Top 9 Southwest international destinations for families
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
It’s no wonder Southwest is one of TPG’s top airlines for families. The airline offers flexible change and cancellation policies, which makes using your points easy. Plus, it allows for family boarding and lets passengers check two bags for free (and bring a full-sized carry-on). These benefits are incredibly helpful when traveling in large groups or with small children.
On top of that, Southwest has a growing list of international beach destinations. The airline now flies to 10 countries throughout the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. And although they’re not international, let’s not forget about Puerto Rico and Southwest’s five destinations in Hawaii.
But before you set your heart on an international destination, make sure to check out TPG’s country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery. You’ll also want to pay attention to any vaccination and testing requirements and fill out any necessary paperwork ahead of time.
One of the best parts of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards loyalty program, and another potential selling point for family travelers, is the Southwest Companion Pass perk. Using the Companion Pass, you can bring a set friend or family member with you on any Southwest flight for no additional points or cash, even on international flights.
To earn the Companion Pass, you need to earn 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. Fortunately, the bonus points earned from the Southwest credit cards count as qualifying points, which makes the current welcome offer across all of its personal cards even more enticing.
These cards include the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card. Each card is currently offering a 75,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months.
Here are nine international destinations where families can fly with Southwest, and if you have the Companion Pass, you can end up saving on your trip.
Aruba is quite possibly one of my favorite family-friendly Caribbean islands. The water is calm and crystal clear, the beach is long and wide, there are many points hotels and kid-friendly activities throughout the island. The weather is also almost always perfect, and since the island is outside of the hurricane belt, it’s a very popular destination to visit in the summer and fall.
I’ve already taken my 8-year-old daughter to Aruba twice; once when she was 18 months and again when she was 2 1/2 years old. Out of our (many) beach vacations, my husband and I still talk about how much we love Aruba for a family vacation.
Fly into: Aruba (AUA) with nonstop flights from Baltimore (BWI).
The Bahamas is an excellent option for a family-friendly vacation, especially since Baha Mar opened its doors.
You have the Rosewood, SLS, and the Grand Hyatt within the complex, which is a great way to redeem your World of Hyatt points. You also have Atlantis on Paradise Island, which I used to dream about while growing up. After all, being able to slide through a shark tank has a definite “wow” factor!
Better yet, The Bahamas is close to the U.S. mainland, making for a short flight for those coming from the East Coast. For me, spending the least amount of time in an airplane with kids as possible is ideal, especially for a long weekend.
Southwest prices to Nassau are usually reasonable — and that’s something to consider when purchasing plane tickets for an entire family. A few years ago, I flew my family of four to Nassau and spent only 18,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points per round-trip ticket coming from Boston. Although we are a family of four, I only had to purchase three tickets as my daughter was my Companion Pass companion.
Fly into: Nassau (NAS), with nonstop flights from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Baltimore (BWI).
Once Grand Cayman fully reopens to family tourism, you’ll find soft white sand, crystal-clear waters and many kid-friendly activities throughout the island. And if you haven’t heard about Stingray City, it’s a must-do adventure during your visit. There are not many places where you can swim with stingrays, but Grand Cayman has you covered.
For those looking to redeem their hotel points for a free night, Grand Cayman has many options. You will find everything from budget-conscious hotels to high-end luxury resorts and everything in between. The Westin Grand Cayman is currently on my radar; it’s a Marriott Bonvoy Category 7 property that costs 60,000 points on standard dates. Not bad, considering paid rates are often over $600 per night.
Fly into: Grand Cayman (GCM), with nonstop flights from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Baltimore (BWI). Southwest will resume service to Grand Cayman in March 2022.
Costa Rica is perfect for those seeking some variety in their vacation. You can start with Arenal Volcano, head to the rainforest and finish by surfing at the beach. Don’t miss the thrill-seeking activities of whitewater rafting and zip-lining along the way. In my opinion, Costa Rica is a better-suited vacation for families who are past the baby and toddler stages. However, you can still relax at some fantastic resorts with younger kids.
The Andaz Costa Rica in Papagayo will give you the biggest bang for your buck. As a Category 5 property, the hotel costs 20,000 World of Hyatt points a night. With the complimentary kids club for kids four and up (although some activities require an extra charge), this hotel provides not-to-be-missed value.
Southwest flies to two Costa Rican airports: San Jose (SJO) and Liberia (LIR). You can start your vacation in one city, travel around the country and then depart from city area if desired.
- Liberia (LIR), with nonstop flights from Baltimore (BWI), Houston (HOU), Denver (DEN) and Fort Lauderdale (FLL).
- San Jose (SJO), with nonstop flights from Baltimore (BWI) and Houston (HOU).
If you’re looking for an all-inclusive resort for your family, the Dominican Republic is the place to be.
Family vacations here are easy, as it’s one of those destinations where you don’t have to leave the resort. Instead, just relax at the pool and beach and soak up the sun. There are many kids club opportunities and, typically, nightly entertainment. My family had a great vacation in the Dominican Republic a few years ago at The Reserve at Paradisus Punta Cana.
There’s also the Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana if you’re looking to redeem World of Hyatt points. Or, with Marriott’s newly added all-inclusive properties, there are many opportunities to redeem your Marriott Bonvoy points.
Just keep in mind that Southwest only flies to Punta Cana within the Dominican Republic. It is a relatively large country with many different resort areas, so plan your hotel(s) accordingly.
Fly into: Punta Cana (PUJ), with nonstop flights from Baltimore (BWI) and Chicago (MDW). Nonstop flights from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) start Feb. 17, 2022.
Southwest flies to four destinations in Mexico — Cabo, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and Cozumel. Southwest has nonstop service to Mexico from many of its larger cities, which is great for families who avoid connecting tickets.
Related: Best times to visit Mexico
Mexico can even be more economical than the Caribbean destinations listed here. There are a ton of all-inclusive opportunities, and that’s ideal so you don’t have to constantly open your wallet for food or the resort’s kids club. Many of these are decent points deals, like the Hyatt Ziva Cancun that costs 25,000 World of Hyatt points per night plus 12,500 points per additional guest. That can add up, but remember you’re saving on daily expenses.
- Los Cabos (SJD), with nonstop flights from Houston (HOU); Austin, Texas (AUS); Baltimore (BWI); Chicago (MWD); Denver (DEN), Sacramento (SMF); Oakland, California (OAK); Phoenix (PHX); and San Diego (SAN).
- Puerto Vallarta (PVR), with nonstop flights from Austin (AUS) starting March 12, 2022; Houston (HOU); Denver (DEN); Orange County/Santa Ana, California (SNA); Phoenix (PHX); and San Diego (SAN).
- Cancun (CUN), with nonstop flights from Fort Lauderdale (FLL); Baltimore (BWI); Pittsburgh (PIT); Columbus, Ohio (CMH); Milwaukee (MKE); Chicago (MDW and ORD); Kansas City, Missouri (MCI); Indianapolis (IND); Nashville (BNA); St. Louis (STL); New Orleans (MSY); Denver (DEN); Austin (AUS); Houston (HOU); Phoenix (PHX); and San Antonio (SAT).
- Cozumel (CZM), with nonstop flights from Houston (HOU) and Denver (DEN) starting March 12, 2022.
Turks and Caicos Islands
Turks and Caicos is one of those destinations that has it all — white sandy beaches, fabulous restaurants, lots of adventure and great nightlife. And while this destination might be high on your list for a relaxing beach getaway, there is probably one reason you have yet to visit: It is incredibly expensive!
There are a ton of luxurious and family-friendly hotels on the island — and nightly rates can be sky-high depending on the property. Fortunately, Hyatt’s partnership with Small Luxury Hotels of the World means you have two properties to stay at using your World of Hyatt points, and there are plans for the Andaz Turks and Caicos to open in 2023.
Plus, there’s the brand-new Ritz Carlton, Turks & Caicos where families can redeem Marriott Bonvoy points for an award stay. If you’re thinking of booking non-points properties, consider charging the stay to a Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and redeeming your Capital One miles to offset the charge.
Fly into: Providenciales (PLS), with nonstop flights from Baltimore (BWI) and Fort Lauderdale (FLL).
If Central America is on your family’s horizon, you can fly to Belize on Southwest Airlines. Belize offers a ton for families of all ages, including the rainforest, world-class scuba diving and beautiful beaches.
When it comes to hotels, you can save up your Hilton Honors points and stay at the Mahogany Bay Resort & Beach Club, Curio Collection by Hilton for 45,000-75,000 Hilton Honors points a night. (You do need to take a 15-minute flight or water taxi to get to this resort). Plus, you can get your fifth night free if you have Hilton elite status.
Fly into: Belize City (BZE), with nonstop flights from Denver (DEN) and Houston (HOU). Southwest service to Belize City resumes on Nov. 7, 2021.
Similar to Mexico, Jamaica also offers many all-inclusive options for your family. Although there are a few international airports in Jamaica, Southwest only flies into Montego Bay. So, you’ll want to find a hotel on the western side of the island if you’re flying Southwest to the country.
Fortunately, you have a few options, including the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall (or Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall for an adults-only getaway), the Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa and the Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay. At the Holiday Inn, you’ll receive a fourth night award simply by having the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card in your wallet.
Related: Best Jamaica activities with kids
Fly into: Montego Bay (MBJ), with nonstop flights from Baltimore (BWI), Chicago (MDW), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Houston (HOU) and St. Louis (STL).
Southwest’s international route map isn’t the largest, but it covers many close-to-home destinations that are great for families. The Southwest Companion Pass will easily allow your family to experience amazing international destinations at a hefty discount. This, combined with a large Rapid Rewards balance, has allowed my family to go on otherwise unattainable trips.
Featured photo by Duarte Dellarole/Shutterstock.com.
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