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Last week, shortly after Marriott released details showing us what category each of it hotels will be in from August onwards, there was a small melt-down in the miles and points world.
From August through the end of the year travelers will be able to make reservations at the most aspirational hotels in the combined Marriott/SPG portfolio for just 60,000 Marriott Points (20,000 Starpoints) per night…and that’s cheap.
A lot of people are already concerned that when the new award charts come in to force free-night availability won’t be very good and they won’t be able to book the dates that they want…but that’s not all they should be worried about.
In all the excitement surrounding the possibility of visiting some amazing places “for free” some people seem to be forgetting a couple of things:
- Some of the properties being discussed (St Regis Bora Bora, St Regis Maldives etc…) aren’t exactly on most people’s doorstep so there will be travel expenses to consider.
- The aspirational resorts being discussed are true 5* luxury properties and, as such, on-property dining and activities come with 5* pricing – that’s not going to be cheap.
Sure, if you’re US-based and you’d like to visit the Las Alcobas property in Napa (which looks beautiful by the way) you should be able to keep control of your costs….but that’s going to be a lot harder to do if you’re planning on visiting Bora Bora or the Maldives.
I’m not even going to mention the cost of getting to Tahiti (the jumping off point for Bora Bora) or Male (the jumping off point for all the Maldivian atolls) so I’m just going to briefly look at the other costs some may not have thought of.
The Cost Of Travel You May Not Have Considered
If you’re planning a trip to Bora Bora you’ll first have to fly into Tahiti and, from there, take a short flight with Air Tahiti to Bora Bora itself.
That short intra-island flight will cost around $400 per person for a round trip and there’s no opportunity to use miles or points.
If you’re heading to the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli it’s even more expensive – a roundtrip seaplane ride from Male (the Maldivian international airport) to the St Regis costs $665 per person.
That’s an added $800 – $1,330 roundtrip per couple just to get from the main international airport in Tahiti/the Maldives to your final destination.
The Cost Of Dining At The Resorts
Because of their remote locations travelers to resorts in Bora Bora and the Maldives are essentially “captives” throughout their stay. Outside of the resorts themselves there are few other dining options (often no other options) so it’s a “take it or leave it” situation when it comes to the cost of food….and these resorts aren’t cheap.
Dinner at resorts like the St Regis Bora Bora can easily run to $150 per person and, if you don’t have status, breakfast can easily cost over $40 per person too.
In total that’s $380 per couple per day just for breakfast and dinner….and you still have to account for lunch, snacks and incidental drinks by the pool.
It can be frighteningly easy for a couple to run up a $450-$500/day food & beverage bill.
Assuming a 5-night stay (which is what I suspect a lot of people will go for because of the 4 nights for the cost of 5 option) you’re looking at a possible $2,250 – $2,500 bill for food and drinks.
The Cost Of Activities At The Resorts
OK, admittedly no one is going to force you to take part in any activities if you don’t want to but, with little else to do at some of these resorts, I don’t imagine too many people will want to sit by the pool for 5 days – some sort of activity or spa treatment will probably be taken in.
Once again, these aren’t cheap.
Take scuba diving for example – while a 2-tank dive on Maui can cost under $100, in the Maldives it can easily set you back over $300 (I’ve checked it out).
How about a spa treatment?
The last time I checked, a massage at the Iridium Spa at the St. Regis Maldives started at $175…and that’s before a gratuity has been added.
Even if a couple only visits the spa once or do one activity (each) throughout their stay it can still easily set them back another $400 – $500.
When you start to add up all the costs that could go hand in hand with the “free” hotel bookings they start to look a little scary.
Even without considering the cost of actually getting to the Maldives or to Bora Bora couples could easily pay over $4,000 just for regional transport, dining and an activity each….and that’s a lot for a “free” vacation.
On paper it’s a great idea to book some of these wonderful and exotic properties while they’re bookable for just 60,000 points but, in reality, it can work out to be one seriously expensive vacation.
If you’re in the fortunate position where $4,000 for a 5-night vacation (not including international flights) isn’t a big deal for you then that’s great but I don’t think that describes most of us.
My advice: When planning what properties to book don’t forget to think through what you’re actually getting yourself into and what costs you’re committing yourself to. Don’t underestimate the final and very real hit to your wallet or you could be in for an unpleasant surprise.