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While most people start earning travel rewards with the goal of saving money on vacations they already planned to take, many eventually start to reach for more. Whether it’s first class flights with closing-door suites or $3,000-a-night overwater bungalows, points and miles can help you experience luxury travel beyond your wildest dreams. While some of my favorite redemptions ever have been for economy flights or lower category hotels when I needed them most, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy getting to travel like a millionaire, even if my bank account is a couple of zeroes short of that mark.
Today we’re going to take a look at some of the most aspirational points hotels around the world and highlight how you can book them yourself.
Average nightly rate: $1,000-$3,000+ (depending on season and type of room)
Cost in points: 85,000 for a garden villa, 125,000-195,000 for an overwater villa
I’ve often said that the St. Regis Maldives is like the Emirates first class of points hotels — over-the-top luxurious, unimaginably expensive, and probably far away from wherever you are right now. That being said, this property is a fantastic use of points, requiring just 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for a garden villa — though you could shell out even more for an overwater one.
Even if you manage to get a free room using points, expect to still spend a few thousand dollars over the course of your trip. The round-trip seaplane transfer from Male will run you $695 per person, and while the hotel’s seven bars and restaurants are delicious, they’re certainly pricey. I understand the costs that go in to stocking a hotel in the middle of nowhere, and you’d be happy to know that every single bite I ate was top notch — from the beachside pizza restaurant that opens for lunch to the fine dining options under the stars.
For those who’ve stayed at a St. Regis before, you may be familiar with the butler service. At most properties this means nothing more than some free coffee on-demand, and I don’t consider the service to be that much of a value-added perk. That all changed at the St. Regis Maldives, where your butler coordinates every moment of your stay, from dining reservations, activity reservations, and even golf cart rides across the island. Our butler — Sadaam — would frequently pop in on us during breakfast at Alba to see how we were doing and what we had planned for the day, and he even surprised us with a romantic anniversary setup on our last night.
Simply put, the St. Regis Maldives is the gold standard. If you’re second guessing flying halfway around the world just to get to a beach, trust me when I say it’s worth every penny.
Average nightly rate: $1,500-$3,500
Cost in points: 85,000 Marriott points
Many all-inclusive resorts have a bad reputation for skimping on the quality of the food and drink offerings and not giving you your money’s worth. Al Maha does it differently, and makes it (in my opinion) the single best redemption value in the entire Marriott portfolio. Award rates include everything except for alcohol and entitle you to three meals and two desert activities per day. You can choose to dine in the comfort of your own villa at no extra cost or eat in the main restaurant overlooking the vast expanses of desert. The food is top-notch as well, whether you’re craving western dishes or something more local. We especially enjoyed the signature Sri Lankan dinner and the lovely Valentine’s day set menu being served during our stay.
Activities range from falconry to archery to desert walks and drives, but my absolute favorite was dune bashing. This is one of only two activities that cost extra, but it was absolutely worth it. You drive away from the resort and through a gate, leaving behind all traces of civilization in favor of an endless sea of dunes. Then, you spend an exhilarating (and at times, terrifying) hour swerving up and down the sides of the dunes, some of which are 50 feet high. You really feel like the car could tip at any moment, but the drivers handle the entire activity with such precision. Just make sure to keep your windows closed!
Average nightly rate: $1,000
Cost in points: 30,000 Hyatt points
To all the frequent road warriors out there, raise your hand if you’ve ever woken up in a nondescript hotel room in the middle of a trip and, for a moment, struggled to remember exactly where you were? That’s not possible at the Park Hyatt Sydney, where you open your window sweeping views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. This location is perfect for tourists and business travelers alike, as it straddles the central business district and provides easy access to ferries taking you out to some of the prettier and less-well-known beaches. Perhaps the best part is that — thanks to Hyatt’s generous award chart — you can book this fantastic hotel for only 30,000 points per night. Points transfer 1:1 from Chase Ultimate Rewards, so if you just signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, you can look forward to two free nights here.
Average nightly rate: $1,500-$3,000
Cost in points: 120,000
The Maldives has an array of points hotels from which to choose, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option than the soon-to-open Waldorf Astoria, which is taking reservations for stays starting July 1, 2019. At 120,000 points per night, it did essentially create a new, top-tier category with Hilton Honors that (thankfully) hasn’t spread to other resorts. So what will that get you? A room that covers more than 2,500 square feet situated right on the beach with a private plunge pool to enjoy.
Sadly, availability is quite limited — and in fact doesn’t appear to be bookable at all right now on Hilton’s website, even if you wanted to pay cash. If you can find an award room, you should jump on it.
Average nightly rate: $250
Cost in points: 70,000 IHG points
I’m still mourning the days of unrestricted IHG free night certificates, because I never got a chance to stay at the InterContinental Hong Kong. Unfortunately, there isn’t much time left to do so. The hotel will close for a major renovation project in 2020, after which it will be rebranded as the Regent Hong Kong (IHG owns a 51% stake in Regents Hotels & Resorts). During the renovation, Yan Toh Heen — the hotel’s highly acclaimed, two-Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant — will remain open. The hotel is located right on the water in Kowloon near a number of other well-known properties, including the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong and The Peninsula.
Average nightly rate: $1,000
Cost in points: 30,000 Hyatt points
The Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme brings together an incredibly refined sense of luxury with one of the best locations in the city. The hotel is walking distance to the Louvre, the Champs-Élysées and the Tuileries, just to name a few. The on-site restaurant is Michelin-starred, and this property is a great opportunity to use both your Hyatt points and suite upgrade certificates if you’re a World of Hyatt Globalist member. With cash rates often topping $1,000 in peak season, this redemption would net you well over 3 cents per point, nearly double TPG’s valuation of Hyatt points.
Points and miles have absolutely changed the way I travel, letting me experience things that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible. I’ve been fortunate to stay at a number of these hotels myself, and each time I’ve learned that a truly exceptional hotel can be a destination all by itself. If you’re saving up for a special trip, a birthday, an anniversary or a honeymoon, make sure to consider these truly aspirational points hotels in your planning.
Featured image by the author
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NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel