Open for business: What to know about getting to Jamaica on points this summer
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As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year.
Jamaica reopened to tourism on June 15 amidst a downward trend in novel coronavirus cases. The country reported 665 confirmed cases of the virus with 10 deaths as of mid-June, but officials aren’t taking any chances.
If you do want to visit the Caribbean nation this summer keep in mind that it likely won’t be the respite from social distancing policies in the U.S. That’s because Jamaica has published a whopping 119-page guide for local hospitality procedures.
Related: Guide to Caribbean reopenings
Arriving travelers must fill out a mandatory pre-travel health authorization registration before departure which will be reviewed, and your level of risk for COVID-19 transmission will be assessed based on your submitted details. Once you arrive in Jamaica, you’ll be subject to temperature checks and health screenings. If you pass, you must remain within the “COVID-19 Resilient Corridor,” according to Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
If you’re still interested in relaxing in sunny Jamaica this summer, and you’re fine with the country’s COVID-19 restrictions, here’s what to know about getting and staying there on points and miles.
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Jamaica flight deals currently available
The island is primarily served by two airports: Kingston (KIN) and Montego Bay (MBJ). Both are served by major airlines like United, American, Delta, JetBlue and Caribbean Airways. You can also fly to the island on low-cost carriers like Spirit, though note you’ll be charged for baggage and snacks.
If you’re looking to laze the day away on the beach, you’re better off flying to Mo’Bay. You can find nonstop flights to the island from cities like New York (JFK), Chicago (ORD), Houston (IAH) and Atlanta (ATL). If you’re paying cash, we’re seeing the cheapest flights from JFK on JetBlue, starting at $386 round-trip for summer dates.
If you’re based just about anywhere in Florida, your options are much cheaper, given the state’s significant Jamaican population. We’re seeing flights from Miami (MIA), Ft. Lauderdale (FLL) and Orlando (MCO) starting around $220 round-trip on airlines like American and JetBlue.
Don’t forget to use a card that earns additional points on airfare purchases, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express. You can even offset your airfare purchase completely by charging it to the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and then redeem Venture miles at a rate of 1 cent per point.
You’ll find the cheapest deals through online travel agencies (OTAs) like Orbitz, but you may avoid potential headaches by booking directly through the airline. Note that the cheapest fares are in basic economy. On American, for instance, that means you’ll board last, pay to choose a seat and check a bag. So if you plan to bring a ton of gear, you’ll want to avoid booking a basic economy fare.
Flying to Jamaica on miles
If you want to save cash and book your ticket with miles instead, you have a plethora of options.
American AAdvantage miles
Flights from the cities in the continental U.S. like Miami to Jamaica start at 30,000 AAdvantage miles round-trip in Main Cabin, or 50,000 miles round-trip in business. Off-peak awards require just 25,000 miles round-trip, but you’ll have to travel between Sept. 9 - Nov.18.
British Airways Avios
If you don’t have American miles, this would also be a good way to take advantage of British Airways’ distance-based award chart and snag a round-trip ticket for 15,000 Avios in economy or 30,000 in business class from Miami. If you’re low on Avios, Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards points transfer at a 1:1 ratio. Marriott Bonvoy points transfer at a 3:1 ratio, though you’ll also get a 5,000-Avios bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points you transfer.
Note that you’re going to get hit with pretty significant taxes and fees – I’m seeing $140 – no matter which cabin class you choose.
Flights on United from cities like Newark and Houston start at 19,500 United MileagePlus miles one-way in economy or 32,500 miles in business class. If you don’t have United miles – don’t worry: you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to the MileagePlus program.
JetBlue has some of the cheapest awards, with flights from Ft. Lauderdale to Montego Bay starting at under 10,000 TrueBlue points. Again, you’ll be on the hook for the taxes and fees, but you can transfer points to JetBlue from all major transferable points programs, although the ratio varies.
Delta’s dynamic award pricing makes it hard to speak in general terms about how much an award ticket should cost, as prices fluctuate day to day to match demand. For most of the schedule, 22,000 miles round-trip appears to be the lowest price you’ll find for economy awards between JFK and Montego Bay.
Understand cancellation policies before booking travel
Before buying any airline ticket in the current realities, understand the cancellation and rebooking policies for the carrier you book. Airlines have been adjusting their policies to be more friendly for future bookings, but what that means can vary from airline to airline. They may even differ depending on whether you used cash or miles.
While you’re now often able to rebook an airline ticket for a future date without a change fee, just remember that you’ll likely still be on the hook for any fare difference from your old ticket to the new one.
The same goes for hotels and rentals. Be sure to check current policies before booking your stay.
Where to stay in Jamaica on points and miles
Every major hotel loyalty program has a presence in Jamaica. Whether you’re a Hyatt loyalist or prefer Marriott Bonvoy, there are lots of options for booking hotels on points:
World of Hyatt
Jamaica is the place to stay if you’re looking for an all-inclusive option. The World of Hyatt program really shines here, with two luxury resorts in Montego Bay: the family-focused Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall and adults-only Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall have rooms under $320 a night, or 25,000 Hyatt points, per night. There's also The Trident Hotel in Port Antonio at 40,000 points a night, but it isn't accepting reservations yet.
Remember that Hyatt is currently running a Bonus Journeys promotion where you’ll earn 3X points starting with your second qualifying stay. Both hotels are slated to reopen on July 1, 2020, according to an update from Playa Hotels & Resorts.
TPG currently values World of Hyatt points at 1.7 cents each. If you’re low on points, you can earn points with the World of Hyatt Credit Card, which currently offers a two-tiered sign-up bonus: 30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 more bonus points by earning 2x bonus points total on purchases that normally earn 1x bonus point, on up to $15,000 in the first six months of account opening. You can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to your Hyatt account at a 1:1 ratio from cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
You won’t find many Marriott properties in Jamaica, but if you’re staying in Kingston the AC Hotel, a Category 4 property, is a solid option. Marriott has expanded off-peak pricing, making this property just 20,000 points.
If you plan to stay a couple of nights, remember that Bonvoy members earn the fifth night free on all award stays. If you need Marriott points, you can earn them through several co-branded credit cards or transfer Amex or Chase points to Marriott. Like Hyatt, Marriott is also running a promotion where you’ll earn 2,000 Bonvoy points on each stay, starting with the second stay.
Your options are pretty limited if you’re a Hilton loyalist. There’s just one property in the entire country: the Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa. Unfortunately, the hotel is currently closed due to the pandemic but is scheduled to reopen July 1. Rates start at 43,000 Hilton Honors points per night later this summer. Elite members also get the fifth night free on award stays.
The adults-only Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay, at 90,000 points a night, is an all-inclusive Choice Privileges Ascend Hotel Collection property. From unlimited dining options -- with no reservation required -- to cruises on the hotel’s private sailboat, you’re bound to have a relaxing stay. Due to travel restrictions, this hotel is closed temporarily but expects to reopen Aug. 1, 2020.
Choice Privileges is running a promotion for up to 8,000 bonus points after staying two nights before Sept. 7, 2020. Choice isn’t known for having the fanciest hotels, but you can find some of its more high-profile hotels on the island. If you don’t have Choice points, you can often buy them at a discount directly through the hotelier or during special promotions. You can also transfer Amex points to the chain at a 1:1 ratio
Or, you can sign up for the Choice Privileges Visa Card to get a 32,000-point bonus for spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
The information for the Choice Privileges Visa Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
If you’re interested in taking a vacation this summer, Jamaica will officially be open for business on July 1. From reasonably priced luxury point hotels to nonstop flights that start at just under 10,000 miles round-trip, you can take the socially-distant vacation of a lifetime -- and save money.
If you’re fine with the rules regarding social distancing in Jamaica and have some miles and points to spare, the warm weather and beautiful beaches of Jamaica just might be calling your name.