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Many hotels from all of the major chains have become savvy at limiting standard award availability. That’s because the hotels are reimbursed for award stays and if they don’t sell out of rooms that night, they are reimbursed just a small fraction of their regular room rates. If the hotel does sell out or comes close to selling out that night, they get paid something close to their average daily room rate. However, in a sold out situation the hotel would rather hike up their paid rates to get much more than their average daily room rate, so hotels generally don’t like award stays.
Most hotels aren’t typically owned by chains like Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, or Marriott, but they are franchised and use their flags and participate in their loyalty programs because it brings them loyal customers, which fills the hotel and allows them to charge more for their rooms. Unfortunately, many properties play games so that they only benefit from being part of a loyalty program, without the cost of having to provide standard award nights, which are a requirement of any program.
Most hotel chains made a requirement long ago that if a hotel was selling a base room, it had to also be bookable as a standard award night without capacity controls.
Hotels only have to offer standard award nights on base rooms, or in some cases base suites. To avoid having to do that, some hotels create base room categories with very few rooms available, which means it can be very tough to find award space.
Another trick that hotels do is adding minimum stay requirements to book the base room. I have seen minimum stay requirements range anywhere from 1 to 12 nights. Sometimes the same hotel, such as the Andaz Maui, will have different minimum stay requirements for different dates, just to make it more difficult to find award space. Luckily, Hyatt allows you to edit the dates on award stays after booking. That allowed me to help a friend book an award room with a suite upgrade at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Orlando this week when it would only find award space when searching for 7 nights and only find suite space when searching for 6 nights. 2 calls later and I was able to get the 7 night award stay changed to 6 nights for the suite upgrade and then to 4 nights to what he actually wanted to book. Unfortunately, Hilton and Marriott don’t allow date changes on awards, though I have had some luck with changing the departure date after checkin and getting back points at Marriott hotels.
Between high end hotels from Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott, I seem to have the hardest time finding award space at Hiltons. Their luxury Waldorf Astoria hotels in places like Jerusalem, Los Cabos, Maui, and the Maldives make it very hard to find standard award space, and premium award space costs a small fortune.
The Maldives is one of my favorite places on Earth, but it’s not easy to get an affordable overwater villas with points. It was possible last year at the Hilton Amingiri, but they have since changed their overwater villa category to a premium room, so you can only book a standard room for a beach villa.
The Frequent Miler flags wide open standard award space at the Conrad Maldives from May through September. That’s the country’s low season, as it can be rainy, though storms are typically short lived. The cost is 120K points per night or 1 Hilton AMEX standard award night certificate.
I went to look at award space using Hilton’s flexible award calendar (c’mon Hyatt, you can sure use this!), but I noticed that if I increased the stay from 1 to 3 nights that there’s wide open availability from now through January 2024!
To use the flex calendar, just search for the number of nights you want to stay, click flexible dates, and use points. Note that Hilton blocks your browser and IP address for searching too much in a short period of time, so you may need to get creative or wait if they do that.
Searching for 2 nights:
Searching for 3 nights shows much more space:
Searching for 4 nights shows even more space:
If you have a Hilton credit card or elite status, the ideal stay is 5 night, as you get the 5th night for free:
Rooms available at the standard level include the Beach Villa with an open-air bathroom and rain shower, or the adults-only overwater villa with plunge pool:
The Conrad does allow cancelations, but the cancellation period varies by date, so be sure to check that out when booking your stay.
You can transfer points from AMEX to Hilton at a 2:1 ratio from cards like:
- AMEX Blue Business Plus
- AMEX Platinum Business
- AMEX Gold Business Card
- AMEX Platinum Consumer Card
- AMEX Gold Consumer Card
- AMEX Green Consumer Card
- AMEX Everyday Preferred Consumer Card
- AMEX Everyday Consumer Card
Or you can buy Hilton points on sale for just 0.5 cents each here. That would make this hotel cost $600/night for 120K points and avoids the hefty Maldivian taxes on paid stays, though either way you’ll still have to pay $600 per adult and $300 for kids for a round-trip seaplane transfer between Male and the resort. If you stay 5 nights for 480K points, the effective cost per night is $480.
You can read more in the Maldives Master Thread on DDF.
There are endless ways to book travel to the Maldives, including on the Middle East’s Big 3, such as Etihad or Emirates via Air Canada Aeroplan miles:
Or on Qatar’s excellent business class QSuites via BA Avios or by calling AA to book travel on Qatar:
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Have you made it to the Maldives?