I saved over $7,000 on a dream journey to French Polynesia with straightforward journey hacks. This is how I did it.

A sundown selfie on the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa, the place we saved large on our lodging.Kara Williams

  • French Polynesia is pricey, however I discovered methods to economize and nonetheless have a bucket checklist journey.

  • I saved cash with journey hacks reminiscent of signing up for a resort membership that earned free nights.

  • This is how I used upgrades, perks, and freebies to save lots of $7,000 in Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora.

Idyllic and distant, French Polynesia is an costly place to trip.

Two bungalows standing above the sea water.

Sure, the water actually is that crystal clear in French Polynesia.Kara Williams

French Polynesia is the stuff of journey bucket checklist goals. Image-perfect overwater bungalows sit perched above crystal clear blue lagoons in one-of-a-kind, romantic locales.

Additionally they value a fairly penny, beginning at $600 an evening and up. Manner up.

And in such distant settings, the whole lot from meals to actions is pricey. It is commonplace to see a resort menu charging $30 for a cheeseburger and chips.

Flying to Tahiti, in the course of the South Pacific Ocean, will value loads, too.

A screenshot of airfare from San Francisco to French Polynesia.

From San Francisco, nonstop, round-trip airfare in a lie-flat business-class seat might value near $5,000 per individual.Kara Williams

From San Francisco, relying on the airline and time of yr, nonstop, round-trip airfare may be round $700 in a primary financial system seat. That very same route in a lie-flat business-class seat might value nearer to $5,000 per individual, primarily based on analysis I noticed on Google flights.

All added up, splurging on a once-in-a-lifetime, week-long trip might simply prime $20,000 while you think about transpacific and inter-island flights and transportation, upscale overwater bungalow lodging, meals and drinks, and actions.

That mentioned, there are methods to chop prices on a dream trip to French Polynesia with out sacrificing the over-the-top luxurious for which the islands are recognized.

A bungalow sitting atop seawater.

French Polynesia is legendary for its luxurious overwater bungalows, like these at InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana Resort.Kara Williams

That is precisely what my husband and I did on our much-anticipated, 12-day journey to Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora in November.

We definitely did not need to spend $20,000, nor did we now have any curiosity in backpacking, staying in low-cost hostels, or touring on a shoestring funds to such a bucket-list locale.

However we have been completely satisfied to economize alongside the way in which, with out feeling like we have been depriving ourselves of our dream journey.

A woman standing in front of the ocean on a beach.

Consuming at native eating places can trim prices and provide enjoyable photographs, like this one at Fare Maheata on Moorea.Kara Williams

We reduce prices the place potential, particularly on lodging, transportation, and meals, which allowed us to splurge guilt-free elsewhere, reminiscent of spa remedies ($450) and a personal boat rental ($280) that added to the attract of our journey.

Beneath, I share the important thing issues we did to save lots of greater than $7,000 on our journey, in addition to how a lot every expense would have value if I hadn’t used these money-saving measures.

Costs are rounded to the greenback, primarily based on the change charge on the time of our November 2021 trip: 100 French Pacific Francs (XPF) equals $.96 USD.

As an alternative of a resort, we stayed in an Airbnb in Tahiti to kick off our French Polynesia trip.

Trucks parked on the street in a French Polynesian neighborhood.

View from the patio at our city Airbnb lodging in Papeete.Kara Williams

All worldwide flights land in Papeete, Tahiti, in order that’s the primary cease for anybody touring internationally to French Polynesia.

Lodging on the island of Tahiti run from $80 for a bed room with a shared bathtub in a guesthouse (additionally known as a pension) to $800 for an overwater bungalow.

We thought-about reserving two nights on the Royal Tahitien, a reasonably priced resort on a black-sand seashore. That might have value us about $380 for 2 nights.

As an alternative, we rented an residence on Airbnb, which value $216 for 2 nights.

We initially booked this cheap residence however have been moved to this one (underneath the identical administration) at my request and on the identical value after I discovered the pool at our authentic residence was closed.

Financial savings: $164

We saved cash on transportation by staying near downtown Papeete.

An indoor market displaying fresh produce.

Our Airbnb was a mile stroll to the downtown Papeete Market with its recent produce, baked items, handicrafts, clothes, and souvenirs.Kara Williams

Had we stayed on the Royal Tahitien on the outskirts of Papeete, we’d have spent not less than $100 in taxi transfers.

As an alternative, we walked into city from our conveniently positioned Airbnb, and solely paid for one pre-planned night switch from the airport once we arrived, which was $40.

Financial savings: $60

Our subsequent cease on our multi-island trip was Moorea. As an alternative of flying, we took a less expensive ferry.

A ferry sitting on the water.

Two ferry firms function from Tahiti to Moorea with a number of journeys every day.Kara Williams

We might have taken a brief 10-minute flight to the close by island of Moorea for about $140 on Air Tahiti. As an alternative, we selected to take the scenic 30-minute ferry for simply $22 whole.

Financial savings: $118

We saved on lodging on Moorea by reserving a bundle deal.

A resort sitting above sea water.

Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa.Kara Williams

For our Moorea lodging, we discovered a wonderful deal on Travelzoo: 5 nights in a King Overwater Bungalow on the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa, plus one dinner, one lunch, and every day breakfasts for $2,699. The worth of the bundle was $6,365 had we booked the whole lot a la carte.

Financial savings: $3,666

One night time on Moorea, we ate off property as a substitute of going to the resort’s costly restaurant with leisure.

A sign sitting by the road.

We selected to assist a neighborhood household enterprise as a substitute of paying for an overpriced resort buffet dinner.Kara Williams

Inside strolling distance of our Hilton resort on Moorea have been a number of native eating places, together with Fare Maheata, the place we completely loved a plate of hen curry, a fish sandwich, two glasses of wine, and a beer for about $67.

We opted to assist a neighborhood enterprise as a substitute of going to a Polynesian-themed buffet dinner and dance present (just like a Hawaiian luau), which might have value us about $182.

Financial savings: $115

We opted out of a bunch snorkel journey on Moorea and introduced our personal tools as a substitute.

A stingray in the water.

We snorkeled with stingrays proper from our overwater bungalow’s deck.Kara Williams

One fashionable half-day guided tour was a brief boat journey from the Hilton Moorea to snorkel with sharks and stingrays for $48 per individual.

Nonetheless, we packed our personal cheap gear and fortunately noticed stingrays and tropical fish by snorkeling a number of occasions every day on our personal. It was so excellent, we by no means felt like we have been lacking out by not reserving an official tour.

Financial savings: $96

In Bora Bora, we saved cash by forgoing the costly hotel-provided boat switch.

A boat anchored at the dock.

We fortunately boarded the Bora Bora Navette to the principle island, included within the worth of our Air Tahiti inter-island ticket.Kara Williams

Transfers from the Bora Bora airport to native inns are very costly. That is as a result of the Bora Bora airport is located on a motu, or, a tiny islet, and attending to the resorts requires a ship journey.

As an alternative of paying $70 per individual for a hotel-provided boat switch from the airport to our subsequent lodging on the InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana, we took a free ferry offered by Air Tahiti to the city of Vaitape, which is on the principle island of Bora Bora.

On the Vaitape boat dock, taxis have been ready. We took one to our resort for simply $24.

Financial savings: $116

I signed up for InterContinental’s Ambassador program and saved large with included perks on Bora Bora.

Chairs on the deck facing the lagoon from a Horizon Overwater Bungalow at the InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana.

A view of the beautiful aqua lagoon from our Horizon Overwater Bungalow on the InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana.Kara Williams

We stayed at two inns on Bora Bora. First, the aforementioned InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana for one night time, adopted by the pricier InterContinental Bora Bora Thalasso Resort & Spa for 2 nights.

Earlier than reserving these reservations, I joined the InterContinental Ambassador program for a $200 annual charge. Whereas the enrollment charge wasn’t low-cost, membership comes with complimentary room upgrades, a $20 restaurant/bar credit score per keep, and the assure of a late check-out at InterContinental Motels & Resorts properties, so I felt prefer it was price it.

Moreover, Ambassador members obtain one complimentary weekend night time at any InterContinental resort or resort worldwide for use in a 12 month interval. I assumed this was the most effective perk, as a resort night time might simply value rather more than $200.

For our keep on the InterContinental Le Moana, I paid $586 for a Seaside Bungalow however was upgraded to a stunning Horizon Overwater Bungalow price about $350 extra per night time, in line with the entrance desk clerk.

We additionally used our $20 meals and beverage credit score and acquired two free welcome drinks on arrival ($16), courtesy of the Ambassador membership.

Financial savings: $186 (taking into account the preliminary $200 Ambassador membership charge)

The ambassador program gave me a free night time at what would have been our costliest resort.

View of the water and mountains through palm trees at Intercontinental Resort in Bora Bora.

French Polynesia is true paradise, even throughout COVID.Kara Williams

We organized our itinerary in order that our keep on the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa, would fall over Friday and Saturday nights, and we might use my complimentary weekend night time certificates.

The free night time was legitimate on the second night time of a minimal two-night paid keep (e.g. not booked with factors by means of the IHG Rewards loyalty program) with no blackout dates or important restrictions.

I paid $1,334 for one night time as a substitute of two in an Emerald Overwater Bungalow, the bottom room class. Had I paid for each nights, my funds would have rapidly ballooned.

I used to be upgraded to an overwater bungalow with a plunge pool that was really 4 room classes increased than the one I initially booked.

A pool in front of a bungalow.

The Pool Overwater Bungalow at InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa has an enormous two-level deck and its personal plunge pool.Kara Williams

I used to be additionally delighted to be given an improve to a Pool Overwater Bungalow, with 1,500 sq. ft of indoor/out of doors residing area that was price about $450 extra, in line with a entrance desk clerk.

“On the sole discretion of the resort, the resort might present room upgrades better than one class,” reads the InterContinental Ambassador Phrases and Circumstances.

Maybe there have been no different one-category-higher bungalows out there, so we got the super-luxe, four-category improve. Regardless of the motive, I did not ask any questions and was delighted to benefit from the sprawling lodging.

Between the free night time and the room improve, to not point out the $20 meals and beverage credit score and free welcome drinks ($16), we saved fairly a bit at this luxurious resort.

Financial savings: $1,820

At many resorts, we stuffed up at breakfast buffets and did not must spend cash on lunch.

A buffet spread of fresh fruit.

One station on the beneficiant breakfast buffet unfold on the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa.Kara Williams

The resort breakfast buffet is among the greatest bargains in French Polynesia.

Costing about $50 per individual, it might sound costly, however these lavish spreads embrace typical breakfast favorites after which some: made-to-order omelets, waffles, pancakes, crepes, recent fruit, baked items, sausage, bacon, hash browns, cereal, and yogurt.

Additionally out there have been native dishes, reminiscent of uncooked and cooked fish, and savory gadgets like sauteed greens, chilly cuts, and miso soup.

We fueled up on a lot scrumptious meals at breakfast buffet, we frequently did not must eat spend cash on meals once more till completely satisfied hour or dinner.

A plate of breakfast food.

That is simply the primary course of my typical buffet breakfast Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa. Not proven: a fruit plate and candy treats, like chocolate croissants.Kara Williams

At our first three resort stays, we both had breakfast included or paid for the meal. We might then wait to go to breakfast till about 9:45 a.m. simply earlier than the buffet closed. By ready to eat later, we left our breakfast buffets so full that we ended up skipping lunch most days.

Whereas I am not encouraging individuals to skip meals, we did not begin to consider a full meal once more till the late afternoon.

Given {that a} sandwich, pasta dish, particular person pizza, or plate of tacos every value round $20 at lunchtime, and a bottle of mineral water at a resort restaurant was $7, plus service charges and tax, a resort lunch might simply value us not less than $50 every day.

Financial savings: $400

We bought alcohol and snacks at native markets to forego expensive minibars or resort completely satisfied hours.

Shelves of wine at a grocery store.

Wine was plentiful at native grocery shops inside strolling distance of most of our lodging.Kara Williams

We saved cash choosing up $18 bottles of French wine at native markets versus paying $12 a glass at resort eating places. (Tahitian wine is nearer to $8 a glass.)

We additionally shopped regionally for beer, although it wasn’t essentially low-cost. A six-pack of the native beer, Hinano on sale value us about $12 on the market, however that is nonetheless cheaper than $8 per draft at resort bars.

And on a number of nights, as a substitute of spending $10 to $20 for an appetizer at a resort completely satisfied hour, we might nibble on a baguette (simply $.62) and cheese ($4) bought at a market on our bungalow deck.

Financial savings: $200

For our ultimate two nights in French Polynesia, we returned to the island of Tahiti.

A man holding a carry on luggage bag.

Trudging from the Papeete airport to our funds resort wasn’t enjoyable, but it surely did present loads of laughs – a lot later.Kara Williams

The unique plan was to spend our ultimate two nights in French Polynesia at a country guesthouse on the quiet island of Maupiti.

However when a violent rainstorm canceled our flight, we needed to pivot plans rapidly.

We determined to scrap Maupiti, since going for only one night time earlier than flying again to the US wasn’t well worth the journey (aircraft, water taxi, land taxi) or value to get there.

As an alternative, we flew again to Papeete and booked a last-minute room for $130 on the funds Tahiti Airport Motel. With so many extravagant stays underneath our belt, we did not thoughts one thing extra modest for only a fast stopover.

For our ultimate night time, we moved to the extra luxurious InterContinental Resort Tahiti.

An outdoor swimming pool at a seaside resort.

Scenic swimming pool on the InterContinental Resort Tahiti.Kara Williams

Once more, with my InterContinental Ambassador membership, we acquired a room improve. We paid $339 for a Customary Backyard View Room however have been upgraded to a renovated Superior Backyard View Room, which might have value us not less than $30 extra.

We additionally used our $20 restaurant/bar credit score and had welcome drinks ($16).

Financial savings: $275 (factoring within the cheaper airport motel the primary night time)

On the finish of our journey, we took our return COVID-19 assessments at a neighborhood pharmacy as a substitute of the airport.

A French Polynesian pharmacy.

We received our return COVID-19 take a look at at a neighborhood pharmacy near our ultimate resort.Kara Williams

As of publishing, anybody flying to the US from a overseas nation should take a COVID-19 take a look at inside a day of journey.

After we arrived on the airport in Tahiti in the beginning of our journey, we have been handed a flyer detailing that return COVID assessments on the airport on our departure day have been out there for $48 apiece.

As an alternative, my husband and I went to a neighborhood pharmacy the day earlier than our flight, only a 15-minute stroll from our resort.

There, a pharmacist plucked self-tests off the shelf, administered them, and charged us simply $17 every for the service. Her signed and stamped items of paper noting our unfavourable outcomes labored simply effective once we confirmed them to the gate agent, permitting us to board our first of three flights dwelling.

Financial savings: $62

All of those cost-cutting measures saved us $7,278 on our dream journey to French Polynesia.

A man and a woman standing together in front of the ocean.

My husband and I cherished our trip in French Polynesia, and we will not wait to return sometime.Kara Williams

Saving cash at all times feels good however we nonetheless made our trip our personal. We splurged the place it felt nice (spa remedies, a non-public pontoon boat rental, business-class airline tickets) and saved on issues that did not matter as a lot (inter- and on-island transportation, alcohol and snacks, group excursions, souvenirs).

In fact, our strategies won’t work for everybody. Others with totally different trip types would possibly choose indulgent gourmand meals each day, rental vehicles, expensive souvenirs, or a number of day-long excursions and excursions.

Finally, there is not any one “proper” method to spend cash or time on trip. That is the fantastic thing about journey.

A mug perched on an outdoor wooden railing at a seaside resort.

We’re glad we saved large on our five-night bundle deal on the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa.Kara Williams

Now dwelling from our first journey to French Polynesia, I would not change a factor.

And, with $7,000 nonetheless within the financial institution, we now have sufficient left over to plan our subsequent large journey, the place I definitely plan to economize wherever I can.

Learn the unique article on Insider

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