The Magnificent Maldives- Reserving a Room (For Free!)

Hello Dear Readers!

I’ve made so much fuss over the last year about the Maldives, and previously when I wrote about going, I detailed how I would spend points for nights at the Park Hyatt Maldives. Well, like I told you before, I ended up trading in those nights for a 4 day stay at the Conrad, simply because it was easier (and I wanted to go to their underwater restaurant.)

So how did I do it?

Well, the Conrad Maldives is the absolute highest category hotel that they’ve got, clocking in at an astonishing 95,000 points/ night. For reference, their cheapest hotels (Category 1) go for a mere 10,000 points/ night.

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I spent all year saving up for this, using sign up bonuses from the Hilton Honors Ascend card (which offers 100k points after 3k spend in 6 months) and the now defunct Citi Hilton Reserve card, which offered two free weekend nights at any hotel after 3k spend in the first three months.

I also saved up all the points I’d ever earned from doing my Diamond status challenge and made sure most of my stays during the last year were at Hiltons. This wasn’t just to earn points (though the earning ratio is vastly improved when you have status), but also because being a Diamond member means I get better perks here than at any other chain.

If you’re looking to acquire Hilton points, you can get the card I mentioned above as well as the Hilton Honors Aspire card, which earns you 100k points after 4k in spend in the first three months. (It also gives you Diamond status simply by owning it). There’s also the no annual fee Hilton Honors card, which gives you 50k bonus points after 1k in spend in the first three months.

Obtaining these three cards will net you a minimum of 250,000 points before spend (which will easily drive it up another 10-15k)- nearly enough for three nights at the Conrad Maldives. If you can get yourself up to 380,000 points (very doable in a year, as the Hilton cards earn rewards very quickly), you’ll have enough points for 4 nights. The Hilton Honors program gives the 5th night free on all hotel stays, so you’ll be able to stay for 5 nights for the cost of 4!

So, yes, it’s expensive. But you’re also redeeming your points at a hotel that regularly goes for over $2,000 a night, so you’re making it well worth your while.

The reward room you get is the beach villa, which is nice enough on its own. But a mere month before my arrival, Hilton accidentally made overwater villas (normally a $150-$300/ night upgrade) available for redemption for only 95,000 points a night- the same rate as a beach villa!

Unfortunately, I was past my cancellation window, so thought I had lost the opportunity to snag this. However, I still gave the Diamond desk a call and to my extreme surprise, they pulled some strings, replacing my 4 night stay in a beach villa with 4 nights in an overwater villa at no extra cost! I was more than a little pleased, and have continuously gloated since.

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For us!

Anyway, if you’re looking to stay, those three cards are the easiest way to earn large quantities of points, and once you’ve accumulated enough, it’s worth your while to aim for 4 nights and get 5. If you’re averse to too many cards, American Express transfers points to Hilton at a 2:1 ratio, so you’ll need a mere 190,000 American Express points for your 5 nights at the Maldives.

Up next, more fun and less points. See you soon!

– Carissa “Smug AF” Rawson

The Magnificent Maldives- Diamond Status Is Important!

Hello Dear Readers!

Are you guys as excited as I am for this series of posts on the Maldives? I had such an excellent time there, and really cannot think of a more excellent way to spend my 28th birthday.

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Mandatory paradise selfie

So aside from all the beautiful photos, there are actually quite a few things that went into coordinating my trip to the Maldives.

Our topic today is Hilton Diamond status, which I’ve written about before, but whose importance becomes significant when talking about the Conrad Maldives. You see, when you book a $2,000/night hotel, they sort of expect you to be able to afford it. Their bottom line doesn’t rest on travel hackers who use points to manipulate themselves into luxury. And why would it?

But here’s the thing. When your hotel comes in at 2k a night, it suddenly seems reasonable to start charging $50/person for breakfast. Or $500/person for dinner.

What I’m saying is, it’s not cheap.

And I’m only fake rich. I’m points rich. Which means that I absolutely cannot afford to eat my way through my annual budget.

This is where status comes in. You see, Diamond members receive all kinds of perks whenever they visit Hilton hotels. At the Conrad Maldives, there’s an entire list of benefits you get- check these out!

• Free breakfast for two at their restaurants Atoll and Vilu, daily

• Afternoon Tea at their Mandhoo Restaurant from 4-5pm, daily

• Happy hour at Vilu, from 5-6pm, daily

• Fruit basket with chocolate in your room at check-in (refilled daily)

• Free bottle of wine at check-in

• $25 spa discount card on arrival

These benefits are especially important when you consider the fact that I wasn’t kidding about those meal prices. The price to eat dinner at their underwater restaurant really is $500/person, though you can certainly eat cheaper at any of their other restaurants. Over the course of a four night stay, your meal bill can easily run into the thousands, and that doesn’t begin to cover alcohol. But, if you play your cards right, you can avoid most of the costs of staying at the hotel- eat breakfast late, snack on fruit for lunch, indulge in tea at 4, and run over to happy hour to have a few free drinks before dinner. With that, most of your day is covered. It turns an incredible indulgence of a vacation into something financially manageable.

So that’s what we did. Harrison and I enjoyed the hell out of their massive breakfast, which included a sushi station, an egg station, ice cream, crepes, pancakes, waffles, and even sparkling wine! In short, it’s amazing. You better believe I ate as much food as humanly possible.

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Round one of ten

Even better, our personal concierge, upon learning that it was my birthday, arranged to have a cake (complete with candles and matches) sent to our room. It was excellent!

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Feeling like a queen

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Anyway, long story short, the importance of Diamond status cannot be overstated, especially at these crazy expensive resorts, where you can save hundreds of dollars on your vacation simply by having status. Oh, and how did I get it? Check it out here, for a guide to matching your way to elite status.

See you all soon for more posts on the Maldives!

-Carissa

F is For Family

Hello Dear Readers!

I’ve been spending the last few weeks with my family, enjoying every moment. To that end, here are some classy family photos, which I know you guys are dying to see:

Disney love runs in the family

Celebrating Fourth of July like real Americans: with beer and fireworks!

Speeding down the river in Branson, Missouri, with my cousin and grandma.

And finally, last but definitely not least, my very own babies:

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I’ve missed them so much!

-Carissa “Ants in my Pants” Rawson

¡Hola Mexico! An All-Inclusive Experience: Part 2

Hello Dear Readers!

Today is the day for the rest of the photos. Are you guys ready?

Our incredible spa deserves its own little photo set:

These people were so good that we went back twice over our four day stay. You can see me in the photo above drinking hibiscus tea and trying to look inconspicuous.

These photos don’t do the food justice. Believe me when I say it was phenomenal. I mean, come on, filet mignon! 

We also took photos every night in this blue-lit pavilion, in which Chrissy looked like a regal goddess and I looked like I accidentally walked into the photo.

Overall, we had an amazing time, and let’s be real, we’re already planning to go back.

Until next time!

-Carissa “Less Guapa” Ragland

Being Balinese

Hello Dear Readers!

So, now you guys know all about my sad SCUBA failures. Seeing myself incapable of accomplishing my certificate, I suddenly had two free days in Bali.

What to do?

I ended up spending the time with Steve and Deja. Our first day, we went to Kuta Beach, which is Bali’s most famous beach. It’s beautiful, but the persistent hawkers are really aggressive and won’t leave you alone. It kind of ruins the experience.

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Ruined!

We ate lunch at Tony Roma’s. I know. But it was delicious!

It also happened to be David’s birthday, so Steve and Deja arranged for a cake for him and I booked us some reservations at a restaurant. I literally googled ‘best restaurants in Bali’ and this place came up. Called ‘Barbacoa,’ it took us an hour to get there…but the food was beyond incredible. We had fresh street tacos and Cuban sliders, followed by the world’s most amazing creme’ brûlée. Not to brag, but I picked basically the best place ever.

The next day, while David went off to finish his diving cert, Steve, Deja and I headed off on a tour of Balinese Temples.

I think this was actually my favorite day in Bali overall. It took the entire day, and we stopped in so many cool places.

The first temple, named Batukaru, was located deep in the mountains:

 

Then we stopped off at Bali’s largest rice paddies to get some incredible photos:

After this, our guide took us to the top of a mountain, where we could see Bali’s twin lakes, Tambinglan and Buyan:

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And listen you guys, I’m a total sucker for animal photos. While we were walking around taking pictures of the lakes, I saw a guy advertising photos with a bunch of different animals. I mean, I couldn’t say no to holding a bat! I even peer pressured Steve and Deja into doing it, which is how we got these photos:

I still crack up every time I look at them.

After hanging out with all those guys, we headed down to the lake temple, Pura Bedugul, which is apparently really famous and iconic, but I’m kind of clueless so I didn’t realize:

Also, here’s a photo of our guide accidentally taking a selfie while trying to photograph us:

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We ate lunch here, which like all the rest of the food in Bali, was delicious. We didn’t have a single bad meal while we were there.

Finally, for our last stop, we headed to the cliff temple, Pura Tanya Lot,  which is Bali’s most famous. The reason why is obvious:

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After all this, we headed back to our villa to meet David for dinner. Yes, it was great.

 
-Carissa “Cultural AF” Ragland