To splurge or not to splurge? That is the question, isn’t it? At least for those of us who are not swimming in cash, miles or points. I wish there was a formula that broke it down to a science: Multiply a hotel stay by how special is the occasion, deduct few points depending on how hard it will be to earn this specific currency in the future and voila, you get Yes or No answer.
But there isn’t such a formula, so you often have to go with your gut. While I’m all for squeezing as much value our of your points as possible, sometimes you have to throw caution to the wind and get what you actually want regardless of cost. Well, within reason, of course. But it’s not easy for someone like me who prides herself on efficiency and optimization.
As most of you know, next summer we are planning on doing a whirlwind tour of French Polynesia, New Zealand and Australia. And I do mean whirlwind because we will only spend a few nights at each destination. This type of travel is not for everyone, but my position has always been “I’d rather see a country for few days than not at all.”
Naturally, if I’m only going to stay for several nights at a place to which I’m unlikely to return to in the future, I want to get the best hotel I can afford. While I would never drop my meager savings on the cash rate at most first-class properties, points and certificates often put them within reach. But of course, there is always that darn opportunity cost. Let me share with you my latest dilemmas.
1) Moorea, French Polynesia
Last week I’ve published a post where I shared all the details of my redemptions in French Polynesia. Some were truly no-brainers, like redeeming 60k IHG points on an overwater bungalow in Thalasso. That’s not really a splurge but rather a bargain of a century. Ditto to using my annual renewal certificate from Chase IHG card on Intercontinental property in Tahiti. Paying $49 for a $350 room is a no-brainer indeed.
Choosing where to stay in Moorea, on the other hand, was much harder. I kept going back and forth between INTERCONTINENTAL RESORT AND SPA MOOREA (36k IHG points after 10% rebate) and HILTON MOOREA LAGOON RESORT AND SPA (80k Hilton points). Both looked very nice and I have no doubt that I would be happy at either one.
I could probably use my 80k Hilton points on two nights at a family-friendly resort in Orlando, like Hilton Bonnet Creek. On the other hand, we will only be in Moorea for one night, and Hilton has better reviews. I watched videos on YouTube and it just looked more appealing for an anniversary getaway. The stay will include free breakfast due to my Gold Hilton status, but it will not make up for the difference in price between IHG and Hilton properties.
If we had kids with us, I would probably pick Intercontinental and arrange a cash upgrade to a room that fits four. But for one night with just my husband Hilton seemed like a better fit. Yes, it’s quite expensive via points. The cash rate for a garden bungalow is around $400. So you get 0.5 cents per point, not a mind-blowing redemption. Heck, I just burned 20k Hilton points on a five night-stay in Krakow for my mom!
But I’m not going to Krakow. I’m going to French Polynesia, and that is the hotel I really like. So long, my sweet 80k Hilton points… But I didn’t stop there. I reached out to manager and asked about arranging a paid upgrade to a lagoon or overwater bungalow. While staying in a garden hut is nice, being by the water is even nicer. After all, this is a special trip that may never be repeated. Here is the response:
100 XPF=1 USD
On to another dilemma: to pay for lagoon or overwater bungalow? The difference is $170, which would probably cover dinner, taxi and ferry transfer to Papeete. Since we will be spending two previous nights in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora, I decided that upgrading to lagoon bungalow would suffice. Interestingly, Hilton program wanted 222k points per night for this unit (142k points difference), so paying $120 is a much better deal. Here is the description and photo taken from Hilton.com:
As far as I’m concerned, it is an overwater bungalow. The unit I’m pointing the arrow to is obviously the best option, and I plan to request it via email later on (though it won’t be guaranteed). Sure, I would love a real overwater bungalow, but I just can’t stomach paying an extra $170. If this was my only chance to ever experience it, then I would cough up the cash, for sure. But as it stands, overwater bungalow in Bora Bora will have to suffice. If you stayed at Hilton in Moorea, let me know if I’m making a mistake.
2) Auckland, New Zealand
I was debating between two options: Hilton Auckland (49k Hilton points per night on our dates) and Ramada Suites Auckland (15k Wyndham points per night). The former is a really cool-looking property, situated by the harbor and therefore, commands a premium price due to its location. Ramada costs $130 all-in per night and Hilton runs at $250, almost double that amount. Due to Hilton Gold status, I would get free breakfast and a possible upgrade to a harbor view.
I was seriously thinking about going with Ramada and you will laugh when I tell you why. The studio has a washer and a dryer. I just love the convenience factor. But is it really a good enough reason to stay there? Nope. We will be in Auckland for only two nights and I would like to have a view of the water from my room.
From what I’ve read, almost all Golds get this type of an upgrade, but we’ll see. So Hilton it is… again. I hope to use my free weekend certificate from my husband’s Amex Surpass for one night (offer expires tomorrow), but I’m not counting on it. I just like this property, even though it will cost me almost 100k points, aka an arm and a leg.
3) Sydney, Australia
We are planning to stay in Park Hyatt Sydney, of course. I actually specifically applied for Hyatt card back when it came with two free nights, just so we could check out this property. The location is amazing, the hotel costs 30k Hyatt points per night or $1,000 via cash rate. What’s not to love, right?
At first, this option did seem like a no-brainer. But then I’ve discovered that standard room doesn’t have the view of the Opera House. We may get upgraded due to Discoverist status that comes with Hyatt credit card, but we may not. Also, there is no free breakfast for lowly elites like us. Will the juice be worth the squeeze without the view? After all, at the end of the day, it’s just another hotel.
I was also thinking we could instead use the certificates at all-inclusive Miraval Arizona property or Hyatt Ziva in Cancun. The latter is amazing, according to my reader Cheapblackdad. That said, how often will we be in Sydney? Maybe never again. Not to mention, we are not foodies, and any all-inclusive will satisfy our need. We enjoyed Holiday Inn Resort in Jamaica just fine. We are the type of folks who think cruise food is amazing.
I’m sticking with Park Hyatt Sydney. If we don’t get upgraded, we will simply go to the rooftop for 20 minutes, so we can enjoy the view from there. Yes, I’m bringing my own boxed wine and beef jerky with me.
Am I turning into a luxury travel mommy blogger?
No way, Jose! Not that there is anything wrong with being a luxury travel mommy blogger (LTMB for short :)). But we could never afford to travel in this manner on a regular basis. If I don’t stop myself, the banks certainly will. For one, Amex has a “one bonus per lifetime” restriction on its Hilton cards. But hey, if I’m going to blow the points, what better place than Tahiti, right?
This over-the-top luxury is only possible due to my miles and points obsession. Majority of my stays between now and next summer involve Club Carlson properties and motels on the beach. In fact, I suspect that’s how we will be traveling for the next few years. This upcoming trip is most definitely a splurge, and it’s OK to splurge now and again.
Yes, it hurts to part with so many hotel points at once. But we can always pay cash during off-season for a stay in a family-friendly resort in Florida. Yet we will only have one night in Moorea, and two nights each in Auckland and Sydney. Plus, like I said, it’s our big wedding anniversary. The fact that my husband and I haven’t yet killed each other is most certainly worth celebrating.
Readers, please share your own miles and points splurges with me!
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.