From 10xTravel Reader Heather

Hello, I’m Heather, and I got into point sand miles a little more than six years ago. I first stumbled upon the world of points and miles when I was looking for a cheap way to travel to Norway for a friend’s wedding. I found Bryce’s article about his trip to Thailand, and after diving into the (now-retired) eBook and emailing Bryce with a million questions, I booked a trip to Norway completely on points!

I studied abroad in Australia when I was in college and would say that is when I was bitten by the travel bug and have loved to travel as much as possible ever since. Some of my favorite trips paid for with points have been my honeymoon in the Maldives, a three-week trip in Thailand and, of course, my most recent trip to Bora Bora.

How I Earned the Points and Miles for a Trip to Bora Bora

We needed positioning flights, which was a perfect use of our Southwest Companion Pass. I earned it by signing up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card.

We flew from Los Angeles (LAX) to Papeete, Tahiti (PPT), on Air Tahiti Nui in business class booked through the American Airlines AAdvantage program for 80,000 miles per person.

I received some of the points points from the AAdvantage® Aviator® World Elite Business Mastercard®, some additional points from the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® and the rest from the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard. I ended up with 60,000 points left over after booking our flights.

For our hotel, I received Hilton Honors points from the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card. My husband also received Hilton Honors points from the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, and I received a referral bonus.

The Brex Business Credit Card gave me 110,000 points after I spent $3,000 in three months.

I also earned American Express points from The Platinum Card® from American Express, and my husband got the same card. Then I earned some additional points from the American Express® Business Gold Card.

I earned the needed Chase points through regular spend on my Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the Chase Freedom card targeting the rotating quarterly 5% back categories.

We covered some of the taxes for our flights with the annual airline credit from the American Express Platinum and Hilton Aspire cards.

How We Booked Our Flights

We left Nashville, Tennessee (BNA), to drop off our baby with grandparents in Phoenix (PHX). We flew Southwest Airlines and utilized my Companion Pass. Since our baby is only 9 months old, three of us flew for the price of one! I redeemed 28,289 Rapid Rewards points for this one-way flight.

After we dropped our baby off, my husband and I took a positioning flight from Phoenix to Los Angeles. Again, we flew Southwest utilizing my companion pass. This flight was 7,674 Rapid Rewards points.

We started our trip in The Centurion Lounge at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, a perk of the Amex Platinum Card.

The Centurion Lounge at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport

The Centurion Lounge at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport

Since our next leg was in business class, we were able to access the Star Alliance Lounge at Los Angeles International Airport during our layover. They had some good hot food options, which is great to see again after all of the lounges pretty much went to cold grab-and-go food as a result of COVID-19.

Now we were ready for the fun part! Our next flight was on Air Tahiti Nui from Los Angeles to Papeete in business class on their Boeing 787 Dreamliner. I booked this flight through American Airlines for 80,000 points plus $5.60 in taxes per person.

We took the trip in June 2022, and I booked our tickets in early February 2022. There were a few dates available, but there wasn’t a ton of availability, so I jumped on booking the tickets before knowing how we would be getting home. This was an eight-hour direct flight, and we both really enjoyed it.

They gave us some rose Champagne before takeoff, which I personally loved. All of the food was delicious, but they did run out of my first choice main entree, which was the beef, but the fish was still great. The only negative is that the entertainment options were limited and mostly all in French. Because of this, we ended up sleeping for a good portion of the flight so the time flew by and we were in Tahiti before we knew it.

Champagne before takeoff
business class on their Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Because we landed late in Papeete, we spent the night and took a flight to Bora Bora the next morning on Air Tahiti, which I booked directly on their website. This was a quick 50-minute flight. A round-trip flight for the two of us cost $991.30, so I cashed out most of my Brex points to cover this expense.

After a night spent back in Papeete, we began our journey home in the business class lounge at Faa’a International Airport. It may have been 7 a.m., but I still had to have a mimosa (or two) in the lounge before the flight.

Our return flight was on Air France in business class, which I booked directly through the Air France website after transferring my American Express points to Flying Blue. My miles showed up quickly, so I booked my ticket for 73,500 miles.

Unfortunately, by the time I went to book my husband’s ticket, the other 73,500-mile ticket was gone, so we ended up redeeming 92,500 miles for his ticket plus a total of $532.36 in taxes and fees for both of our tickets. I used the rest of the money from cashing out my Brex points to help cover part of the taxes so we ended up paying $390.66 in taxes.

This flight from Papeete to Los Angeles on their Boeing 777-200 was nonstop, and again, it was great to be able to lay down and sleep, but the plane felt a bit old and dirty. There were parts of my seat that were coming apart and were a little dingy. However, it was still more comfortable than eight hours spent in economy. As would be expected on a French airline, the Champagne was wonderful, but the food was not as great as we experienced on our first flight with Air Tahiti Nui.

Upon arriving in Los Angeles, we sped through customs using Global Entry (paid for with my Chase Sapphire Reserve and my husband’s Amex Platinum cards), collected our bags and headed over to Terminal 1. We flew Southwest from Los Angeles to Phoenix for 10,453 Rapid Rewards points, and the Amex Platinum airline fee credit covered the $11.20 in taxes.

After collecting our baby, we then flew Southwest again from Phoenix to Nashville for 13,928 Rapid Rewards points and covered the fees with the Amex Platinum credit.

Where We Stayed

We arrived in Papeete around 10 p.m., so I had booked the Tahiti Airport Motel through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal for 8,357 Chase points. This was no luxury hotel by any stretch of the imagination, but it was walking distance to the airport, and our flight to Bora Bora was at 7 a.m. the next morning, so it worked out perfectly. If you book this hotel, just get ready to drag your bag up one of the steepest hills ever.

Once we arrived in Bora Bora, the Conrad Bora Bora Nui staff greeted us with beautiful flower leis. We booked a direct boat transfer with the hotel for $300 for the two of us (round-trip).

The boat ride was pretty quick, maybe 20 minutes, and we were greeted by some of the staff and drum music. We received a welcome drink while our island host checked us in.

We made our reservation under my husband’s Hilton Honors account because he had Gold status at the time of booking. Between booking and the actual stay, I got the Hilton Aspire Card, which comes with Diamond status. Unfortunately, the hotel wouldn’t recognize my Diamond status—only the status of the member whose name was on the reservation.

I booked seven nights in their standard King Lagoon View Suite room for 89,000 points per night, which at the time of booking were going for $1,326 per night. The Conrad Bora Bora Nui is notoriously difficult to find standard award nights at, so when I was scrolling through the 10xTravel Insiders Facebook group late one evening, someone in the group posted about the availability, so I jumped on it immediately and then told my husband in the morning we were going to Bora Bora.

Bora Bora wasn’t necessarily on our radar for a vacation. We had just been following the best cards list and accumulating points, so we happened to have almost all of the points needed to book the trip on hand. I ended up transferring 62,000 American Express Membership Rewards points (they transfer 1:2 to Hilton) to my husband’s Hilton account to close the gap of 124,000 Hilton Honors points needed for the hotel.

Upon check-in, we inquired about an upgrade and were offered a King Horizon View Pool Villa, but ultimately turned it down because it was up on a hill and we wanted to be closer to the beach and restaurants. The standard room we ended up in was still so beautiful and huge! There was a nice welcome note and treats for us when we got in the room.

We really loved the big deck with a nice view of the lagoon. The bed was comfortable, and I know now it isn’t common everywhere, but they still did daily maid service, which we enjoyed coming back from the beach to a clean room every day.

Our wonderful island host did end up offering us an overwater bungalow for the last two nights of our trip. The overwater bungalow was amazing, and we’re so grateful we got to experience it since we never had before.

This room was a little bit smaller, but the view more than made up for that small detail. Now I know why people are so obsessed with overwater rooms. There is nothing like looking out of your hotel room to the endless turquoise blue ocean. We really loved the nets built into the deck that you could lounge in and the stairs from the deck directly into the water to cool off.

All of the staff we encountered were super friendly and helpful. The food was the only disappointing aspect of the hotel. There are five restaurants at the hotel: Tamure Beach Grill, Tarava Pool Bar, Banyan (Chinese), Upa Upa Lounge Bar (Sushi) and Iriatai (French).

Banyan and Iriatai were open for dinner only and required reservations, and Banyan was extremely hard to reserve. The French restaurant was so-so—we ate there once and didn’t have a desire to go back. We ate at the beach grill every day for lunch, and they had good food. Unfortunately, the menu didn’t change at all for dinner, which made it repetitive.

The sushi bar was just OK—we ate dinner there just once. Our favorite was Banyan, but I guess it was also everyone else’s favorite because we were able to eat there only one night during our seven-night stay. It was a little disappointing to be a guest at the hotel and not be able to eat at the restaurant.

We mostly hung out at the beach during the day. They have a dedicated beach for Gold and Diamond members with nice cabanas and bean bag chairs.

There were also paddleboards, kayaks and snorkeling equipment for guests to use free of charge (on a first come, first serve basis). We really enjoyed paddle boarding around the lagoon checking out the fish and coral.

We went to the spa one day and had wonderful massages. The spa is up on a hill overlooking the resort, and our treatment room had a breathtaking view of the resort.

I highly recommend visiting the spa. Just be sure to make your reservations in advance because we overheard other guests saying they couldn’t get appointments during their stay. The hotel offered a free shuttle boat to the main town, Vaitape, a few times throughout the day, which we used many times.

Since everything was expensive at the resort, we went to Chin Lee Supermarket in town and bought some water, alcohol and snacks to bring back to the hotel. I think this must be a common thing to do because we saw many other guests taking the boat into town to do the same thing.

It was also possible to take the shuttle boat into town for dinner, but the hotel does charge you for that. It’s a nice option to go to some other off-site restaurants.

We went to Bloody Mary’s one night for dinner, and it was a great experience. They have fresh fish and meat on ice, and you can choose what you want from the selection. They also had live music on the night we were there, which was great.

This can vary widely between people depending on your tastes and preferences, but we spent around $1,500 on food and drink during our time on Bora Bora after deducting the $300 hotel credit from my Hilton Aspire credit card.

My husband and I were extremely sad when it was time to leave Bora Bora. We had such an amazing and memorable time there and would have stayed longer if we could.

Total points used

Hilton Honors410,000
American Express Membership Rewards228,000
Chase Ultimate Rewards16,714
Southwest Rapid Rewards60,344
American Airlines AAdvantage160,000
Total Points988,358 points
Total cash spent out of pocket on airfare and hotel$713.06
Total cash value of the trip$24,841.02

Final Thoughts

French Polynesia was truly one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever visited, and we would go back in a heartbeat if the opportunity presented itself. Before getting into the points and miles hobby, this would have been a once-in-a-lifetime trip that we would’ve had to save up for years to afford, but thanks to the wonderful world of points and miles, trips like this are attainable and not just once per lifetime.

Thanks to tips about availability from 10xTravel readers, we’re headed to Calala Island, Nicaragua, in December and to New Zealand in January—both trips we probably wouldn’t be going on without this amazing community!