I love to travel on miles and points. I’ve been fortunate enough to find great values and visit places I wouldn’t be able to afford were it not for frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs.
Every year I try to squeeze in a week or so at an all-inclusive resort. I don’t use my miles though because those kinds of stays do not represent the best value. But I have found a low-cost way to have a tropical resort getaway.
Last year I stayed at the Lifestyle Tropical Resort and Spa in Cofresy, the Dominican Republic, for $12 per person, per night, for two of us. We even got upgraded to a junior suite, which was gorgeous.
The grounds were spectacular. They have a VIP beach area with beds, cold-water Jacuzzis, and top-shelf drinks. And they have two huge parties on Thursday and Sunday that are a lot of fun.
So, how do you get a rate like that? You have to listen to a timeshare pitch. The presentation is high pressure, but if you don’t want to subsidize my annual vacation at this place I suggest you just smile and say no.
And how do you find out about these specials? You subscribe to Travelzoo and CheapCaribbean newsletters. They run these promotions several times a year. When you see a headline like: Stay at an All-Inclusive Resort for $12 or $15 or $24 or $29 a night, there is usually a timeshare presentation involved.
I just got back from my second trip there. This time it’s a little more expensive–$19 a night–but still within my budget.
How to Get There
Getting there on miles is easy enough. Last year we took an American Airlines flight to Santiago using British Avios miles, because it cost 20,000 Avios vs. 25,000 AAdvantage miles. Using British Airways Avios can save you a lot of miles when you fly on American Airlines.
That’s because American Airlines AAdvantage is a zone-based program, while British Airways Avios is distance-based.
With AAdvantage miles you will pay the same amount of miles within the zone, no matter whether it is only between New York and Boston, or across the country from New York to San Francisco.
British Airways Avios, on the other hand, has terrific bargains when you’re flying short distances. And since both airlines are members of oneworld Alliance, you can use their respective awards to book on any airlines within the alliance. Here is a comparison between the two FF programs for flights from New York, but there are also bargains from other cities as well:
|JFK-STI (Santiago, DR)||20,000||25,000|
|JFK-SJU (San Juan)||20,000||25,000|
|JFK-SXM (St Maarten)||20,000||25,000|
|JFK-PUJ (Punta Cana)||20,000||25,000|
As you can see from this chart, it is possible to get incredible value out of British Avios miles for short hops even if you don’t have any intentions of flying on British Airways flights. And you can get up to to 100,000 British Avios miles by signing up for the Chase British Airways credit card.
Last year we flew into Santiago using Avios and it cost us $100 for a cab ride to the resort. This year we decided to fly direct to Puerto Plata and booked a Jet Blue flight. While it is a great airline that flies non-stop to many places in the Caribbean, their miles are not easy to obtain.
There is an American Express credit card that offers 20,000 sign-up bonus points though. And Jet Blue is a transfer partner in the American Express Membership Rewards program. Those points are easy to get with credit card sign-up bonuses such as those offered for the Gold and Platinum versions.
Since we didn’t have any TrueBlue points, I transferred points from my AmEx Membership Rewards account to my TrueBlue account and booked our flights for 27,500 points each plus taxes. That’s quite a decent value considering that the direct flight would’ve cost us $575 each, and that flying directly to Puerto Plata will save us at least $100 in airport transfers as well.
To sum it up: one week in an all-inclusive hotel this year cost each of us roughly $260: $19 a day for the resort, about $30 in Membership Rewards transfer fees, and about $95 in airport taxes. Not too shabby. And I get to save my hotel points for another trip.