The beauty of points and miles is that each person uses them in a way that’s best for them. For some that’s free domestic flights, for others it’s international Economy flights, and for some it may even be gift cards.
My preferred method for cashing in points and miles? I reserve them for aspirational vacations that give me access to First Class flights and amazing hotel rooms that I wouldn’t normally pay for.
If you took a poll of like-minded people who redeem points and miles for aspirational trips, I’d imagine that of all the destinations in the world, in some order the Maldives, Seychelles, and Bora Bora would be among the top 3. While I’ve yet to visit Bora Bora, I’ve been fortunate to visit the Maldives twice as well as the Seychelles.
That by no means makes me an expert, but it does give me enough background to make a head-to-head comparison of the two. Keep in mind that I’ll be primarily looking at these destinations through the lens of points and miles – in other words, how easy is it to use those hard-earned points and miles to vacation like royalty, and most importantly, for pennies on the dollar. However, I will also touch on transportation and food costs, since those can add up very quickly in these expensive destinations.
For each category I’ll be giving a score out of 5, with 5 being the highest. Let’s see how they stack up:
Redeeming Miles For Flights
Even though the Maldives may seem like it’s in the “middle of nowhere”, there sure are a lot of ways to redeem miles to get there:
- Star Alliance: Singapore Airlines via SIN, Turkish Airlines via IST
- One World: British Airways via LGW, Cathay Pacific via HKG, Malaysia Airlines via KUL, Qatar Airways via DOH, Sri Lankan Airlines via CMB
- SkyTeam: China Southern via CAN, Korean Air via ICN/CMB
- Other: Emirates via DXB, Etihad via AUH, Oman Air via MCT
There are multiple options within each alliance, and even bonus options which include Etihad and Emirates. The reason that I’m not giving a perfect score is due to availability, which can be extremely tough to come by. If you have the luxury of planning in advance, I’d highly recommend booking your tickets as soon as the booking window opens roughly 11 months in advance.
Personally, I have used miles to book Singapore Airlines via SIN and Korean Air via ICN/CMB. The legs to/from MLE are actually quite easy to get, and its actually the long-haul international flights that can be troublesome. Here are a couple tips that may help – travel during low season (May through November) or fly to Colombo, Sri Lanka (CMB) and purchase a separate ~$100 ticket to the Maldives on Sri Lankan Airlines.
While the flight time from North America to the Seychelles is similar to that of the Maldives, there are way fewer options:
- Star Alliance: South African Airways via JNB
- One World: N/A
- SkyTeam: Kenya Airways via NBO
- Other: Air Seychelles, Emirates via DXB, Etihad via AUH
Both the South African Airways and Kenya Airways options will result in at least 2-3 connections from North America, and it’s extremely rare to find availability. While Air Seychelles is partners with Etihad, unfortunately it is not bookable using American Airlines miles.
On the bright side, award availability via Emirates and Etihad is actually quite good, even in premium cabins. So stock up on those Alaska Airlines and American Airlines miles, respectively, if you’d like those options to be available to you. Or better yet, Korean Air gives you access to both.
Redeeming Points For Hotels
There are countless 5-star hotels in the Maldives, and for the most part each one is located on its own island. That’s part of the beauty and the allure of the Maldives, you’re literally on an island separated from the rest of the world. Here are the hotel properties available for point redemptions across the major hotel chains:
- Club Carlson: Radisson Blu Maldives Hulhumale (opening July 2015)
- Hilton: Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
- Hyatt: Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa
- IHG: Holiday Inn Kandooma Maldives
- Marriott: N/A
- Starwood: Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa, W Retreat & Spa
It’s worth noting that none of them are located on Male Island where the airport is, and where many people end up spending a night due to late arriving flights.
Hilton is the king of the chains in the Seychelles with 3 properties. Two of them, DoubleTree Allamanda and Hilton Northolme, are located on Mahe Island, and the 3rd, Hilton Labriz, is located on Silhouette Island. To get there, an additional boat or helicopter transfer is required from Mahe.
- Club Carlson: N/A
- Hilton: DoubleTree Resort & Spa Allamanda, Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa, Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa
- Hyatt: N/A
- IHG: N/A
- Marriott: N/A
- Starwood: Le Meridien Fisherman’s Cove
Starwood enthusiasts are in luck as the Le Meridien Fisherman’s Cove provides another chain option on Mahe.
Keep in mind that the Seychelles is all about island hopping, and you will likely spend multiple nights away from Mahe on Praslin and/or La Digue, and neither of those islands have any chain hotel options available.
Transportation in the Maldives isn’t very frequent, and in fact, you’ll probably just need it twice to and from the airport to your resort. However, it’s really expensive, with boat or seaplanes transfers routinely costing upwards of $500 per person, depending on the resort.
Transportation in the Seychelles is not only extremely expensive, it was one of the most logistically-challenging trips I’ve ever had to plan. Even though we saved some money by renting a car, driving in the Seychelles can be down-right scary. If you choose to travel by taxi, daily rentals will cost upwards of $300, or $100+ for transfers to/from the airport. You’ll also need to budget for the cost of transfers between Mahe and Praslin, and island-hopping excursions around Praslin typically cost several hundred dollars.
Keep in mind here that I’m not rating the quality of the food in the Maldives as a 3 out of 5, but rather the value. The food is actually ridiculously delicious, but be prepared to pay 3-4x what you’d normally pay at a restaurant back home.
Not interested? Well, unless you’re able to catch a fish in the ocean and cook it in your room, or have smuggled enough snacks from the lounge to eat throughout your stay, there aren’t exactly any other options.
While we found the food in the Seychelles to be rather mediocre in general, at least there were options outside of the hotel. We ate at the hotels for roughly half of our meals, and for the other half enjoyed exploring the towns and cute roadside cafes. Having that option is really nice, since the prices were typically 50%-70% lower than at the resort.
Overall Points and Miles Vacation Rankings
It looks like the Maldives wins in a landslide. Again, I’m not claiming that the Maldives is much better than the Seychelles as a vacation destination, but rather that it’s a better place to use your points and miles to vacation, and to significantly subsidize costs.
For those that have been to Bora Bora or French Polynesia, I’d be interested in hearing how it stacks up against the Maldives and Seychelles.