With a reputation as an expensive island, could we really take a luxury vacation to Nassau, Bahamas on a budget? Not to spoil this trip report but the answer is YES!
Since we love to travel but can’t afford the normal price tag, we use a combination of free travel on credit card points and budget tips to keep our costs as low as possible.
How to Visit Bahamas on a Budget
For Sandra (aka Zuzu) & me, we enjoyed a luxury 4 night vacation to Nassau, Bahamas on a budget of just under $1000. Without our focus on budget travel, this trip could easily have cost $7000-10,000!
Flights and hotels are the biggest expense for most visitors to Nassau. That’s actually the lowest cost for us.
Our biggest budget items were food and our transportation to and from the Nassau Airport.
Here’s how we were able to travel in luxury on a budget.
Free Flights with Amex Points
Unless you live in Florida which is just 110 mile away, flying to Nassau will usually be several hundred dollars per person. The best flights for our schedule were on United at $1034 for 2 round trip economy tickets between Nashville and Nassau.
Through the American Express Travel Portal, I was able to use 103k points to get our flights for free. But it gets even better.
Since I’ve got the Business Platinum Card® from American Express, I got a 35% rebate for flying United so it only cost 67k points or 34k points per person round trip.
And then, I used my $200 airline incidentals credit from that card to upgrade to extra legroom seats for free!
Free 5 Star Hotel with Hyatt Points
One of the nicest & largest resorts in Nassau is the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar on beautiful Cable Beach. Rooms range from around $700 to well over $1000 per night.
Since those prices are absolutely not in our budget, we redeemed 77,000 Hyatt points to book 4 free nights at this luxury resort. But it gets even better.
Because we use the “1 Bank, 1 Hotel, 1 Airline Strategy” to earn free travel, we are top level elites in the World of Hyatt loyalty program.
Globalists get free breakfast (saved us $95/day) and we used one of our free Hyatt Suite Upgrade Awards (SUA) to get bumped from a regular room to an enormous Grand Suite! We had 2 balconies on opposite ends of our suite!
This suite was selling for $4719 for our 4 nights but we got it for free!
We also got a Globalist welcome gift of coupons for 8 free drinks (worth ~$150) and when we asked the cost of a mini fridge, the front desk staff gave us one for free (a $50 value)!
If you’re keeping score, that’s $5,299 at the Grand Hyatt to most people. But it was all free if you follow our secrets of staying at luxury hotels for free!
How to Save Money at Resorts in Bahamas
Besides flying for free and getting our room at Grand Hyatt Baha Mar for free, we had a handful of savvy budget hacks that helped us stick to our Bahamas budget.
Skip the Pigs.
We heard all about the $800 per person Swim with the Pigs excursion but chose a $1.25 Jitney ride to downtown Nassau instead. Conch salad and conch fritters at the Fish Fry plus a few souvenirs at the Straw Market? Total win at under $50!
Be Choosy when Eating Out
Resorts like Baha Mar have fancy restaurants that can really eat into your budget. We splurged on one amazing dinner at Marcus for $250 (yikes). Other times? Leftovers were our best friend. Our balcony view with Fish Fry leftovers beats any restaurant vibe.
Stop at a grocery store or use a grocery delivery service!
We loaded up on snacks and snagged a mini-fridge for $50. That saved us a ton on drinks and kept our grocery finds fresh.
Take a travel cooler!
Our bright orange travel cooler with a big Power T for Tennessee is our secret budget hack! While everyone else is standing in line to pay $20-30 for a drink, we’re slipping a cold one out and humming Rocky Top… Go Vols!
Not only does it save us money by keeping our drinks & snacks cold, it fits in our luggage & it can double as a tote bag!
Those $20-30 drinks at the resort can add up fast. We limited ourselves and made the most of our Hyatt Globalist free drink coupons instead. Also, water’s not free at the restaurants, but housekeeping will give you unlimited water bottles in your room—so, bring the free water to dinner and skip the expensive water.
Get the refillable cup at Baha Mar!
One of the best money saving hacks at Baha Mar is their refillable cup. Only available for purchase at a few select locations, it costs around $15-20 and you’ll get free refills on any (non-alcoholic) drink at many (but not all) places stands at the resort.
The Baha Bay water park? Absolutely free and an absolute must, especially if you’ve got kids in tow. Dancing water fountain show? As entertaining as Vegas. Jazz Bar? Nurse a drink all night long and enjoy the show!
Nassau is Expensive
There’s no way around it, this resort is just expensive.
But when a couple we met complained about poor service & said “We could have bought a car for what we spent on this trip!” it was kind of shocking.
I kid you not, they literally did say that out loud!
Hard to believe that “normal” people actually pay that much while Zuzu & I are having a honeymoon level vacation for under $1000.
Did we make some splurges while on this trip? Yes, you can read all the details below.
If you want a luxury vacation to Nassau on a budget, it can be done. To get the full details about how we did it, I’ve journaled our entire trip below. And more importantly, I’ll share where I think you could save another $100 or $400 compared to what we did!
Click the Table of Contents to skip to the sections that you need!
Flying to Nassau
Our first step in planning our low cost trip to Nassau was finding a flight to fit our schedule.
The best option I could find for a flight was on United. It was a 6 AM flight which meant we had to get up around 3 AM and catch an Uber at 4 AM to get to the airport. As we headed to the airport in our island wear of shorts & t-shirts, it was raining & a chilly 51° in Nashville.
Two round-trip tickets on United were going to be just over $1000 if we paid cash. Since we always travel for free on points, we used 34,000 AMEX points each to get a free flight. I also had some free United credit that we used to upgrade to the extra legroom seats on our flights.
Our only cost was $35 each way for 1 checked bag.
Since it was so early, we skipped our favorite Priority Pass Restaurant at BNA. Thanks to our free Priority Pass, we get $58 of free food and drink at 400 Degrees restaurant. Instead, we opted for an extra 30 minutes of sleep and planned on free breakfast in…. Houston?
Isn’t Houston the WRONG direction?
Zuzu always thinks it’s crazy when we have to fly west to go east, but flying from Nashville to Houston to Nassau was the best option I could find.
And the sunrise above the clouds was beautiful.
Houston KLM Crown Lounge
During our short layover in Houston, I used our free Priority Pass membership to get us both into the KLM Crown Lounge.
After Zuzu got settled there with a little free breakfast and drinks, I headed over to the much nicer American Express Centurion Lounge at the Houston airport.
Houston Centurion Lounge
Known for being some of the nicest airport lounges that you can access, I always look forward to visiting an Amex Centurion Lounge. The one at George Bush Airport in Houston was one of the nicer ones.
After a short wait, I was able to get inside the very crowded lounge. They had a nice breakfast buffet set up right next to the bar. It’s the type of thing that you would expect to pay $20 or $30 for in a comparable airport restaurant.
By holding an American Express Platinum card, I got free access to the lounge as well as free food and drinks. Unfortunately, only the cardholder (me) gets in for free so Zuzu didn’t come along.
If I had stopped at the bar for free drinks, it would have been easy to get $50 or more of value from this free credit card perk.
On one of our future trips, we already know we will have layovers at airports with Centurion Lounges.
Our plan is to get a Platinum card for Zuzu shortly before those trips. That way, she can come in to the Centurion Lounges for free with me on that trip.
Filled with free breakfast, we hopped on our next leg of the trip to Nassau.
During the day when you can see so many different shades of blue water, it’s just magical to fly into Caribbean islands.
Similar to airports we’ve visited in St Martin & Puerto Rico, the Nassau airport is small but has a long maze to walk through before you get to customs.
Along the way, they had a real life Pirate of the Caribbean who was harassing… err, greeting… all of the visitors to the Bahamas. When he saw me shooting video of him, he told me to Watch Out! He’s the better shot, lol!
No Customs Wait
After our pirate encounter, we had less than a 5 minute wait to get our passports stamped. We did have a 30 minute wait for our checked bag, but then walked straight though the final inspector line without even talking to an inspector.
On the other side of customs, there was a very small airport area with a bar, a Dunkin’ Donuts, a small convenience store, and lounges for some of the major resorts in Nassau.
After that, we headed outside to grab a cab.
Taxis & Private Cars at Nassau Airport
While the scene outside was nowhere near the utter chaos of the Cancun Airport, it might be overwhelming if you’ve not traveled much. There’s alot of yelling and pointing and the signage isn’t very helpful
Along the 1st curb are the taxis. The limos and private cars are just past the taxis. If you continue straight just a bit, you get to the rental car area.
While we were planning to take a taxi for ~$35 to our resort, we ended up in a private limo.
Believe it or not, we got the limo because we’re visiting the Bahamas on a budget!
Part of our plan to keep costs low was to stop at a grocery store. We wanted to load up on snacks & drinks instead of paying expensive resort prices for everything. The taxis were quoting $1.25-$1.50 per minute to wait while I went in a store. Having never been to Nassau, I had no idea how long our stop would take.
Would it be an extra $15 for the taxi to wait? An extra $30? I had no idea.
So instead of risking an expensive taxi ride, our limo driver took us for a flat $50 including our stop at a grocery store.
Our limo was comfortable, safe, and Theodore was friendly the whole way. He stopped at a full-size supermarket, telling us this is where the locals shop, not some tourist trap.
Want to learn more about the airport? Read our comprehensive Nassau Airport review!
Grocery Store in Nassau
While Zuzu stayed in the car to chat with him, I hustled inside Super Value.
It was exactly what he described.
This local supermarket is very similar to a grocery store that you would find in the US. Everything’s just packed a little tighter in a Nassau grocery store and most of the aisles are narrower than what you expect in the US.
Nassau Grocery Store Prices
Since most everything has to be shipped to the island, Nassau grocery prices are roughly double what you would expect in the US.
For example, here’s a jug of Simply Lemonade that I regularly buy at home. The price at this supermarket in Nassau was $5.93 versus $2.79 in Nashville.
At checkout, I paid with a credit card. Make sure you use a credit card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve that has no foreign transaction fees.
One thing to note is that Nassau supermarkets do not usually provide grocery bags. That seems to be common outside the US where we have traveled.
After I wheeled our shopping cart out, Theodore helped me load our $55 worth of snacks and drinks into the back. We put the cold items in the travel cooler that we had brought along. He had an extra bag for our chips and a few other things.
What was Sandra doing while while I was busy inside shopping?
Somehow, she had talked Theodore into pouring her a complimentary glass of white wine… living the good life in the back of her limousine!
Including the stop, it was about 45 minutes from the Nassau Airport to the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar.
Theodore wanted only $50 for the ride and I gave him an extra $20 tip for being so helpful and friendly.
Budget So Far: $70 Flights + $55 grocery + $70 limo ride
Save with a Grocery Delivery Service
In hindsight, the best budget option would be to use a grocery delivery service to save money on your Nassau trip. Instagopher.com charges a flat $9.99 delivery fee to bring groceries to wherever you’re staying.
Grand Hyatt Baha Mar
The Grand Hyatt is an enormous hotel that shares a campus with two other hotels on Cable Beach in Nassau. Cable Beach is considered one of the best beaches in Nassau.
There are two huge towers with rooms, connected by shops and a large casino.
In addition to booking our room for free on Hyatt points, we used a free suite upgrade award which got us into a Grand Suite King room. If we had paid cash, this room would have been $4,719!
While we could never afford it, I can understand how some people justify spending over $1,000 per night on this room. The location & view is beautiful!
Free 16th Floor Suite
Since it was on the end of the 16th floor, the two rooms in our suite actually had separate balconies.
The entry room had a balcony with a fantastic view of the dancing water fountain show that ran from 6 PM to 10 PM every night. Just sitting and watching the water show was one of our favorite (and cheapest) things that we did in Nassau.
The beautiful bathroom’s glass shower had a view of the bedroom’s balcony which faced the beach.
After getting settled in our room, we headed downstairs toward the beach.
Since our last food was our free breakfast in the Houston Airport lounges six hours ago, we got a quick snack of chicken strips from one of the food trucks around the resort.
$20.75 for three chicken strips and a basket of fries. As our least expensive resort meal, eating here helped our budget but it wasn’t very good. I’d rather find another way to enjoy Nassau on a budget as opposed to saving a few dollars at this food truck.
Budget So Far: $70 Flights + $55 grocery + $70 limo + $0 hotel + $21 Lunch
When we arrived late in the day, Cable Beach was beautiful & nearly deserted. We dipped our toes in the water and continued to explore the beautiful grounds of the hotel.
Cheap, Great Pizza for Dinner
Since we knew it was one of the least expensive restaurants at the resort, we went to Pizza Lab for a late dinner.
We ordered a 12 inch Margherita pizza which was excellent. $36 after tax and tip.
After dinner, we stopped by the front desk to inquire about a mini refrigerator for our room. We were told a mini fridge is $50 for the duration of our stay but they would give us one for free.
And we also got coupons for 8 free drinks (~$150 value) in recognition of our Hyatt Globalist status.
Budget So Far: $70 Flights/Hotel/Fridge/Drinks + $55 grocery + $70 limo + $57 Food
After that, we made our way up to our suite where we enjoyed the last hour of the fountain and light show from our balcony.
Lazy Beach Day at Cable Beach
After sleeping in a bit, we started our next day at the Regatta Breakfast Buffet which we get for free as Hyatt Globalists.
Regatta Buffet for Free
At $95 for 2, we just weren’t impressed. If it wasn’t free, we would not have returned. It wasn’t in the top half of best Globalist breakfasts that we’ve had.
Although there was a wide variety of food, and the popsicle selection was very impressive, the food quality was nowhere near what I would expect at an expensive five-star resort.
Stay on Budget with Cheap Snacks
If you’re not getting a free breakfast like we did, stock up on breakfast food at the grocery store or from a grocery delivery service.
Speaking of grocery, I think the snacks that we bought at SuperValue were critical to enjoying Nassau, Bahamas on a budget. By packing our travel cooler with the fruit, chips and drinks that we bought, we saved about $200 over resort prices.
Cable Beach: Not Our Favorite
We spent most of the day at the beach. As opposed to the previous evening when Cable Beach looked impressive, we didn’t like what we saw.
While there are free chairs and umbrellas for resort guests, we’ve never been to such a crowded beach at a resort.
Even though there were beach attendants, the beach was not well kept. Old drink cups and used towels seemed to pile up all day long. Normally, I’d chalk this up to understaffing but maybe not.
We tipped at every interaction but it didn’t seem to motivate the beach attendants.
Mainly due to the overcrowding & unhelpful staff, we can’t call this one the best beaches to visit on points, at least for us.
Around mid-day, we noticed a cool halo effect in the sky. Faster & better than asking Google, we texted our son and of course he knew it’s the famous 22° halo effect.
When Zuzu asked if he had looked that up for us, he said no, he’d randomly come across it a few months ago & just learned about the halo effect for fun.
We used the first of our free drink coupons at the Out Island Bar. That saved us $40.
Save with Baha Mar Refillable Cup
btw, Out Island Bar is one of the places that you can save money with the Baha Mar refillable cup. For about $15, you can get free refills on any drink that comes out of their drink gun.
Of all the pools at Baha Mar, Dean’s Blue Hole is the best, or at least the most interesting. Not only is there cliff diving, but there’s a cave area where you can see an aquarium… with SHARKS!
Talk about stealing the show, check out the expression on the little girl’s face!
We followed her & shared our pics with her parents. They thought it was absolutely hilarious (& they agreed to let us publish this picture so everyone else could get a laugh)!
Budget Restaurant: Stix Noodle Bar
That night, we had dinner at the Asian restaurant, Stix Noodle Bar.
Although we had to move tables because condensation on an air conditioner vent was dripping directly onto our table, the food was good. Pot stickers were delicious and the chicken fried rice was above average.
Because the portions were large, we just shared those two items. With no drinks, our total bill was just $58.
Budget So Far: $70 Flights/Hotel/Fridge/Drinks + $55 grocery + $70 limo + $115 Food
Day Trip: Nassau on a Budget
Nassau is a big cruise ship city. We took most of a day to venture into the downtown area.
We left the resort by walking through the Baha Bay Water Park parking lot to a bright yellow building that we could easily see from our room. There’s about 10 small buildings with the focal point being the Daiquiri Shack.
Inside this small bar with a beachfront vibe, just let Polo know what you want & he’ll take care of you. Wonderful daiquiris and cheaper than what you get on the resort. $12 nonalcoholic, $14 if you want alcohol vs $22 at Baha Mar.
Nice to see we’re NOT the 1st Vol fans here. Do you see the Big Orange Power T hanging from the ceiling?
Baha Mar Straw Market
On the edge of the Baha Mar property, the other buildings around the Daiquiri Shack are a small straw market. It’s pretty much like a flea market in the US with local vendors selling all kinds of souvenirs.
btw, this is exactly what you will find if you go downtown to the main Straw Market next to the crusie ship dock. The main Nassau Straw Market has 200 vendors in a much more cramped setting that has poor ventilation downtown.
We talked with several vendors at the Bahamar straw market and they said their business is down 90% since the Melia hotel closed three years ago around Covid. That hotel is scheduled to be demolished in Spring 2023.
If you stay at the Baha Mar resort, please take the three minute walk off the resort property and get your souvenirs instead of buying them on property. You’ll spend less and you’ll directly support local Nassau residents.
Nassau Jitney Bus
Just on the other side of this market, there’s a bus stop on the main street. We waited about 15 minutes for a Jitney bus to come by. It’s only $1.25 per person to wherever you want to go on that specific bus.
This 1st bus we rode was a little worn out, but perfectly safe and not dirty or anything.
We were expecting the Number 10 bus which goes to the Fish Fry area and then downtown. However, this was the number 12 bus but its sign listed “Fish Fry” as a stop. After we hopped on, we asked the driver who said yes, he stops at the Fish Fry.
Just as expected, the jitney dropped us off at the Fish Fry 10 minutes later. We gave the driver $3 US dollars for the two of us.
Nassau Fish Fry
At roughly 2 blocks long, the fish fry area has kind of a County Fair feel to it. But that may have been enhanced by the coincidence that there was an actual fair going on sponsored by the local Red Cross while we were there.
We asked two police officers the best place to get some conch fritters and they both said Twin Brothers.
Got 10 fantastic Conch Fritters, for about $11 with tax and tip.
We decided to walk the 20 minutes from fish fry to the straw market. Really glad we did that because about half of the walk was along the beach. It allowed us to get much more of a local flavor than if we had stayed inside a vehicle.
And we got a good look at the 4 massive cruise ships docked the Nassau port.
Along our 20 minute walk from the Fish Fry to the Straw Market, we felt safe the whole time. Not any worse than walking through the tourist areas of our hometown, Nashville, where you’re find drunks, tourists, and homeless occasionally, even during the day.
Nassau Straw Market
Like I said earlier, the downtown Straw Market was a whole lot of souvenir vendors packed into a tight area. I would guess 200 different vendors in what was essentially a small warehouse. Not much ventilation. We were thankful when we walked past somebody’s electric fan.
Prices were pretty much the same as they were at the smaller, closer, Baha Mar Straw Market.
We only spent about an hour going through most of the Nassau Straw Market, but you could definitely spend a whole day in here if you were interested in shopping and buying more than we were.
We caught another jitney bus one block away at the corner of Bay and Frederick Street. Less than a 10 minute ride, and the driver stopped at the fish fry since we had told him that when we got on.
Cheap Dinner at Fish Fry
Zuzu bought a Christmas ornament from one of the vendors in the Fish Fry area for $17.
Then we bought an overflowing quart of freshly prepared Conch Salad from one of the local restaurants. Crazy amount of freshly prepared deliciousness for only $18!
Hopped another Jitney bus from Fish Fry back to the Grand Hyatt. It dropped us in front of Baha Mar & we enjoyed the short walk back to our room.
Dinner was the fantastic conch salad and other snacks while we watched the dancing waters from our fountain view balcony.
After that, we headed down to the Jazz Bar and laughed the night away with our new friends Ellie & Paul.
Paul was pretty sure we brushed elbows with Brad Pitt, a US Senator & his wife, and the goddess Aphrodite in her toga. Or maybe it was just his wine & our free drink tickets talking, lol.
Budget So Far: $70 Flights/Hotel/Fridge/Drinks + $55 grocery + $76 local transport + $158 Food + $17 Souvenirs
Blowing our Bahamas Budget
Up to this point, our budget was looking pretty good with only $351 spent for 3 days in Nassau. About $100 out of pocket per day for a luxury vacation is pretty good, right?
Unfortunately for our budget, we blew it out on our last full day at this resort.
We’d heard so much hype about the upgraded pool experience and the fancy dinners that we decided to give it a try. Even though we’re having a blast when we travel for nearly nothing, maybe we’re the worm in the bad apple?
I mean, the “normal” people are spending $2000+ per day to experience this resort so maybe it’s worth it?
We spent an extra $500 for Baha Bay Beach Club & dinner at Marcus. While it was nice, it sure didn’t make up for the extra expense.
Baha Bay Beach Club
Baha Bay is a new, awesome water park on the Baha Mar property which is free for all resort guests. But there’s also a private area called Baha Bay Beach Club.
After researching our options, we were able to reserve the absolute best spot for the last day of our trip. We spent $250 to reserve 2 comfortable, padded beach chairs at a beautiful infinity pool overlooking the beach and the ocean.
Chaise Lounge 227 & 228 were in the best possible location, a little secluded with the best view of any seats at the entire resort.
While we were a little close to the neighbors, it was a huge step up from the overcrowded free beach where we spent Day 1.
But in comparison, we’d rather spend a day at Secrets Maroma Beach, Zuzu’s favorite resort. And we spent NOTHING but a few dollars in tips at Maroma Beach because it was an All Inclusive resort.
Although the 2 lounge chairs cost $250, we got a food & beverage credit of $250 to spend before they closed at 6pm. That sounds ok, right?
It was a good deal for the 1st half of the day.
Baha Bay Water Park
We used our reserved spot as a base to ride the lazy river in the water park. This was the best lazy river we’ve ever experienced. Not only was it long, much of it was not lazy.
There’s a fair amount of current to keep it interesting and near the 3/4 mark, there’s an area that shoots a big wave out every 90 seconds. The waves kind of rock you to the finish line of the lazy river. We really enjoyed it.
Back at our $250 Baha Bay loungers, we had a wonderful server who brought food & drinks through the day.
The food & drink which came from 25 North restaurant inside Baha Bay Beach Club was pretty good. Similar to food & drinks at a better all inclusive resort.
But everything started going downhill at 2pm.
Upgraded Pool Experience got Downgraded
Our server was embarrassed to tell us that we, along with 4 other people at our perfect spot would be kicked out early. There was a private party coming and they wanted to move us asap to a much less desirable spot so the staff could set up for the party.
Here’s the thing about a 5 star resort. You shouldn’t get any stress put on you by the resort & staff. And we had all paid EXTRA to get this specific location.
One of the other guests cursed aloud & said “I could have bought a car with what I’m spending here!” While we didn’t spend near as much as they did, there’s no excuse for the resort springing this bad news on us.
When we and other guests complained, a manager finally showed up and gave us the option of staying in this preferred location while they moved everything around.
We stayed but the mood had changed from “relaxing in paradise” to “swimming in a work zone.”
The final insult was at 4:30pm when our server told us that the kitchen had already shut down. We were supposed to have until 6pm to use our food & beverage credit.
I feel like Baha Bay Beach Club stole $100 from us since we didn’t have time to use our full credit.
Regardless of how our time at Baha Bay Beach Club ended, it was alot better than the free beach. Not $250 better, but I can understand why people pay extra if they don’t care about their budget.
Dinner at Marcus
After a disappointing end to our splurge at Baha Bay Beach Club, we cleaned up in our suite to get ready for dinner at Marcus, one of the half dozen fancy restaurants at the resort.
As opposed to the upscale food court ambiance that we had at Stix Noodle Bar, Marcus had a high end but warm beach house feel to it.
This is what we had been expecting from a 5 star resort.
Service was great. Our server Frederica was friendly and attentive all through dinner. She asked about allergies and made recommendations.
Let me emphasize, EVRYTHING is expensive at Marcus.
There’s no way that a couple will have a bill under $100 and plenty of people on Facebook report spending $300 – $500 PER PERSON for dinner here.
We shared the very good Catch of the Day plus one side and bread. We both drank only water. Our bill was about $250. It would be super easy to spend $500 for dinner for 2 here.
After the ups and downs at Baha Bay Beach Club earlier, it was nice to end the day on a high, even if we did blow our Nassau budget on this one dinner!
Budget So Far: $70 Flights/Hotel + $55 Grocery + $76 Local Transport + $658 Food + $17 Souvenirs = $876 Total
Flamingo Parade on Our Last Day
One standout free experience at the Baha Mar is the Flamingo Parade which happens every day at 9:30 am & 3:30 pm.
The parade starts near the beach at Flamingo Cay where we counted a dozen or more flamingos.
Two handlers brought out 1 adult & 3 juvenile flamingos who marched about 100 yards along the sidewalk towards the Grand Hyatt. Our parade had about 50 people following the 4 flamingos.
After the flamingo parade, we finished packing and grabbed a $35 cab back to the Nassau Airport (NAS).
Departing from Nassau Airport
Our departure through Nassau Airport couldn’t have been easier. There’s a dedicated terminal for US flights and there were literally no lines anywhere.
After breezing through check-in with United, we headed to TSA PreCheck in the Nassau Airport.
Wait, what? Isn’t TSA Pre Check only in the USA?
Nope! Since this terminal is dedicated to US flights, it’s different than any other foreign airport.
Unexpected Customs Experience
Not only is there a TSA Precheck area, there’s a fully staffed US Customs & Border Patrol area just past the security checkpoint with 3 lines:
- Normal US Customs: can be really long at busy times but no line for us
- Global Entry: expediated customs & always a short line
- Mobile Passport Control: free, lesser known expedited customs, always short lines
If we had just used the normal lines, security and customs would have been less than 5 minutes. However…
Last year, we signed up for Global Entry but haven’t completed the final in-person interview.
What a surprise that we could complete the Global Entry Enrollment on Arrival in the Bahamas! Including our 2 interviews (Zuzu went 1st), it only took 20 minutes to go from United’s check-in counter to our gate.
If we had used the normal lines, security and customs at the Nassau Airport would have been less than 5 minutes! Just keep in mind that we got lucky.
If you depart at the same time as lots of other flights, budget 30-60 minutes to clear security & US Customs.
Nassau Airport Food Court, Shops & Lounge
After we finished the customs process, we entered a shopping & food court area. Zuzu took the opportunity to spend $65 on a few last minute souvenirs at the “Made in Bahamas” shop to share with friends.
With another hour before our flight boarded, we made our way to a small airport lounge hidden inside the small Graycliff Boutique.
The Graycliff Lounge at NAS is nothing special. But our Priority Pass membership gave us free entry and access to a selection of snacks.
While not great, the food was interesting. First time I’ve seen beets & mashed potatoes on a lounge buffet.
I wouldn’t trade this for the Priority Pass Restaurant at the Nashville Airport but it was enough to tide us over for our 3-hour flight back to Houston.
Learn more details and see more pictures about Lynden Pindling International Airport in our full Nassau Airport review!
Our flight left on time and we got a few more views of the sparkling blue Caribbean waters.
Free Dinner at Landry’s Seafood
After a 3 hour flight to Houston, our 90 minute layover gave us a chance to use our Priority Pass restaurant benefit. At about 20 US airports, my Priority Pass (which is free with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card) gives me a $28 credit for up to 2 people.
Together, Zuzu & I can get up to $56 of free food & drink at any Priority Pass Restaurant.
And that’s exactly what we did at Landry’s Seafood at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston (IAH).
Zuzu had the Fish Tacos & I had a nice salmon dinner. The $53.75 bill was “FULLY COVERED” by our free Priority Pass membership.
Empty Flight to Nashville
For the last leg of our trip, the United flight was only at about 50% capacity. I had booked 2 aisle seats right next to each other but Sandra had an empty middle seat next to her.
I hit the lottery and had a full 3 seat row to myself. It’s the poor man’s first class seat and made for a pretty comfortable trip home.
Great end to a great trip to Nassau on a budget.
Nassau Trip Budget
Speaking of budget, this was our most expensive trip in a year.
While we skimped a little (we still laugh about the family who said they “Could’ve bought a car with with they spent!”), we still had a luxury trip to the Bahamas on a budget that most people can’t imagine.
Our 4 night trip to Nassau would have cost most people at least $7,331, but we kept our out of pocket costs down to $966.
Here’s the breakdown of what we got and what we actually spent.
|77k Hyatt Points + SUA
|Free with Hyatt Status
|United Tix & Bags
|Hyatt Food & Drinks
|8 Free drinks
|Other Food & Drink
|Fish Fry & Daq Shak
|Xmas ornament & Gifts
|Cab & Car, Jitneys, Lyft
If you do the math, we essentially got an 87% discount on a $7331 vacation. And if you you consider that we earned 12k Hyatt points, it was even better: a 93% discount!
Based on our last 19 trips, our personal Hyatt points value is 3.8 cents per point. That means we earned $457 of free travel for future adventures.
Is Nassau Worth it?
While we had a really great time, spending nearly $1000 out of pocket for 4 nights in Nassau will rank near the bottom in terms of value for us.
For comparison, our 10 night trip to Hawaii was only $2,355 and it was easily 10x better and more enjoyable.
A better comparison was our relaxing Spring Break trip to Cancun. On a per night basis, Nassau was 3.3 times more expensive. And we enjoyed that trip to Cancun much, much more than this trip.
Final Thoughts: Nassau on a Budget
If you’ve got your heart set on a luxury trip to Nassau, your budget needs to be pretty large. In hindsight, I wish we’d skipped the upgraded pool experience and the expensive dinner.
That would have brought our budget down from $1000 to more like $600 for 4 nights.
However, for less than that, we stayed 8 nights at All Inclusive resorts in Cancun that we liked much better than the Baha Mar resort.
What was superior about Secrets Moxche & Secrets Maroma Beach compared to Grand Hyatt Baha Mar?
- Better Beach
- Nicer Rooms
- Better Food (& it was all free)
- Better Drinks (all free)
- More friendly & more helpful Staff & Service (on average)
If money isn’t really a concern, you can have a high end luxury vacation in Nassau. But when you travel on a very small budget like we do, I think you get much more bang for your buck at a nice All Inclusive resort vs this expensive Nassau resort.