I wrote a few weeks ago that I've been craving a beach vacation, and I decided to take a look at so-called "all-inclusive" resorts, mainly out of curiosity: I've never stayed at one of these resorts (although I did crash one in Cuba's Veradero beach community) and I have a hard time conceptualizing exactly how they work. With the points currencies I have easy access to, there are 4 obvious options in the Americas:
- Hyatt Zilara Cancun
- Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall
- Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa
- Hilton Puerto Vallarta Resort
The Zilara properties are Hyatt's brand of adults-only all-inclusive properties, while the Hilton properties are all-ages (a slight disadvantage in my book as a childless person, no offense meant to childful people) but available using Hilton HHonors points, an account where I've found myself with an uncomfortably large balance.
In deciding between the four properties, I want to be as rational as possible. In my view there are two main considerations:
- Nightly room rates. What's the imputed redemption value of a points stay, and what are some typical nightly rates: are points redemptions a good deal?;
- Flight options. Paying for your stay is only the part of a trip's total cost — you've also got to get there. Especially if you're booking for two or more people, a small difference in flight costs can swamp any difference in room rates.
Hyatt Zilara Cancun
The Hyatt Zilara Cancun costs 25,000 Gold Passport points per night for single or double occupancy rooms (40,000 for single or double occupancy suite nights), and 12,500 points per additional person after the first two.
Meanwhile, due to a current 50% discount promotion, a 5-night stay in mid-July costs $2,400, giving an upfront value of just 1.92 cents per Hyatt Gold Passport point. Since paying for that stay would also earn a Diamond elite member 15,600 points, the net value per point is just 1.71 cents each. That's a perfectly good redemption if you're transferring in Ultimate Rewards points worth a penny each, but it is on the low end of possible Hyatt redemptions.
I have quite a few flight options to Cancun for the same July dates. Southwest flies from relatively-nearby Chicago nonstop in each direction for 30,014 Rapid Rewards points and $73.69 in taxes and fees ($373.83 in cash value if the Rapid Rewards points are transferred from Ultimate Rewards). A business class itinerary operated by American would cost me 60,000 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles and $105. And an economy US Bank Flexperks redemption from my home airport would cost just 40,000 Flexpoints (redeemable for $400 in cash). Given those options, I'll pay the extra $25 to redeem Flexpoints and fly from my home airport.
Total cost for 5-night trip: $1,250 in Ultimate Rewards points, $400 in Flexpoints per person, $2,050 for two people.
Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall
Like the Hyatt Zilara Cancun, the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall costs 25,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points per night for single or double occupancy reservations.
With the same ongoing 50% discount promotion, five nights at the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall cost $2,215, or 1.77 cents per Gold Passport point. After accounting for points earned on paid stays (14,397), a Diamond elite would get a total of 1.59 cents per Gold Passport point redeemed.
While the two Zilara properties cost the same number of Gold Passport points, flights to Montego Bay are much more expensive than to Cancun: I can redeem 60,000 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles plus $145.31 in fees per passenger, or 60,000 Delta SkyMiles plus $120.31 per passenger. The corresponding flights are just a hair over $1,000, so they'd cost 60,000 US Bank Flexpoints per passenger. Here Southwest comes to the rescue, with $586.79 roundtrip flights from Chicago Midway. That would cost me 30,000 Flexpoints per ticket ($300 cash value) or 32,832 Rapid Rewards points plus $114.69 per passenger ($443.01 cash value).
Total cost for 5-night trip: $1,250 in Ultimate Rewards points, $300 in Flexpoints per person, $1,850 for two people.
Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa
Remember, my motivation for booking this beach vacation was at least in part to use up some orphaned Hilton HHonors points after I started directing as many reservations as possible to Hyatt in order to take advantage of my matched Diamond status.
It turns out, however, that Hilton doesn't honor the 5th-night-free on award reservations at their all-inclusive resorts! That means a 5-night stay at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa costs 350,000 HHonors points, which if earned at 2.105% in opportunity cost comes to $245.58 per night — within striking distance of the $250 per night in cash value of Ultimate Rewards points redeemed at the Hyatt Zilara properties above.
By way of reference, the same 5-night stay would cost $1,745, or 0.5 cents per HHonors point.
Total cost for 5-night trip: 350,000 HHonors points ($1,228 in opportunity cost), $300 in Flexpoints per person, $1,827 for two people.
Hilton Puerto Vallarta Resort
The final entry here is Hilton's Puerto Vallarta Resort, which is just 50,000 HHonors points per night in July. Without the benefit of a 5th night free, you'll pay 250,000 HHonors points for a five night stay that otherwise retails for roughly $1,107, or 0.44 cents per HHonors point. Given a 2.105% cash back opportunity cost on manufactured spend, that comes to about $175 per night at this resort, the cheapest we've see so far.
Given that lower cost, it would be dynamite if I could get there on the cheap. Southwest isn't an option because of their punishingly early flights from the only two nearby airports they serve (there's a 5:30 AM now?). But I can pay 60,000 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles and $133 per passenger for business class tickets, which is better than paying the 70,000 US Bank Flexpoints it would take to pay for the oddly expensive revenue economy tickets.
Total cost for 5-night trip: 250,000 HHonors points ($877 imputed redemption value), 60,000 Mileage Plan miles and $133 per passenger, 120,000 Mileage Plan miles and $1,143 for two people.
Presumably these calculations won't be useful to anybody else unless they want to visit an all-inclusive resort in mid-July! But this is the kind of calculation I run when I'm thinking about visiting a new property: how much will it cost to stay there, how much will it cost to get there, and what will I get for my money?