Travel expert who writes the “Have Cards, Will Travel” column for CreditCards.com
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Free travel is great, but for most trips there is still an added cost for food and activities even after you’ve covered your flights and accommodations with your credit card rewards.
The exception? When you’ve booked into an all-inclusive holiday with your points.
- For all-inclusive stays, most often full board, drinks, daily activities and evening entertainment are included in the points price of your hotel package.
- You check in and relax without having to worry about all the extras adding up.
I’ve taken three all-inclusive holidays on points this year, and in each case every stay has been marvelous, yet a little bit different.
Here’s what you can expect from an all-inclusive holiday on points, and how you can book one using rewards from the most popular travel credit cards.
See related:Using points for a ski resort vacation
Everything all-inclusive resort experiences can offer
Before I experienced my first all-inclusive hotel, my imagination of an all-in stay consisted mostly of me laying poolside drinking bottomless pi\xf1a coladas.
Since I have a tolerance of about one poolside cocktail per vacation, paying for an all-inclusive stay never really seemed that it would be worth it.
The all-inclusive experiences I’ve had in the past year, paid with points, however, have totally changed my tune.
Resorts don’t have to be an endless day at the pool with too much food.
As I quickly learned, all-inclusive vacations have so much else to offer!
Morning yoga in Los Cabos
The hotel was what you might envision as a higher-end, typical all-inclusive resort on the beach in Mexico.
The highlights were the swim-up bar, morning yoga, all-you-can-eat guacamole and ceviche service at my lounge chair, and enough restaurants to eat at a different place for every meal without having to pay resort dinner prices.
Bubbles and sand dunes in Dubai
For my second all-inclusive experience, I upgraded to the Al Maha, a Luxury Collection property outside of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates formerly redeemable with SPG points, but now 60,000 rewards points per night in the Marriott portfolio.
The all-inclusive benefits at the Al Maha were drastically different from my Los Cabos experience:
- Full board included a multiple course gourmet dinner and 24-hour room service to your tented bungalow with private swimming pool.
- Each guest can participate in two field-guided activities each day.
- I took archery lessons, rode camels across the desert, learned about falconry and drank champagne on a sand dune watching the sunset.
What wasn’t included was alcohol, and upgraded or additional experiences.
Smoothie bar in Arizona
My final and most recent all-inclusive experience was the Miraval Arizona spa resort, also booked on World of Hyatt points.
Full board, access to a bottomless smoothie bar and as many fitness classes as you could squeeze into a day were included, as well as my highlight – a $175 spa credit per person per day!
Booking an all-inclusive stay with the top hotel rewards cards
Making your booking for an all-inclusive stay is a pretty simple task.
- Most stays can be booked online through a hotel website.
- Some all-inclusive resorts, like the Miraval, however, can be harder to access on points during the busy season.
- These hotels may have an alternative reservation process that requires you to call Hyatt and wait up to 48 hours for them to confirm availability.
When booking, you will want to take notice of any specific rules that an individual all-inclusive property might have – especially when booking for multiple persons, and /or booking with children.
All-inclusive resorts charge points differently
Some all-inclusive hotels will charge a per-person points rate rather than a typical per room rate, or a premium number of points if you’re adding guests beyond the standard two per room.
- At the all-inclusive Hyatt Zilara, Rose Hall Jamaica, for example, you’ll pay 25,000 points for an award night for one or two people.
- If you add a third person into the room, the cost per room goes up to 37,500 – an additional 12,500 per night per guest.
- Add a fourth person, and the price is 50,000 points – the same as getting two rooms!
Traveling with children to an all-inclusive resort
If you’re traveling with children, you’ll also want to be sure that children’s activities are part of the package, and most importantly that the property isn’t 18 and over.
- The Hyatt Zilara mentioned above is an 18-and-up property.
- Meanwhile, the sister brand of Hyatt Ziva properties are resorts with lots of activities included for your little ones while you’re drinking cocktails at the swim up bar.
- Some hotels will allow children to stay for free, while others will add a per-diem surcharge per child to the room based on age.
Free-night certificates at all-inclusive resorts
Another thing to note is that while all the hotels mentioned here are bookable with points, not all of them are bookable with the free-night certificates you may have from a credit card sign-up or an annual anniversary bonus.
You’ll want to check the terms with the hotel property group where you’ve earned your certificate night.
Taking advantage of elite status at all-inclusive resorts
Finally, elite status from your credit card will also come in handy at an all-inclusive resort.
- At the Hyatt Los Cabos, I was given a special colored bracelet at check-in.
- This signified my status and granted me powers to book a prime reservation time at the resort’s busiest restaurants.
- I was also able to get free upgraded top-shelf cocktails at the property’s six bars.
Many hotel chains feature all-inclusive resorts
While I’ve mostly explored Hyatt and SPG/Marriott all-inclusive offerings, you’re not out of luck if you’ve been collecting points on a different hotel credit card.
Hilton, for example, offers a few – mostly around Latin America – like the Double Tree Resort Hilton Hotel Central Pacific Costa Rica.
This all-inclusive resort is bookable at 48,000 Hilton Honors points for a standard room with two adults.
Those all-inclusive pi\xf1a coladas aren’t sounding so inaccessible now, are they?