I’ve been in the Miles & Points community for a few years now, and have accumulated points in pretty much every major travel rewards program under the sun.
However, and maybe because of my status as an Albertan, one of the most common questions I’ve seen around the community that I haven’t always had an ideal answer for has been: “What do I do with all my WestJet Dollars?”
Today, I want to share with you a great way to use all those WestJet Dollars (WSD) lying fallow in your account: WestJet Vacations.
WestJet Rewards: A Recap
Still, it did offer very competitive Member Exclusive fares, which allowed you to burn low quantities of WSD (as low as 99–125 WSD) on itineraries all around Canada, the United States, and Sun destinations.
There were even agreements that let you use fixed amounts of WSD on long-haul economy flights with first-rate airlines such as Air France.
Sadly, all that is good must come to an end. The COVID-19 pandemic saw first the pausing in February 2020, and then, shortly thereafter, dismantling of the best value Member Exclusive fares.
The replacement program that reared its head in November 2020 has not been its sire’s offspring, especially because its new Member Exclusive fares are 100% dynamic — no more fixed low prices!
Paired with WestJet’s infamous “Other ATC” fees, which are really just fuel surcharges in disguise (and must be paid fully in cash), the new program has caused a lot of disappointment for Miles & Points aficionados.
I, too, share many of these sentiments; from a consumer standpoint, it feels like there’s not a lot of value to collecting WSD because of the limitations on redeeming them.
The silver lining is that WestJet has been trying to make WSD easier to accrue via promotions, such as their recent all-time-high offer of 450 WSD and First Year Free on the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard. Still, what’s someone looking to get more mileage out of the WestJet Rewards program to do?
Booking WestJet Vacations with WestJet Dollars
Fortunately, it appears that there’s a partial solution. Should you be sitting on a large pile of WSD due to leisure or work travel, or if you’re looking to diversify your points portfolio by dipping a toe into WestJet’s offerings, rest easy knowing that you can redeem your WSDs on the under-advertised benefit of WestJet Vacations.
Availability for WestJet Vacations can be easily searched through the airline’s main travel portal, but be advised that this is only good for seeing which flights have seats or which hotels are available.
Most of the available products viewable online will be flight-plus-hotel/resort packages, with the option to add on “extras” such as tickets for activities, or even meal packages.
The cool thing is that you can actually book many of these products using your WestJet Dollars to cover the majority of the costs!
However, you’ll have to call WestJet Vacations (1-877-737-7001) in order to book a vacation package using WestJet Dollars. You aren’t able to redeem your WestJet Dollars for vacations directly via the airline’s website, the same way you’d be able to if you were simply booking a flight.
(You also have the option to call a travel agent to organize a WestJet Vacations package for you, which can then be charged partially or fully in WSD. Personally, I don’t know how comfortable I’d be entrusting the successful use of my hard-earned points to a third party. As always, be a wary consumer.)
Also of note is that while WestJet does fly to destinations such as Europe in the summer months, their Vacations department only sells getaways in select parts of Canada, the United States, and Sun destinations, such as Jamaica and Cuba.
As a sample itinerary, let’s take a look at a WestJet Vacations package from Toronto to one of Varadero, Cuba’s famous all-inclusive resorts during the peak Christmas travel season.
In this situation, you’d be on the hook for $1,829 in flight and hotel costs per person, and you could opt to pay any amount of this in WestJet Dollars. The only thing you’d have to pay entirely in hard cash would be the $255 per person in taxes and fees.
And in case you’re wondering, how does this compare to a more famously “budget” vacation provider, Sunwing?
Well, WestJet is $11 cheaper and has more rooms available to their Vacations department for the same resort. Not too shabby.
Rules and Regulations
Of course, as juicy as the opportunity to get a vacation with your WSD sounds, and maybe even at a better price than the competition, there’s a long list of terms and conditions consider.
The first and most important rule to remember is that your WestJet Vacations packages must start with an outbound flight originating in Canada.
This flight can be from anywhere within Canada, and theoretically to any destination that WestJet flies, but it cannot start in another country. Nor can you try and book your vacation “backwards” by booking the hotel plus an inbound flight.
Secondly, you can only reserve hotels or resorts that are listed on the WestJet Vacations website. If your desired quaint bed-and-breakfast shaped like a pony isn’t available via WestJet Vacations, you’re out of luck and cannot ask either the phone agent or your travel agent to make an exception.
Next, remember that if you book a hotel at a major chain such as Hilton or Marriott, your hotel elite status may not count for anything. This is because WestJet Vacations will be acting as your travel agent, and they’re using your WSD to book the hotel room.
Based on a few WestJet members’ experiences, it looks like it may be possible to add a Marriott Bonvoy elite membership number with a friendly WestJet Vacations. You might receive some elite benefits and points in this case, but not elite qualifying nights.
You’ll hopefully save a bundle money-wise, but don’t necessarily count on elite benefits such as suite upgrades, free breakfast, or late checkout, because you’re not booking directly through the hotel loyalty program.
If you want to upgrade to a higher class of service on your flight, the website will helpfully try to upgrade you whenever you’re booking.
The upsell is real, and not entirely unwelcome: due to the bundled costs of these packages, I’ve found that bumping yourself up to Premium doesn’t tack on ludicrous “Other ATC” fees as much as booking flights through WestJet’s regular portal does.
You’ll have to pay the full amount of the applicable taxes and fees in cash. Not even WestJet Vacations has found a way to let you redeem WestJet Dollars on taxes, fees, or surcharges.
This is in line with WestJet’s entire portfolio, which seeks to levy cash from consumers instead of liquidating their liabilities in the form of WestJet Dollars, which the company can (and often does) devalue at anytime.
For our penultimate point, remember you cannot use any Travel Bank credits – left over from cancelled flights or the bad old days of COVID-19 “refunds” – on WestJet Vacations. Travel Bank credits can only be expended on WestJet flight redemptions.
Similarly, you can’t pair companion vouchers from credit cards such as the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard with your WestJet Vacations redemption, although I’d love to see this change in the future.
Unorthodox WestJet Vacations Add-Ons
Of course, I wouldn’t be helping you maximize your WestJet Dollars if I simply told you to burn them just by booking more vacations or upgrading to WestJet’s Premium cabin. Instead, I think some outsized value can be squeezed from WestJet’s funny money by expending them on additional experiences or services at your destinations.
Some, though not all, of these are listed under the “Extras” tab during the online booking process.
For example, there’s always the option to use WSD on those hyper-expensive Disney amusement park entry and ride passes, whose normal cost has made both the Orlando and California locales infamously pricey.
When one considers that tickets are often over $100 per day just to gain access to both Disney parks and Universal Studios, I’d say using your WestJet Dollars to get park passes is a great and cost-effective way to use them as a stand-in for cash.
You could also expend your WSD on other services available at select resorts. For example, here’s an all-inclusive resort in Mexico that offers private shuttle transfer from the airport directly to the hotel, and to boot, lets you get to the head of the check-in line.
While $98 per vehicle isn’t free, especially when rideshare apps such as Uber exist, I suspect my Uber driver would not accept being paid in WestJet’s internal currency and might be resistant to my efforts to recruit them into my efforts to cut the queue.
Of course, these are not the only “Extras” you can book, and the possibilities are pretty endless.
Resorts in places like Las Vegas and Hawaii have some pretty extravagant tour options. I’ve also been advised by a WestJet phone staffer that certain resorts, such as the ones within Disney World and Disneyland themselves, have meal plans which one can expend their WSD on. Yummy.
Lastly, the rules state that your outbound flight must be originating in Canada. But remember: WestJet Vacations must be booked over the phone if you’re using WestJet Dollars, so you’re never bound exclusively to what can be found online.
Over the years, I’ve found the WestJet phone agents can often be obliging and helpful when making customized vacation packages with flights and hotel stays of varying length, too.
In the context of a rather weak WestJet Rewards loyalty program as a whole, I think it makes sense for any points collector who’s sitting on, or looking to earn, a large trove of WestJet Dollars to consider WestJet Vacations as an easy way to redeem.
Unlike with WestJet flights, you’ll need to pick up the phone and give WestJet Vacations a call to secure your booking. By adding “Extras” to your package, it’s also possible to use WestJet Dollars to cover incidental expenses on a nearby getaway, extracting value from a fallow currency without having to overspend out-of-pocket.
Until next time, happy vacationing.