Last-Minute Luxury: Scoring a Dream Bora Bora Trip with Points and Miles

Imagine this: pristine beaches, crystal clear waters, and an overwater bungalow retreat – all in Bora Bora. What if I told you this luxurious escape wasn't meticulously planned months in advance, but cobbled together just weeks before departure? That's the magic of travel rewards programs!

My husband and I, self-proclaimed beach bums, had already booked a points-funded December trip to Cabo. But a casual online browse revealed an unexpected opportunity – wide-open availability at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui! This wasn't a budget hotel, so seeing it at the standard award rate (120,000 points per night) was a surprise.

Hilton Honors to the Rescue

Hilton's flexible search calendar became my new best friend. I had my eye on the Conrad Maldives and wanted to compare it to Bora Bora. Luckily, my persistence paid off. Within days, two additional nights opened at the Bora Bora property, allowing us to book a luxurious six-night stay for a cool 600,000 points (thanks to Hilton's fifth-night-free perk for elite members). This translated to a whopping $8,755.96 saved!

Credit Card Rewards: A Treasure Trove

We leveraged our arsenal of Hilton Honors credit cards, which offer annual free night certificates. However, to maximize points savings, we opted to use points earned with these cards instead. This unlocked the fifth-night-free perk, essentially giving us one night free.

Upgraded Paradise

The room itself was a dream come true. Diamond status from our credit cards scored us an upgrade to a King Deluxe Overwater Villa with a private lagoon entrance, an overwater hammock, and modern amenities. While service had a laid-back island vibe, the friendly staff and delicious food made the stay unforgettable.

Flights: Business Class Bliss – One Way

Based in Portland, Oregon, I started my flight search with United, which offers non-stop flights to Tahiti from San Francisco. While economy seats were reasonably priced at 55,000 miles each, I found a hidden gem – deeply discounted business class seats for 85,000 miles each for Premier Platinum members (like myself). Since my husband didn't have elite status, I transferred points from his Chase Sapphire Preferred and my Bilt Mastercard to cover both tickets. In total, we scored two business class tickets worth $4,949.70 each for a mere 170,000 United miles.

The Return Journey: Strategic Point Switching

Returning home required a different points strategy. Having depleted our Chase Ultimate Rewards points, we turned to American Express Membership Rewards, thanks to our Platinum and Gold Cards. We booked United economy flights through Air Canada Aeroplan (an Amex transfer partner) for a steal – 20,000 miles less than United charged! This brought our return trip cost to just 35,000 miles and $100 each in fees. Amex points even allowed me to snag exit row seats for free through my MileagePlus number.

Island Hopping: A Cash Interlude

Traveling between Tahiti and Bora Bora required separate flights on Air Tahiti. Since we missed the last connecting flight from San Francisco, we opted to stay overnight at the Hilton Tahiti (points could have been used here, but we had other plans). The overnight stay cost around $400, and the inter-island flights came to another $400 per person roundtrip. For these cash expenses, we used the Chase Ink Business Preferred card to maximize points earned.

Lessons Learned: A Points & Miles Masterclass

This last-minute Bora Bora adventure was a masterclass in using points and miles effectively. Here are the key takeaways:

  1. Flexibility Pays Off: Don't despair if you miss the early booking window. Being flexible with travel dates can unlock incredible last-minute deals.
  2. Elite Status Perks: While upgrades are great, elite status can also save points and miles through perks like Hilton's fifth-night-free offer and United's discounted awards.
  3. Partner Programs are Your Friend: Airlines aren't always the cheapest points option. Consider transferring points to partner programs for better deals.

So, the next time you dream of a luxurious escape, remember – with a strategic points and miles approach, even a last-minute Bora Bora adventure can become a reality!