Budget-Friendly Vacationing: 10 Tips for Saving Money Without Sacrificing Luxury in Jamaica
I don't know about you, but it pains me to spend money. While I'm not a miser, I'm increasingly aware of the value of a dollar as the cost of living goes up. For my fellow Jamaican residents, you know that our dollar is hanging on for dear life. Unless you're currently in a high-paying (or better yet, USD-paying) job or a scammer (not encouraged, just to be clear), a spontaneous weekend at an all-inclusive resort on the North Coast can seem like a pipe dream. Well, I'm here to help your budget but bougie vacation dreams come true!
To put things into perspective, my husband and I go on vacation (usually a staycation) to a hotel, at least twice a year. For added context, I work in the public sector, where it's no secret that those salaries aren't anything to write home about (...and no, my husband isn't ballin' either). We're just two 20-somethings, with rent, bills and loans like the average person.
Okay, I know what you're thinking now: "Cute story sis...but how do you actually afford the trips?". Well, I've put together ten Trip Tips, which are proven to help get the best bang for a buck. However! None of my tips will mention increasing income via additional jobs/side-hustles. While an excellent tip, I know that's easier said than done. Nevertheless, I hope my tips err on the side of being practical, simple and easy for anyone to use! Please let me know if they were in the comments.
TRIP TIP #1: Book Well in Advance
From the jump, the best tip I could give anyone would be to plan - plan well in advance. I try my best to plan and book my trips a year in advance. For example, My December 2022 trip was booked from January 2022. I secured a much lower rate for a luxury room than I would've had I waited til say, today! (I just checked and the room category is ~$200 USD more than when I booked). Many all-inclusive hotels have a 'Book Now, Pay Later' policy, where you can complete the reservation with no money charged upfront. As an added benefit, there's usually no penalty for cancellations made up to a week before the scheduled date - read the conditions carefully before booking though!
TRIP TIP #2: Airbnb + Day Pass Combo
If you're new to my blog, we keep it real over here (also, welcome!). The plain truth is that Hotels can be really expensive. Who am I kidding, they ARE expensive. Even with advanced planning, the average rate per night is $300 USD, and that's just not gonna work out for everyone. However, that's no reason to give up on enjoying an all-inclusive experience with all the accompanying amenities just like anyone else.
That's where the winning combo comes in! A number of resorts offer day-passes, which gives patrons access to the property usually between 10:00 AM and 6:00 PM with all-inclusive privileges included, that's right - unlimited food, drinks, water sports, etc.! Book a day-pass to the resort of choice, then book an Airbnb within budget close by. Soak up all the resort has to offer then at the end of the day, head on back to your cozy lodging and reminisce on a day well spent. Luxury hotel experience? check! A clean place to lay your head and shower after? check! It's a win-win all around.
TRIP TIP #3: Invest in Vacations
If in 2022 you haven't come across the principle of making money in your sleep, then I'd recommend a new friend circle. Traditional saving as we know it will no longer cut it. Our money needs to be making money. While investing and compound interest aren't new concepts, they have been increasingly popular in the last 3-5 years, especially as millennials look to and become more knowledgeable about generating wealth.
I'm a firm believer that one should invest in rest and relaxation. So much so, my husband and I have an investment account exclusively to save for vacation. I can see you side-eyeing me again. Contrary to popular belief, you don't need a lot of money to start investing. I highly recommend Golden Harvest Accounts at Credit Unions as an option for saving towards vacation, as they have excellent compound interest rates for fixed-term savings in comparison to Banks.
TRIP TIP #4: Book Directly
Many hotels state that booking directly through their website will guarantee the lowest price. Very often, this is true. I've proved this to be true for my trip to Excellence Oyster Bay, where a 5% discount code even popped up during my booking process, and boy did it go a long way. Additionally, hotels have special pages on their websites dedicated to discounted rates. I know this to be true for Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall, Moon Palace Jamaica and Couples Resorts.
PRO TIP: Call the hotel you're interested in to ask if the rate on their website is the same for Jamaican nationals/residents. Also find out if there are any current promotions or discounts for special groups (e.g., senior citizens, first responders, civil servants). For example, the Couples Resorts group of hotels, which is Jamaican-owned, offers Jamaican nationals lower rates for rooms as well as a 15% discount at the Spa.
TRIP TIP #5: Bank on those Rewards
Did you know that your Bank probably has loyalty rewards and discounts that you're not taking advantage of? That needs to change immediately! I know for a fact that in Jamaica, separate to rewards for credit card holders such as cash back and travel miles, being a member at JN Bank, JMMB Bank (via Her Wealth), Sagicor Bank (via Sagicor Engage) or First Global Bank (via GK Value Rewards) gives one access to discounts at various Hotels, Villas, Guest Houses and the like across Jamaica. Check out your Bank's website for more information or give them a call to find out about all the discounts you've probably been missing out on!
TRIP TIP #6: It pays to be Loyal
Most all-inclusive resorts in Jamaica that I've come across have a rewards program of some kind to encourage repeat visits. If you've visited an all-inclusive recently, it's very likely that you got an email after your stay requesting two things, 1. a review of your stay (hopefully a positive one) and 2. to join the hotel's loyalty programme. I'd definitely recommend signing up, as there are exclusive rates, perks and discounts available exclusively for members. Some hotel groups, such as World of Hyatt (Hyatt Zilara/Ziva) and H10 Hotels (Ocean Coral Spring/Eden Bay), allow one to sign up for membership before visiting the hotel, giving access to perks right away!
TRIP TIP #7: Digital Coupons
There are three websites that I enjoy for trip discounts, namely: Gustazos, Brawta Living and Honey. Brawta Living and Gustazos offer exclusive discounts for locations in Jamaica. Additionally, Gustazos offers unique perks in collaboration with a hotel, such as discounts on return stays and resort credits. Another great benefit of booking through Gustazos is the potential to earn G-credits, which can be used to offset the cost of future bookings made through Gustazos or its travel subsidiary G-Travel.
On the other hand, Honey has the option of a browser extension, which when activated, will automatically pop-up with possible discounts on the hotel's website. If you'd like to use my referral link to sign up for Honey, I'd greatly appreciate that: joinhoney.com/ref/ts8oet2
TRIP TIP #8: Use A Travel Agency
There are benefits to be had in booking a trip through a Travel Agent or Agency. More often than not, Travel Agents have relationships with hotels and can offer rates that won't be found anywhere else. Additionally, Travel Agents have access to a host of vendors and can offer a discounted package for a hotel stay, a rental car, nearby excursions and much more. Booking through an Agency may also be the plug for some nice upgrades! Now, who wouldn't want an upgrade? My personal recommendation is P&S Events and Vacations, an award-winning local Travel Agency, whose instagram page can be found here: https://www.instagram.com/psev_travel_agency/?hl=en
TRIP TIP #9: Timing Matters
The time of year you decide to take a trip could be the difference between $100 to $200 USD in the price you pay. It is definitely more expensive to visit a hotel in the months of July and December. In Jamaica specifically, hotel stays are also more expensive around extended holidays, such as Emancipendence in August and Heroes Weekend in October. Interestingly however, these same hotels may offer special rates for said celebratory weekends, so be sure to look out for those deals as well. The day of the week your visit starts on also matters! Weekday room rates are usually less expensive than weekends.
TRIP TIP #10: The More the Cheaper
While solo travel is it's own delight, an excellent way to save money on a vacation is by going with your family and friends! This is especially true and most applicable for stays at Villas, which are an affordable alternative to all-inclusive hotels, without losing the luxury factor. Many villas offer the option for a private chef and housekeeping. My friend Stephanie (@thejellylife on IG) did a fantastic cost breakdown for the Spicy Hill Villa in San San, Portland. You'd be amazed at how affordable luxury actually is! Check it out here: https://thejellylife.com/how-much-does-it-cost-to-stay-at-spicy-hill-villa/
Would you be interested in a blog post with my recommendations for the best Villas in Jamaica? Let me know in the comments!
So? How did I do? Were these tips helpful? Do you have any tips that could help someone save some coins on a future trip? Please don't keep it to yourself! Drop it in the comments below! While you're here, don't forget to follow Madd About Jamaica on all socials, see links below!
Disclaimer: This post does not contain any sponsored links.