Thursday, 24 September 2015

HOLIDAY 2015, MALDIVES AND DUBAI, BOOKING THE FLIGHTS/ HOTELS

Everthing you see here is the Conrad Hotel ! (The seaplane platform is inbetween the islands)

When booking a reward holiday, I traditionally prioritise the flights, and then look about the accomodation, on the basis that the flights are the hardest thing to secure, and ultimately, you can always find somewhere to stay.

Picture is the beach villa that is available for 95K points per night

This time however was a bit different. The Conrad Maldives has quite a limited number of villas, and is in high demand for redemption stays. So I'd need to have the right amount of Hilton points in my account, and the correct amount of AA miles, so as I could book one and then the other pretty much at the same time.

Regardless, it is best to book as early as possible, as you have the best chance of getting the redemptions that you want, both with the flights and the hotel. I was looking to fly sometime in October, and so I had all my points collected by the previous Christmas.

GATHERING UP THE HILTON POINTS.

As laid out in my previous post, I had enough AA miles. My problem was I didn't have the required Hilton points (475K for 6 nights).  But myself and my partner had some Virgin miles, and we also each had a substantial amount of Tesco club card vouchers. As mentioned previously, Tesco Club Card vouchers can be converted to Virgin miles, which in turn can be converted to Hilton points. £2.50 of Club card points ends up getting you 975 Hilton point.

A small problem with my strategy, was that Virgin will only convert their miles into Hilton points into an account in the same name. So I was going to end up with the correct number of Hilton points, but spread over two Hilton accounts. Hilton has no family account facility, or indeed any way of doing a redemption using multiple accounts. Also, to avail of the Hilton ongoing offer of getting 5 redemption nights for the cost of 4, I'd need all the points sitting in one account.  My Hilton account is at Gold status. My partner does not have any status. Gold status gets you free breakfast at the Conrad, so I'd need to get all the points into MY Hilton account. Hilton does have a facility to transfer points from one account to another, for a fee.

So, for both my and my partners Tesco account, I converted the Tesco clubcard points I needed, over to the corresponding Virgin account. This is an online process, and it took a few days for the points to arrive in the Virgin accounts.

The Virgin-to-Hilton process requires you to phone Virgin Atlantic. But it's pretty straigthforward, you basically confirm your identity, and tell them your Hilton account number and how many Virgin miles you want to transfer( in blocks of 10,000 miles). My partner, then had to repeat the above, sending her Virgin miles to her Hilton account. They advise that it'll take up to 30 days, but in both cases the points hit the Hilton account in about a week

I then went thru the online process of transferring my partners Hilton points to my account. I needed to transfer 120,000 Hilton points, and the cost for that was $300 (about £200 at the time).

So finally, I had the necessary Hilton points in my account.

DOING THE BOOKING

I knew that we wanted to do this journey sometimes towards the end of Oct. But in the redemption world, you learn that you need some flexibility, as the seats might not be available for the dates you'd like. I needed 6 nights in the Maldives and 5 nights in Dubai. So the process involved looking at which rewards seats were available (the Etihad site is good for this), and when I found an itinerary that included 6 nights in the Maldives, I checked the Hilton site to see if those nights were available on redemption at the Conrad.

When I found a sequence of dates that worked, I went ahead and booked the Conrad online, safe in the knowledge that I could cancel at no charge and get the points back, if something happened when trying to book the flights.

To use AA miles to book Etihad seats, you have to phone AA, the functionality does not exist on their website. So armed with my dates, I made the call. After a 20 min hold, the agent told me it wasn't possible to do what I wanted.  I hung up and called back, and the next agent was more clued up, and went ahead with the booking. When doing a complicated booking like this, it is imperative you have all the data at hand. So know the flight numbers, know the connection you want, know the arrival and departure times. That way, you can point the customer rep to the correct flights that you know have seats available. The agent gave me the AA booking reference number, and also the Etihad one, which would be useful later on.

The great news when booking with AA, is that they have very low charges for taxes and fees. For the two of us, DUB-MLE (via AUH), MLE-AUH, AUH-DUB, in business class, the total cash worked out at £92, including the telephone booking fee of £10. Even allowing for the £200 fee for doing the Hilton transfer, I had all the flights and the 6 nights in the Conrad, for less than £300 cash outlay.

I think this post is long enough, so check my next blog posting for how things got finalised, and a summary of the costs.

4 comments:

  1. Hey Tangey, how do we contact you, want to send you my Conrad Rangali review I mentioned on HFP website.

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  2. You can email me on blog@mccomp.plus.com

    ReplyDelete