It’s Not Too Late for a Winter Getaway to the Maldives With Points and Miles
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While the Marriott/Starwood integration has been fraught with technological problems, one positive thing to come out of it has been the ability to book luxurious, all-suite hotels for a relatively low number of points. These hotels, which include the St. Regis Maldives, St. Regis Bora Bora and Mystique Santorini, will be moved to the program’s new Category 8 tier and become subject to peak pricing at certain times in 2019. However, they are all classified as Category 7 hotels for the time being, and with peak and off-peak pricing not yet in effect, a free night will set you back 60,000 Marriott points.
The deal gets even better if you can find five consecutive nights with award availability and take advantage of Marriott’s fifth night free on award stays, dropping your cost to just 48,000 points per night. TPG values Marriott points at 0.9 cents each, so a one-night stay using 60,000 points would “cost” $540 in points, while a five-night stay using 48,000 points would “cost” $432. This is a phenomenal offer compared to the cash rates of these hotels, which run anywhere from $1,000+ a night to well over $4,000 for over-water bungalows during the winter months.
Since the merger began over two months ago, it’s been hard if not downright impossible to actually secure award reservations at some of these properties. The reasons behind this are twofold:
- Supply and demand: There’s a finite number of rooms designated as “standard accommodations” for award purposes, and (naturally) there’s a lot of demand for those rooms.
- Booking limitations: Most of these awards still can’t be booked on a computer — you have to use the Marriott app or call in (and you should consider calling a foreign call center for shorter waits!).
However, if you’re somewhat flexible with your dates and looking for a last-minute winter getaway, there are still plenty of points options available in the Maldives from which to choose, including the St. Regis Maldives and the recently opened Westin Maldives. Just remember that while you can use Marriott points to cover the cost of the room itself, you’ll still have to pay for a seaplane transfer from Male (MLE) which costs $695 per person at the St. Regis and $400 at the Westin.
St. Regis Maldives
One of the most aspirational points redemptions in the world, it should come as no surprise that competition for award nights at the St. Regis Maldives is fierce. Standard awards can only be used for Garden Villas, and there are only four at the entire hotel.
While actual holiday dates like Christmas and New Years are almost completely booked up, there’s plenty of award availability before and after. If you’re looking for a last-minute Thanksgiving trip, availability is actually quite good at the time of writing, with only a couple of days at the end of November unavailable. Similarly, there isn’t any award space over Christmas itself, but if you can move up your vacation by a week there is wide open availability.
January is a little trickier, but if you’re looking to book a fifth night free award, you have an entire week towards the end of the month.
Pro tip: The SPG search engine doesn’t automatically allow you to specify a room and then search over flexible dates. However, there is a workaround to get the above calendars to show. Search for a stay using dates where the Garden Villa is not available (e.g. Dec. 25), and then scroll down to the bottom of the room list. It’ll be listed with the notice Selected Rates Unavailable:
Click on Dates Flexible? to open up the calendar above.
Note that all availability is accurate as of the time of writing, but given the limited inventory at this particular property, there’s no guarantee that it’ll still be available when you go to book.
The Westin Maldives just opened earlier this month, joining a growing list of Marriott properties in the Maldives (a JW Marriott will follow early next year). Awards at this property book into 1,500+ square foot Island Villas, each of which include a private deck and pool. While the Westin does have over-water villas as well, more than half of its 70 rooms are Island Villas which helps explain how incredibly wide open the award space is:
That’s not a mistake: At the time of writing, every single day in November and December has award space, though be aware that there are some minimum stay requirements over the holidays.
If we extend the calendar out a little farther, there are only four days in the entire four-month stretch from November 2018 to February 2019 that don’t have at least one Island Villa available.
This mean that you can spend Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Valentines Day and just about any other time you please relaxing on the beach. While you won’t be roughing it in the wilderness by any stretch, this property is not likely to be quite as luxurious as the St. Regis Maldives. Of course, you’ll be saving almost $300 per person on the cost of the seaplane transfer, and with the wide open award availability, you can pick the exact dates that work for you and your family.
Keep in mind too that unlike the St. Regis Maldives, you can book these awards online, so it’s even easier to get some terrific value for your Marriott points.
Getting To The Maldives
This late in the game, it’s going to be difficult to find award flights from most major airports, and you might be stuck paying cash. Depending on your dates and departure cities there are some tolerable ~$1,000 fares, including this one out of Washington-Dulles (IAD) on Turkish Airlines:
I’m also seeing some decent paid fares on Aeroflot out of New York-JFK.
Speaking of JFK, though, there’s a fair amount of Oneworld award space over the holidays in both business class:
Much of this space is on Qatar, meaning that you might get to experience the world’s best business class on the long-haul flight.
Even if you can’t find an award itinerary to your liking in a premium class, many carriers will open up additional award space closer to departure, so you could always book something now and then hope to change when a better routing or class of service opens up. These changes are often discounted or even free for many elite members, though changing a long-haul flight from economy to business class may be well worth a few hundred dollars in fees.
And if you decide to plan your Maldives trip further in advance, you can check out this guide for getting there using points and miles.
Winter is rapidly approaching, and if you’re already dreading the onslaught of snow and ice, why not book a dreamy beach vacation to the Maldives now? You could even spend the holidays in this tropical paradise, and with some terrific Marriott properties, it won’t break the bank to do so. And even if your flight options aren’t to your liking, there’s a decent chance of getting a better routing at the last-minute. But I’d strongly encourage you to book today. These Maldives resorts are some of the best possible uses of Marriott points, and they’ll never be as cheap as they are right now!
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