zilara or Ziva Rose Hall? If so, let us know your thoughts on the property in the comments below!