Now seems about as good a time as any to pretend we’re all on a sunny island sipping coco loco’s, right?! While Jared and I probably won’t be hitting up French Polynesia again anytime soon (that budget life…), getting to visit for our honeymoon was AMAZING. Literally amazing. Part one of the honeymoon— a detailed guide to how we traveled to French Polynesia on a budget. Specifically, Moorea.
For now, I’m breaking down all of our trip details, including where our money went, our total budget, and so on. To emphasize, this was definitely a luxury-budget trip. For instance, we stayed in all four and five star hotels and tried to book the most upgraded rooms we could.
Plus we’re sharing one million photos of what we did in Moorea, but everyone loves beach pictures…
We had a budget in mind for the entire trip that we didn’t want to go over. Since we ended up changing our wedding plans from a destination wedding to eloping in White Sands, we saved quite a lot of wedding budget money. Originally we weren’t going to go on a honeymoon with the destination wedding plans, it was going to be a two-for-one type of deal since we were paying for everything ourselves.
Once we switched things up, I asked my friend Taylor from The Simple Sol to help us navigate options with what we could afford. We didn’t want to spend more than $10,000 for the entire trip for both of us. For a nine night French Polynesia trip, that’s kind of a large wishlist. She helped us plan excursions, island flight transfers to and from Moorea and Bora Bora, etc. It was a HUGE help navigating the planning, but here’s how we made it cheaper, though you could stay in less expensive hotels to save even more.
We often don’t back to the same locations when we travel so that we can see new things, so we splurged on luxury hotels for our honeymoon instead of making this trip cheaper since we didn’t do a full wedding.
You could easily follow our same itenerary yet stay in lesser hotels to make the same trip thousands of dollars less. —
First up, you have to actually get to the island. I know, I know! You totally didn’t see that one coming. I’m a woman of extreme mystery.
Our flight route was Houston, to LA, to Tahiti, to Moorea, to Bora Bora. We fly Southwest a ton because Texas is a hub for them and Hobby airport is really close to our house. We used Southwest points to fly to LA for free, which was all good and well until we realized that meant a really long layover in LA.
We figured we could work from one of the airport lounges until our flight. The BEST perk of having an American Express business card is the lounge access! We also packed only carry-on’s to make sure we didn’t lose luggage on the way, plus it cut down on costs.
What we didn’t think through is that we couldn’t check into the Air Tahiti flight from LA to be able to access the gates/lounges early on the layover because Air Tahiti doesn’t offer mobile boarding passes and they don’t have a permanent check-in kiosk in LA. Instead, you have to wait until exactly 3 hours before your flight to get a boarding pass.
This meant we had to set up camp for SIX hours in a random restaurant outside the terminal. I think I actually lost years off of my life from the death stares the waiters gave us. That said, you definitely want the overnight Air Tahiti flight because that means you’ll get a full day at your hotel once you arrive rather than paying for a night only to get there at night and go to straight to bed.
We booked the Air Tahiti flight through American Airlines, which we also fly regularly. So we cashed in more (i.e. ALL) of our airline points to cover the roundtrip from LA to Tahiti and back. Up to this point, we’ve only spent money on buying ourselves time at the random airport restaurant.
Once we got to Tahiti, Taylor booked us a shuttle to get from the airport to the ferry that takes you to Moorea. It was really convenient having her book all of the transfers for us ahead of time because she’ll mail you a voucher booklet in advance that has tickets, times, and locations for everything in one place.
When you take the ferry over to the island, another shuttle will drop you at your hotel. We stayed at the Hilton Moorea in an overwater bungalow and LOVED it. They have rooms on the beach or land side, but if you’re going to go all the way there, you might as well pay the extra money to stay over water.
Important to note is that none of the hotels are going to be all-inclusive, and the food and drinks are EXPENSIVE. Emphasizing the all caps. At least for our microwave-meal existence it was.
For instance, a single cocktail at any time of day will run you $12 minimum, and a sandwich at lunch is around $20. Dinner was more. To solve this problem, we stocked up like pirates on snacks and drinks at duty-free before we left the airport so we could make drinks ourselves. What we forgot to do was bring water bottles so we could take our drinks to the pool/beach easier. If you can make it to restaurants off-site, the local prices are a little better.
Honestly, we would’ve been totally fine never leaving the resort besides trying different foods, though. We only bought one excursion when we were in Moorea, which was renting a roadster (see below). Essentially it’s a go-kart with a makeshift roof on it. It was hot, we were hot, there’s no air conditioning or doors, and you’re out the entire day.
In hindsight, we should’ve only rented it for a few hours to get around to some of the sights on the island like Belvedeer lookout, the pineapple fields (which was amazing!), the distillery, and some of the other beaches. We did end up driving to a few restuarants and what not, so it was still fun. Just uncomfortably hot after 8 hours in the sun and humidity in full clothes.
Aside from our one excursion, we spent a ton of time just floating around our bungalow. The water at the hotel is only 4 to 5 feet deep, so we took full advantage of staying out there most of our 4 night/5 day stay there.
Once we were checking out, we took another shuttle to the Moorea airport, which literally is one giant room with roosters walking around. Pretty awesome, ha! We took the smallest plane I’ve ever flown on over to Bora Bora and stayed for another 5 nights. I’m saving the Bora Bora details for part 2 of our honeymoon before this becomes an actual encyclopedia.
I don’t want to break down the exact pricing for shuttles, island transfers, and the Moorea hotel individually because prices obviously change based on high or low season, how far in advance you book, etc. That and I don’t want to give you an unrealstic expectation and then someone is disappointed.
Hwoever, the summarized total was $4674.00 with tax for this entire portion of the trip, plus the flight to Bora Bora, two additional excursions on Bora Bora, and our flight back from Bora Bora to Tahiti (where we’d be taking our already booked round trip ticket back to LA).That’s not including food or drinks though.
Our total at check-out from the Hilton was $501 (we paid the room fee in advance) including the $80 we spent in the gift shop on overpriced sunblock and aloe vera after we ran out.
All that left was our hotel in Bora Bora, which was $3,000 after a small (yes, small) media discount for sharing our stay online while we were there. Checking out from there our total for food and an additional excursion (I wanted my own jet ski rise, ha!) was $1,200. There was one more unexpected element we had to add on at the very end for trying to get home, but I’ll explain that in the Bora Bora post!
Jared’s also making a video of both part 1 and part 2 of our trip, so you’ll have to lose a bit more sleep while you wait for that post on Bora Bora soon!