Ten years ago, I took my wife on our honeymoon to Thailand, New Zealand, French Polynesia, and Hawaii. It was her first experience of luxurious business-class flights booked mostly with points. The star attraction of the trip, by leaps and bounds, was our overwater bungalow in Bora Bora. Now to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, we will be heading to the Maldives in the new year for another tropical adventure with a stop in the Emirates on the way!
While our honeymoon was a three-week trip, this one will be only 10 days. That is short for such a long distance to travel, however this time we have kids at home who are used to travelling with us now. This will be a rare experience to travel just the two of us. 😉
Here is a description of the methods I used to earn the points for, and plan, our extensive flight and hotel bookings for the trip.
Our trip will start in Montreal and take us as far as the Maldives in five flight segments which will cover 17,648 miles.
Our first flight is a positioning one with Air Canada taking us to Toronto in business class on an A220.
We will have a 5-hour wait in Toronto. I booked this long delay on purpose, despite many flight options between Montreal and Toronto. Since we’ll be travelling in January, bad weather is a risk so I wanted to minimize the chance of missing our next flight to Abu Dhabi.
Our first longhaul segment will be in Etihad’s business studio on board a Boeing 777-300 from Toronto to Abu Dhabi.
The cash fare for these two segments would have totaled $13,280. Since Etihad is a partner of Aeroplan, I was able to book them for 180,000 Aeroplan points and $225 CAD in fees. Abu Dhabi is 6,634 miles from Montreal, so it falls in the North America-Atlantic Zone 6,001-8,000 mile band for 90,000 points per person with a partner airline. The points required per mile band can all be seen on Aeroplan’s flight reward chart.
Following a short stay in the Emirates, we again will travel in Etihad’s business studio, this time on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner on an overnight flight from Abu Dhabi to Malé. This flight would have cost $8,600 CAD, however I booked it for 50,000 Aeroplan points and $160 in fees. The distance is 1,876 miles, so falls within the Atlantic Zone 1,001-2000 mile band for 25,000 points per person.
Once our stay in the Maldives is complete we will return home with Qatar Airways with a one-night stopover in Doha. Our first segment is Malé to Doha in economy class on an Airbus A320. This was due to a lack of availability of business class seats. However I will try to upgrade to business with a last-minute cash upgrade if one is available, and will check online to see if anything better opens up at the last minute using points. This can happen sometimes with Avios rewards.
After our Doha stopover, will will embark on a morning flight aboard a Boeing 777-300 from Doha to Montreal to sample the airline’s famous Qsuites! These are highly sought after flights in the points&miles world with closed door seating in business class, dine-on-demand, and overall best service in a business class product in the sky.
The retail value of these Qatar flights is $14,000 CAD. I booked them using 211,000 Executive Club Avios and $1,000 in fees. Since Avios use distance-based pricing, it’s always the best deal to book as direct flights as possible.
I will also add that the taxes and fees for the flights were paid for using my National Bank World Elite Mastercard. This is an excellent card to use since its travel insurance is valid on award bookings as long as the taxes and fees are charged to it.
Earning points for flight rewards
This trip utilizes both Aeroplan points and British Airways Executive Club Avios. Both of these are relatively easy to earn in Canada.
For Aeroplan, other than flying with Air Canada or its Star Alliance partners, the best way to earn points is by:
- Getting any of Aeroplan’s co-branded credit cards which are available through American Express, TD, and CIBC.
- Transferring points from American Express Membership Rewards or Marriott Bonvoy.
- Making online purchases through Aeroplan’s eStore.
- Earning points through their many partners including hotels, car rentals, airport parking, and many others throughout the country.
For Avios, other than flying with British Airways and its Oneworld partners, the best way to earn points is by:
- Getting the RBC British Airways Visa card.
- Transferring points from American Express Membership Rewards, RBC Avion, HSBC, or Marriott Bonvoy.
Our first stop will be the Ritz-Carlton in Abu Dhabi. This will be a one-night stay after we land from our long-haul flight. This is known as one of the largest Ritz-Carlton resorts in the world.
I booked this hotel for $307 USD including taxes. To enhance our stay, I booked through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts using my Platinum Card. While I am a Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite member, booking this way didn’t increase the cost, will elevate the benefits we will receive (notably free breakfast which isn’t given at Ritz-Carltons and is very expensive at this property), and allowed me to use my $200 annual hotel credit.
We will depart late morning from the Ritz Carlton and make our way to the Luxury Collection’s Al Maha Resort in the desert. This is a hugely aspirational property as not only is the cash rate incredibly high, but it includes includes full board and two activities while you are there, along with incredible accommodations and dining in a beautiful, unique environment.
The cash rate for a one-bedroom Bedouin suite was $1,571 USD with taxes, however I booked it for 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. While we are only staying one night, we will arrive early and stay late with 4PM checkout thanks to my Marriott status. This will give us over 24 hours at the resort.
While we are very excited to try the Al Maha resort, the real star attraction of the trip, and its ultimate destination, will be the exquisite St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort. We will be going there for 5 nights.
The cash rate for our stay in a one-bedroom overwater villa is an incredible $16,938 USD with taxes. That is over $23,000 CAD! I booked it for 470,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, with the 5th night being free.
Our final hotel, upon our teary farewell to the Maldives, will be a one-night stop in Doha while we connect to our Qatar Airways Qsuites flight home. For this I have a King Superior room booked at the Oryx Airport Transit Hotel on the airside of Doha’s international airport.
The room costs $323 CAD per night. For this I paid using TD Reward points via their Expedia online booking portal. This covered the cost in full.
Earning points for hotel rewards
For this trip I used a combination of cash (using Fine Hotels & Resorts for extra benefits and $200 off), Marriott Bonvoy points, and TD Reward points.
You can earn Marriott Bonvoy points by:
- Earning through Marriott stays, as well as partner travel experiences such as activities and cruises.
- Getting the two co-branded credit cards, the Marriott Bonvoy American Express® Card and Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express® Card.
- Transferring points from American Express Membership Rewards at a 1:1.2 ratio. American Express occasionally offers 25% bonus offers which would be the best time to transfer points.
You can earn TD Rewards points by:
- Getting the TD First Class Travel Visa card (there is also a business version of this card).
- Booking travel through the Expedia by TD travel portal to earn 9X points per dollar spent.
We are very excited for this trip and knocking out a couple of very aspirational hotels and destinations from our travel bucket list. In addition, this is a special moment for us as we celebrate our wedding anniversary, while embarking on a voyage which mirrors our romantic honeymoon ten years ago.
This is all thanks to the value of miles & points, and the ability to leverage multiple points currencies in one big trip. Until next time, keep on earning and burning!