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Booked: May 2022 Travel Restart

There are two ways to read the title of this article. Both allude to a reality that we’ve all anticipated for a long time: the time of “revenge travel” is finally here. 

I myself will be embarking on a season of vengeful journeys over the coming spring and summer months, looking to burn up some of the points that I’ve accumulated during the pandemic. 

While not all of my plans are finalized, I thought I’d share a high-level sketch of what I’ve got in store over the next few months, as the reviews will be coming your way thick and fast. 

The Hotels 

Rather than a defined single trip like the ones I usually take, the season of revenge travel inevitably blurs the lines between when one trip begins and the next one starts. 

Thus, instead of writing about independent trips with ill-defined boundaries, I’ll simply share with you some of the flights, hotels, and overall itineraries that I’ve booked during the month of May, along with some potential bookings that I’m also considering.

Given how they’ve largely dictated my plans for May, I think it makes sense to start with the hotels this time. 

Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi

Ever since a memorable maiden trip to Maldives in March 2020 just before the pandemic, I’ve been eyeing a return to the Indian Ocean archipelago to try out some of the higher-end resorts compared to the JW Marriott Maldives I had visited last time. 

And I can’t think of a better time to make that trip than May 2022 to celebrate my 28th birthday, as well as bringing my story of pandemic-era travel full circle with a return to the dreamy destination where I had spent my final pre-pandemic days. 

I’ll be kicking off our overall six-night stay in the Maldives with three nights at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi. I’ve booked these three nights using Hilton Free Night Rewards, which I earned from the Amex US Hilton credit cards – but it was no easy task.

If you’ve ever searched for award availability at this resort, you’ll know that it’s a very tall order to find any bookable space at the standard 150,000-point level (which was 120,000 points back when I had first booked).

Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi
Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi

Indeed, I had luckily stumbled onto a pocket of five nights of standard availability in May 2022 all the way back in May 2021. I booked using 480,000 Hilton Honors points at the time, leveraging the Fifth Night Free benefit, and sat on this five-night reservation until relatively recently.

When it became clear our flight plans could only accommodate a three-night stay at the Waldorf, I just needed to complete the simple task of swapping out my 480,000 points for a trio of Hilton Free Night Rewards.

There was just one problem: Hilton Honors is unable to do this without cancelling the initial reservation and making an entirely new one.

And of course, all standard award space had been snapped up by then, so I risked losing the villa altogether if I decided to cancel and rebook. 

Thankfully, a laborious three-way call with the Hilton Diamond desk and the resort’s reservations desk helped to resolve things smoothly, and I’m now unlocking spectacular value out of my Hilton certificates, as the stay would’ve otherwise cost me 150,000 points per night. 

The Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi promises stunning villas, on-property dining experiences, and a scenic transfer from Malé onboard the resort’s luxury yacht. I’m beyond excited for this stay at what’s certainly the single most aspirational Hilton Honors property there is, and to share the review with you soon after.

Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi

St. Regis Maldives

After waking up at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi on my birthday this year, I’ll be watching sunset from the St. Regis Maldvies Vommuli 100km to the southwest.

Compared to the Waldorf, the St. Regis might be more familiar to most Canadians with greater access to Marriott Bonvoy points.

It’s very much one of the crown jewels of Marriott’s portfolio, and many of us have worked towards racking up hotel points with a view of eventually staying in one of its glamorous overwater villas. 

St. Regis Maldives Vommuli

As you can imagine, when Marriott Bonvoy announced that they’d be moving to dynamic pricing in October 2021, demand for points booking at the St. Regis Maldives went into overdrive. 

That’s why I’m thankful that I locked in a booking far in advance for this one, securing three nights in a Sunset Overwater Villa using 255,000 Bonvoy points shortly after I had confirmed my Waldorf Astoria stay back in mid-2021.

Following the program’s switch to dynamic pricing, the St. Regis is now pricing at 100,000+ Bonvoy points per night on many dates, leaving it farther out of reach compared to before.

Thus, I’m quite happy with my timing in getting to experience this resort, and I’m curious to see how the stay compares to the Waldorf Astoria just before and JW Marriott from a few years ago.  

To add to the fun, Prince of Travel team members Rohin and Rachel happen to be visiting the St. Regis at the same time as me. Combined with Amy’s visit earlier this year as part of her Dubai and Maldives trip, we’re excited to bring you a joint review from all perspectives of one of the most aspirational properties in the game.

St. Regis Maldives Vommuli

The Bodrum EDITION

Speaking of Marriott Bonvoy’s move to dynamic pricing, The Bodrum EDITION is one of the properties that was most affected by this change. Just like many of you, I had locked in a couple of speculative bookings at this resort in the wee hours of March 29, 2022.

One of those speculative dates fell in late May, aligned with a simultaneous visit by fellow Prince of Travel team member Josh.

When an irresistible business class fare deal for late May popped up (which we’ll discuss below), I figured that I’d lock in my plans for these couple of dates and make a work-cation out of it.

The Bodrum EDITION is by all accounts a gleaming property, and furthermore is one of the few EDITION properties around the world to offer breakfast to Marriott Bonvoy elite members, even though they aren’t obligated to. I’m excited to see what the hype’s all about.

The Bodrum EDITION

The Flights

I’ll be using my hotel rewards points towards some very memorable stays this month, but the flights I’ve booked to get us from place to place are no less exciting. 

I’ll walk you through no less than four of my confirmed flight bookings, and then my thought process for the rest of the itinerary that hasn’t fully materialized yet. 

Qatar Airways Qsuites

En route to the Maldives, we’ll be flying Qatar Airways Qsuites from Montreal to Doha to kick off the journey.

This will be my first time flying Qsuites since the pre-pandemic days, so I’m keen to relive the experience and see whether things have changed over the past two years. 

Moreover, it’ll be my partner Jessy’s first time on Qsuites. On one hand, I’m keen for her to experience what’s widely considered the world’s best business class product; on the other hand, I’m wary that she’ll insist we fly Qsuites every time going forward! 😉

Qatar Airways Qsuites

I booked this flight from Montreal to Doha with 70,000 British Airways Avios plus $150 in taxes per person, shortly after Qatar Airways linked up with British Airways Avios and the two programs equalized their pricing.

I had previously secured the flights with 70,000 American AAdvantage miles, but given that Avios are a lot easier to earn than American miles, I decided to cancel my American reservation and book using Avios once it became possible to book Qsuites via both programs for the same nominal amount.

Qatar Airways 777 “Cathay Pacific” First Class

From Doha, we’ve still got to get ourselves down to the Maldives. Thankfully, there’s a delightfully unique product awaiting us on this journey that I’m so keen to try.

Qatar Airways has leased a handful of Boeing 777s from Cathay Pacific to support operations while their A350 fleet remains grounded. Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific continues to operate a scaled-down route network due to Hong Kong’s travel restrictions.

Given the short-term nature of this deal, Qatar Airways hasn’t gone to the trouble of refurbishing the planes’ interiors, but will instead simply operate the Cathay Pacific 777s as-is using their own cabin crew and soft product.

Cathay Pacific First Class seats… with Qatar Airways food & service!

That means that, for a limited time, Qatar Airways 777 First Class passengers get to experience a hybrid of Cathay Pacific’s distinctive six-seater First Class cabin and Qatar Airways’s elevated food and service – a unique opportunity that I simply couldn’t resist as an aviation geek and avid frequent flyer!

Qatar’s four leased 777s are currently operating on the airline’s routes from Doha to Hong Kong and Malé, making them ideally suited to anyone “revenge travelling” to the Maldives this season.

I booked this flight for 52,500 Avios plus $150 in taxes per person, getting us into Malé early in the morning of our stay at the Waldorf Astoria. 

(Note that by booking the two Qatar Airways flights separately, I’ve actually “missed out” on quite a bit of value: since Qatar Airways linked up with Avios, it’s now possible to book the entire journey of Montreal–Doha–Maldives for 85,000 Avios one-way. However, I was locked out of this opportunity having already snagged the last award seats on these flights, and I didn’t want to risk cancelling the reservation and hoping for availability to go back into the pool, lest it didn’t.) 

Delta One

Besides my Qatar Airways flights, the other two sets of flights that I’ve booked for May are somewhat out of left field. 

This was a US$900 “flash sale” that popped up a few weeks ago for travel on the SkyTeam transatlantic trio of Delta, Air France, or KLM, plus their joint venture partner Virgin Atlantic. 

Now, I’ve already flown Air France and KLM’s flagship business class products not too long ago, so I wasn’t overly excited to fly them again.

But given that I probably won’t be redeeming points for Delta or Virgin Atlantic anytime soon (both of which are quite difficult to access from Canadian points programs, after all), I figured that a US$900 business class deal would dovetail perfectly with the Bodrum EDITION booking I had already lined up for late May. 

Delta One on the Boeing 767 is the outbound, taking me from New York to Boston to London, before an Aeroplan redemption with Lufthansa takes me to Bodrum for a couple of days. 

Delta One 767 business class

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class

Truth be told, Delta One on its own probably isn’t the most exciting aspirational product. Indeed, in my mind, all of the US “Big 3” airlines often blend together into a fuzz of mediocrity. 

But Virgin Atlantic Upper Class is the real prize that I was after: as an attractive business class product that’s somewhat challenging to book on points at a great value, I was keen to check it off my list with this fare deal.

On the new Airbus A350-1000, Upper Class offers comfortable reverse-herringbone seats, a distinctive moody cabin design, and most impressively, a “Loft” bar and lounge area for business class passengers to mingle and socialize. 

Plus, a key part of the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class experience is the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at London Heathrow, where I’ll make sure to set up a camp for a few hours to fully indulge in the restaurant, bar, spa, and more. 

Virgin Atlantic A350 Upper Class

More potential flights

There’s still some parts of the May travel schedule that haven’t been firmed up just yet.

While I’d love to bum around the Middle East and Turkey for a few weeks between my Maldives and Bodrum stays, I’ve still got to get myself back to North America from the Maldives for some work and family commitments in the middle of the month. 

After recently checking off Air France and Singapore Airlines’s flagship First Class products from my bucket list, I’m now taking aim for the next-highest item: ANA 777 New First Class, which looks like an absolutely stunning way to cross the Pacific.

ANA 777 New First Class

I’ve got a ticket booked with 60,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles as part of that well-publicized sweet spot, but the tricky part is getting from the Maldives to Tokyo. 

I’ve been battling with British Airways Avios over the last few days to look in a multi-carrier award – one that would also allow me to try out the recently reincarnated Qatar Airways A380 First Class from Doha to Bangkok, thanks to the multi-carrier award’s favourable pricing rules. 

However, the agents haven’t been the most cooperative in putting together my proposed itinerary, so you can expect to hear an update on this in the near future.

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

If the transpacific routing doesn’t work out, I’ll simply change my ANA 777 New First Class via Virgin Atlantic Flying Club to a future date for no change fee (who knows, Japan might even be open by then!) – and figure out an alternate routing back to North America. 

Between Finnair’s new business class, Air Serbia via Belgrade with Aeroplan points, Etihad Airways’s new A350-1000s with sliding doors, and Qatar Airways’s new “mini-Qsuites” on the 787-9, I’ve got plenty of options to pick from if my Plan A doesn’t work out. 

Conclusion

Remember the days of “now is not the time to travel”? I don’t either. Revenge travel season is well and truly here, and it’s an occasion to celebrate.

I’m excited to draw a line under the past two years of uncertainty with free-flowing champagne onboard the Waldorf Astoria Maldives’s private yacht, dining with my companion onboard a hybrid product of two of the world’s best airlines, spellbinding sunsets in southwestern Turkey, and more.

I must admit that even though I’ll be getting great value for my points, these experiences will still cost me an arm and a leg – both Maldives resorts’ transfer costs are in the region of US$750 per person alone. But in a birthday month after two years of muted celebrations, I don’t mind a splurge in the slightest. 

One thing’s for sure: I’ll be living through my May 2022 travel restart in style this month. And as we get out there and rediscover the world, may 2022 travel restart for all of you as well. 

1 Comment
  1. Archie

    I’m at The Bodrum EDITION right now. Sadly free breakfast isn’t provided for Platinum+ anymore, at least on points booking.

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