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Family vacations can definitely burn a hole in your pocket, especially if you want to stay somewhere nice that will work for all members in your family — adults and kids alike. Of course, points and miles can come into play and allow your family to travel for free, but the extra costs, such as food, drinks, activities, kids’ club, etc., can all add up. Suddenly your “free” vacation is really no longer free.

During the past five years, I’ve had the privilege of traveling with my two kids and being part of the “family travel” club. We plan our beach vacations much differently than we used to and now have different priorities when it comes to what is important to us. We now like easy vacations, which means places where there are kid-friendly restaurants on-site or at least in walking distance from the resort (no car rentals or taxi rides), pool and beach access at our fingertips and kids’ activities throughout the property. These are all things that would have never mattered to us in the past when traveling as just husband and wife — we would leave the resort, explore different parts of the island and eat most meals off property. But with kids, easy vacationing is our new reality (at least for the next few years) and it can come at a high cost.

Family-friendly beach vacations are our new reality.

More recently, we’ve been checking out the latest and greatest Hyatt resort properties in the Caribbean and Mexico. With my World of Hyatt Globalist status and having a decent amount of points to redeem, we’ve been able to stay in luxury properties and save quite a bit of money at the same time. Two of my more favorite hotels have included the Hyatt Ziva Cancun and the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar. Both are extremely family friendly and are on my short list of hotels to recommend to others, but the amount you’ll spend at one resort versus the other is quite different.

Grand Hyatt Baha Mar vs. Hyatt Ziva Cancun

Both are Hyatt properties, which means you can use your World of Hyatt points for a free night stay. The Grand Hyatt Baha Mar requires 20,000 points per night for a free night stay, while the Hyatt Ziva Cancun runs slightly higher at 25,000 points per night (for two adults). The Hyatt Ziva Cancun also charges an additional 12,500 points per child 3 years and older, although I’ve read that you can pay $100 per child instead. On the surface, it looks like the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar is, by far, a better deal based on fewer number of points required per night, but if you calculate out the full cost, you might be quite surprised.

The Hyatt Ziva Cancun is an all-inclusive property. This truly means that all food and kids’ activities are included. On two different vacations to this resort, my family walked away with a $0 bill. Our only out-of-pocket expense was tipping the waitstaff and bartenders and that was at our own discretion. You can 100% end your vacation without spending an extra penny and still fully enjoy yourself.

Hyatt Ziva Cancun. Photo courtesy of Hyatt Hotels.
Hyatt Ziva Cancun (Photo courtesy of Hyatt Hotels)

When we checked out of the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, our bill was quite different. Since this is not an all-inclusive property, we were on the hook for paying for all our food, drinks and kids’ activities. Even though we are minimalists with spending money while traveling, the extra expenses on everyday essentials added up. We came to the realization that all-inclusive vacations are the way to go to keep costs down while traveling with a family.

Grand Hyatt Baha Mar

Comparing Food Costs

Food at most island resort destinations does not come cheap. Of course, you can reduce your costs by having club lounge access but, overall, you should expect to spend a decent amount. Food at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar was no different and should be taken into consideration when planning your overall budget. When comparing costs between the two resorts, I factored costs for a family of four and went pretty conservative.

Breakfast: During our stay at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, we had club lounge access due to our World of Hyatt Globalist status, which reduced our breakfast cost to $0 for our family of four. Otherwise, the breakfast buffet at this property is north of $50 per person. Of course, there is a Starbucks and other less expensive options but to feed a family of four, I am going to put an extremely conservative $50 price tag just on breakfast. At the Hyatt Ziva Cancun, your breakfast cost is 100% complimentary. Even room service is included for no additional charge. There was nothing better than eating breakfast out on our hotel room balcony while getting organized for the day — especially when it was free.

All-inclusive breakfast savings = $50 per day

Lunch: Lunch is one of those costs that can easily creep up on you as even those who have club lounge access will not get a free meal. Most properties provide just breakfast and, if you are lucky, there will be a display of hors d’oeuvre for dinner. During the lunch hour, you might find a few snacks or a bowl of fruit at best.

At the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, there were a ton of food truck options and while they were, by far, the least expensive options, we still spent $50 every day for lunch. This even included us getting just three meals for all four of us to split. With my son being the worst eater ever we get off cheap, but if you are a family of four with everyone wanting their own meal, you are looking at $70 per day.

At the Hyatt Ziva Cancun, for example, there were a ton of places for lunch, including many similar food truck options. Again, every single restaurant option was included, and you could truly have as much food as you want. Can’t decide between a hamburger and a hot dog? Have both!

All-inclusive lunch savings = $70 per day

Dinner: Dinner is where you’ll see a huge difference. I know many families like to really enjoy themselves for dinner when on vacation, and I completely understand. Eating out is definitely part of the vacation experience when you can sit back, relax and have someone else cook a meal for you. During my stay at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, we did a mix of eating out at restaurants on-site and also filling up on hors d’oeuvres at the club lounge. This helped keep our total costs down since there weren’t many “cheap” options. One meal where it was just my husband and I (the kids mostly ate at the club lounge), we were able to rack up a $189 bill and that wasn’t even going overboard. Of course, you could find slightly less expensive places to eat, but for a family of four you are still looking at a minimum $125 bill.

At the Hyatt Ziva Cancun, we never even saw a bill when our dinner was complete. We tipped our waiter or waitress and that was our only expense. Because it was all-inclusive, we could order any appetizers, entrees and drinks we wanted without thinking twice. And if the kids didn’t eat what they ordered, we could order room service when we got back to the room.

All-inclusive dinner savings = $125 per day

Comparing Drink Costs

Not having to pay for your drinks is huge. My husband and I aren’t big drinkers, but we do enjoy a few fruity drinks or a nice cold beer while on vacation. My kids also love their virgin piña coladas. We went extremely conservative during our stay at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar and only spent about $56 per day on drinks — one drink for every member in my family, daily. Of course, if drinks were complimentary 24 hours a day, we absolutely would have enjoyed a few more.

All-inclusive drinks savings = $56 per day

(Photo courtesy of Jennifer Yellin / DealsWeLike.com)
(Photo courtesy of Jennifer Yellin / DealsWeLike.com)

Comparing Kids’ Club Costs

My daughter loves spending time at hotel kids’ clubs during each vacation we go on. My son, unfortunately, isn’t old enough but I believe he will follow his sister there soon enough. At most properties, the kids’ club is not complimentary, although the fee varies depending on the resort. At the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, it is $62 for a three-hour period, which seems to be pretty on par for beach destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico.

Hyatt Ziva Cancun Kid Club
Hyatt Ziva Cancun kid club

At the Hyatt Ziva Cancun, even the kids’ club is complimentary, as is the case with most all-inclusive properties. You could also go to the club all day and evening if you wanted to — there was no cap to the number of hours you could spend there. This was HUGE for us. My daughter could go in and out as she pleased and could even enjoy dinner and an organized activity in the evening at the club. This was a win/win all around. My daughter was able to play with new friends while my husband and I enjoyed dinner — all for free.

All-inclusive kids’ club savings = $62 per child

Total Savings

Calculating three meals, drinks and a kids’ club, you are looking at a conservative $400 savings per day by staying at an all-inclusive resort. Keep in mind this doesn’t even include snacks throughout the day. Your numbers will vary depending on how your family eats and drinks. But for the mass majority, I was pretty conservative with my numbers above while allowing a family of four to still enjoy themselves.

Free snacks and candy all day long at the Hyatt Ziva Cancun! (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Yellin / DealsWeLike.com)
Free snacks and candy all day long at the Hyatt Ziva Cancun. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Yellin / DealsWeLike.com)

As I originally mentioned, these savings do come at a cost. The all-inclusive property cost an extra 5,000 points per night. Based on TPG’valuations, that is worth about $85. Assuming you have two kids over 3 years old, you are looking at another $200 per night at the Hyatt Ziva Cancun. With the point difference and extra kids fee, staying at the all-inclusive will cost you another $285 per night, but remember, you are saving more than $400 per night. Assuming a five-night stay, this can be more than a $500 savings for your entire vacation.

Bottom Line

There is a huge value in all-inclusive properties. The complimentary food, snacks, drinks and kids’ activities can really save you a ton of money — especially if you are a family that typically spends a good amount on food and drinks. When thinking about your next vacation, make sure to calculate your extra costs at an all-inclusive and then take into consideration your daily savings. You might be pleasantly surprised to see that those all-inclusive vacations can actually be a pretty good deal, especially when you’re using points.

Are you intrigued by all-inclusive vacations? Here are some more resources:

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