We recently booked our 2019 summer vacation, or a least one of them. As I wrote about here, we passed on an African Adventure for Tahiti. Well here is how we booked a great vacation mostly on points and miles.
There are not a ton of flights to Tahiti from the mainland US. You can find some decent point deals coming from Australia or from Asia though. We wanted to have minimum time away from work, so as much as we would have loved to spend some time in Australia or Singapore, it just didn’t work out for us. The way this trip works out, my wife only has to take 3.5 days off, which means we have time to go on another summer adventure.
For our flight out to Tahiti, we started looking at using American Airlines miles to fly on Air Tahiti Nui from LAX to PPT. When looking on AA’s website, you will see no award availability. The only place to see award availability is on Expert Flyer. For the dates we wanted they had up to 9 economy seats, but no business seats from LAX. They often have 9 economy seats, but very rarely have business class seats open.
You have to call AA to book this, and inform them that Air Tahiti Nui uses the code “F” for economy. Even when I told an agent this, it took me 3 phone calls before the final agent knew what to do. Now I am coming from OKC where flights can be a pain. We ended up finding a flight from DFW-LAX to get us there in time to make our LAX-PPT flight. Unfortunately we could not find an saver award flights from OKC-DFW, so we will rent a car and drive the 3 hour drive from OKC to DFW. A one way rental will be about $200, but that’s not bad in the big scheme of things, but when we are flying the rest of the way for only $5.60 plus 40k AA miles per person, its now like paying $55 a person.
For the way back we are booked an Air France from PPT-LAX. (Air France continues from LAX-CDG, but we aren’t making that flight…) AF is a member of the Flying Blue mileage currency so you can look there for award travel. You have to login, but their website is pretty easy to use. I usually search for 1 ticket and then for 4 ticket to compare the difference in availability. For the dates we wanted, I was able to find 3 tickets at 70k miles each, but the 4th ticket at 90,500 miles in business class from PPT to LAX (Plus $150 in taxes and fees).
I called Flying Blue and was able to put these tickets on hold as 2 separate reservations for 72 hours. I then slept on it and transferred 320k AMEX points to my flying blue account. This was an instant transfer. I then called Flying Blue a day later and almost had a heart attack. I had the confirmation number, but they couldn’t find it. After about 20 minutes though, they found it and it was booked! I have flown on an AF 777 in Business class a few times from CDG-ATL before. Its just OK as its in a 2-3-2 configuration. I went online to pick my seats for LAX-PPT and saw this is a new configured 1-2-1 plan and pretty happy about that.
While I was booking the flight, I was also looking at hotel availability. I was able to find 2 nights during our stay at the Hilton Moorea for 80k points a night.(or $672 for a standard room)
I can’t find any other point hotel openings at any of the other hotels like St. Regis, Le Meridian, IHG, Conrad, etc. So I also booked 4 nights at the Hilton in an overwater bungalow using my Citi Pretige card where you get the 4th night free. This is kind of my backup plan if we cant find hotels with point openings. Its fully canceable until a week beforehand.
Hopefully some point openings will come up between now and next year. Especially since it seems like Marriott brands in Bora Bora are not releasing some point openings at their higher end hotels. Although word has it that between Dec 11th and Dec 31st, they will be open (if available) during an IT conversion. Then we also plan on staying a few nights in Tahiti at the Le Meridian which does actually have point availability at 35k points (or about $370) per night.
So basically we are using miles to get there, but none of this is searchable using a United, Delta, or AA website.