Why you Should Stay at an All-Inclusive Resort

Private Pool area at the Chic Mansion in Punta Cana

The world is a stressful place; the last thing you need is a stress filled vacation. Stress can’t necessarily be completely avoided, but one vacation that promises to minimize your stress is staying at an All-Inclusive resort. All-Inclusive resorts are certainly not for everybody. They are typically one of the least adventurous types of vacations you can take. In fact, when staying at an All-Inclusive resort you never even have to leave the property if you don’t want. Still, the number of US travelers who stay at an All-Inclusive resort is on the rise. According to PhoCusWright, in 2010 8% of all US travelers stayed at an All-Inclusive resort. In 2012 that number rose to 14%.

So why are All-Inclusive resorts gaining in popularity? I believe it is because people are finally starting to see past the old misconceptions. The fact is, there is an All-Inclusive resort option for every kind of traveler. And as an added bonus, with an All-Inclusive resort there is no second guessing your budget. Unless you choose to go off-site or get a spa treatment, you will know upfront exactly how much your vacation will cost. And here at Adventures With Anthony, we can easily package your resort and airfare into a single purchase, saving you even more.

Newly constructed Royalton Bavaro has a lazy river and a FlowRider surf simulator
All-Inclusive resort packages are cheaper than you might think

When you figure in all the various costs of any vacation, an All-Inclusive resort can become an excellent deal. When you book an All-Inclusive resort through us, the price includes round-trip airfare, transportation to and from the airport, and the resort itself. At the resort all of your meals and drinks are included, as well as a number of on-site activities. Price can vary based on location, time of year, and specific resort, but it is not unheard of for a 4 night package to be as low as $500 per person from select US cities.

Even if you aren’t lucky enough to snag one of these special deals, the regular price of our packages are extremely reasonable. For example, a 6 night package in a 4 and a half star resort from Salt Lake City to Punta Cana in August is only $1,239 per person. That’s $2,478 for two people to fly internationally, spend 6 nights in a suite, and have all meals and drinks included. If you were to book this trip separately, the airfare alone would cost $1,594. That is for the same exact JetBlue flight included in the package. The resort itself, the Grand Palladium Bavaro, starts at $239.70 per night. That’s a total of $1,438.20 for the entire 6 night stay. The transfer from Punta Cana airport to the resort would normally cost an additional $20 per person. That puts the grand total of the vacation when purchased piecemeal at $3,072, almost $600 more than booking one of our packages.

Even when compared to a more traditional hotel, the value of an All-Inclusive stands out. A typical 4-star hotel will run around $100-150 per night. Lunch at a fast food restaurant for 2 can be around $20-30, and dinner for 2 can range from $60 to well over $100. Alcohol is harder to budget, depending on your personal habits, but two cocktails or glasses of wine with dinner could easily add another $25. That would mean on the low end you could spend $180 per day on food and lodging, up to $300 or more. For this same 6 night vacation, avoiding an all-inclusive would cost between $2,674 and $3,394.

You aren’t trapped at the resort
Chichen Itza, one of the world wonders, is only 4 hours away from Cozumel

While many resorts have plenty of activities to keep you occupied, you are free to explore if you want. It will cost extra, but you can book transportation to local sights or even book an off-site excursion. Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic offers trips to Saona Island, snorkel and scuba trips, a canopy zipline, and the famous Coco Bongo nightlife experience. Cozumel is close to 6 different Mayan ruins, including Chichen Itza which was recently named as a world wonder. You can book these excursions in advance, although I would personally recommend waiting until you arrive at the resort. That way you will have a better idea of how much time, if any, you want to spend away from the resort.

There is a resort for everyone

When many people hear All-Inclusive, their mind tends to jump to a couples retreat. A romantic getaway to a Sandals or a Beaches resort. Something expensive and reserved for a very special occasion. Your honeymoon or a milestone anniversary, perhaps. That, however, is just one type of All-Inclusive resort. There are also resorts that cater more towards the hard partying Spring Break crowd. There are elegant, 5-star resorts with fine dining and private golf courses. If you are traveling with kids, there are family friendly resorts complete with an entire on-site water park. There is even a Nickelodeon Resort in Punta Cana, and a second one under construction in Riviera Maya.

AquaNick at the Nickelodeon Resort is a great escape for families

It doesn’t matter if you want an adults only or a family friendly resort. One that has less than 100 rooms or more than 1,000. Budget or extravagant. Reach out and we will be happy to help find the perfect resort for you.

Cruises to Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii shoreline
There’s no better tropical escape than a cruise to paradise

Hawaii is one of the most popular destinations in the world, and for good reason. We went to Honolulu ourselves in 2016, and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our time on the island. It is a tropical island paradise that can compete with any destination in the Caribbean, yet finding a cruise to Hawaii is surprisingly difficult. Part of the reason for this is Hawaii’s distance from the continental United States; over 2,600 miles as the crow flies from Southern California. This comes out to about 2,250 nautical miles, which will take an average cruise ship between 100 and 120 hours to cross. That comes out to 5 full days at sea to get to Hawaii, and another 5 to return to California.

Distance is not the only problem facing cruise companies that want to visit Hawaii. For various legal, financial, and logistical reasons most cruise ships are foreign flagged vessels. This means that they are restricted by the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886. This law bans any vessel that isn’t built in the US and owned by a US based company from transporting passengers between two different US ports. This act also says that a cruise that leaves from and returns to the same US port must visit a foreign port, so even if a ship were to make a round trip cruise from Honolulu, it would have to visit a port outside the United States. The closest such port is Tabuaeran on the Fanning Atoll, a full 4 days away from Honolulu.

Options for Cruises to Hawaii

Despite these difficulties, many cruise lines do offer cruises to Hawaii. If you want to take one of these magical adventures, you have four main options. A world cruise, a re-positioning cruise, a multi-week California to Hawaii cruise, or a 7 night round trip Honolulu cruise on board Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America.

World Cruises

The most expensive and lengthy option for a cruise to Hawaii is a world cruise. These cruises are measured in months, not days and range from a 59 nights to 161 nights. The price of these cruises range from $22,000 to $80,000 per person. On these cruises, Hawaii is just another port, but what a way to see the islands.

Oceania 85 day Around the World Cruise Itinerary
Re-positioning Cruises

Some cruises are only able to run part of the year, so cruise lines need to move their ships. Alaska cruises are one of the most popular seasonal cruises and can only sail from May through September. When Alaska gets too cold, the ships relocate, often to Asia or Australia. This path across the Pacific takes them right past Hawaii, so it is a natural stop to break up the long cruise. It takes about 6 or 7 days for a cruise to reach Hawaii from Seattle, Vancouver, or Anchorage, and another 7 or 8 days to reach the South Pacific.

These cruises can be run in one of two ways. The first option is a longer cruise, often at least 21 nights with Hawaii as a mid-point stop. The second option is to split the cruise into two separate cruises. The first cruise would end in Honolulu and the second cruise would begin there. Often at least one of these cruises would island hop to multiple cities in Hawaii.

Round Trip California Cruises to Hawaii

These cruises are offered on Princess, Holland America, Oceania, Crystal, and occasionally Celebrity. There are two main itineraries available; a 15-17 night cruise from California to Hawaii, with a stop in Mexico, or a 28+ night cruise to Hawaii, Tahiti, and the South Pacific. Most of these cruises depart from Los Angeles, while a few leave from San Francisco or San Diego. The shorter cruises stop at Ensenada, Mexico, a city known locally as La Cenicienta del Pacifico, or “The Cinderella of the Pacific”. Ensenada is not a particularly popular destination, but it does have its charms. The city is working hard to improve their offerings, and they have some of the best street food in Mexico.

Ensenada, Mexico. Image Credit: By Isaacmoon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Round Trip Honolulu Cruises

There is one, and only one, cruise line that offers regular round trip cruises from Hawaii. If you want to take a typical 7 night cruise from Honolulu to the other islands, Norwegian is it. In order to get around the regulations of the Passenger Vessel Service Act, NCL had to take several steps. First, they had to create a new company, NCL America, that was headquartered in the United States. Second, they had to have a ship that was US built, US flagged, and manned with US crew. Ultimately this ship became the Pride of America. Construction was finished in 2005, and she has been sailing the Hawaiian Islands for the past 13 years.

NCL Cruise Line, Pride of America, Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

Pride of America runs the same itinerary year round, leaving Honolulu every Saturday. The cruise overnights in Kahului, Maui, then visits Hilo and Kona on the Big Island, and finally overnights in Nawiliwili, Kauai. Since there is no competition, these cruises can be a little more expensive than other 7 night sailings. At the lowest end you are looking at about $2,500 for two people in an interior room. A balcony room will start at closer to $5,000 for two people.

The Best Time for a Hawaii Cruise

If you are planning on taking a re-positioning cruise to Hawaii you will be severely limited. These cruises are set based on the Alaska cruising season, so your choices are typically March/April or September/October. These months also have the benefit of being in Hawaii’s low season, so flights and hotels will typically be cheaper. If your cruise is one of the ones that ends or begins in Hawaii, this can be really helpful.

If you are planning on taking the Norwegian cruise, these months can still be a great choice. Since airfare is often cheaper in the shoulder months, the higher cost of the cruise can be offset a bit. The rest of winter can be another great choice to escape to a warm tropical paradise. January through March is Hawaii’s high season, so it may be more expensive and more crowded, but it can be a great respite from the cold.

Christmas is a Wonderful time to visit Hawaii

If you’d like to plan your own adventure to Hawaii, send me a request. I’d be happy to find the perfect Hawaiian cruise for you and your family.

Travel Hacking: Wyndham Rewards Mattress Run

Wyndham Kona Hawaiian Resort – Courtesy of Wyndham Hotels

Occasionally companies may offer special promotions that can be a great deal for future adventures. Currently Wyndham Rewards is offering a promotion for one free night at any Wyndham hotel after staying just two separate times. Wyndham Rewards is already a great value because of their flat redemption options. With just 15,000 points you can stay for free at any hotel under the Wyndham brand. Normally, you earn 10 points per dollar spent at a Wyndham property, with a minimum of 1,000 points per stay. That means that normally it takes 15 stays to earn a free night. With this promotion cutting that down to only two stays, the value is amazing.

In fact, the value is so great that you may even want to consider making a mattress run to get these points before the promotion expires.

What is a Mattress Run?

You may have already heard of a Mattress Run, or the somewhat related Mileage Run. If you are not familiar, a Mattress Run is when you reserve a hotel that you don’t need just to earn loyalty points. While it might seem like a waste, there are times where the value of the points earned can be higher than the cost of a hotel room. Wyndham Hotel Group is a perfect candidate for this, especially with the current promotion. Wyndham includes a wide variety of hotel brands, including some budget offerings such as Days Inn and Super 8. Depending on your location you can often find a budget hotel under the Wyndham umbrella for under $40 a night. Even if you don’t need a hotel right now, for only $80 you can earn 15,000 points and get a free night at any Wyndham hotel worldwide.

In order for the stay to count you have to actually check in, so you can’t just find a random hotel clear across the country and reserve a night. The easiest way to complete a mattress run is to book the cheapest hotel close to your house, check in, leave the key in the room, and then go home.

The Wyndham Rewards Promotion

As mentioned above, the promotion just requires two stays at a Wyndham property during the promotion period. Your two stays must be completed before June 30th, 2018, and must be two separate reservations, not just two nights. You also have to have a Wyndham Rewards account and register for the promotion.

Registering for the Promotion

To register for this promotion you must first have a Wyndham Rewards account. This account is free to create at the Wyndham Hotels website. Once you have an account and are logged in, go to the promotion page and register for the promotion. Once that’s done you are good to go and are free to start booking your stays.

Promotion Rules
  • You must have a Wyndham Rewards Account
  • You must register for the promotion on Wyndham Hotel’s website
  • There must be two completed stays at a Wyndham property by June 30th, 2018
  • The room must be booked directly through the hotel. You can book:
    • Online at WyndhamHotels.com
    • Online at the specific chain’s website
    • Via phone to the hotel or Wyndham’s Toll Free reservation line
  • No shows do not count; you must actually check in to the hotel
Getting the Most out of the Promotion
Wyndham Bali Kai Villas – Courtesy of Wyndham Hotels

In order to maximize the value of this promotion, you should focus on two points. First, minimize the cost of your two stays. If you were already planning on staying at a Wyndham property you don’t have to worry about this, but it is particularly important for Mattress Runs. Mid-week stays at budget properties will usually offer you the best prices, but it can vary depending on your geographic location. Days Inn, Super 8, and Travelodge are often the cheapest options, but it’s a good idea to search all Wyndham properties via the Wyndham website to get the best deals for your area.

The second part of the equation is deciding where to spend your free night. Wyndham Grand resorts often offer the best redemption value, although Ramada and a number of Las Vegas casinos, including Harrah’s, Caesar’s Palace, and the Rio can also offer an amazing value. Wyndham has also recently added vacation homes and condos to their offerings, adding even more amazing redemption opportunities. Peak season rates at some of these properties can start at $300 a night. That means that for about $80 you can earn 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points and get a free night valued at over $300. Without the promotion, it would take 15 stays to earn a free night, which would cost you at least $600. This represents an amazing value and an excellent opportunity to splurge at a resort you may otherwise never get to experience.

For some more ideas on where to redeem your free night, check out our post on the 10 Best Award Redemptions for Wyndham Rewards.

Travel Hacking: Mileage Run Explained

Flights to Nowhere – With a mileage run the destination doesn’t matter, only the distance
Origin of the Mileage Run

If you are experienced in the points and miles game you are likely already aware of mileage run. Originally mileage runs were a way for flyers to get a large number of frequent flyer miles. People could find a long haul flight for a relatively cheap price and fly round trip to rack up the miles. Recently, however, airlines have mostly switched to a revenue based model. This means that instead of earning frequent flyer miles based on distance, you earned them based on the ticket cost. This could have been the end of mileage runs, but instead they just evolved.

State of the Mileage Run Today

Today mileage runs are utilized more for gaining or maintaining status. Even though a cheap long haul flight will no longer earn many redeemable miles, they still count towards elite status. To earn elite status with an airline you need two things; qualifying miles and qualifying spend. Unlike redeemable frequent flyer miles, qualifying miles are still granted based on distance. Mileage runs can help build up these elite qualifying miles, although they still won’t help with the spend requirement.

Because of this limitation, a mileage run only makes sense for a few specific types of travelers. First, is a traveler who makes many short but expensive flights. This could be a business traveler who books flights in first class or on a fully refundable fare. These flyers will often have a high spend but a low total mileage, so completing a mileage run at the end of the year could be perfect.

The other type of traveler who could benefit from a mileage run would be one who utilizes an airline credit card. Spend on an airline branded credit card, even for expenses not directly related to a flight, counts towards an elite spend waiver. The total spend is much higher when using a credit card, typically around $25,000 a year, but if a passenger is spending that much every year then they can reach the spend requirement without hitting the mileage requirement. In this case a mileage run could be their only opportunity to reach elite status.

Value of Elite Status

Even if you could earn elite status using a mileage run, you are still looking at several hundred dollars in otherwise unnecessary costs. In order to determine if a mileage run is worth the cost and time you have to put a value on the status you can reach. Elite status is more valuable the more you fly with perks such as free upgrades, bonus miles, and fee waivers. Typically, this means that the people who will get the most out of a mileage run are frequent flyers who spend a lot, but need a small boost of miles to reach a higher tier of status.

Cocktails from Around the World

Traveling the world can give you a wide variety of unique experiences. While many of these experiences can come home with you only in the form of memories and photographs, there are some experiences that you can recreate from the comfort of your home. Food and drinks from around the world can be an excellent way to relive past adventures or have a mini adventure right at home. We’ve gathered up 5 of the best cocktails from around the world that you can enjoy no matter where you are.

Singapore Sling

Singapore Sling Cocktail
Singapore Sling from Santosa | Courtesy Wikipedia

The Singapore Sling is a gin and cherry mixed drink that was invented in the early 1900s at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. The exact original recipe is lost to time, but is generally agreed to be comprised of gin, cherry liqueur, and orange, pineapple, and lime juices. The modern recipe varies at various venues across Singapore, but the standard ingredients of gin, cherry liqeur, and pineapple juice always stay the same. If you want to try your hand at it, the official recipe from the International Bartenders Association is below.

  • 2 Parts Gin
  • 1 Part Cherry Liqeur or Cherry Brandy
  • ½ Part Benedictine
  • ½ Part Cointreau
  • 1 Part Lime Juice
  • Dash of Bitters
  • Dash of Grenadine
  • 8 Parts Pineapple Juice

Combine all ingredients and mix with ice. Strain and serve straight up in a highball or hurricane glass. Garnish with cherry and pineapple.

Staying Safe with Winter Travel

Holiday Travel Safety Tips

Winter is here, and it is here to stay. If you are planning any travels this winter there are a few tips that are good to remember. No matter if you are traveling near or far, by plane or car, we want to make sure that your travels are safe.

Take Extra Time
Make sure to give yourself extra time when traveling this winter
Courtesy NOAA

By far the most important rule of winter travel is to take your time. During the holidays especially the roads can be significantly more crowded. An increase in traffic can make your planned drive take quite a bit longer, and you don’t want to miss a flight because you arrived at the airport late. Aside from an increase in traffic, the US Department of Transportation estimates that average traffic speed is reduced by up to 64% when snow is falling.

Accidents are also more common during adverse weather; approximately 22% of all vehicle accidents are weather related. An accident on the highway can bring traffic to a standstill and cause significant delays. Being involved in an accident will cause you an even longer delay, or even make travel impossible. Make sure to give other cars on the road plenty of space and never drive faster than conditions allow.

Cars are not the only vehicles that are delayed by adverse weather. Storms can delay or cancel flights, and delays often compound on each other. Even if there are no active storms anywhere along your flight path, planes require de-icing. The de-icing procedure is typically quick, but when hundreds of flights are waiting to take-off it can quickly add up. De-icing is done away from the gate, so the flights are still listed as on time departures, even if it takes up to an hour to actually take off. Make sure you give yourself extra time for any connections

Prepare Alternatives

While giving yourself extra time to travel and make any connecting flights is important, the occasional missed or cancelled flight is inevitable. It is always a good idea to prepare alternatives just in case your plans don’t pan out. If driving, know alternate routes and detours, just in case an accident or bad weather closes down the main road. Detours may not always be obvious, and cell signal can be fickle, so it’s a good idea to have an atlas or road map available in your vehicle.

For flights, it can be valuable to have an idea of what other flights are available. This way if your flight is delayed or cancelled you already know what your options are to get to your final destination.

Stay Informed
Stay Informed with up to date weather forecasts
Courtesy NOAA

In the days leading up to your travel, keep an eye on the weather reports. It’s important to not just look at the weather at your home location and destination, but at various points along the route. It’s a very good idea to follow your local National Weather Service office. If traveling domestically, you can also find the NWS office that serves your destination.

Aside from specific forecasts, it’s also important to know about any rules that are in effect for a certain area. For example, the Alcan Highway through British Columbia into Alaska requires either chains or certified winter tires on all vehicles from October through March. Across the northern and western United States, there are some roads and mountain passes that may require chains in inclement winter weather. Knowing these rules can not only keep you safe, but can help you avoid large fines.

It is also a really good idea to keep an eye on road conditions. For any state you will be traveling through you can search for “State 511” to get current road conditions. For example, to get the current road conditions in Nevada, you can search for “Nevada 511” which will lead you to http://nvroads.com.

Have an Emergency Kit
Recommended items for a winter emergency kit
Emergency Supply Kit Checklist | Courtesy NOAA

For winter safety it is also a good idea to have an emergency kit packed and stored in your vehicle. You should make sure you have a portable charger or spare battery for your phone to make sure that you can always contact emergency services or family if you run into trouble.

You should also have supplies to help you out if your car breaks down or gets stuck. Standard items such as a jack, spare tire, flares, and a jumper cable are important, but you should also have a portable shovel, tool kit, flashlight, and an ice scraper. The cold can drain batteries, so make sure you have fresh batteries for your flashlight at the start of each trip. It’s also a good idea to have sand, cat litter, or gravel to help you get traction if your car should get stuck.

You should also have items to help keep you safe if you get stuck and have to wait for rescue. Blankets are crucial to stay warm without having to have the car running, and water and non-perishable food can be a life saver, especially if you are traveling on roads that don’t get a lot of traffic.

Consider Travel Insurance

Even the best made plans can still be impacted by inclement weather, and part of being prepared is knowing what will happen if things go wrong. If your flight is cancelled or delayed due to weather, most airlines will not provide any financial assistance other than rebooking you on a later flight. If you end up needing to spend the night you can be out several hundred dollars for food and a hotel, and if your luggage is stuck you may need new clothes or toiletries.

Airlines won’t reimburse you for any of these expenses, but certain travel insurance offerings will. They can also cover you for any non-refundable expenses at your final destination that you missed due to the delay. Travel insurance isn’t for everybody, but if you reach out to us today, we can review your plans and help you determine if it makes sense.

Winter travel can be magical, but make sure you reach your destination safely by following these tips. Happy Holidays!