Once upon a time, I used to fly to America a fair bit. The upside to all this? (Apart from all the cheap clothes, rollercoasters, Sephora raids and carbs smothered in cheese?)… AIR MILES. I hoarded my air miles like a squirrel manically stashing his acorns, I wouldn’t dare use them on upgrades (don’t be silly!) I’d just collect them and occasionally log-in to admire my balance. I had big dreams of using them for first class return flights somewhere really snazzy during a particularly long and cold winter. My patience would be rewarded!
Then I realised my six figure air mile balance was about to expire and, being pregnant, I probably wasn’t about to jet off to the Bahamas in some smug points fuelled daze. Like the criminally expensive dress you only save for best and then three years later you realise you’ve never worn, I was about to lose all those miles I’d been so adamant I couldn’t dip into. Damn.
A quick trawl through Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club website gave me hope though, I may not have been up for a long flight with them but I *could* trade my air miles for hotel vouchers a little closer to home. There were a few partners I could do it with, but the best deal seemed to be with Kaligo.
Before I go any further, I should point out that cashing in air miles for anything other than flights is rarely the best value way to use them. For every frequent flyer programme I’ve ever used you are much better off redeeming your points for flights than for any of the other treats on offer. But that being said, if you can’t easily find a flight that works (lord knows they don’t make it easy) or if you’re put off by the inevitable taxes and surcharges you still have to pay (“free” flights don’t exist) then the other perks can still be pretty great. Rather than always trying to assess a pound/dollar value for points, I think it’s sometimes better to try and assess what the value is to YOU.
The Virgin Atlantic Kaligo deal works on a three tier voucher system: you can exchange 20,000 points for one night in a “standard” 3 or 4 star hotel, 30,000 points for one night in a “premium” 4 or 5 star hotel, or 40,000 points for one night in a “luxury” hotel – think 5 star and snazzier. Brilliantly and unlike some stricter hotel programmes, you can book as many consecutive nights as you wish assuming you have the points to do so. And because Kaligo covers all sorts of hotels rather than one group, there’s a huge amount of choice – over 365,000 hotels are included. I was looking at Mallorca specifically and was stunned by how many there were to choose from all over the island.
In the end I chose to cash in 180,000 points for six “premium” vouchers, which enabled me to book six nights bed and breakfast in a great room with a double balcony at the adults only Sensimar Aguait Resort & Spa. It was a surprisingly pain free process to sort out, I just had to phone Virgin Atlantic and then they issued me with six individual voucher codes, which I then used on a special booking page of the Kaligo website. I did have my usual panic of “WHAT IF WE ARRIVE AT THE HOTEL AND THEY HAVE NEVER HEARD OF KALIGO AND IT’S ALL JUST A MASSIVE SCAM?!” but as soon as we arrived they knew of our reservation as if we were any regular paying customer – and they’d even sorted us out a particularly nice corner room.
Our flights with Monarch weren’t too bad given we flew on peak days – £300 total with bags – so all in all it was a great value trip. Certainly a lot cheaper than flying to the US/Caribbean ‘for free’, STILL paying flight taxes and surcharges and then having to pay for a hotel for a week on top. Points aficionados will argue the Kaligo deal isn’t a good value way to use miles, but it certainly felt like a good value trip to us. (Especially as the miles were going to expire!).
We really adored the hotel and we both said we’d love to go back. Given my current condition and the fact it’s adults only, we may have to wait a cool 18 years to return, but it’s a hotel I would definitely recommend. It was such a chilled week which was exactly what we were after. The customer service was fab throughout, the sea-view pool was glorious, the room size was impressive and everywhere was spotlessly clean. The food was brilliant too with a surprisingly decent range of veggie options, which I really wasn’t expecting.
I don’t think I’ll be racking up any more transatlantic miles any time soon, but it was fun to make the most of my remaining Virgin stash. I’d definitely recommend looking into the Kaligo offer if you’ve got points you’re trying to use, even for a night away in the UK.
Tomorrow I’m going to blog more generically about holidaying whilst pregnant (sneak preview: nap a lot and DRINK ALL THE WATER!) so do come back for that if of interest 😀
And hopefully I don’t need to point this out but obviously this post isn’t sponsored/endorsed by Virgin, Kaligo, Monarch, the hotel etc etc. Although I do like a free holiday, clearly, so HI! *Waves*.