Wednesday, February 24, 2016

How We Hacked This Trip to Bora Bora, Moorea and Tahiti

Our trip to Bora Bora, Moorea and Tahiti

Just like everyone else in the world, we have dreamed of seeing the aqua waters of Bora Bora. My ultimate goal when I began "travel hacking" was to get to Bora Bora. 3 years almost to the date and we made it happen!

I used the IHG Rewards MasterCard by Chase to get the bonus points upon sign up. I put every bill we had on this card. Insurance, utilities, gas, food ect. 3 years worth of living expenses got us enough points to make the trip of our life happen! 
I was also able to add on an extra night from the recent Priceless Surprises Promotion where I received an additional 51,000+ points. 

 The Breakdown:
The 1st night we stayed at the Intercontinental Le Moana in Bora Bora using my Chase Free Anniversary night certificate that you get on each year of the year anniversary of opening your credit card. The overwater bungalow was listed for $1039 a night for our dates.

Nights 2, 3 and 4 were 50,000 points each at Intercontinental Thalasso.
 *Note, IHG has just changed their point levels, future reservations will be 60,000 points here, still completely worth it. The sapphire overwater bungalow on our dates, was listed at $1251 a night. 

Night 5 was at the Hilton Moorea using 133,900 points. The Deluxe Garden Bungalow was listed for $547. 

Night 6 was at the Intercontinental Moorea using 40,000 points. The premium Lanai room was listed for $320. 

Night 7 was at the Intercontinental Tahiti using 40,000 points + $180 to upgrade to the brand new Motu Overwater Bungalow. We saved $725 (minus $180.)

I also purchased an Ambassador membership from IHG for $200. That got is a lot of great perks such as upgrade rooms, fruit plates, drinks and gifts. We received a value much over the cost of the membership! 

You can hack the majority of this trip with points and miles. But the flights from Tahiti to the other islands are on an airline called Air Tahiti (different airline than the larger Air Tahiti Nui.) There is no loyalty program with them and no way to use miles to redeem for free flights. The only way around this is if you have a credit card, such as the Barclays Arrival card where you purchase the travel, then use the $400 sign up bonus to credit back the flight cost. 
We used our $400 to go to Jamaica for a surprise anniversary trip, so we had to pay for these flights at full price. We paid $435 each including taxes for our flights from Papeete, Tahiti to Bora Bora, and from Bora Bora to Moorea. (We took the ferry from Moorea back to Papeete.)

The flights from the US to Tahiti:
Air Tahiti Nui flies out of LAX with a nonstop flight to Tahiti bit is about an 8 hour flight. They partner with American Airlines as a code share, which means you can book this flight for free (just paying taxes) with American Airlines miles! 
Air France also flies from LAX to Tahiti, but they have a limited schedule that did not fit our timetable for this trip. Sadly, because I would have preferred to have their miles versus Air Tahiti Nui Club Tiare miles or American Airlines miles. 
Hawaiian Airlines also flies from Hawaii to Tahiti. You can use their miles for a free rewards flight as well. This would be a great option to break up the length of the flights with a really awesome layover, possibly even adding extra nights in Hawaii. (Shout out to Gina and Tonya who just did this!) I believe Air Alaska is also a partner so if you have miles with them you can book the free reward flight through them. 

We weighed our options and decided to purchase our airfare from LAX to Tahiti. We found a really great sale from Air Tahiti Nui. For what our miles are worth, it made more sense for us to by the tickets, as the worth of the amount of miles we would have to redeem for this trip was alot more than what we paid. We are saving our miles for another trip back to Europe with the whole family. Our fare was $998 per person. 
I recommend signing up for the above airline's email newsletters. That is how I found out about the great sale. We bought the tickets for $600 less per ticket than the original price we saw when we started planning this trip! 

Side note, we met several couples who flew Air Tahiti Nui to Auckland, New Zealand with a layover both ways in Tahiti. You can pick how many nights your layover is and plan a French Polynesia trip with the New Zealand trip to save money. I saw airfares from $888 roundtrip from Los Angeles to Auckland! I also hears there are packages that include free hotel in Tahiti for your layover! It is about another 5 hours to get to New Zealand from Tahiti. 

So this brings us to a grand total of over $6200 in free hotel! And not just run of the mill hotel rooms. Some of the most luxurious rooms with the best views in the world!

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