Yeap, I’ll be staying in one of those overwater villas in the photos above very soon and I’m so very excited. I just finished booking a return trip to the Maldives for early next year. I can’t wait!
I put this post together to show you a trip to paradise including staying in an overwater villa and flying business class in a lie-flat seat is not a far fetched unattainable dream. It indeed is very possible and actually not too hard to save up your miles and points for.
Here goes . . .
On our first trip to the Maldives we ended up in Qatar business class (70,000 American Airline miles) and Etihad first class (90,000 AA miles, now 115,000) for the trip home.
It was our very first International Premium Class redemption and we were thrilled just to be going yet alone be handed PJs to change into on the plane.
But we learned a few things from that first trip – specifically spending 11 hours in Doha airport on a layover really isn’t fun. We also didn’t care for the overnight layover on the way home in Abu Dhabi. With this in mind the search for award space began.
For this trip I really wanted to try out Qatar’s QSuites, but I just couldn’t find any availability to use 70,000 American Airline miles on. I was also kind of happy that we wouldn’t have to kill 11 hours in Doha again.
I could have also used 82,500 Alaska Airline miles to book Emirates in business class and fly on an A380 for the first time.
But the 90 minute connection in Dubai wasn’t ideal in case there was a delay and I didn’t like getting to Male at 3:00pm as we would still need to take a seaplane and/or speed boat to the resort which would mean getting to the resort pretty late.
The option that we ended up with was using 70,000 miles each for Etihad business class. The Thursday night flight from Washington was perfect for us. The layover is a little longer than I would have liked, but no where near 11 hours like Qatar.
The Etihad ‘couples’ seats also look really nice and private. I’m not thrilled with the standard recliner seats from Abu Dhabi to Male but it will be fine for a 4.5 hour flight. Taking Etihad also gets us to Male early in the morning so we can take advantage of the full day at the resort.
70,000 miles / $4,633 = 6.6¢/miles which I think is a great value.
Getting American Airline Miles
Most of my stash of American Airline miles came from flying American and from both Barclay and Citibank American Airline co-branded credit cards.
At a minimum you should be able to get at least a 50,000 mile welcome offer. Check out either Barclay Card and/or Citicards to see all of the available American Airline credit cards.
You can also transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to American Airlines miles at a ratio of 3 Marriott points to 1 American Airline mile. And if you transfer 60,000 Marriott points you will get a 5000 mile bonus so 60,000 Marriott points = 25,000 American Airline miles.
On our first trip to the Maldives, we stayed at the Park Hyatt – which was AMAZING! At the time I had two free night certificates to use at any Hyatt along with a boat load of Chase Ultimate Reward points that I could transfer easily transfer to Hyatt.
I had also able to match to Hyatt’s Diamond status (the highest at the time) which meant a good chance for an upgrade and free breakfast each day. It was a no brainer to stay at the Park Hyatt.
For this trip, I wanted to try another resort. With a bunch of Hilton points along with Hilton Diamond Status, it was an easy decision to go with a Hilton brand. But which one?
Currently there are two different Hiltons in the Maldives – the Conrad and the brand new Waldorf Astoria (taking reservations starting July 1, 2019). I’m currently booked at the Conrad for three reasons:
- The Waldorf Astoria currently doesn’t have award availability for the full 8 nights of my trip – I’ll keep an eye to see if all the days become available – maybe I’ll switch.
- The Waldorf Astoria is charging 120,000 points per night while the Conrad charges 95,000 points per night
- The 120,000 points per night at the Waldorf Astoria only gets you a beach villa – you would have to pay to upgrade to an overwater villa (like we did at the Park Hyatt) or use a bunch more points. For 95,000 points at the Conrad – you can choose either a beach villa or an overwater villa.
For our 8 night stay, I used a total of 665,000 Hilton points. Don’t forget when booking four nights, you get the fifth night free with Hilton. I’m hoping to get 190,000 points back when my free weekend night certificates are issued from the American Express Aspire card so I can use them instead.
Getting Hilton Points
So how did I get so many Hilton points? While I did earn a bunch of points from staying at the Conrad Koh Samui Thailand last year, most of the points for this redemption came from American Express welcome offers.
Welcome offers change occasionally so be sure to review the offer before applying. In my case, both my wife and I each applied for the following credit cards and received the following welcome offers:
- American Express Aspire – Earn 150,000 Hilton points after spending $4000 in 3 months. Also receive a free weekend night certificate after approval and every year after renewal. We are waiting for these certificates to arrive so we can switch the current 190,000 point reservation to use the certificates instead.
- American Express Surpass (learn more) – You can also earn a free weekend night certificate after spending $15,000 in a calendar year.
So with getting just these two credit cards each and after meeting the spending requirements, we earned 586,000 Hilton points along with two free weekend night certificates which is enough for our 8 night stay at the Conrad Maldives.
There are other American Express Hilton cards that you could also get to boost up your stash of Hilton points and earn free weekend nights:
There was a lot less award availability for the flight home if I wanted to spend less than 100,000 miles each.
There were seats available on Air India for 75,000 Aeroplan miles – with 2 stops and 34 hours of travel time – no thank you.
Etihad had availability on the way back also which I was seriously considering until I found THE ONE!
As mentioned above Alaska Airlines charges 82,500 miles to fly on Emirates business class. But they only charge 50,000 miles for business class flights on Cathay Pacific.
We loved our Cathay Pacific business class flights to Bangkok last summer, so it was a no brainer to use 50,000 Alaska Airline miles each for the trip home. You can also use 70,000 American Airline miles for this same Cathay Pacific award if you don’t have enough Alaska Airline miles.
The Cathay Pacific flight doesn’t leave Male until 10:45pm so we again have a full day at the resort before we have to take the seaplane to Male. The layover in Hong Kong is 9.5 hours which is still less than the Etihad flight.
We also arrive in Hong Kong at 8am while we would be arriving in Abu Dhabi at 11:15pm so we can spend a few hours in Hong Kong instead of staying in an airport hotel like we did last time.
Our final routing looks like this:
Getting Alaska Airline Miles
You can a transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Alaska Airline miles at a ratio of 3 Marriott points to 1 Alaska Airline mile. And if you transfer 60,000 Marriott points you will get a 5000 mile bonus so 60,000 Marriott points = 25,000 Alaska Airline miles.
100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points can be transferred to 38,333 Alaska Airline miles.
Our final tally of miles, points, and cash used for this award is over $25,000 retail value for less than $300 and 905,000 points. I’m happy with this redemption!
|Washington DC (IAD) to Abu Dhabi (AUH) to Male (MLE) Flight||Etihad||Business||70,000 x 2 = 140,000 American Airline miles||$21.00 x 2 = $42.00||$4,633 x 2 = $9,266|
|Male (MLE) to Hong Kong (HKG) to Washington DC (IAD) Flight||Cathay Pacific||Business||50,000 x 2 = 100,000 Alaska Airline miles||$82.53 x 2 = $165.06||$2388 x 2 = $4,776|
|8 Nights at Conrad Maldives||Hilton||Over Water Villa||665,000 Hilton Honors points||$12.00 x 8 = $84.00||$11,727|