Our $27,000 Vacation to the Maldives for ~$4,300 & How You Can Do It Too: Part 1 – Introduction & Planning

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Daraius and I used our miles and points to have a fabulous honeymoon in Bora Bora.

We heard that the Maldives Islands rivaled the beauty and splendor of Bora Bora, so we planned a trip to decide for ourselves!

The Maldives is known for its luxury resorts, and most resorts have their own private island.  There are beautiful white sand beaches and crystal clear blue water.  The islands also have fantastic snorkeling and scuba diving!

We booked 5 nights using Hilton points at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island.  The Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is a 30-minute seaplane ride from Male, the capital of the Maldives.  We booked this trip to make the most of our Hilton points before the Hilton devaluation last year.

Maldives Vacation

Did Our Trip to the Maldives Surpass Our Unforgettable Time in Bora Bora?

Our $27,000 Vacation to the Maldives for ~$4,300 & How You Can Do It Too Index:

The Maldives are located in the Indian Ocean, just south of India.  Getting to the Maldives is a long journey, but the trip is definitely worth it!  Daraius and I have been to many beach destinations such as Bora BoraMaui, and Kauai on miles and points, but the Maldives tops them all!

Traveling to the Maldives is also very expensive, but you can do it for much less than the retail cost!  This trip would have cost us ~$27,000, but we only paid ~$4,300!!

These series of posts will show you how you can also take a trip to the Maldives on miles and points!

Maldives Vacation

The Maldives Are Comprised of Over 1,000 Islands, & Many Are Uninhabited

We brought my mom and stepdad, Connie and Mark.  They don’t travel very much and the nicest resort my mom had been to was a crowded resort in Cancun years ago and more recently, her stay at the Park Hyatt in Goa, India.

This was Mark’s 1st time traveling outside of the US!  He made this short video to highlight the great memories we made on our trip and is a wonderful overview of the Maldives.

 

 

 

 

 

We splurged on our parents and upgraded them to the overwater bungalow while we saved our money and stayed in the regular beach villas.

Maldives Vacation

The Maldives: Possibly the Most Beautiful Beaches in the World

We also brought Daraius’ dad, Rustom.

Maldives Vacation

A Family Vacation in Paradise

The retail cost was ~$13,500 per person but we paid ~$2,100 per person!  In this series of posts, we’ll explain which miles and points we used so you can do it, too!

 Retail CostOur Cash CostMiles And Points UsedSources of Miles & Points
Two 1-way Business Class tickets from Austin to India on Lufthansa $4,878 per person ($9,756 for two) $67 taxes and fees per person ($134 for two)60,000 United Airlines Miles per person (120,000 United Airlines Miles for two). The current cost is ~70,000 to 80,000 United miles per person.How to earn lots of United Airlines miles
Two 1-way tickets from Bombay to Male, Maldives~$194 per person ($388 for two)~$194 per person ($388 for two)NoneNone
Two round-trip seaplane tickets from Male to the Conrad Rangali Island$540 per person ($1,080 for two)$540 per person ($1,080 for two)NoneNone
5 nights at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island in a King Beach Villa~$1,300 per night ($6,500 for five nights)$039,000 Hilton Points per night (195,000 Hilton Points total because we booked before the devaluation. Current rates are 95K per night) How to get lots of Hilton points.
Two Business Class 1-way tickets from Male to Chicago (with a stopover in Hong Kong)~$4,474 per person ($8,948 for two)$1,343 per person ($2,686 for two)None--this was a fare saleNone
Two 1-way coach tickets from Chicago to Austin on American Airlines ~$171 per person ($342 for two)$5 taxes and fees per person ($10 for two)7,500 British Airways Avios Points per person (15,000 British Airways Avios Points total)British Airways Visa Signature card
TOTAL~$13,507 per person ($27,014 for two)~$2,149 per person ($4,298 for two)60,000 United Airlines miles, 195,000 Hilton points & 7,500 British Airways Avios points per person (120,00 United Airlines miles, 195,000 Hilton points & 15,000 British Airways Avios Points for two)
 

If you pay for the cash portion of travel using the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, then you can earn 2X points on travel.

That’s an additional ~8,600 Chase Ultimate Rewards points ($4,298 X 2 = 8,596 points) that can help contribute to more Big Travel with Small Money!

Flights From the US to the Maldives

The best way to get to the Maldives is using American Airlines miles because they have lots of airline partners such as Etihad which fly to the Maldives.

Because we wanted to go to India 1st, we used United Airlines miles on Lufthansa.  Then we bought cheap tickets from Bombay to Male.  You can also buy cheap tickets from Columbo, Sri Lanka, to Male (the capital of the Maldives) or use British Airways Avios from Columbo to Male.

Daraius, my mom, my stepdad, and I flew on Lufthansa Business Class from the US to India.  We used 60,000 United Airlines miles for 2 Business Class tickets 1-way.

We had bought tickets back to the US on Cathay Pacific, so we only needed to use miles to get from the US to  India.  Check out this post for more information on how to book United awards using miles.

Note:  The United Airlines award chart has changed since our trip.  The current rate is 70,000 United Airlines miles 1-way on United Airlines or 80,000 United Airlines miles 1-way on Lufthansa.

Maldives Vacation

All Smiles on Lufthansa’s New Business Class

We decided to stay 2 weeks in India and visit Bombay and Jaipur.

We flew on SpiceJet, a regional Indian airline, from Bombay to Male, the Maldives’ only major airport.

It cost ~$194 per person to fly on SpiceJet.  Airfare in India is very cheap.  The flights are short and inexpensive so it’s better to pay cash rather than use miles.

If you did want to use miles, it is better to use miles from the Barclaycard Arrival Plus card.  The current sign-up bonus will get you ~$440 in travel.

Maldives Vacation

This Is 1 Way to “Spice” Things Up!

Because the Conrad is on Rangali Island, we had to take a 30-minute seaplane ride to get there.  This is expensive (it costs $540) per person and you can’t use miles and points to redeem for this flight.

Maldives Vacation

Daraius and His Dad’s 1st Seaplane Ride

Conrad Maldives Rangali Island

We used ~39,000 Hilton points per night for our King Beach Villa because we booked our rooms under the old award chart.  It currently costs ~95,000 points per night or you can use your free night certificates from the Citi Hilton Reserve card.  And earning lots of Hilton points is easier than you may think!

If you prefer Hyatt hotels, you can stay at the Park Hyatt Hadahaa for 25,000 Hyatt points per night.  (Or 30,000 Hyatt points if you book after January 21, 2015.)

Don’t forget that you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards for a 1:1 ratio to Hyatt hotels!

We splurged on our parents and paid $375 per night for the 2 King Water Villas at the Conrad for them.  Later in this series, we will evaluate both types of rooms so that you can decide for yourself which room to book.

I’d be ecstatic to return to the Maldives and save money in the Beach Villa, but the overwater bungalow was a great treat for them!

Daraius and I have a lot of Hilton points because we transferred our Hawaiian miles from the Barclaycard Hawaiian Airlines card (formerly Bank of America Hawaiian Airlines card).

See this post on the Barclaycard Hawaiian Airlines card.

There are lots of ways to get Hilton points.  But a quicker way to get 2 free weekend nights at almost any Hilton worldwide is through the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card.

Maldives Vacation

Connie & Mark Outside Their ~$3,000 per Night King Water Villa

We loved the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island and are already planning our return trip!

Maldives Vacation

So Many Stunning Shades of Blue at the Conrad Maldives

What to Pack

  • Lots of sunscreen
  • Bug spray (although we did not need it)
  • Dive boots/booties or other water shoes (for walking on rocky sea beds)
  • Snorkeling equipment (goggles, breathing tube, and fins)
  • Electronic converters
  • Books and magazines (these were not sold on the island!)

You can buy most of these things on the island, but they will be much more expensive.  A bottle of sunscreen costs $30!

Snorkeling equipment is free.  You don’t need a travel guidebook because everything to see and do is in the resort.

Flights From the Maldives to the US

We flew from the Maldives to the US on Cathay Pacific.  Cathay Pacific had a Business Class sale so we paid $1,343 per person to fly from Male to Chicago.

The Flight Deal is a good site to check for airline fare sales.

The flight included a free stopover in Hong Kong, so we stayed a few days in Hong Kong to show my mom and stepdad.  Daraius and I visited Hong Kong in 2013 and loved it!  

We normally would have redeemed miles for the return flight, but then the sale happened!  We used 7,500 British Airways Avios points per person to fly back to Austin from Chicago.

We would have normally used our Southwest Companion Pass, but Southwest flies out of Chicago’s Midway airport and our Cathay Pacific flight would be flying into Chicago O’Hare.

How You Can Do It Too!

Our favorite way to get to the Maldives from the US is with American Airlines miles on Etihad or Qatar Air.

If you’re willing to book separate award tickets (i.e. 1 award ticket from the US to Hong Kong & another from Hong Kong to the Maldives), you could even fly on Cathay Pacific or Malaysia Air using American Airlines miles to the Maldives.  

Here are ways to get lots of American Airlines miles.  And here’s my series on using American Airlines miles.  It could also be worth using an award booking service to book the flights for you.

You can also use Alaska Airlines miles on Emirates or Cathay Pacific. And folks say you can get the Alaska Airlines credit card multiple times.

We used United Airlines miles because we wanted to go to India first.  But folks who only want to fly from the US to the Maldives would likely use American Airlines miles or Alaska Airlines miles.

1.   Using American Airlines Miles

Link:   American Airlines Award Chart

A flight from the US to the Maldives costs:

  • 45,000 American Airlines miles 1-way in coach
  • 67,500 American Airlines miles 1-way in Business Class
  • 90,000 American Airlines miles 1-way in First Class

You can use American Airlines to fly many different ways to the Maldives, including on Etihad, Sri Lankan, Qatar, Cathay Pacific and Malaysia Airways.  If you want to book on Etihad, first find the available flights on the Etihad website and then call American Airlines to reserve the tickets.  See this step-by-step guide for more information.

2.   Using Alaska Airlines Miles

Link:   Alaska Airlines partner award chart to Middle East

From the US to the Maldives you’ll pay:

  • 42,500 Alaska Airlines miles 1-way in coach (Emirates)
  • 50,000 Alaska Airlines miles 1-way in coach (Cathay Pacific)
  • 62,500 Alaska Airlines miles 1-way in Business Class (Cathay Pacific)
  • 70,000 Alaska Airlines miles 1-way in First Class (Cathay Pacific)
  • 72,500 Alaska Airlines miles 1-way in Business Class (Emirates)
  • 90,000 Alaska Airlines miles 1-way in First Class (Emirates)

You can book Emirates flights on the Alaska Air website, except for Cathay Pacific, which has to be reserved by calling Alaska Airlines customer service.  See this post for more ways on using Alaska Air miles to get to the Maldives.

And folks say you can get the Alaska Airlines credit card multiple times.

3.   Using United Airlines Miles

Link:   United Airlines award chart

To fly from the US to India, you’ll pay:

  • 42,500 United Airlines miles 1-way in coach
  • 70,000+ United Airlines miles 1-way in Business Class
  • 140,000 United Airlines miles 1-way in First Class

Here’s a post on how to use United miles.

Getting the Miles and Points

The easiest way to get miles and points for the Maldives is by applying for certain credit cards.

If you are new to collecting miles and points, start off by reading our Beginner’s Guide and applying for 1 to 2 credit cards to get comfortable with the process.  Emily and I usually apply for 3 to 5 cards every few months, but do what you are comfortable with.

If you have questions on how to complete the minimum spending requirements, see the 40+ Ways to Meet your Minimum Spend.

Airline Miles

A.   American Airlines Miles

1.   Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ MasterCard®

You get 50,000 American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 within 3 months on the Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage World MasterCard.

2.   CitiBusiness AAdvantage World MasterCard

The CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® gives you 50,000 American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in 3 months.

B.   Alaska Airlines Miles

You get 40,000 Alaska Airlines miles after spending $10,000 in 6 months from the Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card.

C.   United Airlines Miles

United MileagePlus Explorer Card

You could get 30,000 United Airlines miles with the United MileagePlus Explorer card after completing the minimum spending.

Hotels

A.   Hilton Points

A King Beach Villa at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island costs 95,000 Hilton points per night.  You can upgrade to a King Water Villa for an additional $375 per night.  But we liked the beach villa!

1.   Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card

You get 2 free weekend nights after spending $2,500 within 4 months on the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve.

2.   American Express Hilton HHonors Card

The American Express Hilton HHonors card gets you 50,000 Hilton points after you spend $750 in the 1st 3 months.

3.   American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass Card

You can get 60,000 Hilton points when you spend $3,000 in 3 months with the American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass.

4.   Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card

With the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature you get 50,000 Hilton points after spending $1,000 within 4 months.

5.   Barclaycard Hawaiian Airlines

You get 35,000 Hawaiian Airlines miles after spending $1,000 within 3 months on the Barclaycard Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard.

Hawaiian Airlines miles can be transferred to Hilton points at a 1:1.5 ratio.  But you can only transfer in 10,000 mile increments.  So 30,000 Hawaiian Airlines miles gets you 45,000 Hilton points.

B.   Hyatt Points

If you don’t have a lot of Hilton points or already used your 2 free weekend nights from the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card, you could stay at the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa.

You can use the 2 free nights from the Chase Hyatt card at the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa.  Or you can pay 30,000 Hyatt points per night because it’s easy to earn Hyatt points.

tete

The Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa Is Only 25,000 Hyatt Points per Night

1.   Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

You get 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $4,000 within 3 months on the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to certain airlines and hotels at a 1:1 ratio.  So 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points becomes 40,000 airline miles or 40,000 hotel points (including Hyatt).

2.   Chase Ink Cards

The Chase Ink Plus and Chase Ink Bold card (no longer available) each get you 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after completing the minimum spending.

Do you know the 3 ways you may qualify for a business credit card?

Note:  You can apply for 1 personal and 1 business card from Chase at the same time.  But you do NOT have to wait 6 months between Chase applications.

3.   Chase Hyatt Card

You can save Chase Ultimate Rewards points and get 2 free nights at any Hyatt worldwide after you spend $1,000 within 3 months on the Chase Hyatt card.

Bottom Line

Daraius and I had our best vacation at the Maldives!  The retail cost of the trip was ~$27,000 and we paid ~$4,300! In this series of posts, we’ll show you how to do the same. Ideally, we would have stayed on the islands for at least 2 weeks to really enjoy it.

Five nights at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort flew by.  It was an excellent resort because of its relaxing rooms, great service, gorgeous scenery, and snorkeling.  It was the most beautiful resort we have ever experienced!

Because my mom and stepdad don’t travel much, we treated them to more comfortable flights on Business Class Lufthansa and Cathay Pacific.  These were excellent flights and we would fly both of these airlines again!

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28 responses to “Our $27,000 Vacation to the Maldives for ~$4,300 & How You Can Do It Too: Part 1 – Introduction & Planning

  1. Looks like you did this up right! And I love the family pictures. 🙂

  2. Darius and Emily, this series couldn’t have come at a better time for us, as we are getting ready for our trip to the Conrad Rangali mid-Jan. Looking forward to your tips!

  3. We have been to Maldives before but I wasn’t that impressed. Maybe because we came from Amanpulo in the Philippines and that, by far, is the best for me. We’ve been pretty much around as well. We did love the atolls in the Maldives and seeing hundreds of dolphins on our way back from Hyatt(we used our points, but Im jealous because we paid for our fare in full!). We are going to Bora Bora in March and I can’t wait to see it, also because you said that Maldives is better, so that made me curious. Thanks for sharing all your tips!

  4. Thank you for sharing this Emily and Daraius. I am trying to find ways to use our United miles, Marriott rewards, and Club Carlson. Maldives never really came to mind, until now. However, I don’t think there are any Marriott-type hotels in that area. Any other suggestions? We were actually looking for more of a European getaway, but are definitely open to any type of International getaway (from LAX) that will allow us to take advantage of our points. 🙂

  5. Another excellent trip that I want to duplicate for my wife and my parents!

    Just 1 question. Did you paid for the parents’ over the water bungalow with cash price of $375 per night or was the $375 per night the upgrade price after paying for the beach villa with points first?

    Thanks,

  6. Love this one. You take your parents along. What a blessing!

  7. AMAZING guide.

    I can tell this guide took a lot of effort to put in.

    I’m looking to make the trip this year, but I’ll probably do Park Hyatt instead now that the Hilton has gone up.

    Random question:
    Do you guys feel future beach vacations will be less enjoyable? You’ve been to Maldives…Bora Bora, seems like every beach trip after this will be sort of a let down!

  8. Thanks for sharing! Excellent article. However, do you really think Maldives will be top Bora Bora?

    Based on the research and other travelers’ reviews, Borabora would be a better place?

    Please share your detail opinions if you do not mind, thanks!

  9. Travelling Rabbit

    Can’t wait to read the rest.

    I’m headed to the Hyatt Maldives in Feb!

    @Juno – probably upgrade price. Usually it’s points + upgrade price of about that much.

    @Jason – none in the maldives. Best Marriott locations would be maybe the ritz in Caribbean or Bali. You can use united miles to fly singapore airlines to the Maldives.

  10. Just a note on LH new business class – seen it, flew it, did not like it. The way chairs are positioned causes one to stare at their neighbor all the time. No privacy. Will never fly in LH business class, unless with someone I know sitting next to me.

  11. Shana Gainey-Lewis

    @Jason
    There is a trick to convert Marriott points to Hilton points by booking an air and hotel package with the airline being Virgin Atlantic, and then transfer the Virgin Atlantic miles to Hilton points
    http://loyaltylobby.com/2012/10/11/using-marriott-rewards-points-for-hilton-awards/

  12. I can’t wait for the rest of the guide! I’m going to Conrad Maldives in February.

    It seems like most big bloggers go to the Park Hyatt so I’m excited for insider tips to the resort I’m actually going to.

  13. @jerry. I have stayed at the Conrad tantalizing island and intercontinental bora bora and I can say Maldives far surpassed bora bora. Bora bora was great and had some advantages but Maldives was far better vacation.

    I stayed overwater in bora bora and on land at the Conrad and actually enjoyed the inland room better.

  14. Jason there is a club Carlson schedule to open in 2015- maybe 2 properties.

  15. Great post!

    I want to go so bad. I get 2 r/t tickets to Abu Dhabi for $177 on last week mistake fare and later I realized that could go to Maldives. Unfortunately I only got 5 days in Abu Dhabi and it takes one day to get from AUH to MLE so makes no sense to spend the extra money only for a couple days…but it is on my list for 2016!

  16. I’m happy that all of you enjoyed the first post in our Maldives series!

    @ Juno- The price of the overwater bungalow is now 95,000 points +$375 cash upgrade. It’s 95,000 points for the beach room and no additional cash cost. We booked before the devaluation so didn’t spend this much, and Hyatt makes a great alternative.

    @ Charles Ngo- I’m thankful that I can travel to see new places and experience the beaches and culture. So while the beaches and snorkeling may not be as spectacular as the Maldives or Bora Bora, it’s still something new to appreciate.

    @ Jerry- I liked the Maldives better because of its excellent snorkeling (the best I’ve seen in the world!) that was literally steps away from our hotel room. Daraius actually liked Bora Bora a tad more than the Maldives because it was easier to get together, (somewhat) cheaper, and you could get off the motu and go to the main island. Also, Villa Mahana had MUCH better food than anything we ate in the Maldives (and food is a very big part of traveling for Daraius).

  17. I wonder what food, drinks and entertainment costs were like? Pretty typical resort prices or very high due to not having anywhere else to go?

  18. It seems like SO much more trouble and expensive to get to the Maldives compared to Bora Bora. Can you guys detail exactly how the two compare in your minds?

  19. @ Seth- The food costs were fairly high. Lunches and dinners cost ~$25-40 per person. We saved money by eating a large breakfast that was free with our Hilton status and bringing some of our own food. We’ll be publishing a detailed report on the food soon, so stay tuned! 🙂

    @ Stone- We made a 2 week stopover in India, so this made the trip seem more worth it than a regular 1-week vacation, just in the Maldives alone. I’d recommend pairing it with another destination nearby. We had a free stopover on the way home in Hong Kong, too.

    I think the food and activities costs were about the same. I liked the Maldives better because of its excellent snorkeling (the best I’ve seen in the world!) that was literally steps away from our hotel room.

    Daraius actually liked Bora Bora a tad more than the Maldives because it was easier to get together, (somewhat) cheaper, and you could get off the motu and go to the main island. The main island offered more hiking, biking, and other outdoorsy activities. Also, Villa Mahana had MUCH better food than anything we ate in the Maldives (and food is a very big part of traveling for Daraius).

    If you haven’t already done so, you can read our Bora Bora trip report, and try to decide for yourself. Either way, you won’t be disappointed! 🙂 http://millionmilesecrets.com/2012/09/24/our-2nd-honeymoon-in-paradise-introduction-planning/

    • @joanna – An Aman resort will likely be better than anything Hyatt or Conrad has to offer. I’d give Bora Bora a slight edge, but Emily thinks otherwise!

      @Jason – There are no current Club Carlson & Marriott hotels in the Maldives, but you can use them for an Asian (Tokyo, Shanghai Hong Kong) trip as well!

      @Juno – We paid for the base room using points and the cash upgrade was after paying for the base hotel with points.

      @Diana – It’s the least we could do!

      @ Seth – Much higher than anything we’ve ever seen before! We’ll have a post on it.

  20. man welcome back. we all missed your posts!!

  21. I was wondering if you had any advice on getting airmiles for our daughter- who is 16 months old. She has frequent flier numbers but doesn’t qualify for a credit card because of her age.

  22. Great choice since Maldives will be under water in a few years due to global warming!!!

  23. Hey Daraius and Emily,

    Scenically only, I was wondering how the Maldives compares to Destin, FL or the National Seashore between Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach or Ft. Pickens area?

    Thanks!

  24. Since the devaluation, your success story seems a little difficult to repeat in 2015. We’d like to recreate something similar to this trip in winter 2015-2016 with points/miles. Do you have any recommendations or estimates as to how much this would cost now?

  25. Pingback: How to travel to the Maldives (Part 2) – Points Tutor