Here’s how you can visit the most Googled traveled destinations on points in 2020

Dec 31, 2019

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Google Trends released its Year in Search lists, which included everything from the most searched songs (Old Town Road) to the most searched babies (Baby Yoda). The search engine also compiled a list of the most searched travel destinations from 2019, with half the list comprised of U.S. destinations.

But if you’re already being proactive and Googling 2020 vacation destinations, here’s how you can get to some of last year’s top 10 destinations on points and miles.

Related: 2018’s Top Google Searches Say a Lot About Where People Traveled (and Why)

Maldives

Ah, the Maldives — a TPG favorite. It’s obvious why the archipelago of over 1,000 islands in South Asia made the top of the list. From its remoteness to several luxury properties, the Maldives has something for everyone. But if you Googled the island and were confused about how to get there, here’s what you need to know.

Occasionally, you can snag a cheap deal from the West Coast to capital city Malé, but more than likely, you’re going to want to use points. If you have American AAdvantage miles, you can book a Qatar Airways flight through Doha. I was able to find decent availability from New York (JFK) to Malé (MLE) for 70,000 miles plus $19 in taxes one-way in business. You can fly the New York-Doha route on Qsuite, the world’s best business class, meaning you can arrive in the Maldives in style.

If you really want to fly Etihad Apartments, the ultra-spacious first-class cabin only available on the carrier’s 10 A380s, this is by far the cheapest way to do it. Etihad flies an A380 between Seoul (ICN) and Abu Dhabi (AUH), which you can book for only 50,000 AA miles in first class. Or for 50,000 American miles, you can book a ticket from Seoul to the Maldives (MLE) via Abu Dhabi. If you don’t have American miles, you can book a round-trip economy ticket from Chicago, for instance, for 42.5k United miles on Turkish.

park-hyatt-hadahaa-maldives-pool-villa-paradise
This pool villa was a free upgrade on TPG staffer Darren Murph’s award stay, thanks to gis top-tier Hyatt status. (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)


Once you’re there, you have several points options. The luxurious Park Hyatt Maldives, which costs 30,000 Hyatt points for a free night, is a favorite around the TPG office. TPG himself stayed at the resort in 2017 and marveled at the great views and superb service.

Marriott has five hotels in the Maldives, ranging from Category 6 to 8, or 50,000 – 85,000 points per night.

Hilton currently has three properties: the Conrad Maldives, the Waldorf Astoria Maldives, and the more recently opened SAii Lagoon, a Curio Collection hotel. With Hilton Honors’ dynamic-pricing system, award rates at most properties fluctuate from day to day, and the price you see is the price you pay. And as you’d expect, these high-end properties require a fair amount of points.

The IHG Rewards program has a Holiday Inn, the InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort and a new hotel in Laamu that does not yet participate in the IHG rewards program. At the InterContinental, cash rates for beach villas start at around $1,000 and overwater villas price out closer to $1,500. To book a beach villa on points will set you back a whopping 100,000 points per night, more than any other property in the IHG portfolio.

Keep in mind that once you land in the Maldives, you then have to take either a speedboat or seaplane to your respective resort’s island. That can cost anywhere between $135 to close to $1000 per person round-trip, so make sure to factor in that cost before you book.

Bora Bora

Coming in at number three, Bora Bora is another TPG favorite. While Bora Bora isn’t as much of a stretch from the U.S. distance-wise as the Maldives, it’s still a hike to get to. The only nonstop flights to French Polynesia are from the West Coast and Honolulu.

United Airlines flies from San Francisco (SFO) to Papeete (PPT) with an economy award ticket only costing you 35,000 United miles in each direction. Sometimes you can find affordable cash rates, too. Air Tahiti Nui is bookable for 80,000 American Airlines miles in each direction in business class, or 40,000 miles in economy. In addition to AAdvantage miles, you can use Flying Blue miles to book Air Tahiti Nui.

Le Méridien Bora Bora offers beach bungalows for 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points plus $131 per night. If you want an overwater bungalow, that will set you back 60,000 points plus $263 a night.

Review: 60,000-Point Steal: A Review of The St. Regis Bora Bora

When TPG’s Zach Honig stayed at the luxury St. Regis Bora Bora, it only cost 60,000 points a night. Unfortunately, that’s now gone up to 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy points a night, but still a steal for one of the world’s most luxurious resorts. An overwater villa with a view of Mt. Otemanu will set you back 85,000 points and $516 per night. Of course, if you have tons of Bonvoy points laying around, you can make a real vacation by maximizing a fifth night free, which you can take advantage of even at luxury properties.

If you don’t have enough Marriott points, you can earn Marriott points with a variety of co-branded credit cards, including:

  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Earn 3 Free Night Awards (each free night award has a redemption value up to 50,000 bonus points, that’s a value of up to 150,000 total points) after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, earn 10X total points on up to $2,500 in combined purchases at grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations within the first 6 months from account opening.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card: Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months.​ Plus, earn up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first six months of card membership.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card: Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $150 back in statement credits on eligible purchases made within the first three months of card membership. Terms apply.

Alaska

Here at TPG, we talk about Alaska often… That is, Alaska Airlines.

But this state, larger than Texas, California and Montana combined, has much to offer for an outdoorsperson, from snowy mountains to the northern lights.

Northern Lights in Anchorage, Alaska
The Northern Lights in Anchorage, Alaska (Photo courtesy of Visit Alaska)

Getting there isn’t too difficult. Not only can you use Alaska Mileage Plan miles to score sweet spots on partners like Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines, but you can also actually book flights to, wait for it, Alaska. I found nonstop flights from Los Angeles to Anchorage for 25,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles in economy. You’ll have more luck scoring nonstop award tickets from the West Coast and the Rockies on carriers like Delta and United.

While you won’t find many luxury hotels in the state, there are two Hyatt hotels (a Hyatt Place and Hyatt House) in Anchorage for 12,000 World of Hyatt points a night. There’s also a Category 5 Sheraton for 32,500 Marriott Bonvoy points a night and some lower-end Marriott properties. But if you’re in Alaska, you’ll probably be outside and not in your hotel room much, anyway.

New Orleans

If you’ve ever been to the Big Easy — or Nawlinz, if you’re Southern — you see why so many people Google searched the city in 2019. New Orleans is more than the Saints and Bourbon Street, and if you’re thinking about planning your next vacation to this beautiful city, you’re in luck.

Related: 7 Reasons I’m in Love With New Orleans — and You Should Be, Too

You’ll find nonstop flights to New Orleans (MSY) from nearly 50 U.S. cities. Make sure you check ExpertFlyer for flight availability from a city near you. (Expert Flyer is owned by TPG’s parent company Red Ventures.) Airlines that fly to the city include Alaska Airlines, Allegiant, American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, Sun Country and United. Deals are plentiful, and you can find cheap points bookings on Delta (16,000 SkyMiles round-trip nonstop from New York-MSY), JetBlue (19,800 TrueBlue points between Boston–MSY) or Southwest (11,767 from Dallas).

With your flight taken care of, you’re probably wondering where to stay. The Ritz-Carlton is located on Canal Street, and blocks away from the iconic St. Charles streetcar. It’s a Category 6 Marriott hotel, with rates starting at just 40,000 points per night on off-peak nights.

Hilton has a ton of properties in New Orleans — I counted 15! I spotted The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel for 64,000 Hilton Honors points a night for May 2020 dates. If that’s too high, The Troubadour, a Hilton Tapestry Collection hotel, is located just a few blocks from the French Quarter and is only 49,000 points a night. Other lower-end options run between 46,000-48,000 points per night.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica landed at number 10 on the Google Trends list. This Central American nation sees more than 2 million tourists per year, thanks in large part to ecotourism. Costa Rica’s tropical climate and abundance of nature parks offer forest and volcano hikes, ziplining excursions, wildlife viewing, beaches and much more.

Finding flights to Costa Rica shouldn’t be difficult. New York or Los Angeles to San Jose should only set you back 25,000 American miles.

There are several points hotels in the small country, but one, in particular, has caught TPG’s Summer Hull’s eye twice. As she wrote in 2018, the Andaz Costa Rica is one of the best hotel redemption values in the world. While it was just 15,000 World of Hyatt points a night then, it’s since increased to 20,000 points per night.

Andaz Costa Rica (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Andaz Costa Rica (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

The Andaz Papagayo has several pools, including an adult-only pool if you want to ditch the kids. Andaz’s Beach House, recently completed, includes lunch service, sunbed, and watersports and is just a 10-minute ride from the resort.

Bottom line

If you found yourself Googling more and traveling less in 2019, 2020 can be the year you make the jump. With the right tools, you can put your points and miles to good use and have the vacation of a lifetime.

Featured image courtesy of W Maldives

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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