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By: Travis Cormier
Hi Travel Junkies,
Like many of you, I got started in the points and miles world when planning my honeymoon. And boy am I glad I did! Without points and miles, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy such an amazing honeymoon.
We flew first class, stayed at the wonderful Park Hyatt Maldives, and amazingly didn’t even get a serious sunburn.
There’s many great ways to travel to the Maldives, but I’m going to walk you through how I did it – including some of the speed bumps we ran into along the way.
Etihad Apartments and American Airlines First Class
This was a crazy itinerary but travelling across three different continents only cost us 230,000 American AAdvantage miles and $174.32 per person.
We flew a pretty busy route for this trip. Our outbound itinerary included:
- Austin (AUS) to Dallas (DFW) on American Airlines First Class
- Dallas (DFW) to London (LHR) on American Airlines Flagship First Class
- London (LHR) to Abu Dhabi (AUH) on Etihad First Class
- Abu Dhabi (AUH) to Male (MLE) on Etihad First Class
For our return flights we flew:
- Male (MLE) to Abu Dhabi (AUH) on Etihad First Class
- Abu Dhabi (AUH) to New York (JFK) on Etihad First Class
- New York (JFK) to Miami (MIA) on American Airlines First Class
- Miami (MIA) to Austin (AUS) on American Airlines First Class
If you’ve read our guide to redeeming AAdvantage miles, you may have noticed that this violates one of American Airlines’ routing rules as it transits Europe on way to the Indian Subcontinent.
The reason I was able to book this route was because I was originally booked on Etihad’s flight from DFW to AUH, but Etihad discontinued that route 5 days before my honeymoon! I called American Airlines with the alternative routing in hand and they were happy to accomodate because of the flight cancellation.
Now, let’s look at how much this trip would have cost if we had booked with cash. Spoiler! They would have been really expensive.
It’s a little tricky to put the exact price together, because these exact routings won’t show up on either Etihad or American’s websites so I did my best to piece it together accurately.
Our flight from Austin to London prices out as $9,308 per person one way.
From LHR to MLE on Etihad, we would have paid roughly £3309.71 (~$4560.78).
Our return from MLE to JFK onn Etihad would have cost about $8,200.81 per person.
Finally, our flight home (JFK-MIA-AUS) on American Airlines would have cost nearly $400.
Adding it all up, our trip would have cost $22,467.59 per person ($44,935.18 total). Instead, we put this together for 460,000 American AAdvantage miles and paid only $348.64 in taxes and fees!
How We Earned The Points For Our First Class Trip To The Maldives
We were able to earn many of our American AAdvantage miles through various credit card sign-up bonuses. Between my wife and I, we opened 4 Citi AAdvantage AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCards. In the past you could open more than one, but Citi has since changed its bonus and application rules. Each card offered a bonus of 60,000 points for a total of 240,000.
On top of that, we each opened a Barclaycard Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard which came with a sign-up bonus of 60,000 AAdvantage miles. This gave us another 120,000 AAdvantage miles.
In total, we earned 360,000 AAdvantage miles from sign-up bonuses. From the minimum spends on the Citi cards, wedding expenses, and other daily spend we made up the difference.
From these sign-up bonuses we tried three different international first class products all on one trip:
American Airlines’ Flagship First Class on the Boeing 777-300ER (77W) on our DFW-LHR flight.
Plenty of room, even at 6’5”
Etihad’s older-style first class suites on the Airbus A330-300 on our flights between AUH and MLE.
Miryea really enjoyed the A330!
And, of course, The Etihad Apartment in the Airbus A380, twice—LHR to AUH and AUH to JFK.
I had many more glasses of champagne to celebrate this amazing flight
We departed from Austin on March 31st and didn’t land in the Maldives until April 2nd. That is a LONG time to spend on an airplane but flying first class made for an amazing experience—not to mention the first class lounge experiences at the airport.
When is the last time you had a chef make you some parmesan truffle fries at 30,000 feet?
The tail camera on the A380 was one of my favorite features!
The sunset with the classic A380 double engine is the perfect frame!
I could keep going on about these amazing flights, but let’s get to what this trip was really about…
10 Nights At The Park Hyatt Maldives For 250,000 Hyatt Points
We had the luxury of staying in the Maldives for 10 nights at the Park Hyatt which is an all-suite property. Unlike other programs, they don’t charge extra points for suites so a “standard room” at this Category 6 property costs 25,000 Hyatt points per night.
The standard room at the Park Hyatt Maldives is a Private Villa.
A standard room at the Park Hyatt Maldives is a 1,750 square foot villa with its own private walkway to the beach. There are no interior rooms on the entire island and they aren’t crammed together either as there are only 50 rooms on the entire island. The low density of rooms truly leaves you feeling like you’re on a private island.
The romantic ambiance of your private villa will be hard to beat.
In total we spent 250,000 World of Hyatt Points and $997.92. Why so much extra cash? That’s one of the great parts about the Park Hyatt – you can use cash to upgrade to an overwater villa. We travelled towards the end of high season and it cost $405 plus 23.2% taxes per night to upgrade.
The View from the Park Water Villas is Extraordinary
Prices for the same time next year start at $1,040 for the standard Park Villa. If we paid cash, it would have cost $13,621 after taxes for 8 nights in a Park Villa and 2 nights in a Park Water Villa.
For our honeymoon, we thought this was more than worth the Hyatt points and out of pocket cost.
How We Earned 250,000 World of Hyatt Points
No, we didn’t move into a Hyatt hotel full-time. The World of Hyatt program is one of my favorites because you get great value, and they’re relatively easy to earn. You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to the World of Hyatt program at a 1:1 ratio. Personally, I find this is one of the best uses of Ultimate Rewards points.
Transfer Ultimate Rewards to World of Hyatt to visit the Maldives
We earned the majority of our points from two sign-up bonuses. We each opened the Chase Sapphire Reserve (learn more) when it was released and earned 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points. To finish off our needed points, we opened a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (back when you could have both) and earned 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points from the sign-up bonus.
Using points and miles to travel to the Maldives can save you a lot of money and it’s definitely worth it to book award flights and hotel stays. But, you should be aware that the Maldives are still expensive to visit and the Park Hyatt Maldives is no exception. My mother is going to shudder when she reads how much I spent here…
…After our 10 days, our total cost was about $10,000. Good thing we had almost two years to save for this one!
Where did all that money go?
Transportation to the Park Hyatt
Your journey doesn’t end just because you’ve landed in Male (MLE). You still have to get to the resort island and the Park Hyatt is one of the most remote resorts in the Maldives. The transportation is night and day, and I got to experience both the best and the worst.
First, you will take a flight from Male to Koodoo. After you arrive in Male, a Park Hyatt representative will escort you to a modest lounge to wait. There are only 4 daily flights, and the schedules are set the day before, and are still subject to delays. The lounge is adequate for 2-3 hours, but if you are there for 5 hours like we were, it definitely will be the blight of your trip.
The Maldivian Transfer is on the TurboProp, and not Qatar Plane spotted in the Background
If you’re lucky, like we were on our departure, you will get a nonstop flight. If you’re not, like we were on our arrival, your flight will have a quick stop on the way. Expect this flight to take around an hour.
The Park Hyatt isn’t on Koodoo so you will then need to take a speedboat ride from Koodoo to Hadahaa, the island where the Park Hyatt Maldives resides. Depending on the weather this will be anything from a smooth 20 minute ride under the clearest night sky you’ve ever seen, to a bouncy wave-driven 45 minute ride through a storm.
My lovely new wife was really enjoying the boat ride during a thunderstorm
All said, this will cost you about $500 per person. Don’t worry about trying to arrange this yourself. About a month before your trip, the Park Hyatt will email you to confirm flight reservations and secure payment. They will then organize the transportation for you and ask you to submit a credit card preauthorization to secure the flights.
Pro-Tip: Ask for seats in row 1 on the Maldivian Air Flights. These seats have a bit more legroom and will make your trip more comfortable.
There are ways to save on food but, simply put, if you aren’t a Hyatt Globalist elite member, and you plan on drinking at the Park Hyatt Maldives, get the Premium All-Inclusive meal plan. Yes, it will feel expensive seeing it all up front, but it is well worth it.
Many food options are $20+ per item and the cheapest liquor-based drinks are $16. While not everything is included, you get a large amount of alcoholic drinks including a pretty substantial amount of wine. Even wine by the bottle is available, which was a wonderful option on our one rainy day when we sat at the bar enjoying a few bottles with friends.
Your typical view from the Dining Room
With the Premium All-Inclusive you will also get a private beach dinner, and invitation to the local Maldivian feast and BBQ night. Both of them were a lot of fun, and quite delicious. You will also get access to the minibar in your room that is restocked once per day. This was a really nice treat, since we didn’t have to leave the room to get some drinks if we wanted.
For $250 per person per day, it’s really a great deal. We easily would have spent more than this had we not purchased the all-inclusive package. As a result, we didn’t have to limit ourselves like others suggest by having a big late breakfast, skipping lunch and only eating dinner—which was perfect, as I ate chilled gazpacho 8 out of 10 days for lunch.
The activities at the Park Hyatt are limited, and you’ll find more at other resorts. That’s a wonderful thing! The activities offered are just enough to keep you busy, but leaving you with enough time to relax.
Underwater photography isn’t our strong suit, but this turtle didn’t mind
Divers will appreciate the lack of other watersports – the house reef is very healthy with plenty of aquatic activity. You can do a house reef dive and see a lot of marine wildlife! You can also head out on a boat dive where you may have a private dive guide. Out of 9 dives, we only had another diver on one of them, so we really were able to see what we desired.
The house reef is stunningly healthy and makes for great snorkeling and diving
The Vidhun Spa is stunning, and one of the most reasonably priced options. Costs are comparable to what you’ll find at your average spa in the U.S.. You won’t be paying the high resort fees you are used to, and you’ll find the service to be absolutely incredible.
Pro-Tip: Use the Hyatt eConcierge to book your activities in advance and get a 10% discount. Look at the activity packages, some are really great deals.
The worst part about the Maldives was leaving. I am already planning to go back. The value you get for your points at the Park Hyatt Maldives is astounding. While the flights will take a bit of travel time, you can use points to do it in comfort. But, even in economy, I would fly back.
The Park Hyatt provided an absolutely amazing honeymoon option, and many people there were couples. It isn’t the most child-friendly location, but there were a few children. If you’re looking for the feel of being on a private island, it will be hard to beat. Don’t forget to bring plenty of sunscreen. The cheapest sunscreen I saw in the gift shop on the island was $40!
What would we do differently on our next trip? We wouldn’t splurge for the Park Water Villa. It was a nice experience, but we enjoyed the Park Villa better. The Park Water Villas gets very warm, even with new A/C and the lack of private beach access was a big loss for us. It’s nice, but more a novelty in my eyes. Maybe, if the Park Water Villas had plunge pools like most other resorts have in their water villas, it would be worth it.
Overall, this was the perfect honeymoon for us, and we would not hesitate to go back. If you book the Park Hyatt Maldives, I think you’ll be quite pleased. We loved our time and the experience far surpassed what we imagined.
Travel In Style,