Fact: Trips do cost money.
Fiction: Once-in-a-lifetime trips can only happen only once in a lifetime.
Prince William and Kate Middleton’s 2011 fairy-tale wedding had tongues wagging. But it was their reported honeymoon destination, the Seychelles, which ignited the travel fantasies of vacationers worldwide. The Indian Ocean cluster of 155 islands — and their pristine beaches, lush forests, and exotic wildlife — make it a dream destination for royal honeymooners and every day vacationers alike.
Earlier this month we put a call out on Facebook for you to tell us your dream destinations. The Seychelles topped your list.
Read More: Check Out Our Reader #DreamTrips
Then, we promised to help you get there—at a price you can afford.
Airfare and accommodations for two people to go to the Seychelles can run between $6,000 and $10,000, and that’s on the low end of the vacation price scale for this destination.
Seychelles vacations, which can cost north of $6,000, may be within reach if you follow our tips! (Photo: Thinkstock)
But there’s good news for travelers with William and Kate aspirations but Homer and Marge budgets: you can drastically slash the price of a trip to the Seychelles, or any other dream destination, thanks to loyalty rewards points.
“You can live like a king on vacation, especially if you’re using points,” says Brian Kelly, whose blog— The Points Guy — gives travelers tips on how to best exploit their loyalty rewards points. Here are his recommendations:
Sign up for Rewards Programs
If at this point you’re still not a member of an airline or hotel’s rewards program, where you can accumulate miles or points that you redeem for travel discounts, signing up is your first step. These programs often have partnerships that allow you to transfer your points to other travel programs. Think of your points bank as currency that will help buy your heavily discounted Seychelles vacation.
“For most Americans, if you just know the right currencies to invest in, anyone can do this,” says Kelly. He recommends Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), the loyalty rewards program run by the company that owns Sheraton, Four Points, W, Le Méridien, Westin, and St. Regis hotels and resorts.
The Points Guy recommends Starwood Preferred Guest (Photo: @agentcikay/Flickr)
“Starwood Preferred Guest is actually the overall most valuable (points program) because the points transfer to over 30 different airline partners,” Kelly says. “So the built-in value of SPG points is awesome for airlines as well as hotel redemptions.”
And that brings us to the best way to earn those points.
Use a Rewards-Heavy Credit Card
You’ve signed up for travel rewards programs; now it’s time to fill them with points. That’s where credit cards come in. Cards like American Express’ SPG Card and Citi’s American Airlines AAdvantage card give you points based on how much you spend on everyday items like groceries, gas, plane tickets, etc. Those points, along with the big sign-up bonuses for new cardholders, add up to bring you closer to your dream vacation. As an added bonus, Kelly says, the American Airlines points you acquire with Citi’s AAdvantage card are transferable to your SPG points bank, giving you a big pool of points you can use to book a variety of hotel and airfare options. Yes, such a credit card will likely come with an annual fee (which is often waived in your first year of membership). But, Kelly says, “If that’s gonna get you 70% of your $8,000 ticket to the Seychelles then it’s worth it.”
The key to your Seychelles vacation may be in your wallet (Photo:Getty Images)
Transfer Your Points to Snag Cheap Flights
Chances are, you don’t have many frequent-flier points with Emirates or Etihad — two of the airlines that service the Seychelles from the U.S. Fortunately, you don’t have to. Those two airlines count a number of U.S.-based airlines as partners — airlines that in turn partner with Starwood’s SPG program.
Read More: Rack Up Your Frequent Flier Miles
For example: “You can transfer Starwood points to Alaska Airlines,” Kelly says. Alaska Airlines — which Kelly praises for having “the best frequent-flier program out there” — has a partnership with Emirates Airlines, which services the Seychelles.
Emirates has service to the Seychelles — and lots of partner airlines (Photo: Victor/Flickr)
“So you can fly Emirates via Alaska airlines,” Kelly says. “And then use your SPG Starpoints to actually book the hotel.”
Book the Hotel
This is where your SPG Starpoints bank really come in handy. Kelly recently stayed at the Le Méridien Fisherman’s Cove, an SPG-owned property on Mahé, the largest island on the Seychelles. “With cash and points it’s only 6,000 points and $110 per night,” Kelly estimates. “Or 20,000 points a night if you just want to wipe out the whole cost of the stay.” And, noting that the awards program gives you a fifth night’s stay for free, Kelly says you can stay for five nights for only 80,000 points. Not so bad when you consider the sign-up bonus alone on some credit cards amounts to 30,000 points.
Read More: Top 10 International Honeymoon Spots
Use points to book rooms at the posh Le Meridien Fishermen’s Cove (Photo: LemeridienFishermansCove.com)
Keep in mind, this is only one possible option. There are many combinations of rewards programs and partnerships that can get you to the Seychelles.
“Whether it’s Starwood or not, get out and travel and see the world,” Kelly recommends. “And points allow you to do it more richly.”