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Using points and miles to book an all-inclusive stay can help you save big — especially at resorts where food and drink would otherwise set you back hundreds of dollars. TPG did this himself at Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai, enjoying not only food but two complimentary activities per day during his award stay.

Unfortunately, though, it appears award bookings at Al Maha no longer include food and activities. If you complete a search for an award stay at this Category 7 property in the combined Marriott/Starwood program, you’ll find a line in the rate details that notes “meals, activities and other activities are to be paid directly at the property.”

Bookings made with cash still show meals included, but with rates approaching $2,000 per night, that’s hardly an easy sell.

This is, to say the least, a huge bummer. Previously, booking an Al Maha award stay could get you tremendous value. The activities previously included in award stays cost 250 AED (~$68) per person, and there are some great options like falconry, a camel trek and a sundowners tour. But the loss of complimentary meals is a much harder pill to swallow, since you have to eat during your stay; you don’t exactly have tons of other options nearby; and prices on the property aren’t cheap. Award stays previously included room-service orders, so even if you were feeling lazy you could eat for free.

Breakfast starts at 160 AED per person ($43), while dinner can easily top 515 AED ($140) per person. With three meals, alcoholic drinks and activities each day, you could spend well over $500 per day as a party of two even if you book an award stay.

This change should only apply to new reservations, not existing ones, and you can still book rooms at this property for 60,000 points per night. Although the suites come with luxe amenities like a private pool, incredible desert views and gorgeous interior decorating, you’ll now have to weigh whether it’s worth the points plus the cash you’ll part with to enjoy on-property dining and activities during your stay.

There are several other resorts around the world where families and couples can redeem even fewer points per night for an all-inclusive experience, and while they might not match Al Maha in terms of luxury and uniqueness, they could be worth a look if you’re trying to spend as little cash as possible on your next award trip.

TPG contacted Marriott for more details but did not hear back in time for publication.

H/T: One Mile at a Time

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