In my family, we have an expression: “Free is a good price.” And even when your airfare and hotel are booked with credit card rewards, the cost of food and activities on your vacations can still be expensive.
But when you can use your points and miles to stay in an all-inclusive hotel, then the price of your vacation will shrink towards almost nothing. And don’t discount the convenience of not having to wait for a check, and for the waiter to accept and return your credit card every time you eat out.
Using Hotel Points to Book All-Inclusive Stays
There are lots of all-inclusive properties, but many of these, such as Sandals, don’t belong to any major hotel loyalty program. Thankfully, several of the major hotel loyalty programs allow you to redeem their points for stays in all inclusive properties.
Don’t look now, but the brand most famous for budget properties in rural locations also happens to operate a few dozen all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean. These resort pricing varies by property and by season, with some as low as 25,000 points per night and others as high as 100,000.
Of the thousands of Hilton properties around the world, nine are all-inclusive resorts. However, they are scattered about the world in Mexico, Jamaica, Egypt, Turkey and the Dominican Republic. Stays start at just 12,000 points per night at the Hilton Sharks Bay Resort in Egypt, but most have prices of between 40,000 and 95,000 points per night, depending on the resort and the season. The Hilton Playa Del Carmen and the Hilton La Romana for Adults (obviously) are for adults only. Those that allow children charge $65-$120 per night for additional children, although some allow children ages five and under to stay for free.
Hyatt offers all-inclusive resorts under two of its brand names in Mexico and the Caribbean. The Hyatt Zilara properties are adults only, while the Ziva properties are family-friendly resorts designed for all ages. In some cases, the two resorts are side by side. You can book an all-inclusive stay for two guests for either 20,000 points or 25,000 points per night, depending on the resort. But sadly, Hyatt prices additional guests at 50% of the cost of the room. This makes the cost of a family of four double the price of a room, even if the guests are small children. For older children, you might as well just book two rooms. And things become really ridiculous for those with three or more children.
Hyatt also features its upscale Miraval Resorts that cost 65,000 points per night, based on double occupancy. However, these resorts normally cost well over $1,000 per night.
The IHG Rewards Club offers just two all-inclusive resorts, the Holiday Inn Resort Ixtapa and the Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay. Prices start at 40,000 points and can go up from there, not including children and other additional guests beyond two adults.
Marriott currently has just a few all-inclusive resorts, but it announced earlier this year that it will be adding an additional 19 properties in Mexico, Costa Rica and the Caribbean. Currently, these properties require 70,000 to 100,000 points per night for two people. The price of additional children and guests varies by resort.
Using Credit Cards Rewards to Book All-Inclusive Stays
Two credit card providers that offer exceptional value when redeeming your rewards for hotel stays, including all-inclusive resorts that aren’t part of a loyalty program, are Chase and Capital One.
There is the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, which allows you to book nearly any hotel available on Expedia. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® are good options for that. You can also use the Chase Freedom Flex® card and Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card and then transfer over points to earn travel. Then there’s the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, which offer great redemption rates for travel as well.
Since you pay for your hotel stay with your card, you can use whichever booking channel offers you the lowest price or the best benefits, which is often the case when you book directly through the hotel.
When you count on food and activities, a lot of award vacations are far from free. But when you use your points and miles to stay at an all-inclusive resort, you can have a relaxing trip and return with a total bill of almost nothing.