Private islands and space flights: 8 of the most exclusive travel experiences you can book with points
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You don’t need me to remind you that points and miles can be used for fancy flights and posh hotel stays. But did you know that your rewards can land you stays on private islands and potentially even a trip to space?
Points and miles can really do wonders. In this post we’ll be looking at the most exclusive travel experiences your rewards can buy. Not only are these uber-cool experiences, but they offer a decent value for your points too.
Let’s jump in!
Virgin Galactic flight to space
Hands down, the most unique redemption you can make is on a drawing to win a trip to space with Virgin Galactic. The price? A cool 2 million Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points. Luckily, the points are only deducted from your account if you win.
Commercial flights are expected to launch in the first quarter of 2023. The trip will be a three-day experience that includes flight preparation, along with a two-hour space flight with at least five minutes of weightlessness.
Although Flying Club is a transfer partner of all the major transferable points programs— American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Capital One, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy and Bilt Rewards — there’s one major restriction. The terms and conditions explicitly state that only points earned on Virgin Atlantic flights qualify for eligibility into the drawing. You also can’t transfer points from other members’ accounts.
Ticket prices for Virgin Galactic space flights currently start at $450,000 so you’d be getting 22.5 cents in value per point, which is phenomenal. TPG valuations peg Flying Club points at 1.5 cents apiece.
A week at Richard Branson’s private island
Of course, a trip to space isn’t the only option for those swimming in Flying Club points. You can also redeem 1.5 million Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points for a seven-night stay for two at Richard Branson’s Necker Island.
Necker Island is a 74-acre private-island oasis north of Virgin Gorda and east of Puerto Rico, in the British Virgin Islands. The resort sleeps up to 40 people across 15 total rooms. Amenities include infinity pools, serene relaxation spaces, several bars, elegant dining spaces, lawn games, tennis courts, water sports and a hot tub directly on the beach.
However, you’ll have to wait until at least next year to take advantage. Redemptions are suspended while the resort processes a backlog of previous bookings that have been canceled due to the pandemic. Also, bookings are restricted to those who have Virgin Atlantic Silver or Gold status, though you may be able to status match to Virgin Atlantic from another airline or hotel program.
Stay at the North Island resort in Seychelles
If you want to book a private-island escape, fear not: There are other options.
If you’re sitting on a large stash of Marriott Bonvoy points, you can use them toward a stay at the incredible North Island, a Luxury Collection Resort in Seychelles.
You’d get to stay in a two-bedroom villa that covers nearly 5,000 square feet. Your stay will also include complimentary breakfast, use of an island buggy, morning yoga and kids activities.
Award nights cost over 340,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night, and the hotel has a four-night minimum stay requirement. This rate also doesn’t include the 814 euros you’d need to pay for a helicopter transfer each way. However, considering cash rates regularly cross $7,000 per night, this could be considered a great value — as long as you have a massive stash of Marriott points.
All-inclusive, private Calala Island resort
World of Hyatt members can redeem 35,000 to 45,000 points per night to stay at the uber-exclusive Calala Island resort, assuming you’re able to find award availability.
Calala Island is an all-inclusive, private-island resort located off the coast of Nicaragua. It’s so exclusive that it has just four beachfront suites and can only accommodate eight guests at a time.
Room rates regularly top $2,000 per night, so it’s an absolute steal with points. Stays include food, drinks, activities and airport transfers.
Shower on board in Emirates first class
Unfortunately, it’s gotten a lot harder to book these awards. Emirates stopped releasing first-class award space to most partner programs and subsequently made these redemptions more expensive through its own frequent flyer program. However, you can still book these awards directly through Emirates Skywards or Qantas Frequent Flyer.
If you want to experience gold-studded suites and onboard showers and bars, you’ll want to fly on Emirates’ flagship A380 aircraft. If modern sports car-inspired interiors are more your style, opt for Emirates’ newer 777-300ER planes with the “Game Changer” fully enclosed suites. No matter what plane you end up on, you’ll enjoy Emirates’ same top-notch food and drinks (including caviar and Dom Perignon) and service.
Emirates generally charges lower redemption rates than Qantas, with first-class flights between John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Dubai International Airport (DXB) costing 136,250 miles each way. You can transfer points to Emirates from all six major transferable points programs: Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Capital One, Marriott Bonvoy and Bilt Rewards.
Air France’s La Premiere first class
Another top-notch first-class product is Air France’s La Premiere, available exclusively on some of the carrier’s 777-300ERs. The cabin features just four seats across a single row, making it one of the smallest and most exclusive cabins in the sky.
La Premiere seats are elegant and private, featuring an individual lamp at every seat and floor-to-ceiling curtain dividers. The food is world-class and the ground experience is unparalleled, with passengers being chauffeured from an ultra-luxe first-class lounge and the plane in a private car.
Unfortunately, this product is extremely hard to book with miles. In order to book La Premiere awards with miles, you must hold Air France-KLM Flying Blue Gold or Platinum elite status. Further, eligible elite members can only redeem at the “flex” level (not saver), so a one-way ticket between the U.S. and Europe will cost at least 220,000 miles.
If you’re eligible to book these awards, you can transfer points to Flying Blue from Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, Citi ThankYou, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy and Bilt Rewards.
Double beds in Singapore’s first-class Suites
If you’re traveling with a significant other, you can’t beat Singapore Airlines’ newest A380 Suites.
Each suite features an impressive 50 square feet and contains not just a reclinable armchair, but an entirely separate bed. If you’re traveling with someone, you can combine two suites to create a double bed and have up to 100 square feet of space.
Singapore doesn’t release first-class award space to partner programs, but does make it available through its own KrisFlyer frequent flyer program. Suites flights start at 86,000 miles between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Frankfurt Airport (FRA).
It’s easy to get your hands on KrisFlyer miles since the program is a partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou and Capital One.
Luxurious Ritz-Carlton Reserve properties
Ritz-Carlton Reserve is one of Marriott’s most exclusive brands, with just five properties worldwide. It’s a step above the standard Ritz-Carlton brand, emphasizing luxury, tranquility and sustainability. The properties are intimate, each composed of 50 to 115 rooms, and are located in remote locations.
Award stays generally range from 80,000 to 240,000 points per night. Although steep, the cash rates at these hotels are often north of $800 per night. As with other Marriott Bonvoy award stays, you can get a fifth night free for every four consecutive nights you book with points.
You can redeem points and miles for some truly luxurious flights and hotel stays that would normally cost tens of thousands of dollars. With a few large sign-up bonuses and being strategic with your spending, an extravagant first-class flight or trip to a private island could be within reach. And who knows, you might just win the drawing for a trip to space.
Featured photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy.
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