Earlier this year, I spent a week at an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica… with Hanson (and 300+ other diehard fans).
It was an unforgettable experience — and also a pretty good deal.
First things first: yes, that Hanson. They’re still around, all in their thirties and married with kids, and they never stopped making music. For the last several years, they’ve hosted a retreat for fan club members called Back to the Island. Basically, the band takes over a tropical resort for the better part of a week. They bring a couple of other musicians, organize special activities for fans (this year featured tie-dyeing, games of Cards Against Humanity and Family Feud, and a dance party, all hosted by members of the band), and play concerts. Lots of concerts.
Let me be clear: Back to the Island, or BTTI as it is known to Hanson fans, is not a cheap ticket. All told, I paid $2,175:
- $1,705 for the four-night event package
- $430 for two extra nights at the resort (because I’d never been to an all-inclusive resort before, and why NOT stay as long as possible in paradise?)
- $40 for Hanson’s annual fan club membership (which is required to attend BTTI and includes other perks like concert ticket pre-sales, exclusive website content and a five-song EP)
The above total doesn’t include flights (I redeemed credit card points for those) or the cash I spent on tips for resort staff.
When I break down the different elements of the trip according to what they would cost outside of BTTI, it was a solid value for the price tag — especially if you’re the kind of person who wants to go to six Hanson shows on a tropical beach in four days (hi, yes, that’s me).
Here’s what the trip might have cost if Hanson weren’t involved:
Resort: 6 nights at $589/night for a two-person room = $1,767 per person
BTTI 2017 was January 4–8th at the Jewel Paradise Cove in Jamaica, although as you’ll note above, I stayed at the resort for an additional two days. For the closest available dates in 2018, the regular rate for the type of room I stayed in is $589/night. That also covers meals/unlimited alcoholic beverages in various resort restaurants, plus all the amenities and activities the resort offers: two pools with swim-up bars, a private beach, spa, boating and snorkeling excursions, kayaking and paddle-boarding, nightly bonfires, a piano bar, a nightclub with a three-story waterslide running through it, etc. Even with no Hanson, it would be a pretty sweet place to hang out in January — especially if, like me, you live in the northeastern U.S. (not a sweet place to hang out in January).
Non-Hanson guest performances: $50
Hanson brings one or two other musical guest friends to the Island every year. In 2017, they invited singer-songwriters Andrew Ripp and John Fullbright. On average, I’d probably be looking at about $25 a ticket to see them each play here in New York (totally worth it, by the way. They were both outstanding).
Hanson shows (full band): $165 for tickets + $120 (minimum) in travel expenses
Hanson played three full-length concerts on the Island: two electric and one acoustic. You might be thinking: “Why would anyone go to the same concert three nights in a row?” Because after 25 years (!) as a band, Hanson has a massive catalog of songs to choose from, so each of these sets was unique and memorable.
Hanson is on a world tour right now, and after fees and taxes, regular-price tickets here in the U.S. cost around $55 (although re-sellers on Stubhub and elsewhere are charging much more for the tour stops that have already sold out).
To go to three different shows in one week on a regular tour would require traveling to two other cities besides my hometown of New York — so you also have to factor in transportation/food/lodging. Even if I did it on the cheap (picking the closest tour stops to NYC, eating fast food, sharing hotel rooms and splitting gas/tolls with other fans, ordering PBR at the venues), I would expect those combined expenses to cost me at least another $60 per show.
Hanson shows (solo): $75/priceless
Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson each played one solo set at BTTI. It’s kind of impossible to put a price tag on these performances, because they only happen at this event and often include super-rare deep cuts you won’t hear them play anywhere else. But for simplicity’s sake, let’s assign them the same price point as the solo guest performers: $25 each.
TOTAL COST: $2,177
If I were to take the same resort vacation, and then go separately to the same number of concerts, I’d pay virtually the same amount as I did for the Back to the Island trip package. But when you take into consideration all the special activities and experiences at BTTI (watching the guitarist from your favorite band get perhaps a little tipsy and host a game show where your friends are the contestants; hearing a song live for the first time that’s only been performed maybe two other times ever), it’s pretty clear that we got plenty of bang for our buck.
I know not everyone’s a Hanson fan, but good news: they’re not the only band that hosts events like this. The travel company that organizes BTTI for Hanson works with a bunch of other bands, including Taking Back Sunday, Gov’t Mule, Little Feat, and moe. Or, if a hybrid cruise/music festival is more your speed, The Rock Boat sets sail every year with a whole mess of bands aboard—and Billfolders are well aware of Nicole’s love for the JoCo Cruise.
Maybe music isn’t your thing at all, but chances are you’re super into SOMETHING you can plan a trip around: yoga, Italian food, fantasy novels, Crossfit, fashion, fishing, anime, whatever. Because, as Hanson taught me on the Island this year, going on vacation to a new/cool/beautiful place is awesome — but traveling is even more awesome (and worth the splurge) when you incorporate the things you’re passionate about.
Kelly Davis lives in New York, writes for a living, and spends too much money on concert tickets.
This story is part of The Billfold’s Vacation Series.