Challenges of Booking a Miles & Points Trip to Bora Bora
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I’m turning 30 in November and using that as an excuse to plan a fun getaway. I’ve spent a lot of time researching week-long trips I can book using mostly miles & points. One of my trip ideas is a vacation with my wife to Bora Bora.
I generally don’t mind splurging on luxurious miles & points getaways. My wife and I took a once-in-a-life around-the-world honeymoon using mostly credit card points. And we used more than 1 million miles & points for a trip to New Zealand and Sydney.
From my research, it would be relatively easy to book flights to Bora Bora using miles & points. But once you’re there, securing a hotel stay requires a ridiculous out-of-pocket contribution.
Relatively Easy to Find Award Flights to French Polynesia
To get to Bora Bora, you must first fly to Tahiti. Then, take a short ~50-minute inter-island flight to Bora Bora. The round-trip inter-island flight costs ~$400 per person.
My wife and I are based in Los Angeles, and Air Tahiti Nui and Air France both offer non-stop flights from Los Angeles to Tahiti. From what I’ve found, Air France offers the best deal. For my desired travel dates, I can book a round-trip coach award flight for 51,000 Flying Blue miles and ~$189 in taxes & fees per person.
Flying Blue is the frequent flyer program for Air France and KLM. And all 4 major flexible points programs transfer to Flying Blue at a ratio of 1:1. So my wife and I could transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Flying Blue to book this award flight.
United Airlines is also launching non-stop service from the West Coast to Tahiti on October 30, 2018. The flight will depart from San Francisco. A round-trip coach award flight on this route will cost 70,000 United Airlines miles.
Say What? 90,000 Points per Night for a Hotel Room?!
So miles & points can definitely help you save on airfare to Tahiti and Bora Bora. But what do you do about paying for a hotel stay?
Nightly room rates at many Bora Bora hotels can exceed $1,000. And if you want an overwater bungalow, the rate jumps to $1,500+ per night.
The 2 hotels I would consider booking in Bora Bora are the Four Seasons Bora Bora and The St. Regis Bora Bora. These are 2 of the top-rated Bora Bora hotels based on TripAdvisor reviews. And they have awesome overwater bungalows, which I’d definitely want to experience if I’m traveling all the way to the island.
Four Seasons doesn’t have a loyalty program, so you’d only be able to use points at this hotel if you book through a bank portal, like the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. I looked into this option and using points linked to my Chase Sapphire Reserve card, it would cost 75,000 points per night. That’s a lot of points!
So I thought my best option would be to redeem Starwood points at The St. Regis Bora Bora. I’ve used Starwood points to book award nights at other top-tier hotels, like The St Regis Punta Mita. Unlike most other Starwood hotels, you can’t book award stays at The St. Regis Bora Bora online. Perhaps this might change when Starwood and Marriott officially merge programs in a few weeks.
When I called to inquire about available award nights, I learned the only available room types would cost 90,000 to 120,000 Starwood points per night. That’s equivalent to 270,000 to 360,000 Marriott points night, which is just outrageous!
Instead of an award stay, I could also take advantage of a few credit card perks to book paid nights at one of these hotels. For example, both hotels are part of the AMEX Fine Hotels & Resorts program. Because I have The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, I could book through AMEX Fine Hotels and enjoy:
- 12:00 pm check-in (if available)
- Guaranteed 4:00 pm late checkout
- Room upgrades (if available)
- Free daily breakfast for 2
- Free in-room Wi-Fi when available
- A unique benefit like a $100 dining credit or spa credit
- Potentially a 4th night free at certain hotels
But to enjoy these added benefits, I’ll have to pay cash for the stay. And 5 nights could easily mean $5,000+ out of pocket. That’s more than I’m willing to spend for this trip.
Bora Bora ranks high on my bucket list and I was hoping to knock it off in November as a birthday getaway.
I spent hours researching an itinerary and learned I could easily redeem miles for award flights to Tahiti, which is the first stop on a journey to Bora Bora. In fact, I was surprised by how relatively inexpensive the award flights were.
You can book a round-trip coach award flight for 51,000 Flying Blue miles. Flying Blue is the frequent flyer program for Air France and KLM. And all 4 major flexible points programs transfer to Flying Blue at a ratio of 1:1.
But the challenge of making this trip a reality was booking a hotel stay with miles & points. I have my mind set on staying at the Four Seasons Bora Bora or The St. Regis Bora Bora. Room rates at these hotels can easily exceed $1,000, especially for an overwater bungalow. I’m not interested in paying that much for a birthday vacation. And finding available award nights or booking through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal would require an outrageous number of points.
So, Bora Bora will have to remain on the bucket list a bit longer.
If you’ve traveled to Bora Bora using miles & points, I’d love to hear your tips in the comments below!
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