Are you the type of traveler who books all of your travel separately? If you do this every time you travel, you might be spending more money than you need to.
Fans of Southwest Airlines — keep reading — because we’re going to be talking about Southwest Vacation packages.
These travel packages allow passengers to book flights, hotels, rental cars, and even activities at one time. Here, we’ll talk about what a Southwest Vacation package includes, whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, and how to book.
What Is a Southwest Vacation Package?
A Southwest Vacation package is a travel product that includes:
- ✈️ air and
- 🚐 ground transportation as well as
- 🏨 hotel or resort bookings.
You can build and customize a vacation package to meet your needs and fit your budget. All flights in packages are through Southwest Airlines, but other travel accommodations are booked by Southwest on your behalf through third parties. These packages give members savings and additional perks for their trips.
You do not need to be a Southwest rewards member to book a vacation, and there is no additional fee for using this platform. However, rewards members benefit most when booking these packages. Previously, you could only earn rewards points on the flight portion of a vacation package, but now you can earn points on air travel, hotel bookings, car rentals, and even experiences. More on earning points soon.
What Does a Vacation Package Include?
Vacation packages may include flights, hotel bookings, car rentals, activities, and extras such as amusement park tickets, experiences, and travel insurance/purchase protection. You can create a package yourself or choose from all-inclusive resort packages with pre-selected flights, resort bookings, and accommodations. There are two vacation types: single destination trips and multiple destination trips.
Each package comes with exclusive perks unique to each property as well as two Southwest guarantees: no change fees and two free checked bags on flights. These Southwest benefits are included in the price of a package, but all other offers are determined by the hotel or resort.
Benefits may include:
- Rate discounts
- Complimentary amenities
- Complimentary room upgrades
- Food and beverage or experience credits
- Kids stay free
- And more
How Much Do Vacation Packages Cost?
After comparing many vacations through Southwest and other travel booking sites, we found that Southwest Vacations can often save you money. Sometimes the difference in price is significant and sometimes slight, but you’ll usually save when you book a vacation through Southwest even if the savings are in the form of complimentary extras.
Here’s an example where the price difference is significant. You and a partner are traveling to the Riu Palace Costa Mujeres all-inclusive resort in Cancun, Mexico, for a seven-night trip.
When you book this vacation through Southwest Vacations, you pay $1,568.75 per person or $3,137.50 total. This price includes a Junior Suite Partial Ocean View room and resort fees and a round-trip flight in Wanna Get Away class. Members earn 3,273 each. You can pay for this package in full when booking or in monthly installments of about $73 per person. Changes and cancellations are not permitted.
Booking these items separately would be quite a bit more expensive. For just the resort booking, the price would be $2,786 at the current non-refundable promotional rate. The flights would cost $869.02 total. This comes out to a total of $3,655 or $1,827.50 per person. With the exclusive discounts through Southwest, you could save up to $517.50 for the very same vacation even with the resort offering its own discount.
But the savings are not always this good. Here’s another example where the price difference is negligible. Let’s say you’re flying out of Chicago to Hawaii and staying at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, a beachfront resort property on Big Island. For a booking of seven consecutive nights, the price per person for the Southwest Vacations package is $3,443.79 or $6,887.58 total.
This price, which is discounted by $150, includes the hotel rate for a Palace Resort View room with one king bed and a round-trip flight. The departure trip is a Wanna Get Away flight out of Chicago with one layover in San Diego and the return flight is a Wanna Get Away flight out of KOA airport with one layover in Phoenix. Also included in the price are a $45 daily resort fee and a $30 per room, per vehicle daily valet parking fee. Members earn 7,096 points each for this vacation.
When you book through Southwest Vacations, you get a non–refundable room rate and are not permitted to change or cancel your reservation. You may pay for the trip upfront or pay over time in monthly installments of $384 at a 15% interest rate.
Now let’s say you’re booking each part of this same trip separately. Starting with the resort, you’d pay $5,866.51 total for the same room at a non-refundable (the lowest) rate including taxes and fees. You must pay for this trip in full at the time of booking. The round-trip Wanna Get Away flight would cost $515.60 per person or $1,031.20 total. The grand total for this trip would then be $6,897.71.
As you can see, this difference in price is not significant at only about $10. However, what we found is that Southwest Vacations packages tend to offer a bit more flexibility at roughly the same or a slightly better rate. In this instance, you do not need to pay for the entire Southwest vacation in total when booking and you get free Southwest perks like free checked bags.
About the monthly payments. Though both of these packages qualify, this option is not available for every trip. Only purchases over $1,200 are eligible and some destinations do not allow monthly payments. These loans are offered through Uplift and initiated through Southwest. A credit check is required.
How to Save
If saving money is your bottom line, there are a few ways to find Southwest Vacations at the best prices. First, start your search in the deals section.
Always browse promotions before booking a trip, especially if you’re not picky about which hotel or resort you stay at. This is often where you can save the most money and score freebies such as complimentary nights and food and beverage credits.
Usually, popular destinations such as Mexico and the Caribbean and Disney Parks are discounted pretty much year-round. Southwest may also choose to provide discounts for certain hotel or resort brands like MGM or destination hotels like the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Here are all the Deals categories:
- Las Vegas deals
- Mexico and Caribbean deals
- Hawaii deals
- Disney Parks deals
- Ski and outdoor adventure deals
- Promo code deals
- Last minute deals
If you select “View all deals” at the bottom of the deals tab, you can browse all discounted trips. Then, try filtering by location and sorting by recommended, hotel rating, or hotel name.
To give you an idea of the kinds of discounts you might find, here are a few deals that stood out to us:
- Dreams Aventuras Riviera Maya by AMR Collection – Up to 40% off room rates + $200 in resort coupons and kids stay free
- Walt Disney World Swan – Up to 45% off room rates
- Doubletree by Hilton Alana Waikiki Resort – Complimentary room upgrade (subject to availability) and 50% off resort and parking fees
- Riu Santa Fe – Up to $200 in instant credits + complimentary shared roundtrip airport transfers, $35 spa credit, and kids stay free
- Secrets St. James Montego Bay by AMR Collection – Up to 40% off room rates + $20 spa treatment and $200 in resort coupons
Prices for flights and bookings are always changing, so if you are able to take a bit of time hunting for the best rates, we recommend doing that. You might even get a better price in the same day if you just check back later.
If you are viewing a promotional package, be sure that the promotion code auto-populates on the search page. If it doesn’t, you should be able to find the code in the package description. Contact customer support if you have trouble applying a discount.
Another great way to save more is using a Southwest co-branded credit card. There are six types of Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Visa Credit Cards offered through Chase Bank. These are the Priority Credit Card, the Premier Credit Card, the Plus Credit Card, and three kinds of Business Credit Cards (Performance, Premier, and Plus).
If you use one of these cards to pay for your vacation, you can earn points on the entire purchase. This includes tier qualifying points that can help you qualify for elite. Plus, each card gives you travel savings. The Priority card, for example, pays you back 3x points on all Southwest purchases, 2x points on hotels bookings and car rentals, 25% back on inflight purchases, and 7,500 bonus points per year.
How to Book a Vacation Package
To book a Southwest Vacation package, start by signing into your Southwest account. Then, use the search tool to input your dates and destinations and search for Flight + Hotel packages or Flight + Care packages. Alternatively, you can select “Deals” or “Destinations” from the top of the page to browse current promotions and popular destinations such as Hawaii, Cancun, Jamaica, New Orleans, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and more.
If you start your search in the Deals or Destinations sections, select a hotel, resort, or experience to get started customizing your package.
Starting with the search tool will take you to the hotel page where search customizations are shown on the left side of the page. You can filter your search by selecting for different amenities and experiences, sorting by hotel class and price range, or showing only results within a certain distance from points of interest. You can even enter a hotel name and select “Find.” If you don’t customize the search at all, Southwest will just show you their top picks first. This will default to the lowest-priced hotel reservations, flight tickets, and car rentals.
Select a hotel to read more about the property such as included amenities, room types, and cancellation/change policies. Make note of resort fees, valet fees, and other charges in addition to the starting room rate. Select the “Rooms” tab or click “Select Rooms” in the yellow box at the top to view available rooms. To the right, the “Price Per Person” will show you the additional charge for every room type on top of the starting rate for the hotel as well as the change in points for each traveler.
After you’ve chosen your room, you will be taken to the flight page. Here, you can choose a flight with ideal departure times and stopovers and change your flight class as needed. The running total for your package will change depending on how you customize your package and which items you select. The only way to guarantee the lowest rate or base rate is to keep everything as is, meaning economy class (Wanna Get Away) and the cheapest rooms. Once you’ve picked a flight, select “Continue.”
The next page is the Cars page. You can add a car to almost any vacation package, but it is not required. To the right, you can see the overall total and per day total for each car. Select a car or navigate to the “Add Extras” page to skip. Extras are also optional, but it’s not a bad idea to check them out because some offer great deals. On the left side of the screen, you can filter for different categories such as Sightseeing and Tours or Water Activities and narrow your desired price range.
Extras might include:
- vouchers for local excursions or tours
- hotel ground transportation
- boat trips and fishing
- snorkeling or diving
- unique immersive experiences such as swimming with dolphins
To book an extra, just select “View options” and choose how many people in your party will be participating. Then, add to cart. The price of your vacation will automatically adjust for the price of extras at this time.
On the checkout page, confirm your selections and make any final changes. The total package price might be a little different now if something you selected is no longer available or has increased in price since you started booking. If you don’t want to book the vacation now, you can print or email your itinerary or save your search to your Southwest Vacations account.
How to Earn Points
If you’re a Rapid Rewards member, you can earn rewards from any vacation package. Flights, hotel bookings, and car rentals are all eligible to earn points. You can see how many points a package qualifies to earn when booking, below the rates. If you are traveling with a group, each Rapid Rewards member qualifies to earn rewards.
Note that points earned via vacations do NOT count as elite tier qualifying points toward A-List or A-List Preferred status.
You can either enter everyone’s account numbers when booking the trip, online before the trip begins, or at the airport checkout counter or gate. You must request Rapid Rewards points when checking in for your flight, hotel, or car rental and provide account information to guarantee.
Just make sure that every member is checked in because you can’t always apply points retroactively to a trip. If you find that points you should have earned for a vacation are missing 30 days after the trip has concluded, you have up to twelve months to request them.
Select packages qualify to earn bonus points or higher earning rates than most. For example, travelers who book a vacation at a participating MGM Resort location in Las Vegas are eligible to earn 600 bonus Rapid Rewards points per room on stays of more than one night.
Advantages and Disadvantages
One of the primary advantages of booking a vacation through Southwest are the exclusive perks. These include private transfers from plane or car to hotel, VIP excursions such as tours and events, and complimentary room upgrades at select destinations. These are only available to Southwest travelers and vary in value, but they can definitely help you save money and travel more comfortably. And don’t forget about the free checked bags. When you book a custom vacation package, your first and second checked bag–including golf bags, fly for free and there are no change fees for modifying eligible transportation or hotel bookings.
Southwest Vacations also include 24-hour traveler assistance. While you’re traveling, you can call a dedicated customer service line to get in touch with a representative about booking issues and concerns. In some big cities and popular tourist destinations, there are even local customer service representatives you can go talk to.
You can save serious cash booking through Southwest as well. Although not every vacation is heavily discounted, you can usually save at least a little bit of money on your flight or hotel reservation or, at the very least, make things easier on yourself when traveling. Plus, Southwest offers a lowest price promise on all packages. This means that if you find an identical package elsewhere that is priced lower than theirs, Southwest will pay you the difference in future travel credit if you book with them. So always, always shop around. And don’t knock the discounts in the extras and experiences sections.
The Rapid Rewards program is a generally solid rewards program, so this is another advantage in and of itself. Not only is each point valued at 1.3 cents, which is decent, but Southwest offers flexible and rewarding redemption opportunities. This airline offers unlimited reward seats on every flight and no blackout dates on standard fare tickets booked with points. Travelers who book a Southwest Vacation package can score major savings on future flights, especially if they’re strategic about earning as many points as possible.
But even though we like that Southwest Vacations earn points, this program doesn’t let you redeem points for vacations, and this is one of the biggest disadvantages. Southwest Vacations packages are not eligible to be booked with points, and that could be disappointing especially if you’re traveling with a group of Rapid Rewards members with points to spend. You can, however, use travel funds from canceled flights to pay for part of your Vacations package by providing your confirmation number at checkout.
Likewise, you can’t use hotel rewards to book a Southwest vacation. You might be able to earn hotel points from your trip, but there is no way to easily do this and no guarantee that you’ll get those points.
Also disappointing is the fact that vacation points are not tier qualifying points, so they don’t help you qualify for elite status. Although you can earn plenty of points booking vacations, you can’t reach elite this way no matter how many trips you take.
Southwest offers a fairly expansive range of options, but this program is still somewhat limited in terms of availability. You may not find a hotel brand you’re looking for or packages available in certain destinations
Another potential disadvantage to note is that Southwest Vacations packages don’t always offer as much booking flexibility as you might be looking for. Because most hotels and resorts are at promotional rates, they are sometimes non-refundable and cannot be changed or canceled. Some properties may let you select for rooms that do qualify for refunds and changes, but you won’t be getting the low prices that make Southwest Vacations packages so attractive.
Overall, booking travel through Southwest Vacations isn’t a bad way to go. From savings to exclusive perks, these packages are often more rewarding than booking separate travel and there are more than enough destinations and experiences to choose from. We recommend checking out Southwest Vacations the next time you’re planning a trip and following the tips in this article to score the best deals.