Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

One man’s tale of a week on points at a luxury resort whilst spending no money

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My article on the new Waldorf Astoria Maldives yesterday sparked a lot of reader interest.

One issue, of course, is that even if you can get a $2,000 + tax per night Beach Villa With Pool for free using your Hilton Honors points, you’re still on the hook for your flights, meals and, it turns out, the $370 + taxes return boat transfer from Male.

Most of our readers would be happy with that.  The focus of HFP is on maximising your travel experience for a moderate cost, not trying to get a low level travel experience for zero cost.  Of course, there is always one ….

My friend Nick reminded me of a classic article which I published way back in 2012.  If you ever find yourself thinking like this person, take a step back …..

Perhaps you’ve been in this situation.  You have enough points to stay in a luxury hotel, but you are worried about the cost of food, drink and other extras once you are there.  One FlyerTalker had it all worked out ….

InterContinental Bora Bora

After she [my wife] saw the video of the room, she was happy to stay in the Coral suite [of the InterContinental Thalasso Bora Bora, clearly not a cheap place].  The main reason she would have liked to stay in the Coral is because of the kitchen.  When we first planned this trip, we had to figure out a way to make it affordable.  The best way to do this was to stay in the coral suite for the kitchen.

I contacted the hotel and asked if those rooms had a kitchen.  I was told yes but they didn’t have any utensils in the kitchen.  I asked for specifics and they said they don’t carry anything in the kitchen.  So we decided to pay for the extra luggage on the Tahiti domestic flight.  The $100 we spent on extra luggage for one of our fares went from 44 lbs. to 110 lbs.

As time got closer, I decided that I wasn’t ok with staying in the Coral suite.  I wanted to stay in the OWB [over-water bungalow] [with no kitchen].  So here is what we did. 

InterContinental Bora Bora

We purchased an electric burner from Best Buy.  We brought:

  • the burner
  • pans
  • cups
  • silverware
  • drink packets
  • a voltage converter, and
  • 50 lbs of food

We purchased:

  • box meals
  • chips
  • canned chicken/ham
  • peanut butter
  • jelly
  • tortillas
  • English muffins
  • mac/cheese
  • rice packets
  • turkey sausage links
  • soup
  • hot sauce
  • vegetarian food
  • protein powder

and other various items to be able to eat on the cheap while we there. 

We ended up eating in for every meal except three while being there a week.  (Honey is not allowed)  We did purchase limes, cheese and loafs of bread from Tiare Market.  We spent less than $150 on food while we were there.  That includes the market and the few times we ate out.

I do have pictures of the outside of the Coral Suites but not the inside.  I also have a picture of all the food we were able to bring with us.  Feel free to PM me and I will send them to you.

InterContinental Bora Bora

Mind is well and truly boggled.

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Comments (148)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Claire says:

    Wait, what… the room has a kitchen but nothing in it? Like empty cabinets and stuff? Surely the IC doesn’t expect people to come with suitcases loaded with pans and knives and stuff?! What’s the point in having a kitchen if they’re not going to put the most basic selection of stuff in it?

    • Crafty says:

      Yes I thought that weird. We had a recent disagreement with a boutique hotel in Danang that provided a kitchenette but nothing to use in it. Can scarcely believe an IC would propose the same.

  • meta says:

    Not sure if this is the case of IC Bora Bora, but most hotels have policies against this. They were actually lucky they didn’t throw them out.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      policy against bringing your own F&B to a suite with a kitchenette?

      • meta says:

        But he didn’t stay in a Coral suite with kitchenette. If you read it closely, he actually suggested that he stayed in a a overwater bungalow without a kitchen and brought a whole loads of kitchen equipment including an electric stove! I am almost certain this is against policy. I’ve seen hotel regulations in some villas in resorts which clearly state that you cannot use your own cooking equipment. This not to say you can’t bring food from elsewhere, but it must not be prepared in the room. Also imagine another guest coming in after and it the room/villa clearly smells of cooking…And let’s not forget these villas are mostly very close by and this might also affect other guests experience!

      • Rob says:

        The kitchenette is there for when you ask the hotel chef to come to your villa and cook for you. That’s why there is no cutlery etc.

        It isn’t there for you to use.

        • Alan says:

          Haha love it – that does make (weirdly! more sense.

          Thankfully the one-bed suite I was upgraded to at the Hilton Lake Taupo had a fully equipped kitchen, so nipped out to Countdown to get a nice steak for dinner 🙂

  • Steve says:

    Going on holiday but behaving as if still at home. All rather sad.

  • Tom Cook says:

    A few of us went to Thailand and met a mate who was on a mid-career year out. He didn’t have much money, on a budget, obviously, and so ate shop bought noodles and drank water when we went out for dinner etc.

    We would subsidise his beer and he stayed in the air B&B’s that we booked as we had plenty of room. He didn’t want to be paid for and took the view that a £ saved was a £ to spend tomorrow which meant a day longer away from work! He even had a spreadsheet detailing how much money he spent (or didn’t spend) as he travelled. The night before we landed in Bangkok to meet him he even slept in the airport! I mean, we’re all from Yorkshire and so obviously tight but even that seemed to be pushing it a tad far!

    • paul says:

      but surely the point is that as long as YOU are achieving what YOU want and not impacting upon anyone else, what is the problem. Yes i wouldn’t go to the extremes of this person of bringing a case of food because i like to go out and experience the local culture/food etc and i enjoy my food. for others, they just see food as fuel. i personally can’t see why people eat meals in hotels as i would rather eat out anyway, but then that’s my preference…

    • Tom Cook says:

      He also travelled by bus from Bangkok to Koh Samui to meet us over in Koh Phangnan rather the fly…not our idea of fun but he saved more cash doing that rather than flying!

      • paul says:

        and also saw more of thailand on the bus then you do from a plane…i like to get the train between places where possible and not excessively far as you see more of the country you are in

        • Tom Cook says:

          He did, but he had a year round the world, we had two weeks away from work and had seen Thailand before. We thought nothing of how he was doing it, in fact we were impressed at how he was managing his cash!

    • Rob says:

      That’s not the same as shipping the contents of an entire kitchen to a 5-star resort ….

      • Tom Cook says:

        True, each to their own I guess!

        • Leo says:

          Difference is your mate was “travelling” and you were on your “hols”. Both entirely appropriate just different experiences.

  • Mr Dee says:

    If you are on a budget points or cash then rather than going for the most expensive option ie Bora Bora a better solution would be to go somewhere cheaper and for longer unless of course its a one off destination. Would like to visit Bora Bora but I would save some money for food.

    • RR says:

      Totally agree, that would spoil the experience for me, especially with all amazing food available out there

      • Mr Dee says:

        I found Greece islands to be very good value for money especially eating out

    • marcw says:

      Completely agree… but you know, nowadays with instagram and selfies,,, there’s a “status” associated with taking pics in “expensive” places.

      French Polynesia might be the best place,,, but it’s not the ideal place.

      I’d love to go to FP… but when I’m richer (eventually). In the meantime, SE Asia fulfils my priorities.

      • Mr Dee says:

        Yes or some greek islands

      • DeusXM says:

        Bora Bora is cracking for the ‘wow, look where I am factor’ but I’d only do it as a once in a lifetime trip or as a rapid weight loss programme as affordable food (even by wealthy HFP standards) simply doesn’t exist.

        What most people don’t realise is the majority of hotels are effectively pretty prisons – they’re all on their own motu and there is no way of leaving except by getting a boat. And most hotels charge you an arm and a leg for the boat – I think it was about £50pp when I was there.

        The supermarkets are only in the main bit in Vaitape (so you need to get the boar) and because it’s FP and everything has to be imported, all the stock is 5 times the price you’d expect in Europe. So if you had the bright idea of getting food there and avoiding the hotel restaurant to save money, you’re SOL. Also, don’t expect great food in hotels either. It’s ‘alright’ but there’s no incentive for them to really blow you away because you have to eat there.

        Don’t get me wrong, Bora Bora is beautiful, it’s lovely to swim in the sea, it’s amazing to go somewhere that’s such a tiny dot on the map but it’s poor value for money.

        On the flipside, the Brut d’Ananas pineapple champagne that’s made in Moorea nearby is very affordable there and utterly delicious. The wife and I import a few bottles every year for our anniversary to remind us of our honeymoon. Probably won’t impress the palate of fine wine aficionados but we like it!

  • Alex Sm says:

    My partner and I did the same for Switzerland last year. Stocked on instant noodles, dried fruit, biscuits etc. But still ended up eating ridiculously priced lunches at CHF90 or so (for two) from time to time. Even a simple meal at McDo was about CHF 15pp!

    • Genghis says:

      It’s hard to have a reasonable meal when I’m in Zurich working for less than CHF100. My boss still encourages me to get a take away chicken from the Co op and sit by the lake but it’s a tad cold this time of year…

    • trickster says:

      We did the same in Iceland, to a degree. Took some instant meals with us (as a family of 3, with a 6 year old), but thankfully had access to the Hilton Lounge in Reykjavik, which had a generous food spread.

      • Michael Jennings says:

        Having a kitchen and a nearby supermarket near where you are staying is great, generally. I will always try the local food when I visit somewhere, but sometimes you just want to eat in and have something relatively simple. (Also, sometimes you find ingredients in foreign food markets that are better or at least different from what you are used to at home, and it’s interesting to try to cook them). And if you are somewhere expensive, it does save money. I’m off to Norway in a couple of months, and I’ve booked an apartment rather than a hotel partly for this reason.

        • Jamie says:

          Depending which part of Norway you are going to, you might still find the supermarkets expensive…I bulky at the price of a single apple in the supermarket when I visited Bergen (Being a vegetarian I was limited for options…)

        • Jamie says:


        • Michael Jennings says:

          Buying expensive in the supermarket in Norway is expensive compared to buying food in the supermarket here, but still cheap compared to eating out in Norway. So it’s nice to have the option.

          I’m going to Alesund this time. I’ve been to a few other parts of the country, too. It’s beautiful and I love the place, but it is expensive.

        • Nick_C says:

          Cheapest way to see Norway is on a cruise.

        • Alan says:

          I must admit I quite enjoy visiting a supermarket when on holiday abroad – quite fun seeing what local items and brands they have!

  • Lottie says:

    Whilst I wouldn’t got as far as taking my own cooker I can understand the thoughts behind this. I could do a luxury family trip with everything included but it would be all I did all year. By using points/avios for business flights and decent hotels and eating from supermarkets/street food etc I can go on at least 3 holidays for the same cost. 1 drink in a good hotel is £5 and you could get 5-10 drinks for that from the local shop. So for me its a choice of one luxury holiday or 3 being careful. We have a six year old who has been to Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Singapore & Borneo and this year Peru & Chile. Some friends wonder where we get are money from as they equate our trips to their £££ spent on an all inclusive week in Dubai which costs more than several of our holidays put together. But I admit its not for everyone, if you are a big foodie then its not going to be your sort of holiday.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      but surely being a foodie is going to the local street food markets etc.

      I enjoy a meal out as much as anyone else but good breakfast/brunch then street food the rest of the day is perfect.

      • Michael Jennings says:

        I think being a foodie is to love good food from all sources. That includes fancy restaurants, and it includes street markets, and it includes cooking for yourself using interesting ingredients, honestly. You mix it up.

  • Scallder says:

    Fair play to them – they got to experience somewhere they might have otherwise never gone, and they did their trip in a way they were happy to. To some extent, it’s not that dissimilar to staying in say the St Regis in New York (or any other upscale hotel) on points and popping round the corner to get a bagel and juice for breakfast as opposed to being charged a ridiculous amount for something that you can sort out yourself.

    Interesting to see talk above about wealth etc. Who’s to say that this couple aren’t some of the wealthiest people around – not necessarily in money terms but not all people determine their wealth by the amount of money in their bank account(s). Personally my wife and I have good jobs, and my one is 9-5, as I determine wealth as maximising time and life outside of the office year-round, even more so since the arrival of our little one in 2017.

    • Rachel says:

      Do you really think bringing a portable cooker with you is in any way similar to buying your breakfast from a shop/café?

      • Alex W says:

        Both approaches save £hundreds if not £thousands on food bills.

        • Rachel says:

          And one involves packing another suitcase, bringing a pot/pan, dishes and all manner of cleaning up.
          I’ve done food on the cheap, and relatively recently at that. Porridge pots that only need hot water served as my breakfast, I’ve brought or bought snacks. I’ve had no problems going to the supermarket to get bread, bagels, spreads, etc. Even for my next holiday, I’ve made note of the Lidl that’s walking distance from where I’m staying. But there’s a whole world of difference between that and bringing your own cooking apparatus.

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