Planning a Trip to Bora Bora on Points and Miles

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Introduction
Planning a Trip to Bora Bora on Points and Miles
Bora Bora Essential Packing List
The Journey to Paradise – LAX-HNL-PPT-BOB
Intercontinental Le Moana Bora Bora Resort
Intercontinental Thalasso Resort and Spa
Eating in Bora Bora on a Budget
The Journey Home and a Layover in Papeete – BOB-PPT-LAX
 

Planning a trip to Bora Bora on points and miles can be a daunting task and definitely takes lots of preparation.  The better you plan, the cheaper and more enjoyable your vacation will be.  I will talk about how we used points and miles to plan our trip and how you can start planning today.

Bora Bora Bungalow Life

Bora Bora Bungalow Life

I probably started planning our trip from 12-18 months before even knowing it.  The original plan was to go on a week trip to Hawaii because I was able to use the “free one-way” trick (not available now) to book a trip coming home from our trip to Taiwan/Japan , Tokyo to LAX (stop for 4 months) and LAX to Honolulu.  However, I found out that Virgin America allows you to book Hawaiian airline flights and along with its 40% transfer bonus I talked about here, I booked a flight from HNL-PPT(Tahiti main island) for about 17,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points per person. For the return, I booked PPT-LAX on Air Tahiti Nui using AA miles in economy.  To get to Bora Bora, you need to buy a ticket on Air Tahiti, which is separate from Air Tahiti Nui.  This flight is quite expensive for a 45 minute flight each way, but I was able to use Barclaycard Arrival points to get that flight on miles.

For hotels, we spent 250,000 IHG points for 1 night at the Intercontinental Le Moana and 4 nights at the Intercontinental Thalasso Resort.  We had a beach bungalow at Le Moana, and over water bungalow at Thalasso since IHG now allows you to book over water bungalows on points.  We were able to obtain these miles from two 80K IHG credit card offers and participating in the IHG Big Win promotion. We also stayed with a relative in Hawaii and one night at the Tahiti Airport Motel.

Here is a chart of our total points and miles spent on our trip:

Description  Points Source of Points Notes
2x tickets from LAX-HNL on AA First Class                     – Free One-way (no longer works)
2x tickets from HNL-Papeete on Hawaiian Air Economy            34,000 AMEX Platinum CC AMEX MR Points transferred to Virgin America
2x tickets from PPT-Bora Bora on Air Tahiti Roundtrip            88,000 Barclaycard Arrival $440 per ticket, Barclaycard points applied
2x tickets from PPT-LAX on Air Tahiti Nui Economy            75,000 AA Citi Platinum, Executive American Airline Miles
1 night at Airport Motel Tahiti            15,000 Barclaycard Arrival $150 per night
1 night at IC Le Moana Beach Bungalow            50,000 Chase IHG 80K Offer, IHG Big Win IHG Rewards Points
4 nights at IC Thalasso Overwater Bungalows          200,000 Chase IHG, IHG Big Win IHG Rewards Points
Total          462,000

I was quite lucky to find an award ticket from HNL-PPT that worked (Hawaiian only flies HNL-PPT 1x per week on Saturday).  For the Air Tahiti Nui flight, it costs 37.5K per person in economy.  Business class seats are hard to come by, but possible if you book 330 days out.  You have to call AA to find availability. I will make another post on how to find availability.  My route will most likely not work if you are planning a trip now because some methods I used no longer exist.  Instead, read the next section.

map

The Journey to Paradise

How You Can Plan a Trip to Bora Bora on Points and Miles

Step 1: Obtain 75,000 AA miles per person for roundtrip from LAX-PPT-LAX(Tahiti)

Method: Easiest way to do this is by applying for the AA Citi Platinum 50K credit card and the AMEX SPG credit card (see Creditkarma banner) and transfer 20K SPG to 25K AA miles.  The alternative way for big spenders is to sign up for the AA Citi Executive credit card, 100K miles for spending $10K in 3 months.

Step 2: Obtain As Many IHG Points Possible @ 50K points per night

Method: You and a partner apply for the Chase IHG credit card 80K offer.  You can also transfer IHG points from Chase Ultimate Rewards from credit cards such as Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Ink Bold or Plus.  You can also spend 40,000 points and $70 for a free night instead of 50K points.  You could spend 160K points and $280 for 4 nights at the IC Thalasso in an Over Water Bungalow!  I’ve talked about how in this post.

Step 3: Obtain the Barclaycard Arrival Card to buy the Air Tahiti PPT-BOB flight roundtrip

Method:  You will receive 46,000 points per person after meeting the required spending of $3k in 3 months.  When you book the flight on Airtahiti.com, you can apply the Barclaycard points to the charge.  Some instructions are in this post.

Step 4: Search for Hotel and Flight Availability.

Once you have 75,000 AA miles, desired amount of IHG points for X nights, and Barclaycard Arrival points, you are ready to book.

I would search first for Air Tahiti availability on Expertflyer, Thepointsguy has a good article on searching for availability.

Next I would search for hotel availability on IHG.com.  Since IHG started allowing OWB at IC Thalasso, availability has been quite scarce and you need to start booking quite far in advance.  If you can’t find availability, the next best option is IC Le Moana and pay about $200 a night for an overwater bungalow. IC Le Moana is nice, but not as nice as IC Thalasso.  However, I do enjoy the local and Polynesian feel of IC Le Moana and you can eat at many local restaurants.

Bora Bora Beach Life!

Bora Bora Beach Life!

Once you have flights and hotels booked, you can book the interisland flight PPT-BOB.  This flight ranges from $400-$500 depending on the season.  There are a few flights per day from PPT-BOB.

Other Tips

  • If you don’t live in Los Angeles, you have to either find award availability to LAX on AA.com or buy a positioning flight to LAX.  The only flight from US to Tahiti is LAX-PPT.
  • An overnight stay in Papeete is required at least once.  I stayed at the Airport Tahiti Motel and it was just fine.  It is also the cheapest and most convenient option.
  • The luggage weight limit is 44 pounds per person for the cheaper inter-island ticket on Air Tahiti.
  • If you are new to applying to credit cards, I would apply for just 1 or 2 credit cards initially and wait 2-3 months for the next cycle of credit cards.  For example, I would apply for Citi AA Platinum and AMEX SPG at the same time, then wait 3 months.  Next, apply for the Barclaycard Arrival and Chase IHG credit card.

Those are the basics of booking the dream trip to Bora Bora on points and miles.  As you can see, it takes a couple of credit cards per person and most importantly time to obtain the points via credit card sign up bonuses.  If you plan far in advance and patiently, you can plan your dream vacation to Bora Bora.  Any questions, please ask!

14 comments for “Planning a Trip to Bora Bora on Points and Miles

  1. Maury
    May 2, 2014 at 4:26 am

    Very good description Rom. I used AA miles from LAX-PPT for my wife and I, Barclay miles for PPT-BOB, and SWA FLL-LAX for positioning. I started booking over one year ago for my trip for July. I booked an AXON Hilton 4 night award for 140,000 points before devaluation 15 mos ahead of time and they are actually honoring it. I also used 100,000 IHG for a two night stay at Thalasso. Looking forward to more trip reports.

    • May 3, 2014 at 12:13 pm

      Sounds like an awesome plan!

    • CRUISINGFLYING4LIFE
      May 21, 2014 at 8:09 pm

      FOr the positioning flight, wonder if you called AA to book FLL-PPT. We just booked ours from ORD-PPT on AA. We can not find anything on Hilton Honors. Looking for other award option.

  2. Benj
    July 18, 2014 at 7:04 am

    Great review.

    You said an overnight stay in Tahiti is required at least once. there are flights from LAX to PPT on Air Tahiti Nui that are overnight and arrive at PPT at 4:50-5;30 a.m. If someone was on that flight, couldn’t they just wait around at the airport until their short PPT to BOB flight?

    • July 20, 2014 at 8:39 am

      Yes, you can wait. On the way back, you might have to overnight it or long layover. You can possibly get away without an overnight.

  3. Leng
    October 7, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I’m trying to figure this all out. I have 177,000 points on my chase business ink plus card and over 55,000 miles on my united. Booking flights from that ultimate rewards site will let me take advantage of 20% off. I also have the option to transfer these points to other airlines. My issue is that I’m not too familiar with these airlines miles. Are there any that you recommend?

  4. Ash
    December 27, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Rom:

    I have been reading your blog and found your trip report to Bora Bora quite interesting. I am planning a trip to Bora Bora in December 2015 with my family, including 2 children to take advantage of a great hotel deal. I was wondering if you provide specific trip booking advice or services for this trip given your recent experience. We live in NY so would be starting our trip from NY. I have some knowledge of my miles options but am open to suggestions including if we could add another destination besides Bora Bora without adding much to our cost.

    Let me know your thoughts

    • January 5, 2015 at 8:56 am

      You will not be able to add a free stopover under the new AA rules. You could book JFK to LAX with Avios or maybe open jaw and leave HNL to JFK. You can book PPT to HNL with Virgin Atlantic miles.

  5. george
    April 27, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    how far out did you book your Thalasso hotel? I have been checking the website everyday and every single day include the latest date on Calendar (4/11/2016) is all UNAVAILABLE…

    Thanks

  6. cj
    May 26, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    Is it possible to book with the 1 free IHG Chase night and use points for another night for a total of 2 free nights? Also is it possible to reserve hotel early with points and then have free night applied to reservation when it shows up in account months later in exchange for one of your award nights?

    Lastly, I’m following your CC guide, thank you for pointing these steps out. AA will take me from ATL to PPT via LAX for 37K, is there any stopover opportunity at all that I could take advantage of? Also is there any use out of getting the Alaska Airways card?

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