Success! 12 Nights in Bora Bora With Airline Miles & Hotel Points!

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Welcome to the next installment of our Reader Success Series where Million Mile Secrets Readers share how they booked a trip with miles & points to get Big Travel with Small Money!

Rod and Amy are our newest reader success story to show folks it’s possible to travel without spending a lot of money.

Success 12 Nights In Bora Bora With Airline Miles Hotel Points

Here’s Rod Enjoying the Crystal Clear Waters of Bora Bora During His Trip!

A big thank you to Rod and Amy for sharing their story!

Please introduce yourself to everyone and tell us how long you’ve been involved in the miles & points hobby.

Rod and Amy.

We never traveled until our 10-year wedding anniversary back in 2001.  That is when we discovered the joys of travel.

From there, things progressed as we heard terms like “miles” and “points”.  My first taste of hotel points came from the Chase IHG card.

I started to do some research into this strange new world.  In 2011, curiosity turned into a full-blown obsession.  My official start date as a credit card fanatic would be around 2013.

Success 12 Nights In Bora Bora With Airline Miles Hotel Points

Points and Miles Got Us a Hammock in Front of This View at Mt. Otemanu

My first trip with miles and points was to Tahiti, but I still forked over some cash.  Then, I did a trip last year to the Maldives where I was able to score a $15,000 trip for $4,400.  March 2016 was the trip of all trips where our 12-day vacation took us to Bora Bora.  I’m now at the top of my game in this fun hobby!

What was the goal of your trip?

To get the total retail price as high as possible while keeping my out-of-pocket cost as close to zero as I could.

How long did you collect miles and points for your trip? 

I would say this trip is a year and a half worth of collecting.

Which points did you save to take your trip?

I used my American Airlines miles (from the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite(TM) MasterCard®) to book round-trip First and Business Class tickets for 2 on American Airlines and Air Tahiti Nui from Fort Wayne, Indiana, to Papeete, Tahiti.

I booked prior to the devaluation so it cost me 125,000 American Airlines miles and ~$78 in taxes.  There are no options from Papeete to Bora Bora other than paying for a ticket on Air Tahiti Nui as they do not have a mileage program.  Those 2 tickets cost me ~$826.

Success 12 Nights In Bora Bora With Airline Miles Hotel Points

No Such Thing as a Bad View in Bora Bora!

In Bora Bora, we stayed at two separate IHG properties.  These points were earned on our Chase IHG credit card and from the various bonus promotions IHG has throughout the year.

We used one of IHG’s Ambassador buy one get one free night certificates.  And the Chase IHG anniversary free night certificate.

Success 12 Nights In Bora Bora With Airline Miles Hotel Points

This Is Where We Called Home for 10 Nights. We Weren’t Expecting So Much Space!

We spent 10 nights at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa and 2 nights at the InterContinental Le Moana Bora Bora.

Our total was 410,000 IHG points.  We did have to fork over almost $1,000 as we did pay for one night on the BOGO free night.

On the return trip home, we had an overnight stay at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport.  I used my free night certificate earned from my Chase Hyatt credit card.  Now that is a price I can live with!

How did you search for and find the award flights?

American Airlines made it very easy to search for the flights.  They show Air Tahiti Nui on their site which is a major plus when searching!

A key point on attempting 2 Business Class award tickets on Air Tahiti Nui is to book as close as possible to 331 days out.  It was nerve-racking to put this trip together – and you have to be flexible on dates.

How did you find your hotel accommodations?

IHG has a very easy website to navigate and finding the hotels was a no-brainer.

Success 12 Nights In Bora Bora With Airline Miles Hotel Points

This Is Where the Water Taxi Dropped Us for Our Stay at the InterContinental Thalasso

Booking award nights at a popular destination is where things get tricky.  The key is to check their site over a long period of time and you can see patterns on how they offer award nights and how fast they disappear.

What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?

The InterContinental Le Moana Bora Bora was super easy for award nights.

Most any day is available when booking a year out.  The InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa is where things get difficult because, for the most part, it only has available award nights at 2 times during the year.

Success 12 Nights In Bora Bora With Airline Miles Hotel Points

Early Evening View of Mt. Otemanu From Our Thalasso Bungalow

What I mean by that is you have to literally be on your computer after midnight when the next day’s inventory comes out (from what I can tell they offer 2 rooms) almost a year in advance.  The only other time I saw award nights become available is about a week prior to the actual day of the stay.

Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination.  Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.

Everyone needs to have at least one meal at Bloody Mary’s.  It is a great place to get a feel of island life.  Come early and stay late.  This is island time so do not expect the service to be fast.  Relax and enjoy!

Success 12 Nights In Bora Bora With Airline Miles Hotel Points

The Sunsets at Matira Beach Are a Must-See in Bora Bora

Another great restaurant is a little place called Lucky House.  Great food, cold drinks, friendly staff, and a fair price is what you will get here.  It is another place to kick back and just chill.

Success 12 Nights In Bora Bora With Airline Miles Hotel Points

We Loved the Daily String Ray Feeding at Our Hotel

The sting ray feeding at the Thalasso was our favorite thing to do every day at 2:00 pm.  They give you food so you actually feed them yourself.

What did you learn about yourself on the trip?

Amy and I have been thinking about retiring and moving to the beach in about 6 years.

This extended vacation confirmed we are more than ready to lounge around and do nothing but enjoy everything that beach life has to offer!

What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip?  Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!

Book your trips as far out as possible if you are trying to book an extremely popular place like Bora Bora with miles or points.  Award flights and award nights are limited so the early bird gets the worm when it comes to rewards.

If you are new to miles and points my advice is to take all of this in baby steps.  There is a learning curve to collecting and booking miles and points.

The Chicago Seminar is a great place to meet up and gain knowledge on this hobby.  I am glad I went last October and I might go again this year.

Travel blogs like Million Mile Secrets keep you up-to-date on all of the latest changes to the game.  Miles and points reduced this trip from its retail price of ~$35,389 down to ~$2,045 – so it is possible to travel like you have never traveled before!

Safe travels everyone!

If you’d like to be considered for our reader success story series, please send me a note!  Emily and I would love to hear about how you travel with miles and points!

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16 responses to “Success! 12 Nights in Bora Bora With Airline Miles & Hotel Points!

  1. Love it! Thanks for the tips on how to get award nights in Bora Bora!

  2. We were there last year and loved it and it was definitely the trip that got me hooked on collecting miles.

  3. I want to go to Bora Bora really bad. I have IHG points but I can’t find availability in advance! I’m not trying to get 10 nights….alls I want is 3 or 4 nights.

  4. Very very hard to believe. They are not disclosing all the information. I stayed at the same properties 2 months ago using points and the night certificate from ihg. You can not get an overwater bungalow with the certificate or with points. You need to book an standar room and request an upgrade. I got the upgrade paying just over 150 a nigth plus taxes. Food is very expensive so at leats add 350 minimum a day for the upgrade and food. You are looking at maybe 6000 for the trip…still a great deal but just dont lie.

  5. can you please tell us when the rooms become available? which day at midnight and is it eastern standard time or pacific etc? i like others have not been able to find any rooms at all even a year out. thank you

  6. @Andrew if you stayed at the Thalasso, then you would know, I hope. But I thought, and even looking at their page seems to corroborate, that they only have overwater villas, which means your award gets you that accommodation without a cash required. This is what Daraius did as well without requiring a cash upgrade, iirc.

  7. @Lively – Keep checking because award availability changes, especially as you get closer to the cancellation deadline.

  8. @Anthony You are right, my bad. I misread the article, thinking that 10 nights were at La Moana. Anyways, forget about the upgrade fees. What they eat at the Thalasso? Ramen? there is no other option but to eat at the hotel…or you can go to the mail island and look for a place to eat and it is still expensive. So that 2000 trip is still a 5000 to 6000 trip. It could be nice if the report include that data….you need to eat so if the destination is really a expensive one like Bora Bora that info is good to know for people looking to go. Take care

  9. For Andrew. You are correct that food was not included in this trip so this overall trip cost would have been more. At $25 for the cheeseburger meal at the Thalasso you have to leave plenty of room in your budget. For full disclosure we did pack a ton of powdered drink packets, tuna packs, crackers, and other snacks. I bought my booze duty free in LAX and brought it to the resort. We did not take the meal plan that was offered. We never ate breakfast and only ate lunch a couple of times. When we did we split a meal which the staff served on two separate plates. So we did spend money on food and it was not included in this story. I didn’t think to include it because I was interested in showing how to reduce your out of pocket expenses using miles and points. I was not trying to lie about the cost of the trip. The Thalasso only has over the water bungalows so that is what you will get with your free nights. The Thalasso and the Le Moana do not upgrade for free when staying on points or with free nights even with my Spire Ambassador status. You are correct that the Le Moana only offers their beach front bungalow to you for using points and that you must pay to upgrade to the OTW bungalows.

  10. Are there any other brands besides IHG that would take points? Every write up I’ve seen has been using IHG points. Maybe that’s a card I should get!

  11. Was excited to see another million mile secrets fan from Fort Wayne, IN. A lot of times when I am at the airport, I hear people say that this is the first time flying!! I personally can’t imagine, especially living here, as I want to get on a plane as often as possible! 🙂
    Thanks for sharing and your trip sounds wonderful!

  12. Haven’t read the article yet. But 12 nights???????!!!

  13. “American Airlines made it very easy to search for the flights. They show Air Tahiti Nui on their site which is a major plus when searching!”? When I searched lax to ppt, it always says no award available. Does AA really show Air Tahiti flights on their site? Does anyone know how to do that?

  14. Yes renzhen you can book directly on AA for flights that include Air Tahiti. It is my understanding that they only offer 2 business class seats on each flight for the LAX to PPT route. I booked mine on AA’s site and did so on the first day that they came out. I booked two one way tickets and then the same when they came up two weeks later for my return flight.

  15. great report and success story! Once in a lifetime opportunity even if you have to scrimp of food/activities..
    Just think only few of us can go there (i haven’t been able to due to schedule/cost etc.).

  16. I’m not going anywhere and have to eat crackers and tuna that I’ve brought with me. Seriously? That is also part of the vacation–not just the destination, etc. People who nickel and dime really hurt their experience. I say that for staying at flea bag hotels, flying with 4 connections just to save $ (and not take into account the time it takes, possible delays, headaches, etc.) or eating canned tuna or not eating at all. Doesn’t sound like much of a vacation to me.