A few days ago, Hyatt unveiled the award booking chart for their two new all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, the Ziva Los Cabos and the Zilara Cancun. Many of us were eagerly anticipating this news, as both resorts look incredible. The Ziva looks especially tempting for families, as an all-inclusive resort can be the PERFECT solution for the many different needs, wants, and styles that you have to juggle when you are traveling with kids.
The Ziva and the Zilara are billed as luxury properties. Currently, the top tier luxury hotels in the Hyatt portfolio require 22,000 Hyatt points per night, so most folks were hoping that the award nights at the new all-inclusives would hover around that range.
So it was a shocker when Hyatt revealed the numbers. The cost (in points) for a room for 2 people seems reasonable: 25,000 points a night. However, each person after that incurs an additional 10,000 points a night! This means that for my family of 4, we would be paying 45,000 Hyatt points PER NIGHT to stay at the Ziva.
Um, no thank you.
We’d rather pay cash. And at the cash rates they are charging (upwards of $450/night for a family of 4), we’d rather go to a different all-inclusive.
And hey – it just so happens that we are! Have I told you that we’re headed to Mexico next week?
I’m really excited.
The reason we’re going is that we got a great deal, and we booked this trip ten months ago. (Honestly, it’s not the best time for us to go on vacation, but it’s all booked, paid for and settled, so off we go!)
The great deal I got was through Explore Cruise and Travel, which is a USAA partner. Through the site, you could book stays at any hotel for 40% off the rack rate. It was definitely a “book now, ask questions later” kind of situation, and I ended up filling our calendar with fabulous fantasy trips, only to cancel most of them when I had time to tally up the total against our vacation budget (even at 40% off, a paid-with-cash hotel stay is still a pretty big expense).
One of the trips I kept on the books was a 5-night stay at Dreams, an all-inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta. My family has never been to an all-inclusive before. To say that my kids are SUPER EXCITED would be a HUGE UNDERSTATEMENT. For some reason, the idea of eating anything they want, at any time of day, seems to be the most compelling part. Maybe this is because we are a “that’s what’s for dinner” kind of household (“You don’t like the quinoa kale casserole? Well…that’s what’s for dinner!)
The all-inclusive feature was compelling to me as well, because the trip is already completely paid for and I won’t have to think about our vacation budget once I’m there. Especially considering the incredible deal we got, the total cost was very reasonable. (By the way, since I booked the trip, I’ve checked back on the Dreams site and also on sites such as Travelocity and Expedia, and I’ve definitely seen the price dip close to what we paid, so I know that sales are common).
So it was already a budget-friendly trip, but the deciding factor, and the reason the trip stayed on our calendar, is that flights from San Francisco to Puerto Vallarta are really cheap when you pay with miles.
How to get to Mexico for cheap
We used 40,000 Avios to fly from SFO-PVR. You can read the details on exactly how I booked the flights here. Just as a quick refresher, here are a few ways to stock up on Avios:
- Get the British Airways Visa card (Currently offering 50,000 Avios as a sign-up bonus, plus 50,000 more if you can make a hefty spend within the year)
- Transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to British Airways. This is especially worthwhile when there is a transfer bonus going on. Right now there is a 20% bonus, which means that for every 1,000 points you transfer, you get an additional 200 points.
- Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways.
For our return flight, we used Virgin America Miles for three of the tickets (8,600 miles each), then bought the last one for $197.
Since a round-trip flight would normally ring in at around $450/person (and a total of $1,800 for our family of 4), this saved us a huge chunk of change.
You can do it, too!
If you don’t have a stockpile of miles, another easy way to book this trip is to use the fabulous combo of the Alaska Airlines companion ticket and the $400 Barclaycard Arrival sign-up bonus. Using this method, you will pay approximately $130 for 2 tickets.
If this sounds good, here’s how to do it:
1. Sign up for the Alaska Airlines Visa. The sign-up bonus for this one is currently 25,000 miles PLUS you get a round-trip companion ticket each year for a charge of $130.
2. Sign up for the Barclay Arrival World Mastercard. This will give you 40,000 points, which are redeemable for $400 worth of travel (one point = one cent toward travel). Also, you get 10% of your points back if you redeem for travel, so if you used your entire sign-up bonus of 40,000 points, you would get a rebate of 4,000 miles deposited back into your account, which is worth $40.
3. Buy one Alaska Airlines ticket, then use the companion pass for the second. Using my example, the cost for a round-trip fare from San Francisco to Puerto Vallarta is ~$450. Cost for the companion ticket is $120. Total cost = $570.
4. Reimburse yourself $400 from the Barclay Arrival card. Total out-of-pocket now equals $170.
5. You’ll get 10% of your points deposited back into your Barclay Arrival account, so 4,000 points = $40. You’re now down to $130 out of pocket.
6. You’ll also earn miles on your Alaska flight, because you are paying with cash (well, with a credit card). If you use your Alaska Airlines Visa for this, you will earn 3x miles. Since the distance between SFO-PVR is 1550 miles, you’ll earn a total of 4,650 miles.
You could use it this deal to get to Hawaii as well!
Now that the weather has turned nippy, it’s lovely to dream about both Mexico and Hawaii for a mid-winter getaway. And just think, if you plan a vacation now for February, you can look forward to it for the next three months.
Isn’t this Alaska Airlines Visa/Barclay Arrival combo a great deal? I’m all over it.
Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links. I get a commission when you sign up for the Barclay Arrival card in this post through my links. As always, I really appreciate your support!