Before Becky and I head out on our Gap Year Road Trip Adventure, we’ll first be taking a trip to the beaches of Cabo San Lucas in Mexico! We had this trip planned before the gap year idea came into being and it will make for a nice precursor to hitting the road full time, especially to escape Seattle’s dreary winters.
This vacation will be very similar to an all-inclusive Cancun trip we took two years ago, which we also booked with miles the points. It was an awesome experience and one of our more memorable trips from the past couple of years. While we’ll be in a new city this time, both properties are one of the few Hyatt branded all-inclusives.
The biggest difference for this trip is that we’re meeting up with family for the 4-night adventure! With a little bit of coordination, we were able to earn enough free nights and points to cover our entire lodging for 3 rooms. With typical rates for this property being over $500 per night, I think we got an amazing deal!
I’ll break down exactly how we earned and redeemed nights for the Hyatt Ziva in Cabo San Lucas as well as how we’ll be flying down there for cheap as well.
The Hyatt Ziva in Cabo San Lucas is one of Hyatt’s 6 all-inclusive properties that are located in both Mexico and Jamaica. They have an adults only branded “Zilara” as well as the family friendly “Ziva” properties, but only the Ziva brand has a location in Cabo.
As an all-inclusive, everything including food, drinks, entertainment, and more are fully included in the price of the room. This is particularly enticing because each of the properties can be booked entirely with points!
At 20,000 Hyatt points per night, this beautiful location and everything being included is one of the best uses of Hyatt points that I’ve found. Even transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt for this kind of redemption blows the typical 1.5 cents per point value from the Reserve card out of the water!
Earning 12 “Free” Nights
Since we needed 3 rooms for 4 nights each, we needed to come up with 12 total nights for the group. Luckily, our family was willing to sign up for some new credit cards to make it happen!
Becky and I have been aggressively signing up for cards and earning points for a few years, so we were able to simply transfer 80,000 points from our existing stash of Ultimate Rewards directly to Hyatt. Most of these came from a pair of Sapphire Reserve cards we opened in late 2016, each with a 100k UR signup bonus.
My parents didn’t have any existing points we could work with for this trip, but they were happy to open a couple of credit cards to cover their hotel nights. Prior to June of last year, the Hyatt credit card came with 2 free nights, 5k Hyatt points for adding an authorized user, and a $50 statement credit, but did not waive the $75 annual fee. These days, the same offer is available except for the 2 free nights have been swapped for 40k Hyatt points. As the Hyatt Ziva we’re discussing costs exactly 20k points per night, it’s a wash in this case.
Each of my parents opened their own Hyatt credit card (staggered a bit to simplify the minimum spend of $2k/card) which totaled up to cover all 4 of their nights. 8 down, 4 more to go.
My brother is the final piece of the family puzzle that will be making this trip, but he won’t be able to use the same strategy my parents did. While I’ve helped him dabble in the points and miles game a bit, his significant other won’t be able to make this trip, so earning the nights falls entirely into his court.
Luckily, that “dabbling” I mentioned included a Sapphire Reserve card back when the signup bonus was still 100k, and he still had a good chunk of them left. In addition to using some existing points, he also opened up his own copy of the Chase Hyatt card for an additional 2 free nights worth of points.
After all of the minimum spends were met and UR was transferred over to the necessary Hyatt accounts, it was time to book.
Redeeming the Nights and Points
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Flexibility is the key to having a good experience booking travel with points and miles! Starting out with a rigid schedule is a good way to be disappointed when you go to book, but a little flexibility can go a long way towards covering just about any trip you want to take with miles and points.
We’re no strangers to crazy things happening, specifically when Southwest decided to move our flight to an entirely different day leading up to our Cancun trip! Luckily, we had some flexibility built into our plans, weighed our new options, and ended up covering an extra hotel night with an existing free night certificate.
For this Cabo trip, we had a lead time of ~8 months from inception to the actual trip. So after a few months of new credit cards and getting all of the points in place, we could finally look at availability about 5 months prior to the trip. We knew that we wanted 4 nights overlapping with a weekend in February, but were otherwise pretty open across all of our schedules.
Hyatt doesn’t let you book their all-inclusive properties with points online, so I had to call in to find out what nights in February had 3 award rooms available. I was also prepared with all of the information necessary to make the booking for our entire group, which wasn’t exactly a straightforward affair.
We needed to book 3 rooms for 4 nights using 4 different Hyatt accounts that each had a different combination of free night certificates and points. In order to book with my family member’s accounts, I needed their:
- Hyatt account number
- Full name
- Address on each account
With all of that written down in front of me, I made the call and was transferred to a very nice representative that was able to work through the entire process. After finding out our first choice of weekend wasn’t available, she helped me find a different stretch of 4 days that fit our schedule and had the room availability we needed.
After finalizing the dates, we worked through one room at a time:
- Room #1 – A single Hyatt account with 80,000 points
- Room #2 – A single Hyatt account with a combination of 40,000 points and 2 free night certificates
- Room #3 – Two Hyatt accounts, each with 2 free night certificates
By the end of the call, I had 3 confirmation numbers and our rooms were officially booked! Now for the easier part: Flights
Booking Flights to Cabo with Points
For a typical international travel hacking adventure, I would recommend locking in flights first and then worrying about hotels, but I’ve found the exact opposite to be true for the Hyatt all-inclusive properties. Finding availability at the hotel itself usually proves more difficult than finding flights that will work on either side of the hotel nights. In any case, it probably makes sense to check both nights and flights at least once before booking a trip.
Once our hotel nights were booked, we all went our separate ways with booking flights. My parents ended up finding a flight they liked with good old fashioned cash, while my brother ended up using more of his Ultimate Rewards, this time transferred to Southwest.
We also ended up going with Southwest flights after checking availability across several different programs. They had a good selection of flights going from Seattle to Cabo, but there are higher taxes and fees when flying internationally (as compared to the $5.60 each way in the US).
Our flights ended up costing 17,208 Southwest points plus $81.71 in taxes and fees per person.
Our Total Cost for 4 All-Inclusive Nights in Cabo
Focusing in on just our portion of the hotel nights and flights, this entire trip was booked for a combination of points and $164 cash. This comes amazingly close to our similar Cancun trip two years ago that ended up with a $160 kicker on top of the free nights. The slight difference can probably be blamed on inflation or something.
- 80,000 Hyatt points (mostly transferred in from Chase Ultimate Rewards)
- 34,416 Southwest points (also mostly transferred in from Chase Ultimate Rewards)
- $164 (to cover the taxes and fees of the flights)
I usually try to focus on the flights and hotel nights when breaking down the cost of our trips because those are common variables for anyone traveling, but in this case it’s important to call out that the cost also completely covers our food and drink for the trip! That’s a significant difference from a typical trip where we would be paying out of pocket for every meal.
Part of the reason we love cruises and all-inclusive properties like this one is that it’s much easier to relax and enjoy the experience when we aren’t breaking out our wallets numerous times a day. Everything was already covered up front!
Add in a round trip shuttle between the airport and the hotel (~$30) and our out of pocket cost for an entire 5 day getaway should total less than $200! It never ceases to amaze me how lucrative staying organized with credit cards can be.
Hopefully you have some exciting trips of your own on the horizon.