The Best Bucket List Points Trips to All-Inclusive Resorts
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When I use my loyalty points to cover the cost of a hotel room, I’m so happy that I don’t think life can get any better. However, when these points cover an entire stay at an all-inclusive resort, you’ve reached a pinnacle of award travel. With no further introduction necessary, let’s look at my list of bucket list all-inclusive resorts and the flights you need to reach them, all bookable with points and miles. I’ll start by going though each hotel chain’s all-inclusive options, then cover award travel options to the Caribbean, as that’s the region where most of these properties are located.
Hilton advertises thirteen all-inclusive properties on its resorts’ page, though appearances can be deceiving. At least one is currently closed for renovation (the Hilton Hurghada Plaza in Egypt), while another has zero availability at this time (the Hilton Bodrum Turkbuku Resort & Spa in Turkey). There are also a few that offer all-inclusive rates that aren’t bookable with points and even one that’s no longer a part of the program (Hilton Hurghada Long Beach Resort). As a result, be sure to check the specific award you’re booking to ensure that it includes everything.
If you do decide to redeem points at any of the available properties, any Hilton elite traveler, including low-tier Silver members, will receive the fifth night free on award bookings of up to 20 nights, dropping the required number of points even further on longer stays. However, this only applies to standard room rewards; upgraded accommodations aren’t eligible for this perk.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the best options for your bucket list trip.
The Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa is located in Jamaica and boasts the largest water park in the Caribbean. I found award nights starting at 63,000 points, though most dates with availability cost 70,000 points per night for the Montego Bay area resort. Children under 5 stay and eat free, while ages 6 – 14 incur an additional $75/night/child (paid at check-in). If you’re traveling with children ages 15 and older, they should be registered as adults and will be charged accordingly.
There are two other all-inclusive spots in Jamaica, both of which are adults-only:
- Jewel Dunn’s River Beach Resort & Spa: This Curio Collection property in Ocho Rios has award nights as low as 56,000 points per night, though most dates are 65,000 – 70,000 points.
- Jewel Paradise Cove Resort & Spa: Located in Runaway Bay, this property also falls into the Curio brand. Awards start at 51,000 points per night, but availability doesn’t really open up until mid-February.
It’s worth noting that both of these Curio properties include complimentary transportation to and from the Montego Bay Airport (MBJ).
An alternate Hilton all-inclusive spot in the Caribbean is set to open soon in the Dominican Republic. The Hilton La Romana is accepting reservations for arrival November 20, 2018 and beyond, becoming the newest all-inclusive resort in the Hilton Honors portfolio. With numerous options for dining and unlimited land & water activities, it has the potential to be quite the vacation spot. Award rooms start at just 45,000 points per night during the first month but climb as high as 95,000 points per night in the winter and spring. Children up to age 2 are free, while those ages 3-12 are an extra $60/night. Children 13 and older should be registered as an adult; if not, a $99/night fee will be added to your room at check-in.
If you’re looking for an all-inclusive property in Mexico, you could use your points for the Hilton Puerto Vallarta resort. This property is a great option for both families and couples, thanks to its new, adults-only area called The Hacienda with its own pools, restaurants, bars, library and suites. A standard room award is 70,000 points per night, though the cost dropped as low as 48,000 points per night when looking at dates during shoulder season. Children under 5 stay and eat free; ages 6 – 12 currently incur an additional $49/night/child, though this will be increasing to $65/night/child starting on December 21, 2018 (fees payable on arrival). Children ages 13 and older will be charged an adult rate and thus should be registered as adults.
Licenciado Gustavo Diaz Ordaz Airport (PVR) is only nine minutes away from the property and serviced by over 20 airlines, including nonstop flights to both Europe and Canada.
An alternate Mexican location is the Hilton Playa del Carmen, currently accepting reservations for arrival November 15, 2018 and beyond. The all-suite beachfront property boasts over 500 rooms and is located steps from numerous shopping and dining options. It’s also adults-only, giving you a kid-free vacation spot to consider. Award nights start at 59,000 points per night this fall, though many nights in the winter and spring are 94,000 points.
Looking to travel further afield for a luxurious stay? Consider Turkey and the Hilton Dalaman Sarigerme Resort & Spa. Located 10 minutes from Dalaman International Airport (DLM) on the Mediterranean Sea, the expansive resort boasts 23 restaurants and bars, though not all are part of the standard, all-inclusive rate. I found rooms available for 43,000 Honors points per night, good for the all-inclusive rate for two adults and one child under 12 years old. The resort has overwhelmingly positive reviews from a variety of sources and has the potential to be a hidden gem, one which I am very interested in visiting.
There’s also the DoubleTree by Hilton Antalya-Kemer in Turkey, situated on a beautiful stretch of beach along the Mediterranean coast. Award rates start at just 25,000 points per night this fall before jumping to 50,000 points in the spring.
For either property, a Turkish Airlines business class transatlantic flight to Istanbul and then a short connecting flight to either Dalaman or Antalya sure would make a luxurious way to start your all-inclusive bucket-list vacation.
Your final Hilton all-inclusive property is the Hilton Sharks Bay Resort. Located outside Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, the property has 10 bars and restaurants, seven pools and two fitness centers. There’s also a private beach on the shore of the Red Sea for water activities. The resort does add a fee of $20 per night for children ages five years and older, though younger travel companions are free. It’s worth noting that terrorism threats have had an impact on tourism in the area, which have (in turn) driven rates to rock bottom prices for both paid and award stays. Free nights start at 14,000 points per night, though with cash rates as low as $54/night for two adults, you may be better off saving your points for a higher-value redemption.
Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport (SSH) is on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula and is just 10-15 minutes from the resort. Your best bet for using miles to get there is to fly via Cairo (CAI) on EgyptAir; as a member of Star Alliance, you can use United miles or Aeroplan miles for the award ticket.
Earning Hilton Points
If these resorts are intriguing but you’re short on Hilton points, consider opening one of the program’s American Express cards. For example, the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express is currently offering a welcome bonus of 150,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. You’ll also enjoy automatic Hilton Diamond status and $250 in annual airline fee credits. Even better? Since all of the above resorts are listed on hilton.com/resorts, all of them should count towards the card’s $250 Hilton resort credit, which can easily off-set some of the card’s $450 annual fee (See Rates & Fees). For full details, check out our review of the Hilton Amex Aspire.
The adults-only Zilara and family friendly Ziva hotels are the all-inclusive brands offered by Hyatt and have become tremendously popular. Located in Mexico and Jamaica, the properties include up to two guests on award bookings; any additional guests over two years old require additional points per night based on the following chart:
When booking online, the website will not show award nights if you try to include more than two adults in a room. I would book a room for two adults and then call reservations to add in any additional guests, though bear in mind that only four people (of any age) are allowed per room.
Besides the Caribbean resorts, you can also redeem your Hyatt points for award stays at the Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa; these stays include all meals, snacks and beverages plus wellness activities and a $175 resort credit per night. The awards are priced according to the following chart:
Miraval Austin is set to open this December, and I am definitely hoping it becomes available for award bookings.
Earning Hyatt Points
If you need to boost your Hyatt account to book awards at these properties, consider opening The World of Hyatt Credit Card, which is currently offering a sign-up bonus of up to 60,000 points. You’ll earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening and an additional 20,000 bonus points after you spend $6,000 total on purchases within the first six months of account opening. It’ll also grant you automatic Discoverist status in the program and offers 2x points on local transit and commuting, dining, flights purchased directly with the airline and fitness & gym club memberships. The card does carry a $95 annual fee but also includes a free night certificate every year (valid at Category 1-4 properties) and the chance to earn another one if you spend $15,000 during your cardmember year.
On the surface, the all-inclusive IHG properties are not aspirational and wouldn’t typically make for a true “bucket list” trip. However, IHG points are very easy to earn, and I know many readers have a plethora of the currency. There are currently four all-inclusive properties in the program at which you can redeem points:
The Holiday Inn Cancun Arenas requires 40,000 points per night with a maximum occupancy of four in a standard room. I went all the way to the final booking screen and found there is an extra chart of $68/person/night for those over 12 years old in the room, although no charge is listed on the final booking screen:
The Holiday Inn Resort Ixtapa, also in Mexico, is located 11 miles from Zihuatanejo Airport (ZIH). The resort requires 50,000 points per night and caps the number of guests per room at two adults. However, paid rates are incredibly low this fall and winter (around $150 per night for the dates I searched), making it a losing proposition to use points.
If Los Cabos is your ideal destination, you can redeem your IHG points at the Holiday Inn Resort: Los Cabos All Inclusive. Rooms are 40,000 points per night with a maximum of two adults per room. Once again, however, cash prices are less than $150 per night for many days over the next several months; you’re better off paying for the stay outright than use your points.
Finally, the Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay All-Inclusive is perhaps the most appealing IHG all-inclusive property. This hotel charges 50,000 points per night for two adults and two children under 12 years old. Additional guests in a room over 13 years old are $80 per person, per night.
With all of the great IHG properties in large cities around the world charging the same number of points as these hotels, you’re likely better off paying for these all-inclusive properties and saving your points for other locations.
Earning IHG Points
The easiest way to boost your IHG Rewards balance is by opening the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, which is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 80,000 points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening plus an additional 40,000 bonus points after spending a total of $5,000 on purchases within 6 months of account opening . You’ll also enjoy automatic Platinum status and a free night certificate every year (valid on stays up to 40,000 points per night, which includes two of the above properties). Whenever you redeem points for a stay of four or more nights, you’ll get one of those nights for free as a cardholder. Other perks include 10x points per dollar spent at IHG hotels and a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit every four years. There is an $89 annual fee, but the above benefits can easily cover that (and then some).
If you head to the all-inclusive vacation package page for Marriott, the last sentence of the terms and conditions state “rewards points cannot be redeem for all-inclusive packages or stays.” With that said, I know of at least one Marriott property that includes meals and activities (but not alcohol) for stays booked with points: the Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai. This all-suite, Category 7 property is currently only 60,000 Marriott points per night (48k per night if you book five consecutive nights for the 5th night free), and you can find award availability without a struggle. All stays includes three meals a day and two daily activities for up to three adults per room. Children under 10 are not allowed in the resort; guests over 10 years old are considered adults.
There are almost unlimited award flight options to get from the US to Dubai as well as routine economy fare sales to fly for under $900 round trip from the US. See TPG Contributor Eric Rosen’s recent guide to flying to Dubai as well as Ethan Steinberg’s guide for the best airline programs to book Emirates award seats for more details.
Earn Marriott Points
If the Al Maha looks appealing, consider applying for the Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card. Eligible new cardholders can earn a welcome bonus of 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 within the first three months, though be sure you know whether you’ll be excluded from this offer by new restrictions put into place over the summer. The card also includes Priority Pass membership and $300 per year in credits for Marriott/SPG/Ritz-Carlton purchases, easily covering a large chunk of the card’s $450 annual fee (See Rates & Fees).
All Wyndham resorts and hotels worldwide cost 15,000 points per award night, including Viva Wyndham all-inclusive resorts. The brand has five properties in the Dominican Republic, two in Riviera Maya, Mexico and one outside Freeport in the Bahamas. This chart has a great breakdown of what is included for each resort and delineates the two adults-only Viva resorts (which are both in the Dominican Republic). 15,000 points will cover two adults per room; there will be a supplemental charge for additional guests, though the exact amount is determined by each individual property.
Looking for award availability for some of the Viva Wyndham properties, specifically the Mexico properties, can be tricky. Senior TPG Contributor Jason Steele, a long time Wyndham fan, suggests there are unpublished minimum stay times to unlock availability, so don’t search night by night. He’s also had more success calling to find availability rather than relying on the (sometimes) challenging Wyndham website’s results.
Earning Wyndham Points
The quickest way to grab awards at these properties would be to open the Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature Card, which is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 15,000 points after the first use of the card and 15,000 additional Wyndham Rewards points awarded after $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days. It also confers Platinum status, which in turn can be matched to Platinum status in the Total Rewards loyalty program, opening you up to perks at properties like Atlantis in the Bahamas and multiple Las Vegas resorts.
Caribbean Award Travel
The vast majority of the above hotels are located within the Caribbean and Mexico, and award flight options to these destinations are superfluous. One of the best programs for these flights is the British Airways Executive Club, especially if you’re looking at American-operated flights to the Caribbean. Thanks to the carrier’s distance-based award chart, award flights start at just 7,500 Avios each way for routes covering less than 1,151 miles, including many originating in Miami (MIA). Longer flights starting from Charlotte (CLT), Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), New York-JFK or Los Angeles LAX) will cost 10,000 – 12,500 Avios each way, still a great bargain.
Southwest should be your next place to look, beginning with the low fare calendar which conveniently gives you the dates with the lowest amount of points required. Searching Atlanta to Cancun, the nearest airport to many of the above properties, shows really great award flights for this winter:
After Southwest, consider looking at your dates to see if they fall within American’s off-peak calendar (currently September 7 – November 14 and April 27 – May 20). MileSAAver AAdvantage awards will cost just 12,500 miles each way on these dates, though the cost only jumps to 15,000 miles one way for the rest of the year.
Next, Delta has routinely been running award sales to the Caribbean with flights starting at just 10,000 miles round trip. Unfortunately, availability isn’t widespread, and you need a bit of luck to have your origin and travel dates line up. Finally, don’t forget to look at JetBlue’s revenue-based TrueBlue program, which has an extensive route network out of Fort Lauderdale (FLL). Try to avoid United though; the carrier’s MileagePlus program will charge you 17,500 miles each way for flights from the US to the Caribbean or Mexico.
British Airways, Southwest and JetBlue are all Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners, making access to all-inclusive vacations easy with the rewards currency earned from cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
As you can see, there are many all-inclusive properties available using your points and miles. The Hyatt Ziva and Zilara resorts are at the top of my list; I’d love to plan a romantic getaway to a Zilara hotel for just me and my wife, but I’m also intrigued by the opportunity to take the entire family to a Ziva property to enjoy the kid facilities. The Hilton in Turkey has also piqued my interest, though the logistics of flying there and back requires a bit more legwork, especially compared to the relative ease of flying to the Caribbean.
That being said, any of the above properties can offer some terrific value under the right circumstances, and award flight options are typically plentiful on these routes. Not having to worry about food and drinks can also be a great way to ensure a stress-free vacation. We tend to get hung up on trying to squeeze the maximum value out of our redemptions, but this happens any time you can redeem your points and miles to make memories with your friends and/or family members. The best part is that all of these programs provide simple ways to boost your account balances and work toward your next trip.
So what are you waiting for? Start planning your next all-inclusive vacation now.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the SPG Luxury Card, please click here.