Who doesn’t love warm weather and sunny days spent in the Caribbean? (I love it so much that I lived there for two years!)
I love spending time online researching hotels, finding the best airline routes, and browsing TripAdvisor for the best stuff to do on a trip.
But what if you’re not into that sort of thing?
What if you’re the kind of person who just wants someone to tell you where to visit, what to do, when to show up, and bundle it all into one package?
I’ve got you covered.
Say hello to Vacation Express, one of the outstanding companies providing all-inclusive vacations from CVG Airport.
For one price, booked in one place, you can build a trip and bundle airfare, hotel, airport transfers, meals, drinks, activities, and excursions.
I’ve had about a dozen friends utilize Vacation Express and everyone raves about how amazing their trips were. In fact, a colleague wrote a Jet with Jay blog on his trip – check it out here. So, to figure out what makes them so great, I went straight to the source and spoke to Rene Jongmans, CEO/President of Vacation Express.
“We sell a wonderful product! You go to a wonderful destination, you go to a great resort, all-inclusive. That makes people happy. A vacation is a happy product.”
JAY: When it comes to an all-inclusive, it’s all about convenience, right?
RENE: “We’re one of the only ones who have all the non-stop flights from Cincinnati. And I think that’s why Cincinnati is one of our biggest markets. We have a fantastic client base, travel agents, and fantastic support. We make it easy for people to get to our destinations, it’s non-stop, you’re at the destination quickly at a beautiful beach and a great hotel, so of course you’re happy!”
What sets Vacation Express apart?
“The flights that we operate from Cincinnati are with great airlines. And I think that’s important. The on-time performance is great. Our flights have not been canceled. They go to the destination in the morning and come back late-afternoon, so you have a great amount of ‘beach time’ as we call it.”
“And I think overall, just ensuring that we negotiate great deals with hotels. Most of our packages are with five-star hotels and sometimes when you look at the pricing and you’re like ‘Oh my gosh, I can fly, stay all-inclusive at a wonderful five-star hotel, and it’s maybe less than $1,500 a person. The value is really fantastic. Sometimes my friends say ‘hey, you know, I’m going to a weekend to New York or Miami’ and I’m like you’re probably going to spend more for that weekend than you do going for a week all-inclusive to a beautiful destination.”
And for people like me who usually like to plan out every detail of a trip, Jongmans has a simple answer:
“We always tell someone who wants to travel: don’t waste your own time on review sites because at the end of the day you can spend so much time and you still don’t really know that a resort is best for you. In 15 minutes’ time, we can probably tell you the right resort for you and that adds a lot of value to the service we provide.”
What are the hot destinations for 2022?
“Cancun is what we sell the most. It’s, for so many years, been the number one destination because we have the non-stop flights, the value is great. People say ‘oh, I want to go somewhere more exotic’ but they may forget there are a lot of great exotic resorts and new resorts that are built in beautiful settings (in Cancun). Punta Cana and Jamaica are a good #2 and #3. People tend to think more of other destinations like St. Lucia, Antigua, Turks and Caicos or Grenada as more “exotic” destinations… but your budget just needs to come up a bit more.”
With more people traveling, should we book vacations further in advance?
“I definitely think that this year you need to start looking further out. More people are going to travel and we’re seeing more destinations are easing up their entry requirements a bit. Some may still require a PCR or antigen test to get into the destination or they may have required a vaccination, but we are seeing destinations ease up on those requirements as well. As that happens, and hopefully at one point, the US will allow people to come back without testing as we’re already seeing it in other countries, then even more people will be comfortable traveling. I definitely still feel there is a pent-up demand.”
Often times, people think of all-inclusive resorts as a honeymoon destination or girls’ trips, but they can be terrific for families as well, right?
“A lot of families go on vacation with their kids and there are so many different experiences such as Nickelodeon Resorts that are very unique. We also have so many other hotels in different price ranges that offer free stays for kids. The kids don’t pay for their meals and drinks which is a fantastic added value.
Is there an amenity that you personally really enjoy when you stay at a resort?
“I love the turn-down service. I love when you spend your day at the pool or the beach and you come back to the hotel in the evening and they’ve put fresh towels for you, made your bed nicely and add some extra amenities sometimes. I won’t say no to a nice spa either.”
What’s the one thing you always pack on a trip?
“Suntan lotion. It’s always in my bag”
Thanks Rene! And my dermatologist agrees… solid advice.
Another person who agrees that all-inclusive resorts are an excellent value is Debbie Boyd, a Travel Consultant and owner of Travel Happy in Cincinnati.
JAY: Which destinations are hot with your clients right now?
DEBBIE: “Punta Cana, Jamaica, Mexico, St. Lucia, Costa Rica. And all of these areas have really loosened up their COVID protocols. What’s awesome is that everything is opening up. Each week we’re getting more and more good news and it makes my job a lot easier.
What has been very popular is Mexico, and every part of Mexico. I just returned from Central Mexico which was kind of off my radar because I’m more of a beach destination kind of girl. But I just got back from San Miguel de Allende which is awesome and that has opened up a lot of opportunities for people who want more cultural, cool, European-feeling experience without traveling those European miles.”
You mentioned COVID protocols. How do you keep tabs on what travelers need to do?
“As travel agents we partner with tour operators and suppliers who make our job easier and one of my preferred suppliers is Vacation Express and they have a whole section on their website that is quick and easy and constantly updated. All you have to do is type in your destination, even specifically by resort, because some resorts are more restrictive than others.
And a lot of resorts have on-site COVID testing, right?
“Almost every resort has on-site COVID testing and most of them were offering it complimentary. Now some of them are backing off the comp, but it’s only around $30-$35.”
That’s just about the only fee you’d expect to see outside of the whole booking then, right?
“It’s hard to beat an all-inclusive. I was just helping a corporate group book a trip and they want to reward their staff. As I was giving them the price, and they’re like ‘what other hidden fees are there going to be? What other taxes?’ And I said, ‘that really is it!” If you do a spa treatment or an excursion, that’s going to be extra but all of your food, alcohol, taxes, fees and your gratuities are even included. (But I always tell folks to take some extra money to tip those hard-working folks.)”
I’m a DIY traveler, but when I was booking a trip a few years back I was pointed to a travel agent who had a promo code that I didn’t have access to. Is that often the case? Are there special deals or packages that you have access to?
“We sure do. That may be like a free upgrade from a shared airport transfer to a private transfer. It may be a certain percent off during a certain booking time. We have access to things, not all the time, but a lot of times. And also, just little extra perks that maybe folks don’t know about. One of my favorite things to talk about is Club Mobay in Jamaica. It’s a VIP service for arrival and departure and it helps you get through all of the customs and immigration lines. You have a representative that meets you as soon as you get off the plane and they whisk you away and you walk by the long lines.”
What’s the one item you bring with you on every trip?
“Dryer sheets. I put dryer sheets in my bag so my clothes smell good. And I also put them in the vents in the room.”
That’s brilliant. I’d never thought of that!
Thanks to Rene and Debbie for the tips and if you have a good all-inclusive travel tip you’d like to share, I’d love to hear it. You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @jaykruzofficial. Be sure to visit www.vacationexpress.com to plan your next all-inclusive trip.
And don’t forget, CVG is celebrating 75 years of commercial flight in 2022. Enter their year-long sweepstakes with monthly travel prizes – check it out here!
I’ll see you on a beach in Cancun,