This Family Paid Only $628 for a 10-Day Tahiti Trip (and Volunteered in the Community)

Here’s how this family of six used points and miles to go on a dream island vacation — and gave back to the community at the same time.

This Family Paid Only $628 for a 10-Day Tahiti Trip (and Volunteered in the Community)
Updated July 17, 2024
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From luxurious vacations to more budget-friendly itineraries, points and miles can help you travel the globe — and for cheap. Award travel is available to all different walks of life, and no two trips have to be alike.

Heather and her husband, Mike, have been active in the points-and-miles game for a few years now. They run a dental practice in Edmond, Oklahoma, and started out by earning travel rewards for the spending they do through their business. Eventually, however, Heather realized how much potential there was to take their points-and-miles hobby to the next level.

After taking to Facebook, Heather stumbled upon the FBZ Elite - Travel and Points Facebook group and began to learn more about how points and miles work and how to get the most out of award travel.

In this article

How Heather and her family like to travel

Today, Heather’s award travel game is rich with strategizing. As the mother of four kids, she primarily looks for trips based on the cost of airfare. Because she’s willing to travel anywhere and everywhere, this allows her to be flexible with how she’ll spend her rewards to fly for free or stay in hotels for free.

If the cheap flights are heading somewhere that catches her interest, Heather grabs the tickets while they’re available. Then, she does her research on that place. Because she knows she has 24 hours to cancel a reservation if it’s made at least seven days prior to the flight’s scheduled departure date, she takes these hours to decide whether the booking is worth keeping.

This Family Paid Only $628 for a 10-Day Tahiti Trip (and Volunteered in the Community)

This particular story is about Heather and her husband’s 10-day trip to the French Polynesian islands of Tahiti and Mo’orea in mid-November 2018. In addition to vacationing — and with her husband being a dentist — they held a dental clinic for locals. They had started this tradition five years earlier during a trip to the Dominican Republic, and have since been offering dental treatment to locals whenever and wherever possible.

Joined by her husband, four kids, parents, and in-laws, Heather had a trip filled with adventure, breathtaking views, and plenty of authentic Mo’orean cuisine. Although Heather’s parents and in-laws vacationed with them, they paid separately. So, for this story, we won’t include their costs in the breakdown.

Here’s how Heather’s family of six funded a 10-day trip to the tropical islands of Tahiti and Mo’orea.

Flights

As mentioned, Heather determines where they’ll travel next by the cost of airfare — and, of course, how intriguing the destination looks. Her first flight, roundtrip from Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City to Los Angeles, was aboard Southwest. Although she booked this airfare round trip, her return flight would be from San Francisco, California, instead of Los Angeles. She booked this way because it required fewer points and travel time to fly from San Francisco to Oklahoma City.

Two of her children flew for free (excluding taxes and fees) using both her and her husband’s Southwest Companion Passes. For these two tickets, the fees amounted to $11.20 each. In total, this flight cost her 12,000 Rapid Rewards points and $22.40 for four of her family members. Had she not used points, it would have cost a total of $720.

This Family Paid Only $628 for a 10-Day Tahiti Trip (and Volunteered in the Community)

The Southwest Companion Pass is a perk that allows you to choose one person to fly with you for free — excluding taxes and fees. These typically amount to $5.60 in taxes per one-way trip. To earn the Southwest Companion Pass, you need to either earn 135,000 Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year or fly 100 qualifying one-way flights. Once you earn the pass, it’s good for the remainder of the year in which you earn it as well as the following year. If you time it correctly so that you earn the pass at the beginning of the year, you can essentially get free airfare for a companion for two full years.

Heather and Mike earned their companion passes by each signing up for the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card. After earning the welcome bonuses that each card offered at the time, they had enough points to receive the companion pass. This may not be possible based on the current welcome offers.

Because they live in the middle of the country, the companion passes especially come in handy for positioning flights. Positioning flights are flights you take from your main city to another city from which you’ll take a long-haul flight. Being willing to take a positioning flight can set you up for better deals when it comes to your final destination. In total, Heather paid only $67.20 in taxes and fees for this Southwest flight.

Heather’s second flight was roundtrip airfare that took her from Los Angeles to Tahiti with a layover in San Francisco. They flew United economy for 28,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per person, which she booked using the Chase travel portal. Originally, flights from Los Angeles to Tahiti were around $1,200 apiece. However, Heather used Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) to find a date with a great deal that shaved a significant amount off each ticket. This savings brought the price-per-ticket to around $500. Because Heather paid for this flight using points, her total out of pocket cost was $0.

Because their final leg of the trip was from San Francisco home to Oklahoma City aboard Southwest, Heather and her family got off their United flight on a layover in San Francisco and finished their journey home on Southwest.

Expense category Regular price What Heather paid
Flights from Oklahoma City to Los Angeles, and from San Francisco to Oklahoma City $720 $67.20
Roundtrip flights from Los Angeles to Tahiti $7,200 $0
Flights $7,920 $67.20

Hotels

Heather and her family stayed one night in Los Angeles before heading to Tahiti. They bunked in one room at a hotel near the airport for just under $100 total and paid using her Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Had the room been more expensive, Heather told me she would have used points to book their stay.

The next day, Heather and her family flew to Tahiti. They didn’t get in until around midnight local time, so Heather booked them a family room near the airport. For this one night, Heather used 8,131 Chase Ultimate Rewards points. This saved them $205.07.

Overwater Bungalow Tahiti Moorea

For the remaining ten nights of their trip, Heather and her family stayed at an overwater bungalow in Cook's Bay, Mo’orea. She found the property online but wanted to personally reach out to the owner to let him know their plans to run a local dental clinic for the residents. And thankfully she did because the owner gave her, her parents, and her in-laws a significant discount on their nine-day rentals. The family-sized bungalow that was originally priced at $350 per night ended up costing Heather just $860.40 for their entire stay. But the savings didn’t stop there.

To pay for the bungalow, Heather used her Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. Then, she covered that purchase using her balance of Venture Miles. So, ultimately, she paid $0 for a family-sized overwater bungalow right on the sparkling waters of Cook’s Bay, Mo’orea.

Heather and Mike ran the dental clinic for a few days toward the end of their trip in the church across the street from their bungalow. They performed minor dental work such as cleanings, silver nitrate fillings, and extractions. The residents made it a point to return the favor. On top of bringing Heather and her family some of the best local foods, because it was November, the locals that helped set up the clinic cooked her family an entire Thanksgiving feast. They made Heather’s family ceviche, barbecue, fresh-caught tuna, and pumpkin dessert, before performing traditional fire dances for them.

Expense category Regular price What Heather paid
One night in Los Angeles $100 $100
One night in Tahiti $205.07 $0
Nine nights in Mo’orea $3,150 $0
Hotels $3,455.07 $100

Rental cars

To get around on the islands, Heather reserved a rental car ahead of their trip. Being a savvy traveler, Heather knew a great way to save money on rental cars. She booked her rental car using Autoslash.

This Family Paid Only $628 for a 10-Day Tahiti Trip (and Volunteered in the Community)

With AutoSlash, you enter the type of vehicle you want and the dates you want it for. The service then searches all the car rental companies to find the least expensive option. On top of finding the lowest prices, Autoslash will continue to monitor inventory for lower rates from the time you reserve the car until you pick it up. If AutoSlash finds a better price, you’ll be notified and you can choose whether to update your reservation for the lower price. Because you don’t pay until you pick up your car, there’s no reason not to get the best price available. Autoslash provided Heather one lower price rental, which she jumped on.

Although Heather paid for the rental with her Chase Sapphire Reserve to take advantage of the card’s complimentary rental car insurance, she paid off the credit card using cash she earned from opening Chase checking and savings accounts. So, although the price of the rental car totaled $580.92 for ten days, she paid only $80.92 after using the $500 cash bonus she received from opening her bank accounts.

Expense category Regular price What Heather paid
Rental car $580.92 $80.92

Other special deals

Heather and her family took advantage of the free Priority Pass lounge access and Priority Pass restaurant credit that come with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. They used this perk in Los Angeles and San Francisco, grabbing lunch at Rock & Brews at LAX and hanging out in the lounge ahead of their return flight in San Francisco.

At Rock & Brews, each of the six family members received a $28 food credit. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, each cardholder is allowed a maximum of two accompanying guests. Because both Heather and Mike are cardholders, all six of them received the dining credit.

This Family Paid Only $628 for a 10-Day Tahiti Trip (and Volunteered in the Community)

Additionally, the family kept their food expenses low throughout the trip since their bungalow was furnished with a full kitchen. They were able to cook many of their own meals and walk to the grocery store just down the street when they needed something. The people they met in the neighborhood also regularly brought them delicious dishes to eat!

Expense category Regular price What Heather paid
Food $168 $0

The travel credit cards Heather used

Card name Welcome bonus Earnings rate Annual fee Special perks
Chase Sapphire Reserve® Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening 5X points on flights and 10X points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually; 3X points on other travel and dining & 1X points per dollar on all other purchases $550 $300 annual travel credit, Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit, complimentary airport lounge access, monthly $5 credit DoorDash credit through Dec. 2024
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Enjoy $250 to use on Capital One Travel in your first cardholder year, plus earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening 2 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day, 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5 miles per dollar on Capital One Entertainment purchases through 12/31/25 $95 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit
Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card Earn up to 120,000 points (earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, plus an additional 60,000 points when you spend $15,000 in 9 months) 3X points on Southwest purchases, 2X points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners and on local transit and commuting, including rideshare; plus 1X points on all other purchases $99 6,000 points each anniversary year
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening 2X points on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners; on local transit and commuting, including rideshare; and on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming; plus 1X points on all other purchases $69 3,000 points each anniversary year

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Heather considered the Chase Sapphire Reserve among the best travel credit cards for this trip. She used this card to pay for her rental car, for Priority Pass lounge access, and the ferry from Tahiti to Mo’orea. Both the rental car and ferry charges fell under the card’s bonus travel category, which allowed her to maximize her rewards earnings.

As a new cardmember, you can earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. In addition, you will earn 5X points on flights and 10X points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually; 3X points on other travel and dining & 1X points per dollar on all other purchases. This card also comes with a $300 annual travel credit, reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees, and a number of travel protections.

Check out our Chase Sapphire Reserve Review.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Heather used her Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card solely to pay for her overwater bungalow, which she then used Venture Miles to cover. She had accumulated these miles from various business expenses ahead of their trip.

When you open this card, you can enjoy $250 to use on Capital One Travel in your first cardholder year, plus earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. Then, you’ll earn 2 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day, 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5 miles per dollar on Capital One Entertainment purchases through 12/31/25. You can also receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

Check out our Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card review.

Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

Heather and Mike used their Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card to each earn a Southwest Companion Pass. This allowed two of their children to fly for free, aside from taxes and fees.

As a new cardholder, you can earn up to 120,000 points (earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, plus an additional 60,000 points when you spend $15,000 in 9 months). You’ll also earn 3X points on Southwest purchases, 2X points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners and on local transit and commuting, including rideshare; plus 1X points on all other purchases. Plus, every anniversary year, you’ll earn 6,000 Rapid Rewards points to put toward award travel.

Get more details at Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card Review.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card was the other Southwest card Heather and Mike each opened to earn the points required for the companion pass.

New cardmembers can get this card's welcome bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You'll also earn 2X points on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners; on local transit and commuting, including rideshare; and on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming; plus 1X points on all other purchases. As an added bonus, you’ll receive 3,000 bonus points each cardmember anniversary.

Find more information at our Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card Review.

Bottom line

Expense category Regular price What Heather paid
Flights $7,920 $67.20
Hotels $3,455.07 $100
Rental car $580.92 $80.92
Food $568 $400
Total $12,523.99 $628.12

Heather and her family saved nearly $12,000 on a 10-day trip to the beautiful French Polynesian Island of Mo’orea using points and miles and a bit of strategizing. Heather’s flexibility in where she would travel played a significant role in cutting down the costs, and it’s a strategy that can benefit any potential award trip.

If you’re curious about how points from credit cards and miles can help you take a trip like this, the best place to start is from the beginning. Our ultimate guide to travel rewards will walk you through exactly what you need to do to get started.

Easy-to-Earn Unlimited Rewards

Benefits

Card Details

  • Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases
  • Longer intro APR on qualifying purchases and balance transfers
  • No foreign transaction fees
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  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire as long as your account remains open.
  • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions.
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the Intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that’s currently 19.24% - 29.24% will apply. A 3% Intro balance transfer fee will apply for the first 60 days your account is open. After the Intro balance transfer fee offer ends, the fee for future balance transfers is 4%.
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means instead of earning an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1, you could earn 1.87-2.62 points for every $1 you spend on purchases.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
Bank of <span class='whitespace-nowrap'>America<sup>®</sup></span> Travel Rewards credit card
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Intro Offer

Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases

Annual Fee

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Matt Miczulski

Matt Miczulski is a personal finance writer specializing in financial news, budget travel, banking, and debt. His interest in personal finance took off after eliminating $30,000 in debt in just over a year, and his goal is to help others learn how to get ahead with better money management strategies. A lover of history, Matt hopes to use his passion for storytelling to shine a new light on how people think about money. His work has also been featured on MoneyDoneRight and Recruiter.com.