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

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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.
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! [table id=127 responsive=scroll responsive_breakpoint=phone /]

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® 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

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.

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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