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If I’m being honest, I’m not sure I had even heard of the Maldives before my delve into the world of miles and points. I’m sure that is utterly ignorant, or at least super uncool to admit, but hey it’s the truth. However, I had absolutely heard of over water villas, as had my husband. We certainly didn’t imagine we would ever stay in one, but we sure as heck knew what they were. Enter my husband’s 40th birthday planning. We kicked around tons of ideas, but over water villas kept sounding awesome…as did a celebration in Amsterdam. Of course those two things are almost polar opposites of each other in my mind, but who am I to judge a kid-free 40th birthday?
He decided that was how he wanted to spend his 40th next year, and so I went to work trying to make it happen. Naturally one of my first resources to turn to was friend and Maldives on Miles guru Gary Leff from View From the Wing. As those who read his blog already know, Gary likes premium cabins. More specifically, Gary likes international first class on top carriers. Who wouldn’t? He not only likes it, but is very knowledgeable about it with ample first-hand experience. We kicked around different routings and carriers, but ultimately the reality is, to keep the trip from being outrageously priced in either miles or dollars, a round trip on Star Alliance was our best bet if we wanted to build in an Amsterdam stopover.
This meant no Cathay or Emirates or Etihad for us on this trip, but it did mean that we could do the trip round trip in business class with the Amsterdam stop for just 120,000 United miles each. This is only 20k more miles each than if we only went to Amsterdam in business class via United and their Star Alliance partners. I imagine we probably let our buddy Gary down a little with our somewhat conservative booking decision, but our mileage accounts do have limits, and this trip is already going to ring in at close to 400,000 miles and points when you include flights and hotels. As a result, we had to be as smart as we could with what we had to work with.
Once we committed to Star Alliance, we went with United over US Airways or other miles mostly in part due my Platinum status with United that would allow for free changes if better flights or routings became available down the road. We were booking almost a full eleven months out, so there is a strong likelihood that our options may change as the trip approaches and we want to be able to take full advantage of those options if they appear. I could have opted to buy miles from LifeMiles, and that would have likely given me access to some additional routes/carriers (like Singapore) that weren’t showing great availability via United, but I really didn’t want to empty my wallet buying miles when I already had some that would work.
I had been watching award flight availability patterns for the weeks proceeding our dates via United’s award search option on their website. I noticed that two business class seats from Amsterdam to Houston were often available Mon – Wed of each week, and made note of which days of the week the more optimal routings from Amsterdam to Male were available. Of course this didn’t guarantee anything for my dates, but it gave me a good idea of how it would play out before the booking window actually opened.
Ultimately the pattern basically held and we were able to get the following routing:
Hosuton – Amsterdam in United BusinessFirst
Stopover in Amsterdam
Amsterdam – Istanbul on Turkish Business (this segment was originally only available in economy, but I kept checking and grabbed two seats in business a couple days after booking)
Istanbul – Male in Turkish Business
The hotel will help make our arrangements from Male to the Park Hyatt – read Gary’s post on this process here
Male to Singapore in Singapore Business
Singapore to Seoul in Singapore Economy (I am watching this like a hawk hoping to move up to business)
Seoul to San Francisco in United Business (upper deck on United 747!)
San Francisco to Houston in United domestic First
That is a ton of flying for 120k miles each. We aren’t going to have an “over-the-top suite and showers at 36,000 feet experience” that we may have had in first class on some carriers, but for all but one segment we are in a premium cabin with seats that are generally just fine for sleeping. We are more than happy with that compromise! There is no easy way to get home to Houston from Male. It is a ton of flying no matter what you do, but we opted to go via Asia instead of Europe for many reasons – one of which is it is just cool to “fly around the world” for your 40th birthday. Those Asia routing options did not come up when searching online, but did when I searched one-way from Male – Houston. I then just called in and fed the segments one by one to the very helpful United booking agent and it ticketed without a problem.
All of the rooms at the Park Hyatt Hadahaa Maldives are villas, however to get the over water villas you do have to negotiate with the resort and pay an up-charge to confirm in addition to the 22,000 Hyatt points per night we are paying for the base level park villa. Truthfully all of the villas look great to me and our experience would be fine even without paying to confirm a “better” villa, but since it is a 40th birthday we will be paying extra to secure the over water option on this trip. Though the pool villa options look pretty cool, too. Gary also has a very helpful post on this process.
This trip will not be quick or cheap by any stretch, however the cost out-of-pocket is dramatically reduced thanks to miles and points. In fact, there is a 0% chance this trip could have ever happened without miles and points. It will require both sets of grandparents helping with Little C since we will be gone for so many days, and we are more than fortunate to have the miles and support to make this type of trip happen. I’m by no means a Maldives on Miles expert, but even I was able to put together a decent reward flight itinerary without devoting too much time and energy. The “pretend” price for the trip was $42,000 for the two tickets.
No chance I would have ever paid anything close to that (so I won’t pretend I got 17.5 cents per mile value for my miles), but it is still entertaining to look at it from that point of view.
Hopefully this trip will be the perfect way to ring in a 40th birthday and will create some great memories to last a lifetime. Thanks miles, points, and grandparents for making it possible!