Our recent “Passing the GUC” adventure to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and the Maldives was an incredible trip that was a lot of fun — both for us and for many readers who followed along on Instagram. One question that came up often was how much the entire trip cost us. While we previously wrote about how we upgraded our flights and how I booked activities (both posts included our costs), we didn’t have it all laid out in one place.

Truthfully, that didn’t feel terribly important to me as the purpose of the trip was to use Greg’s Delta Global Upgrade Certificates to plan a trip and meet challenges that we hoped would be both entertaining and useful for readers to understand. My goal was never to create a trip that somebody should try to copy. For example, I can’t imagine that I would ordinarily want to take a hot air balloon and also drive on a Formula 1 track on a single day. I didn’t even expect those two activities to appeal to the same groups of people.

The point here was to show you that if a hot air balloon or race car or Hyatt premium suite is on your bucket list, it can be done with your points. If my goal were to have a good trip without spending a ton of points or with a cash limit, I may have planned differently. In this case, we were willing to splurge a bit in the hopes that readers would benefit from knowing things like whether Le Meridien Maldives was worth it and how to book those Hyatt Premium Suites, etc. I think we got a great value for the trip we did (far less than paying the cash price), but I recognize that most readers would have done aspects differently.

I also recognize that a lot of people wanted totals, so this post is all about the totals for what they are worth to you.

What’s a GUC?

GUCs are Global Upgrade Certificates available only to Delta Diamond elites.  Earlier this year, Greg had offered to share his GUCs with Nick, but with a catch: Nick had to plan the whole trip.  Please see the original post on this topic, here: Passing the GUC: Greg gives global upgrades to Nick… with a catch.


Retail price comparison

While I don’t generally like to compare point value to full retail prices that I would never pay, I thought it might be worth noting the approximate total cash price of the trip we put together. Based on the typical cash prices for things we booked, our trip would have cost at full price:

  • Flights: $9,000 (the nonstop first class flights between Dubai and the Maldives are obscenely expensive and the Air France/KLM flights would have also been pricey)
  • Hotels: $5,300 per person (the Prince Suite was about $2,000 per night x 2 nights (but then divided by two people since we split it) and Le Meridien was about $2250 for a room for 3 nights with sea plane and all taxes and the Four Seasons was about $250. Costs like food and COVID tests would have been the same as shown below.
  • Activities: Over $1,000 at full price

That leaves out a few costs, but in total that is over $15,000 per person. We didn’t pay anywhere near that, nor would we. This is why we play the game: to enjoy experiences far beyond what we would ordinarily consider thanks to mastering “the game” of miles and points.

A note about Capital One Hotel Special Offers

A big piece of my personal accounting for the Marriott charges I incurred during the trip is the fact that I have access to a special Capital One redemption that most cardholders do not. Some older Capital One accounts, including my Capital One VentureOne card opened around 2014 (I think), have the ability to redeem Capital One Miles for “Hotel Special Offers”. I had previously written about this capability here. A couple of partners have since dropped off, but I still now have the ability to redeem 64,250 Capital One Miles for a $900 gift card to:

  • Marriott
  • Ritz-Carlton (same thing as Marriott I assume)
  • Raffles
  • Fairmont (note that Raffles and Fairmont are both Accor chains)

The redemption value in that case is is 1.4 cents per Capital One mile. That’s a pretty good deal since 64,250 Capital One miles could ordinarily be used to erase just $642.50 in travel charges (alternatively, they can be transferred to airline and hotel partners for better value).

I had redeemed 64,250 Capital One Miles for a fresh $900 gift card specifically for this trip just a couple of weeks before departure. I used almost the entire card at Le Meridien Maldives (and I still have the remaining balance on that card). I’ll therefore account for the cash costs at Le Meridien in terms of the number of Capital One miles they cost me at 1.4c per mile. Recognizing that most people don’t have access to that particular sweet spot, I am including the cash prices also for your reference.


During the trip, we took the following flights at the following costs:

  • Air France from Washington, DC to Dubai nd KLM on the return from Dubai to Washington, DC for $608 round trip per passenger. We upgraded our…

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