10 Most Expensive Places To Travel (And How To Save With Points) – Forbes Advisor






































Forbes Advisor Staff

Published: Nov 24, 2023, 9:00am

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For the most part, the cost of a trip is what you make of it. In nearly any destination, you can choose to stay in hostels, picnic and self-entertain to keep costs low. Or you can splurge on private villas, spas, private drivers and first class tickets while spending tens of thousands. But in a handful of places, you can expect costs to surge no matter how you travel. In these expensive places to travel, you’ll need to get more strategic when booking if you want to save money.

Antarctica

Antarctic tourism is right on the verge of accessibility: There are more options to step foot on the continent than ever before, but you’ll pay dearly for the privilege. The average cruise costs $1,000 per person, per day for an entry-level stateroom, but paying double or triple that is not uncommon. And if you’re flying in, you can expect to pay even more: a five-hour trip from Punta Arenas to King George Island (off the coast of the Antarctic peninsula) with the chance to see penguins and landscapes via a zodiac ride, costs $6,600.

Using miles to save: World of Hyatt has a partnership with Lindblad Expeditions, allowing you to redeem Hyatt points for an Antarctic cruise. Rates vary by cruise and aren’t cheap, but if you have a healthy rewards reserve, it can save you some serious cash. If you do choose to pay cash, you can earn World of Hyatt points to later use for another trip.


Botswana

All African safaris are expensive, but Botswana tops this list with a plethora of luxury camps and specialty experiences that cost a pretty penny. A week-long circuit visiting several of the most popular parks and reserves typically costs about $8,000 per person—and you can certainly pay more for a top-of-the-line trip. On top of that, simply arriving in Botswana is a major budget item. There’s nothing cheap about flying to Maun.

Using miles to save: Award flights to Maun can be hard to come by, but you’ll have more options if you book to Johannesburg and buy a separate ticket for the final segment from there. Consider booking with Aeroplan miles: they have several partners without fuel surcharges.


Dubai

Dubai doesn’t have to be expensive, but for most travelers it ends up that way. Assuming you want to stay in the center of town, hit the stereotypical attractions and eat at over-the-top locales, you’ll need to pack your favorite credit card (or two). Indulge in white-truffled pizza for $789, caviar dumplings at $42 apiece or add edible gold-leaf to a humble biryani for $272. And that’s all before you go shopping, where brands like Bulgari, Cartier and Tiffany & Co. are favorites.

Using miles to save: Dubai’s hotel rates drop significantly in the summer. Before you write it off for high temperatures, keep in mind that pools and indoor amenities can keep you comfortable. This can be a great time to use American Express Fine Hotels + Resorts credits since you’ll get a steal on the room plus a credit to use toward on-site dining, spa treatments or other incidentals.


French Polynesia

Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea and the other French Polynesian islands are legendary for their ultra-high prices, made worse by travelers’ desires to book a stereotypical luxury experience when going there. You can expect to pay at least $800 per night for an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora and sadly that’s not all-inclusive. Island hopping adds to your bottom line: flying is the most common way to get around, especially if you’re heading to the outer isles.

Using miles to save: Split your time between the InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana Resort and Intercontinental Resort Tahiti, which is half the cost in points because it has more traditional room types. Holders of the IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card are eligible to get their fourth night free when paying with points—and yes, if you book two sets of four nights, you’ll get two nights free.


Japan

Americans currently have the advantage when it comes to the exchange rate right now, with the yen at a five-year low. Though you’d expect that to take the sting out of things, increased demand and tourism are keeping costs high. In fact, the cost of a 14-day rail pass increased by more than 50% as of October 2023 and the average daily rate for high-end hotels in Tokyo is up 33% compared to pre-pandemic, far outpacing rate increases in other travel hotspots like New York City.

Using miles to save: Using miles to fly to Japan can help you save more of your money for costs once you arrive. A favorite way to get there in style is by using Virgin Atlantic rewards to fly on the partner All Nippon Airways. It’ll cost 145,000 miles to fly round-trip in first class from the west coast to Japan.


Maldives

The Maldives have a reputation for attracting anyone looking for a holiday focused on romance or relaxation, but it comes at a cost. International airfare is a sizable expense but the cost of transport—often a floatplane—to your resort also runs in the hundreds of dollars, without a budget alternative. Being trapped on your resort’s private island also means you’re held captive when it comes to restaurant and tour prices. Luckily, there’s one ray of sunshine: You’ll be in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Using miles to save: The Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa is one of the best values for hotel redemptions, with many nights available for approximately 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.


Maui

In general, Hawaii can be an expensive vacation but Maui takes the cake, with average hotel rates of $691 per night in July 2023—before taxes, resort fees, parking or other extras. It doesn’t help that travelers also want to do it all (and do it all right now). Adding in the cost of tours or activities jacks the total price up. A half day snorkel trip, for example, starts at around $150. Multiply that by seven days and a family of four and we understand why you’re crying.

Using miles to save: Some credit card travel portals allow you to redeem points for activities in addition to typical travel bookings. For example, the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal offers tours and experiences in Maui with redemption rates of 1 to 1.5 cents per point depending on which card you have.


Monaco

Unless your luck at the casino is extraordinary, plan on saving up in advance to afford a trip to Monaco. After all, it has the world’s highest density of wealthy residents, with one out of every 39 people holding a net worth of $30 million or higher. Given the high cost of real estate, you may be surprised to find that hotel rooms are somewhat reasonable. It’s the Michelin-star restaurants, elegant spas and haute couture shopping that will cost you.

Using miles to save: Staying in Nice and commuting in by train can save you a ton (and is very realistic, at about $4 for the 20-minute journey). The ibis Nice Center Gare is right next door to the station and can be booked with Accor Live Limitless points, an American Express Membership Rewards partner.


St. Barts

St. Barts is popular among the wealthy—and the wannabe wealthy, if you’re willing to sacrifice your everyday spending to save for a glamorous trip. The flight from Miami alone will set you back more than $1,000 most weekends and you should expect to budget another $900 per night, on average, for a hotel room. And while a day at the beach could be entirely free, meals most often are not. While you can find food on a budget, if you’re after the glam experience, you should budget accordingly: even a bottle of water can top $10.

Using miles to save: If you just want to say “been there, done that”, you can actually day trip to the island from nearby St. Martin with a 15-minute flight or 45-minute ferry. Then, you’ll have plenty of options to redeem travel credits from premium cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® or Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (rates & fees) toward a modest hotel.


Switzerland

Nothing about Switzerland is cheap, but at least it’s easy enough to budget for lodging and transport in advance: you’ll get the precise price when confirming your reservation. Meals, though, sneak up on you. A Whopper value meal at the Zurich train station rings up at nearly 18 Swiss francs (that’s $19.50). And sit-down restaurants are eye-wateringly expensive. Budget about 35 francs for a main dish before tacking on the cost of appetizers, drinks or dessert.

Using miles to save: Given the cost of meals, this is one time when hotel elite status pays off. Hilton Gold and Diamond members get free breakfast internationally and may be provided access to the property’s executive lounge, if available. Lounges often offer snacks and beverages in the evening, which can substitute for (or at least supplement) a dinner out.


Travel Credit Cards To Use

Travel credit cards make a big difference when traveling to expensive destinations, in part due to the benefits they provide and partially for the opportunity to earn or redeem rewards.

Hotel credit cards almost always bestow elite status onto the cardholder, which can lead to on-site perks like complimentary room upgrades, free breakfast and late check-out. Some hotel cards also offer free night certificates which will save you the cost of a one-night stay. For example, the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express* offers an Annual Free Night Award with almost no restrictions.

Flexible rewards cards can be the best option if your goal is booking an award flight. Since award availability fluctuates constantly, the opportunity to earn transferable credit card currencies allows you to save up your points and wait to convert your points to a specific airline once you’ve confirmed award flights are available for your specific trip. Citi ThankYou Points, accessible with the Citi Premier® Card, partners with over 12 airlines.

Lastly, if you intend to pay for your vacation without using miles or points, you may as well earn rewards with every purchase. The best credit cards for large purchases, which a trip to an expensive destination may be, outearn the competition when you expect high bills. The Ink Business Premier℠ Credit Card earns an easy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 2.5% cash back on purchases of $5,000 or more and 2% cash back on all other purchases.

Find the Best Travel Credit Cards For 2023

Find the best travel credit card for your travel needs.


Bottom Line

If you have your heart set on going to one of the most expensive places to vacation, you might not be out of luck. Smart thinking and planning ahead can help you find affordable alternatives, or at least set fair expectations to save accordingly. However, with these 10 expensive destinations, you’ll have to try a little harder and pad your wallet a little extra.

*The information for the following card(s) has been collected independently by Forbes Advisor: Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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With more than 50 million redeemed miles under her belt, Becky Pokora is a rewards travel expert. She’s been writing about credit cards and reward travel since 2011 with articles on Forbes Advisor, BoardingArea, The Points Guy and more. Her redemptions have helped her travel to more than 50 countries and all seven continents.

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