Honeymoon/Vacation Plan Alpha: Airfare & 9 Nights in Cancun for $112

How does a nine-night honeymoon or vacation in Cancun, Mexico sound?  Does it sound even better if the nine hotel nights and the roundtrip airfare can all be had for $112 out of pocket?

In this first post in a series of notional honeymoon plans, I put together an itinerary that includes four nights at one of the best all-inclusive properties in Cancun and the other five nights at a hotel which is slightly less luxurious but centrally located for daytripping.

This plan yields a $5,295 honeymoon (or vacation) for only $112 out of pocket.  That should leave you much of your budget for activities and fine dining to make your trip one you’ll always remember.

IMG_3298
The beaches of Cancun are soft and the water aqua blue, making it a great destination for honeymooners looking for relaxation during the day (and a variety of options at night)!

Getting There and Back

For this honeymoon plan I assumed a departure/return airport of Baltimore-Washington and a wedding month of June – the most popular wedding month in the USA.  I selected Monday, a common honeymoon departure day, June 15th for the outbound flight.  A nine-night stay means a return flight date of June 24th.

One of the most straight-forward airline rewards programs around is Southwest’s, as there are none of the annoying capacity controls you often find with legacy airlines.  If there’s a seat available you can book it with Southwest points.  To minimize the number of points you have to spend you do want to book in the Wanna Get Away fare class which are usually available up until a few weeks before the flight.

Southwest’s policy of two free checked bags per flyer is also a good fit for honeymooners as most honeymooners have some checked luggage.

Using the dates I had selected, I did a search on Southwest’s website.  Since most honeymooners don’t want to be dealing with connecting flights, I chose nonstop flights for both the outbound and return.  There was plenty of availability and so in short order I had selected great flights.

Southwest BWI-Cancun Roundtrip2
Roundtrip flights between BWI and Cancun can be had in June, a prime honeymoon month, for just under 23k points and about $76 in airport taxes/fees per person!

So for just under 46k points, and payment of the mandatory airport taxes/fees of $153 total for two people, you get nonstop flights for both you and your fiance(e).  These aren’t undesirable off-hour flights either – they’re at prime times for a trip of this type.

Those 46k points needed for both roundtrip tickets can be covered by the 50k point signup bonus for a single Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card.

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus 50,000 50000 50k Point Signup Bonus Offer Credit Card IMage
The Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards card is usually available with a 50k point sign-up bonus. In this honeymoon plan, that is enough points for roundtrip flights between BWI and Cancun for both the bride and groom!

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card from Chase yields you 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account.

Other key features include:

  • 3,000 Rapid Rewards (RR) points each year at your card anniversary date
  • $69 annual fee, applied to your first billing statement, though that is effectively offset by the 3,000 RR points each year

For the detailed terms and conditions, click here.

Lodging

When you think of Cancun, you may think of all-inclusive lodging.  That’s for good reason – there are some great options of that type in Cancun.

For the first four nights of this honeymoon plan, lodging will be at the Hyatt Zilara Cancun, an all-inclusive hotel that is rated on TripAdvisor as the #4 hotel of 182 in Cancun, as of writing.

Check out my Ultimate, Definitive Review of the Hyatt Zilara Cancun for Honeymooners for every detail you’d ever want to know about staying at the property!

For the first time ever, Patty and I booked an all-inclusive vacation. We headed to the Hyatt Zilara Cancun for a long weekend.
The Hyatt Zilara Cancun features an excellent pool, a variety of food and drink and a hotel layout which grants ocean views from all rooms!  Photo ©The Honeymoon Guy
Hyatt Zilara Cancun Beach Cabanas Caribbean Sea 800
The beachfront property offers powdery, white sand and beach cabanas in which you can relax the day away. Photo ©The Honeymoon Guy
Hyatt Zilara Cash Price
At Hyatt’s Daily Rate, the Zilara could be as much as $3,663 for the four nights!

The Zilara Cancun is a luxurious adults-only, all-inclusive resort where guests experience traditional Mexican warmth with intimate but casual elegance. It is located in the heart of Cancun’s Hotel Zone, so transfers from/to the airport are easy.

The Zilara is a high-end hotel and that is reflected in the price – booking these four nights at the standard Hyatt Daily Rate would cost $3,663!  That’s “champagne” lodging but it’s certainly not on a “beer budget” so we’ll have to get those nights booked some other way.

That other way is through free night awards.  For our honeymoon, Patty and I used Hyatt free night awards for the Andaz Maui and I’m going to turn to that approach here for this honeymoon plan.

To acquire the four free award nights needed here, both you and your fiance(e) will obtain the Chase Hyatt Visa, earning each of you two free nights at any Hyatt, including the all-inclusive Zilara.

Here are the features of the the Chase Hyatt card as of writing:

  • 2 free nights at Hyatt hotels worldwide, after you make $1,000 in purchases on the card in the first 3 months after account opening.
  • Earn 1 free night every year after your cardmember anniversary at any Category 1-4 hotel.  This can easily be worth $250-$300.
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $75 thereafter.  The free Category 1-4 hotel easily offsets that.
  • No foreign transaction fees, making it suitable for use in Cancun and other foreign locations.
  • Chip-style card for greater acceptance worldwide.
Chase Hyatt Stock Image
Chase Hyatt credit card, with chip, offers a signup bonus of 2 free nights at Hyatts worldwide and a free night at a Category 1-4 Hyatt each year, upon card renewal.

There is also the potential to earn a $50 statement credit with an offer that usually appears during the booking process for Hyatt hotels.  For more details on my personal experience with this card, check out my recent post.

After four nights at the Zilara, this plan calls for a transition to the Aloft Cancun, just a 5 minute drive up Boulevard Kulkucan.  Though certainly not as luxurious as the Zilara, it’s a decently-rated hotel in its own right, currently ranking in the top third of Cancun properties on TripAdvisor.

After lounging at the Zilara for four days, it might be time to get out and check out some sights and sounds of Cancun or the nearby attractions.  With that in mind, luxury may not be as important a hotel trait as budget and this 5 night stay can be had without paying any cash out of pocket for the hotel.

Aloft Cancun—exterior
The Aloft Cancun is a modern, trendy hotel which offers great value.

Booking a room in this hotel for our dates of interest would cost $748 dollars.  Not nearly as much as the Zilara but still a sum you’d probably rather not pay.

Aloft Cancun Cash Cost

To avoid paying about $750 out of pocket, this honeymoon plan calls for booking the room instead using Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points. 

The Aloft Cancun is an SPG Category 2 hotel so an award room can be had for 4,000 and 3,000 points on weekday nights and weekend nights, respectively.   That means the five nights I selected will cost a total of 19k SPG points.  That works out to 3.9 cents of value per Starpoint, an outstanding value even well above my valuation of SPG points!

Aloft Cancun Points Cost
Instead of dropping about $750 in cash for a 5-night stay, the same itinerary can be booked using 19,000 Starpoints.

To acquire the necessary 19k SPG points, this honeymoon plan calls for you OR your fiance(e) to get the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express personal card.  So a single credit card signup bonus will get you five free nights at the Aloft Cancun.

Starwood Preferred Guest Personal Card
The Starwood Preferred Guest credit card is one of the mainstays of the travel world, due to high-value points and valuable transfer options.

The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express personal card offers:

  • 25,000 Starpoints after you make $3,000 of purchases within the first 3 months
  • Annual fee is waived the first year (then $95 thereafter).
  • Get up to 5 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating SPG® hotels – that’s 2 Starpoints for which you may be eligible as a Card Member in addition to the 2 or 3 Starpoints for which you may be eligible as an SPG member. Get 1 Starpoint for all other purchases.
  • Receive free in-room, premium Internet access while staying with SPG® Participating Hotels. (Booking requirements apply.)
  • Enjoy complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide.
  • Receive credit for 5 nights and 2 stays towards SPG® Elite status each year.

For the detailed terms and conditions, click here.

After you meet the spending requirement you’ll have at least 28,000 Starpoints (25,000 from the bonus and at least 3,000 from the spending).  That means that if you end up redeeming 19,000 Starpoints per this plan you’ll still have 9,000 Starpoints left over for future use!

A Note on Zika

As I write this on 07 August of 2016, the CDC does include Mexico on its Practice Enhanced Precautions list.  The CDC site provides detailed info, including the following note: “Because Zika virus is primarily spread by mosquitoes, CDC recommends that travelers to Mexico protect themselves from mosquito bites.”

The reality is that most Caribbean destinations seem to fall into the same boat.  If you’re looking to head to the Caribbean your focus probably isn’t so much one of selecting a destination without local Zika transmission (since not many exist) but rather which precautions you can take to minimize chances of infection.

For additional info, especially if you’re pregnant or expecting to get pregnant soon, visit the CDC site and/or talk with your physician.

The Application Process

This honeymoon plan involves two cards (Southwest and Hyatt) from Chase and one (Starwood Preferred Guest) from American Express.

Though in the past I’ve been a proponent of app-o-ramas, wherein you apply for a bunch of credit cards all at once, that push has faded as credit inquiry reporting services are near instantaneous these days.  So instead it might be best to space out the applications a bit to make meeting the spending requirements easier.

If you haven’t opened a new account with Chase within the past six or so months and you have a good credit score, there’s a very good chance you’ll be approved for both the Chase cards.  There is one other key caveat to consider though: The Southwest card falls under Chase’s unpublished 5/24 rule according to anecdotal evidence.  That means that if you have opened more than 5 credit card accounts in the past 24 months you will very likely be denied for the Southwest card.  The Hyatt card does not fall under the 5/24 rule as of writing.

If you’ve applied for 3 or 4 cards in the past 24 months it would be advisable to go for the Southwest card first, to get that one before you cross the 5/24 threshold.  Then you could subsequently apply for the Hyatt card.

I suggest that one person apply for the Southwest card and the other apply for the SPG card.  That way each person is applying for only two credit cards for this plan.

Whereas calling Chase’s reconsideration line was standard for years there is now a more proactive approach that’s better.  Prior to applying for a new Chase card check your credit limits on existing Chase cards.  If they total a large number (say, over $40k), consider lowering the credit limit of a card or two prior to submitting a new application.

If you’re not initially approved for the SPG Amex you should call the Amex reconsideration line at 877-399-3083.  Before calling you should collect your thoughts and have a concise justification for the card.  You should not mention the signup bonus during any reconsideration call but it is beneficial to mention your interest in the ongoing benefits of the card and your intent to use the card substantially if approved.

It’s important to note that applying for a few credit cards is not going to ruin your credit.  In fact, it may actually lead to an increased credit score in the future, as I explain in further detail on my Credit Score page.

Card Application Plan
Person Credit Card Signup Bonus Spending $ Req
Person 1 Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus 50000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points $2k
Person 1 Chase Hyatt Two free nights + $50 statement credit $1k
Person 2 Chase Hyatt Two free nights + $50 statement credit $1k
Person 2 American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Personal Card 25000 Starpoints $3k

The total spending requirement for the cards that are part of this plan is $7,000.  Though that’s by no means trivial, putting many or all of your wedding expenses on the cards may get you near or over the spending requirements.  Note that you can also prepay insurance and many utility bills or purchase gift cards to stores you frequently patronize, in order to time-shift your spending.

The Summary: 98% Discount on an Unforgettable Honeymoon/Vacation!

This honeymoon plan gets you 9 nights in prime locations in Cancun, along with nonstop flights between BWI and Cancun with free checked bags on Southwest.

The out of pocket cost is only $153 for airport taxes for you as a couple and the $69 annual fee for the Southwest credit card, for a total of $222.  If both you and your fiance(e) can get the Hyatt credit card with the $50 statement credit offer, the net cost out of pocket for the whole trip would be a mere $112!

If booked normally, this trip would cost $884 in airfare and $4,411 for lodging for a total of $5,295.

Honeymoon Plan Alpha Saves You Over $5,000
Trip Element Cash Price The Honeymoon Guy's Recommended Approach Cost Savings
Airfare on Southwest $884 46k points from one Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card + $153 in taxes + $69 annual fee $662
Lodging at Hyatt Zilara Cancun $3663 Four free nights from Chase Hyatt card for you and your fiance(e) + two $50 statement credits $3763
Lodging at Aloft Cancun $748 19k Starpoints from SPG Amex for you or your fiance(e) $748
Totals: $5295 $122 $5173

With the approach laid out here, you’ll pay out of pocket only 2% of the standard price for airfare and lodging!  That will really make for a stress-free honeymoon!!

And after this amazing trip, you’ll still have at least 6,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points and at least 9,000 Starpoints left over!


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What do you think of this honeymoon/vacation plan? Have suggestions to improve it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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