Anatomy of Vacation Costs: Winter Break in San Jose del Cabo

Here is a full breakdown of our expenses for our most recent trip:

Days:  8

Total spent:  $1,135.18

Per day breakdown:  $141.90

Per person / per day breakdown:  $70.95

$831.98 Airfare with companion ticket
$200.00 First class upgrade
$63.00 Seat upgrade to exit row
$29.00 Airline food and drinks
$53.00 Food
$52.00 Airport shuttle and local buses
$85.20 La Posada Real resort
$0.00 6 nights at hotels, paid for with points
$18.00 Walmart liquor and souvenirs
$35.00 Tips – bar, room, food service
$60.00 Massage and tips
$1,427.18 Total
$292.00 Minus airline upgrade fees through credit card
$1,135.18 Total out of pocket for 8 days



This was a vacation where we used a lot of points to save a lot of money.  Our biggest expense ended up being mostly for airfare, then it was local transportation, food and tipping.  Here is how our hotels break down:

  • Hyatt Place.  5,000 Hyatt points per night.  Retail value (booking on their web site) per night was about $90, so $180 for two nights.
  • Holiday Inn Resort.  35,000 IHG points per night.  Retail value (booking on their web site) per night was about $180, so $360 for two nights.
  • La Posada Real.  Paid their standard rate of $85.20 per night.
  • Hyatt Ziva.  Two free nights by using the free night certificate offered by our credit card.  Normal points redemption rate is 20,000 points.  Standard discounted retail booking online per night is about $400, so $800 for two nights.
  • Total retail value for points used over six nights:  $1520.

This was our first try at doing an all-inclusive resort.  It ended up working out pretty well.  We spent our first two nights at the regular Hyatt Place, which gave us a chance to go out and try some local restaurants.  We were also fortunate that the hotel offered a delicious and bountiful breakfast buffet every morning, so we filled up and didn’t really need to eat until the afternoon.  The Holiday Inn Resort offered food at all times during the day, but since I was sick I wasn’t really able to take full advantage of this.  The La Posada Real offered unlimited drinks and a full breakfast — they also had a plan that included other food, but we decided to opt out of this in order to try some other restaurants outside the property.  And finally the Hyatt Ziva — oh man, that place is dangerous!  So many food options to choose from, plus unlimited everything.  We definitely got our full value out of that resort.

So bottom line is did we enjoy our vacation?  Yes we did.
Would we do another all-inclusive option?  Yes, if it made financial sense.  There are some pretty swanky all-inclusive resorts for upwards of $1000 per night, and that just wouldn’t be worth it to us no matter how fancy the place is.  I think our basis would have to fall in line with our sweet spot for cruise deals  – around $100 per per person, per day.  In other words, $200 per day budget.  The Holiday Inn Resort is right around that budget, and it is a place we would definitely return to.  The Hyatt Ziva was a step above, but we still wouldn’t pay $400 a night for it.  We would only do the Ziva if we had the points for it.  People can sometimes buy Hyatt points with a 40% bonus, bringing the cost per point to 1.7 cents.  At 20,000 points, this would bring the cost down to $340 per night.  Not bad, but still not around the $200 per day budget that we have.

This winter break vacation was a real eye opener as to how much we can save using credit card points and perks.  We saved at least $400 by using Lisa’s companion fare on Alaska Airlines.  We saved $1500 on hotels.  Another $300 of airline upgrades.  Total this all out, and we saved $2200 on this week long vacation just through strategic use of our credit cards:  Alaska Airlines, IHG, Hyatt and Ritz Carlton.  Granted, these all have various annual fees, but we do get incredible value from their benefits and we will continue to keep these cards so long as they continue to bring us these savings that we enjoyed over the last week.  After all, spending just $71 per person per day is easily attainable for our budget and it was a week of pure relaxation and fun.  All thanks to our credit cards,

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