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For the third year in a row, I’m heading to a Hyatt all-inclusive vacation in Mexico with an old friend from Chicago. The past two years, we’ve gone to the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta.
We could’ve booked PVR again – it all lined up with points – but said nah, let’s visit a new property. After this trip, I will have been to all the Hyatt all-inclusives in Mexico with the exception of the Hyatt Ziva Cancun. And if it’s anything like the past two years, it’s going to be an amazing beach chill-out.
But I have aggressive financial goals to raise my net worth to $500,000 in the next five years. So there was no way I’d remotely consider paying for this experience.
Instead, I used my points arsenal for flights on Alaska, American, Southwest, and United – and the Hyatt stay itself – with help from Chase Ultimate Rewards points and Amex Membership Rewards points.
Here’s how I saved $2,637 and paid a cool $202 out-of-pocket. A much better price!
In This Post
Los Cabos with points 2020
Here’s the puzzle I’ve encountered three years running:
- Get one person from Dallas and one from Chicago
- To the same airport within an hour or so
- With a return flight within an hour or so
- For an all-inclusive hotel stay
- That are ALL available with points
- And happen to line up with a weekend to maximize days off
- In a two-week span of late February to early March
It requires all my spreadsheet and points acumen to cobble together.
Hyatt has all-inclusives in:
- Cancun (Zilara and Ziva)
- Los Cabos (Ziva)
- Puerto Vallarta (Ziva)
Zilara is adults-only and 25,000 points a night, and Ziva is family-friendly and 20,000 points a night. The Ziva I’ve stayed has been amazing – I haven’t even really noticed the kids.
Of all the locations, the Zivas were all available. But the only award flights I could find were to Cabo or Puerto Vallarta. The past two years, Puerto Vallarta has been the only thing available, so we jumped at the chance to try a new place.
Checking points prices
It’s easy to see which Hyatt locations are available with points: run a search and click the “Use Points” box. Once you know which dates are available and how many you’ll need, you can arrange your flights around the hotel schedule.
When I book award flights, I always start with Google Flights and the Southwest website for two reasons:
- If flights are cheap, just pay for them
- See the most direct routes and best times for your home airport
Southwest has tons of flights from both Dallas and Chicago, and of course Dallas has American and Chicago has United.
For the American flights, I checked:
- AA website (ugh, the new pricing is awful. RIP AA miles for AA flights)
- British Airways to see what’s actually low-level
- Qantas to verify/double-check and also compare prices because they’re both distance-based with different zone bands
For United flights, look at:
- United’s site
- Lifemiles (Avianca’s program)
And Southwest shows you everything directly on their website.
Booking Los Cabos with points
I had leftover Qantas points from a recent transfer bonus and wanted to use them for my flight to Cabo (DFW-SAN on American, SAN-SJD on Alaska). You can access Qantas with Amex Membership Rewards points instantly, or Capital One miles and Citi ThankYou points within a few business days.
So I burned what was in my account and topped it off instantly with a transfer from Amex.
And to get home, I used 9,000 British Airways points also instantly topped off from Amex points.
That flight would’ve been $458 had I paid cash!
My friend had Southwest points and used 12,870 of them to book her own nonstop flight to Cabo. And try though I might, I could only find a nonstop flight back on United using United miles. Why?
United has hogging the best-priced award flight (which was also nonstop) for elites and Chase cardholders.
The retail cost for this flight was $287. But I have lots of United miles from various promotions and bonuses, so I was happy to snap it up at that award price.
Finally, the hotel cost 80,000 Hyatt points. I had some in my account and transferred the rest from Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Remember when I got the Chase Ink Business Preferred a few months ago to earn 80,000 more Chase points?
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• 1 Chase Ultimate Rewards point per $1 on all other purchases
• Bonus is worth $1,250 toward travel booked through Chase
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I saved $1,585 on the hotel stay with the points I already had plus what I transferred.
That comes to 2 cents per point in value, which is what I always strive for with Chase points. Plus I won’t have to pay for food or drinks for five days and four nights, and that’s pretty dang sweet.
Los Cabos with points – by the numbers
Here’s how it worked out:
- DFW-SAN-SJD: 26,000 Qantas miles + $36 / Retail: $265
- MDW-SJD: 12,870 Southwest points + $36 / Retail: $244
- SJD-DFW: 9,000 British Airways points + $65 / Retail: $458
- SJD-ORD: 17,500 United miles + $65 / Retail: $287
- 4-night stay at Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos: 80,000 Hyatt points / Retail: $1,585
- 145,370 points/miles from Amex, Chase, Southwest, United, Hyatt
- Retail price: $2,637
- Out-of-pocket cash copays for flight taxes and fees: $202
- Final cpp value: 1.8 cents per point ($2,537 – $202 / 145,370)
Some thoughts. Even though it doesn’t look like an amazing points value on the surface, it is to me.
I was able to make use of a double transfer bonus (Citi and Qantas were both offering bonuses on points transferred to Qantas). So if you’re thinking, yeeesh, 26,000 Qantas miles for those cheap flights? Yes – I actually got a great deal to get them. Easy come, easy go.
I had British Airways points let over from a bonus too. And the Hyatt points in my account were from work trips, so I didn’t have to pay for or earn them in any way.
Lastly, I was happy to use a perk of my Chase United Explorer card and snag a great nonstop flight for my friend that wasn’t available anywhere else. So with that considered, it’s like another little bonus.
Another reason to check AA flights on Qantas
My flights to Cabo are DFW-SAN on AA and SAN-SJD on Alaska. You can technically book Alaska flights with British Airways points but can NOT search award space on their site (and you must call to book).
This isn’t the case with Qantas. You can see AA and Alaska award flights already linked as an itinerary and you can book directly on the Qantas site. Actually, I didn’t even see this routing option on the AA site either. So it’s worth checking in a few different places to see:
- What’s actually available
- How you can string them together for an award
- Routings you wouldn’t otherwise be aware of
- If award space is phantom or verify it in a couple of spots
In particular, AA, BA, and Qantas can all book Alaska flights (and so can Singapore). So if there’s an Alaska flight that can help you out, I thought it was cool that you could see it laid out so nicely on the Qantas website. Just little tips from one award booker to another. ✌️
So excited for third Mexican vacation in as many years. They have been so good to ease burnout and soothe my heart post-breakup. This year, I’m in a great place mentally and emotionally – I just want to save money and still experience that salty air and crashing waves on the beach.
The total cash outlay was only $202 – so I paid a cool $101 for my half (we went dutch). I had points and miles tucked into so many little pockets that I was able to patch this trip together and still have plenty left over for more trips later this year (I also booked an award trip to this year’s FinCon in Long Beach!).
In some ways, miles are getting more expensive to use but easier to earn. Booking this trip made me reflect on all the bonuses I’ve taken advantage of and promos along the way. Also AA’s dynamic award pricing is such garbage. I hate it. 😡
The biggest hurdle was lining up award flights with dates and times. It required all my savvy with spreadsheets and award searching to piece this trip together. But who doesn’t love spending a Friday night running dozens of searches? Ermmmm, just me? 😅😬
The cash cost on this trip would’ve been $2,637. That isn’t and never will be in my budget. Instead, I paid with points and got my cost down to just $101. THIS is the intersection of points and personal finance. Truly. Aside from rideshares to and from the airports (and dog boarding), it’s the only cash I’ll spend on this trip. And I even have ways to save on those expenses.
So now I can’t wait to review every. single. restaurant. at this hotel. We fly out in a few short weeks!
If you’ve been here, did you love it? How does it compare to other Hyatt all-inclusives?* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update! And thanks for using my links to apply for new card offers!
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