My wife and I were always among the vast majority when it came to our travels, dreaming to travel in style to the destinations that you only see on travel shows, but settling for a basic hotel room or Airbnb that was within our modest travel budget.
That all changed when we found Prince of Travel in 2019. We, like many people, we had been programmed to minimize any inquiries into our credit in order to maintain a pristine credit score.
So after spending a couple of hours a day for a couple of weeks working through the blog articles, guides, and doing some independent research, we dipped our toes into the welcome bonus game with one goal in mind: book the ultimate 20th anniversary trip.
The Points Programs We Chose
Although we did initially have a destination in mind, we focused on a few reward programs that seem to provide flexibility and some sweet spot destinations that interested us.
The programs we put our efforts in were: Aeroplan due to the ease with which we could earn miles, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan due to relative ease (at the time) to earn, lower milage redemptions, and stopover availability, and finally Marriott Bonvoy.
By 2020, both my wife and I had completely bought into the points strategies laid out on Prince of Travel and I became an early adopter of Prince of Travel Royal Platinum membership, as we had seen benefits in all our travels from lounge access (even when in economy class) to suite and room upgrades when staying at Marriott hotels.
Although we were not yet traveling in business class and First Class or staying at luxury hotels, we recognized the benefits and saw the bright light at the end of the tunnel.
Our 20th Anniversary Trip
Fast forward to 2022, and we have reached that bright light. I am writing this article on the deck of a Two-Bedroom Overwater Villa at the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort the day before we must return to reality.
Our 20th anniversary trip itinerary, which was mostly booked on points, looked as follows.
We departed Chicago O’Hare on Qatar Airways Qsuites business class for Doha, Qatar on October 26, and after a very short layover, headed for Dubai. We booked the flight as a one-way using 85,000 Alaska Airlines miles per person.
We had originally intended to fly Emirates, which would have allowed Dubai to be a stopover en route to the Maldives; however, Alaska ended their partnership with Emirates, forcing us to change up our plans.
On the morning of October 29, we were picked up and taken to the Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa for a five-night stay. We booked a Bedouin Suite for 370,000 Bonvoy points, using Marriott’s Fifth Night Free benefit.
The Prince of Travel team has extensively reviewed Al Maha, and although the review is extensive, it still cannot describe how the resort makes you feel – it is truly something that has to be experienced.
It’s obviously a popular destination for Prince of Travel members, too, as we missed another member by three days.
Leaving an experience like the Al Maha is not easy; however, we were very excited to be travelling to the Maldives for the remaining six nights of our vacation.
Since we weren’t able to book Dubai as a stopover, we utilized 104,000 Aeroplan points to fly business class on Gulf Air business class from Dubai to Malé via Bahrain, allowing us to experience Gulf Air’s flagship Falcon Gold Lounge.
Since our flight was an overnight arriving in Malé at 6:10am, we decided to stay one night in Malé at the JEN hotel by Shangri-La, as we knew that we would be tiered and did not want to waste any time at the St. Regis Maldives.
The JEN hotel in Malé had not been reviewed by the Prince of Travel, obviously for good reason. Other than the friendly staff, it is hard to find another redeeming quality to this hotel. Luckily for us, we were only booked one night and we darted the following morning at 6:15am to catch a 7:15am seaplane to the St. Regis.
We had booked an Overwater One-Bedroom Villa for 400,000 Bonvoy points, again using the Marriott Fifth Night Free award policy.
A couple of days before our arrival, we were notified that they had overbooked the Overwater One-Bedroom Villas and that we had been upgraded to a Sunset Two-Bedroom Overwater Villa – and due to inconvenience of the accommodation change we would each receive a complimentary 60-minute massage at the Iridium Spa!
Tomorrow afternoon, we will be leaving the resort to start our journey back to Ontario. We are booked on Qatar Airways Qsuites again, from Malé to Chicago via Doha, which we again booked using 85,000 Alaska miles per person.
Since our flight leaves at 11pm, we have confirmed with the St. Regis that we will be able to use their lounge on departure, which is a nice touch. We are also looking forward to being able to try the Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge, as our layover was too short on the trip over.
There is no way, even if we could have afforded it, that we would have justified this vacation on cash alone. Without the education and support Ricky and the whole Prince of Travel team has provided us, this 20th anniversary trip would not have been a reality.
Joe & Jen Dunbar
Royal Platinum member since November 2020