I recently booked my flights for my free honeymoon to the Maldives in business class for 120k miles round trip. I also included a couple destinations for the same price using United miles (Hanoi Vietnam, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and finally the Maldives). United is raising their award rates starting 2/1/14 as I wrote about it here so if you are interested in doing something like this, you don't have much time. After all the months of researching, I am excited to have finally booked this!
My Itinerary (the cash price is approximately $10,000 per person or 120k United miles)
1) JFK to Hanoi Vietnam (with a layover in Taipei (TPE)) on EVA Airways. I stop here for 2 weeks.
2) Singapore (SIN) to Male (MLE) on Singapore Airlines
3) Return flight is Male (MLE) to Newark Airport (EWR) stopping in Istanbul Turkey (IST) and Montreal, Canada (YUL)
4) Since I have 2 weeks after landing in Vietnam, I plan to take a cheap flight (under $100 per person) to Kuala Lumpur for about a week and then head to Singapore for a few days before catching the flight to Male.
All in business class for a total of 120k miles round trip plus $356 per person. This map shows the itinerary except the part from Vietnam to Kuala Lumpur then to Singapore is not part of the United Award booking and I will need to book this separately.
What I tried
I booked the Conrad Maldives before Hilton devalued their points and therefore have been trying to figure out all the different ways I can get there using miles. Since I booked it so far ahead of time I had to wait until United started selling tickets for the Thanksgiving time frame. There are 2 main ways to get there using StarAlliance 1) through Istanbul and 2) through Singapore. Booking through Singapore is a bit more expensive because Singapore Airlines charges some fuel surcharges (it was about $356 vs $150 going through Istanbul).
- The fastest and most convenient way I could find: NYC to Male stopping in Istanbul. But it seems very difficult to find availability with Star Alliance for a direct business award seat NYC to Istanbul. They are more available from IAD (Washington DC), Boston, Montreal, and Ottowa and I was considering that route in order to get a good lay flat business class seat.
- NYC to somewhere in Europe (Lisbon, Frankfurt, Munich, Dublin, Geneva, Milan) to Istanbul to Male. Some of these options were ok, but many of them do not offer full lie flat business class seats and then I don't see the point of spending all those points. I found a good option NYC – Milan – Istanbul – Male but it got sold before I could grab it. Eventually the flight I found from Istanbul to Male sold forcing me to consider another route.
- I tried to take thepointsguys's advice and fly NYC – TPE – SIN – MLE — essentially the route I eventually booked but I called United twice to do a test booking and they kept telling me that the routing is not allowed and that I could not combine Singapore Airlines with the others. On the third attempt I got a rep who said the system wouldnt allow it but he asked his supervisor and when he came back he said it was not a problem. I wasnt ready to book so I had to finalize the flights I wanted then call back and go through the same trouble.
Other links and useful posts:
Many sites have been writing about how to get to the Maldives – here are the ones I referenced to help me figure out the best way to get there: