The Hunt for Virgin Duckies

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Last year I spent 1.2 million Virgin Atlantic miles for an all-inclusive week for two on Richard Branson’s Necker Island.  The trip far exceeded my expectations (see: Is Necker Island really worth 1.2 million miles?).  At the end of the trip we walked away with new friends from around the world, incredible memories, and a bit of swag: straw hats, flip-flops, a fish shaped Swiss corkscrew army knife, and a Necker Island rubber ducky.

Necker Island is just one of several Virgin Limited Edition properties (found here).  And, just like Necker Island, most of these properties can be booked with Virgin Atlantic miles.  And, while I don’t have proof, I’ve heard that each of these offers guests a rubber ducky designed for that particular property.

One of the things I love about points and miles is that it gives me the opportunity to do fun things that I would never have done otherwise.  Would I have paid the required $30,000 for a week on Necker Island?  No way.  But miles I could do.  And I did.  I haven’t regretted it for a second.

virgin-limited-edition-properties-necker-island

Rubber Ducky Hunt

While Necker Island is the only Virgin Limited Edition property that Richard Branson calls home, I’m willing to bet that the other properties are pretty awesome too, even if Richard isn’t hanging around partying with the guests.  So, my next goal is to visit each one (except for the few that can’t be paid for with miles).  In the end, I hope to assemble a Virgin Limited Edition rubber ducky trophy case.

Getting Virgin Atlantic miles

Based on current award prices, I’ll need at least 1.73 million Virgin Atlantic miles to visit all of the remaining properties.  Currently, I have 18,747 miles.  In other words, I’m about one one-hundredth of the way there.

That sounds grim.  But, in reality, I could book them all today if I wanted to.  Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is the single most promiscuous airline loyalty program in that it partners with all of the major transferable points programs: Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Diners Club, and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG).  Between my wife and I, we have enough points to make it happen.

But, I value my Chase Ultimate Rewards, and SPG points too highly to use them this way.  Instead, I’ll wait for Amex to offer their annual-ish 30% or better transfer bonus, and for Citi to offer their somewhat regular 25% bonus.  In fact, Citi is offering that bonus now through March 2nd.  So, I’ll examine my large stash of Citi ThankYou points and decide before March 2nd how many I want to transfer.

Additionally, there’s nothing stopping me from earning Virgin Atlantic miles the old fashioned way — through credit card signups.  The ~75K miles after $12K spend offer continues to hang around, and I jumped on it recently.  If I decide to get the same card again in a few months, I’ll give up on my thought of curing my 5/24 condition.

Finally, I could earn the miles by manufacturing spend.  The Virgin Atlantic card isn’t a bad choice for doing so since it offers 1.5 miles per dollar, but I could do better.  Through Feb 1, the Blue for Business Credit Card from American Express is offering 2X on all spend the first year, up to $50K spend.  Plus, it offers a 30% annual relationship bonus.  If my wife and I each get the card and each spend $50K, we should end up with 260,000 new Membership Rewards points.  After a 30% transfer bonus, assuming one comes along, that would become 338,000 Virgin Atlantic miles.  Or, I can find ways to use my Citi AT&T Access More card to manufacture spend at 3X.  With a 25% transfer bonus, that’s like earning 3.75 Virgin Atlantic miles per dollar.

Rubber Ducky Destinations

Here are the Virgin Limited Edition properties that can be booked with Virgin Atlantic miles:

Ulusaba, South Africa

For two people, this property requires 500,000 miles for 3 nights, or 800,000 miles for 5 Nights. From Virgin Atlantic website: Stays are based on two people sharing an Elephant or Rock Cliff Room at Ulusaba and include transfers from the nearby airstrip, accommodation, all meals and drinks (including alcohol) and twice daily game drives.

virgin-limited-edition-properties-ulusaba

Mont Rochelle, South Africa

For two people, this property requires 150,000 miles for 3 nights.  From Virgin Atlantic website: Accommodation is bed and breakfast only and includes all taxes and the contents of the in-room minibar.

virgin-limited-edition-properties-mont-rochelle

The Lodge, Switzerland

For two people, this property requires 380,000 miles for 3 nights. Summer season only.  From Virgin Atlantic website: Stays are based on two people sharing one bedroom and include breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks including alcohol. Flying Club members will be upgraded on arrival subject to availability.

virgin-limited-edition-properties-the-lodge

Mahali Mzuri, Kenya

For two people, this property requires 600,000 miles for 3 nights, or 800,000 miles for 5 Nights.  From Virgin Atlantic website: Stays are based on two people sharing a tent at Mahali Mzuri and include accommodation, all taxes, all food and drink, transfers from the Mara North airstrip to the camp and laundry.

virgin-limited-edition-properties-mahali-mzuri

Kasbah Tamadot, Morocco

For two people, this property requires 250,000 miles for 3 nights.  From Virgin Atlantic website: Stays are based on two people sharing a superior room and include breakfast. Flying Club members will be upgraded on arrival subject to availability.

virgin-limited-edition-properties-kasbah-tamadot

Where I Won’t Go…

The following Limited Edition properties apparently aren’t bookable with miles…

The Roof Gardens

You can spend 125,000 miles for an “Annual High Flyer Membership at The Roof Gardens Private Members Club (usually £400),” but I won’t.virgin-limited-edition-properties-the-roof-gardens

Necker Belle, Son Bunyola

There doesn’t appear to be a way to use miles for these:

virgin-limited-edition-properties-necker-belle

virgin-limited-edition-properties-son-bunyola

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. Why would you want to travel all the way to Africa to only spend 3 nights? If you are being honest, outside of a game, you would never do this. My minimum, outside of Country, would be 5 nights or I don’t go.

    • Obviously these extravagant spending goals are targeted to people with miles/points they can afford to throw away, because to the average travel hacker, burning that many points for that length of stay would be an incredible waste.

      Also, there’s a reason why Virgin Atlantic is so promiscuous of a transfer partner- because it’s redemption awards offer terrible value (for the most part, without hunting for rare partner redemptions)- once you factor in the ripoff fuel surcharges!

      • Agreed, I am pretty sure this is aimed at the London-based businessperson who flies Virgin a lot and has built up a ton of points. Nice way to use them and make the spouse happy for all the travel. Very , very few people are going to build up this many points only through credit cards.

      • Still, it’s an interesting read even if getting to these types of places exist only in my dreams. You gotta admit, it’s better than reading the drivel and blatant credit card pumping that takes place on many other blogs.

    • LOL, of course I wouldn’t go to Africa and return after 3 nights. I’ll spend 3 to 5 nights at a Virgin property and then spend additional nights elsewhere.

      And, yes, outside of points & miles, I would never do this. That’s one of the things I love about this hobby: it gives me a chance to do fun things that I would never have considered doing otherwise.

      • Will be at both Ulusaba (6 nights) and Mahali Mzuri (5 nights) in August. Combined with a 6 night stay in Tanzania. Could care less about Necker Island and wouldn’t have gone if you paid me, but safaris are life changing…

        You’ll find the bush flights expensive and can’t be booked with points. Federal Air from JNB to Ulusaba. SafariLink from Nairobi in Kenya. Book long in advance if you want high (dry) season.

        For those interested in seeing what’s it’s like to go on a safari, there’s a site called WildSafariLive.com by Nat Geo Wild that streams live 3hr safari drives twice a day (morning drive and afternoon drive). Truly outstanding viewing. Leopards, lions, elephants, hyena, buffalo, antelope, etc etc etc etc – all wild – in the private reserves next to Kruger National Park in South Africa (where Ulusaba is located). Best wildlife viewing you’ll ever see absent being on safari yourself. They can get their vehicles within feet of the wildlife and the camera can zoom right in and get fantastic details.

        • Mser, are you paying for your stays using Virgin Atlantic points, and if so, how did you earn the points?

        • @DCJoe – yes, all booked via Virgin Atlantic points xfered from Amex/Citi. Ulusaba is one of the best lodges in Africa, but we preferred Mahali Mzuri’s tents (larger variety of animals and more exclusive/remote location). If people have to choose one or the other, my strong rec is for Mahali if you are going for the wildlife. Ulusaba is adjacent to the Sabi Sands park boundary which is fenced and locals live nearby. Loses some appeal because it isn’t particularly remote from civilization (can see town lights at night). Also, variety and concentration of wildlife wasn’t as good as Mahali (although first time safari visitors won’t notice). Ulusaba is great for leopards (my fav animal). Mahali is close to the Mara Triangle and can catch the Wildebeest migration if going July/September (depends on rains). Amex just announced another/30% transfer to Virgin Atlantic today, so am transferring enough to book both again. 5 nights in Mahali/3 Ulusaba this time. Ulusaba is relatively small property and can see much of it in 3 days – Mahali has access to much larger areas (can literally drive to Tanzania across the Conservancies and National Parks). I don’t recommend the balloon rides – a waste of money for what you get.

        • Mser, so for those who have been to Mahali Mzuri, your recommendation would be to skip Ulusaba completely? We had great experience this June at Mahali and I have been thinking about starting to pile up the points for a trip to Ulusaba and Mont Rochelle in a year or so but if Ulusaba isn’t worth visiting, I might change this plan.
          For leopards, Mahali was pretty good imo, they have 4 or 5 living nearby and they know where to find them. We saw several, one with a little kitty and a couple eating prey in the trees. Wish I could see the hunt but the guide said it’s almost impossible as it may take hours.

  2. FYI, for 2017 Necker Island points reservations are LIMITED to Silver and Gold Flying Club Members ONLY… Fortunately for the time being one can get Silver Tier status with short Delta First one ways good for 75 tier points each (need 400 Tier Points for Silver, 1000 for Gold). Can get 25 tier points per $2500 Virgin CC spend (up to 50 per month).

      • Almost fell out of my chair when I got the following email…. Makes sense why they were not taking reservations past 1/2017 late last year, as they added this requirement to the redemption T+C’s, most likely on 1/1…

        ——

        Thank you for your email.

        We are currently holding a Great House Room for you at Necker Island from the XXXXXX 2017 for 7 nights and can confirm that this can be booked against 1.2 million VAA points. Kindly note that guests must be a valid Silver or Gold Flying Club member to be eligible to redeem miles for a stay.

        To confirm the provisional reservation, you will need to redeem the 1.2 million points from VAA Flying Club. To redeem this, please contact Virgin Atlantic Flying Club directly and let them know that you would like to redeem your points for a stay at Necker Island. Once this is confirmed, please send us the email confirmation from Flying Club in order to confirm your reservation at Necker island.

        Please could you also advise –
        Other guest name
        Home address
        If you are celebrating any special occasion during your stay

        Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions at all.

        Best regards,
        XXXXX

  3. If you have Virgin America miles, many of these redemption options are about the half the cost in Elevate miles compared what’s being offered through Virgin Atlantic. Great deal (to me) if you have a stash of Elevate miles that you aren’t interested in converting to Alaska.

  4. Is there somewhere that says what is included in a points stay at a place like Ulusaba? Are safaris and food included? Headed to that area next year anyway for a few weeks. Might be worth it for a few days.

    • Prob just a coincidence that when you started babbling about it things have begun to shift and prices raise. This thing has been around for yrs. The need to pump stuff to get web hits is astounding. What number article is this on the VS deal? Hey but my guess is you’ll spin it as you are helping everyone out.

        • +1
          Generally, I consider Greg’s blog to be the best out there on travel hacking. And I like the fact that he puts out lots of disclosure and really seems to want us all to get the best deal (e.g., his CC app page). But this Necker Island thing was kind of weird. I wondered why Branson was hanging all over Greg? There is no way you or I get that kind of treatment!! Then an article like this, basically a promo for all those expensive Branson properties, makes me wonder if Greg and Branson don’t have some kind of deal going here. I guess not that it matters, as long as Greg continues to put out good content in his normal spheres.

      • I write about what interests me, or what I think interests readers (i.e. answering reader questions). I don’t write to pump web hits.

        I’m not aware of any prices rising for Necker properties since I began writing about

  5. Greg, what’s the current state of the BofA Virgin Atlantic card application? It’s been 91 days since my last application and I’m planning to get another one this week. Do you think it is possible to get more than one? Based on your latest BofA experience seems that anything over one will be marked as dupe. Do that and call reconsiderations?

    As for the new requirement of being Silver member, it’s really not that big of a deal. Takes 4 cards max to achieve (100 Tier Points per card).

  6. I’ve been collecting the Virgin Ducks for a couple of years now! They are FANTASTIC! 😀

    I’m three short (two Virgin Roof Gardens, and the new Son Bunyola) from completing the set. Unfortunately, being in Canada – Virgin doesn’t fly up here so I don’t have the opportunity of collecting miles to trade for a luxury vacation at one of the resorts. But it hasn’t stopped me from building my collection!

    Best of luck!
    …and if you do come across a spare Son Bunyola – let me know 😉

  7. I’m interested in doing this for one or both of the South African properties, but in light of some of the crackdowns or belt tightening at Bank of America since you wrote this, how easy do you think one can churn BoA VS cards these days (how quickly to close, how soon to apply again)? I also don’t have the best access to MSing so I’d be relying on mostly the bonuses. Probably not worth starting right now with just the 20K bonus?

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