It’s not often that you’ll hear the words “frugal” and “Maldives” in the same sentence. The Maldives is as aspirational as any travel destination gets. Even on points, it isn’t going to be cheap.
The biggest expenses you’ll face are seaplane transfers (average. $350-$500 RT per person), rooms/room upgrades (upwards of $350/night for a water villa), food, and activities. Here are 5 ways you can save money and points on all four:
1. Stay in the off-season. This advice applies to pretty much every vacation destination. Stay between May-November and not only will you save up to 50% on paid stays, but since occupancy rates are lower, your chance of being upgraded increases substantially.
2. Book a resort close to the airport. The closer the resort is to the airport, the more you’ll save on transportation. Seaplane transfers to resorts like the Park Hyatt Hadahaa run upwards of $500 RT per person. However, properties like the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa, which is about a 20 minute boat ride from the airport, charge just $113 RT per adult and $59 RT for kids.
There are many other resorts close to the airport, with lower transportation costs. You will find some of them pricey, so consider your budget and whether the low transport fees make up for the cost.
3. Leverage your status. At many chain resorts, elite guests receive a complimentary welcome amenity, complimentary breakfast, evening hors d’oeuvres, wifi, bottled water, and upgrades (when available), among other things. This will minimize many costs, especially if you’re ok with using points to stay at a “low category” beach villa. Elite guests can also try to arrange upgrades ahead of time at a discounted fee.
4. Negotiate. Regardless of whether you are an elite member (or whether or not you’re staying at a chain resort), you can always email the resort ahead of time and try to arrange discounts.
Mention your status (if you have it) within the hotel program, any special occasion you might be celebrating, or that you’re traveling with a family or large group. You may be able to wrangle yourself a better room, a lower rate, or extra perks – saving you money in the long run.
I did this recently at a property where I was trying to book 2 rooms. I managed to get complimentary breakfast for all guests and secured a discounted upgrade.
5. Use your points to cover meals. Some hotel chains give guests the option to pay some of their expenses with points. At the Park Hyatt, for example, guests can use points to cover spa treatments and meals starting at a rate of 2,000 points per $10. The redemption rate does get better (i.e. 120,000 covers $1,000), however it still isn’t a great value, as Hyatt points are worth around 1.9 cents each. If you just care about saving cash over maximizing points, this is an option for you.
6. Stay at a non-chain resort. There are a surprising number of affordable resorts in the Maldives. While chain properties like the Conrad charge upwards of $800/night for a beach villa, the Helengeli Island Resort starts at just $70/night. You can score an overwater villa at a non-chain resort for as low as $280 per night. Sure, you’re not able to redeem or earn hotel points, but you’ll save on upgrade fees and in some cases it’s cheaper because seaplane transfers are included.
7. All-inclusive. The offerings will vary by property. At many chain resorts, this will get you meals and perhaps seaplane transfer, but the price per night will nearly double.
However, there are quite a few affordable options at non-chain all-inclusive resorts. These types of deals are great if you want peace of mind from constantly crunching numbers.
The cheapest all-inclusive package I’ve come across is the Adaaran Club Rannalhi, where a 7-night stay in a standard room (6/18-6/25) with speedboat transfer for 2 people came to $2,188.50 with taxes (or $312.64/night). All meals, snacks, and drinks are included in this package, though certain restrictions apply about when food/drinks can be consumed. It’s not the Four Seasons, but it’s affordable and a great value for a place like the Maldives.
All-inclusive water villas are much more expensive, ranging from $500-1,000 per night. The Veligandu Island offers a 7-night stay with seaplane transfer, all meals, an excursion, sunset cruise, and activities for $600 per night. Steep, yes, but way more bang for your buck than you’ll get at a chain resort.
The Maldives isn’t a cheap destination and you can’t truly travel there “free,” but there are many ways to minimize costs and still have an enjoyable stay.
Do you have any tips on saving money in the Maldives? Please share in the comment section.