How I Convinced My Family to Take a Crazy $60,000 Trip with Me
Three years ago, my parents and sister had never been outside of the U.S., except to go to Canada a few times. And Canada is basically the United States with people who say “eh” and apologize a lot. It doesn’t count. (Love you Canadians!) So I got this idea that I wanted them to take a trip with me. And not just any trip… a crazy, mind-blowing, once-in-a-lifetime trip.
I’d floated the idea of an African safari before, which is my ultimate dream trip, and my parents were not interested at all. They’re like “How about we just go to Florida?” Which is fair, but, a lot less exciting and without the lions.
I thought a lot about what my family would like and feel comfortable with, yet wanted to go somewhere that would be exotic and off the beaten path. The answer was a trip to Mauritius, with a side trip to Paris on the way.
I was inspired by this post by The Points Guy. Mauritius is a small island country off the coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. It’s popular with honeymooners and Europeans, but not so much with Americans. Possibly because it’s REALLY far away.
In order to make this trip happen, I knew my proposal had to be amazing. And what do we all do at work when we need to convey a set of ideas to an audience in a visually stimulating way? Yep. Powerpoint presentation.
I chose my time wisely, right before Christmas, when everyone is feeling all warm and fuzzy and excited about being off of work/school. I gathered the family around the computer and told them I had something special to show them. (Kind of like when someone is about to sell you some Avon or something.) And then I started the presentation. Maybe the BEST PRESENTATION EVER. OK, at the very least, it’s better than being at work.
The Presentation & The Reality
From the title of this post, you can probably guess that my proposal was successful, so I will show each slide of my presentation, followed by what happened in reality.
Slide 1: Set the Scene
I started out with authority.
Slide 2: Business Class Flights
I knew my parents wouldn’t be super excited about flying coach for 18+ hours each way, so the flights had be luxury all the way.
In reality, it looked a little more like this:
Slide 3: Paris
Paris is the quintessential travel destination. You can’t go through life without visiting the Eiffel Tower, right?
It also can’t hurt to mention that this hotel stay is going to be free.
In reality, we stayed 4 nights in Paris.
Slide 4: More Business Class Flights
Now comes there part where I purposefully leave out that Mauritius is in Africa. We’ll save that little nugget for later. Instead, I mention that these nice, cushy flights have unlimited alcohol, which I know will appeal to my dad and sister. We like wine in our family.
The reality was pretty close to the promise. A 12-hour flight in coach is rough, so being in business class for this was really nice.
Slide 5: Mauritius
Show pretty pictures of Mauritius. Mention that it’s a very peaceful country (because moms worry) and that the official language is English, so that we all feel very comfortable going there. Continue to not mention that Mauritius is in Africa.
The Reality: Mauritius is in fact a very peaceful and beautiful country, with lovely, friendly, funny people. We saw a sign near a temple that was very touching: “One island, Many people, All Mauritians.”
Slide 6: Water Sports
My dad has been a competitive water skier for his entire life. He competes on the regional and national level, and lives on a lake where he can water ski every day. Hey dad, if you go on this trip, you can water ski somewhere really cool!
In reality, both of my parents, who are in their 60s, went water skiing in the Indian Ocean. The water was choppy and the boat didn’t have a lot of power, but it didn’t matter. These pictures actually make me tear up a little, because, how amazing is that?
Slides 7 & 8: A Luxury Hotel
I wanted to sweeten the deal even more with the promise of a luxury hotel, also for free. I’d read about the Grand Mauritian on a few blogs and TripAdvisor, and couldn’t wait to go there.
As it turns out, the Grand Mauritian burned down and was still closed during our trip. I was really bummed, until I read about a new, even better hotel, the St. Regis Mauritius, that was just opening.
In reality, we stayed in Mauritius for 8 nights: 3 nights at the Intercontinental Mauritius in the North and 5 nights at the St. Regis Mauritius in the South.
The St. Regis Mauritius was the most amazing hotel I’ve ever stayed at. We had beautiful rooms and beaches, staff dedicated to making you happy, and butlers!
Because I have Platinum status with Starwood, my whole family was able to get breakfast for free. Breakfast normally cost ~$80 USD per person, so for 4 people and 5 days, we ate $1600 worth of breakfast for free. And it was the BEST breakfast ever. And there was a bartender mixing drinks. At breakfast.
Slide 9: The Animal Kingdom
My family is into animals (we go search out alligators in Florida) and after reading about this activity in a bunch of blogs, I knew I HAD to do the walk with Lions and Tigers at Casela Nature Park.
The Reality: My mom balked at this activity at first, but then we watched about 30 YouTube videos of people doing this and not dying or getting mauled until eventually she was convinced.
The tigers were not available, but we spent an hour with 2 lions. You get ample time to walk next to them, pet them, and pose for pictures with them.
Slide 10: Giant Tortoises and Crocodiles
Hanging out with Giant Tortoises was the activity I was most excited about. You can even feed them!
The Reality: We saw some crocodiles, some huge fruit bats, and some other cool animals, AND THEN WE HUNG OUT WITH GIANT TORTOISES. We fed them. We took a lot of pictures with them. We snuck a baby into our pocket to take home. (Kidding, they count them twice a day.)
Slide 11: Swim with Dolphins
In Mauritius, there is a pod of wild dolphins that comes to the Western side of the island every morning. You can go out on a boat, hop in the water, and swim with them.
This one didn’t go over as well as I thought it would, and sparked some lengthy family discussions about dolphins and their untoward behaviors.
The Reality: This was the absolute best thing we did on the trip. This is not an activity where dolphins do tricks for you in a pool – they are wild, they ignore you, and you just get to watch them be dolphins. Sometimes they swim around you as they come up for air. The water was crystal clear, and you could see everything right down to the bottom of the ocean.
Swimming with wild dolphins was a magical, breathtaking experience, one of the best of my entire life.
How We did It
Shockingly, after the presentation, the whole family was in! At some point, someone thought to ask where Mauritius actually was but by the time they realized it was Africa, it was too late, they were hooked. (Success!)
In order to get the free flights and hotels, we had to collect a serious amount of miles and points. Each business class flight to Mauritius via Paris was 120,000 Delta Skymiles, or 480,000 miles total. 1
Two rooms at the St. Regis Mauritius for 5 nights cost 160,000 SPG points. Two rooms for 3 nights at the Intercontinental Mauritius and two rooms for 4 nights at the Holiday Inn Paris Notre Dame cost about 360,000 IHG (Formerly Priority Club) points.
As for the $60,000, at one point I priced out all of the flights and hotels, and what they would have cost if we had paid cash. Currently, a basic room at the St. Regis in September is $725 a night!
It’s a bit tricky to get 4 people on the same flight (much less 4 flights) on free award tickets in business class, so we wound up extending the trip to 4 days in Paris and 8 days in Mauritius in addition to pushing the trip out 4 months to accommodate flight availability.
Our strategy to collect these points was to use the lucrative sign-up bonuses on credit cards to collect the miles and points we needed. If you want to know more about this strategy, check out my post on how to travel for free using miles and points. It took us a year to save up for this trip; that’s a long time, but the value we got was incredible.
1 year and 9 months after this presentation, I got to take the trip of a lifetime with my family. We actually did so much more than what you see here 2, from wine tasting in Paris and Rum tasting in Mauritius, to Segway rides, standing on the rim of a volcano, and watching beautiful sunsets every day on the beach. It was one hell of a ride, and I’m so happy my family has these memories to share.