Regular readers will know I am a huge fan of the Maldives. We have vacationed there three times recently in 2010, 2012 and 2013 each time at the resort that is now known as the Park Hyatt Maldives (on our trip in 2010 we stayed at that same resort when it was newly opened and branded as Alila Villas Hadahaa). However all those trips were as a couple and our children had always stayed back at home under the helpful watch of grand-parents. So Spring Break 2014 was our first time to go the Maldives for our fourth vacation in as many years but this time as a family of four with children.
Planning and Booking Flights
Getting to and from the Maldives in premium cabins for a family of four is a costly affair whether or not you use miles. I have written a guide to the various options which I try to keep up to date but when you are planning for four people you need a lot of miles, a lot of flexibility, a lot of knowledge, a lot of time and…. well just lots of everything! After much planning here is how we made this work from our home base in Raleigh-Durham:
First Leg – RDU-JFK: Paid $99 each for one-way flight on Delta (which I covered the cost of using 40k Barclays Arrival Miles)
Second Leg – JFK-AUH: Used 90k AA miles each for my wife and I to fly Etihad in First Class, and 67.5k AA miles each for my two children to fly Etihad Business Class on the same flight
Third Leg – AUH-MLE: With no free stopover with AA, we used a further 25k miles each to fly all four of us in Etihad Business Class to the Maldives from Abu Dhabi
Fourth Leg – MLE-AUH-JFK: Again used 90k AA miles each for my wife and I to fly Etihad in First Class and 67.5k AA miles for the kids. The flight we took was actually on a Jet Airways flight, “operated by” Etihad. For the flight from MLE-AUH there was only availability in coach for all four of us, but with no stopover we could use one ticket to fly on to New York
Fifth Leg – JFK-RDU: Used 4,500 Avios miles each to flight AA coach back from New York home
So a grand total of:
730,000 AA miles
40,000 Barclays Arrival Miles
18,000 Avios miles
In addition we paid tax and fees, I can’t recall the exact amount but I am going to say somewhere in the region of $200 in total. I am not about to write a post on how to get that many AA miles easily – fact is this trip finally wiped out my AA account and those kind of balances are built up from various card churns, manufactured spending sprees, flying, promos and so on.
Planning and Booking the Conrad Maldives
Having stayed at the Park Hyatt so many times we felt on this trip we wanted to try somewhere else, and the Conrad Maldives seemed a great alternative. In particular the fact that this is a larger resort with great kids facilities and much quicker and easier transfer access from the main airport in Male really made it a no-brainer.
Luckily I had planned this in advance and booked 7 nights at the rates before Hilton drastically devalued their program in early 2013. So we got seven nights for just 237,500 Hilton HHonors points. I guess this redemption highlighted how vastly under-priced the Hilton system was before the devaluation, it is just a shame that their response to that is to swing to the other extreme rather than up it to a reasonable level. Today the same redemption would be more like around 520k Hilton points, over double the amount we used.
Using points you can “only” get the basic “Beach Villa” room at the Conrad and I had inquired in advance about upgrading to an overwater villa and was quoted $448 per night. This seemed a little too steep for us so we passed. However – as you will read about later – once we got there we were not 100% happy with the standard beach villas, so we did end up upgrading 5 of the 7 nights to an overwater villa. However we “only” paid $390 a night locally. However that room we absolutely loved…
But before getting to the Maldives we had some long flights and a layover in Abu Dhabi to attend to….
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