Our $27,000 Vacation to the Maldives for ~$4,300 & How You Can Do It Too: Part 1 – Introduction & Planning
Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full advertising policy: How we make money.Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers. 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.
Our $27,000 Vacation to the Maldives for ~$4,300 & How You Can Do It Too Index:
- Part 1 – Introduction & Planning
- Part 2 – Flights from US to India
- Part 3 – Flights from India to the Maldives
- Part 4 – Conrad Airport Lounge and Seaplane Ride
- Part 5 – The Grounds of the Conrad Rangali Island Hotel (Conrad Rangali Island Base Room)
- Part 6 – A ~$1,300 per Night Beach Villa for Free
- Part 7 – Saving ~88% on a $3,000 per Night Overwater Bungalow
- Part 8 – Activities at the Conrad Maldives
- Part 9 – Breakfast in the Maldives
- Part 10 – Cheap Food
- Part 11 – Underwater Restaurant
- Part 12 – An Afternoon in Male
- Part 13 – Male Airport and Plaza Premium Lounge
- Part 14 – Conclusion & Blog Giveaway
We also brought Daraius’ dad, Rustom.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!
|Our Cash Cost
|Miles And Points Used
|Sources 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)
|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)
|5 nights at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island in a King Beach Villa
|~$1,300 per night ($6,500 for five nights)
|39,000 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 sale
|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
|~$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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
We loved the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island and are already planning our return trip!
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 USWe 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
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 MilesFrom 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)
And folks say you can get the Alaska Airlines credit card multiple times.
3. Using United Airlines MilesTo 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 PointsThe 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.
A. American Airlines Miles
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® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®
The CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® gives you 50,000 American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in 3 months.The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
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.
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. Hilton Honors Card from American Express
The Hilton Honors Card from American Express gets you 50,000 Hilton points after you spend $750 in the 1st 3 months.
3. Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express
You can get 60,000 Hilton points when you spend $3,000 in 3 months with the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express
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
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 LineDaraius 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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