Is Necker Island really worth 1.2 million miles?

Yesterday, Condé Nast Traveler published “How One Guy Vacationed With Richard Branson…By Using Points.”  That guy was me.  My wife and I enjoyed an all-expense-paid week on Richard Branson’s Necker Island, and we paid for it with miles.  A lot of miles.  1.2 million miles.

Was it worth it?

Arrival

When we arrived at Beef Island airport, in the British Virgin Islands, a taxi van drove us to a nearby dock. There, Necker Island staff took our bags, handed us Champagne, and welcomed us onto a small speedboat. Eight other guests had already boarded. We sped towards Necker Island and our anticipation grew. In many ways, the boat ride seemed like our entry into an amazing shared dream…

As we neared the island, Necker staff waived from the dock and helped us out of the boat. Then, Sir Richard Branson himself stepped out to greet us personally.  It felt very much like the opening scene in every episode of Fantasy Island.

Neither of these guys are Richard Branson

Neither of these guys are Richard Branson

We were led to a nearby table for lunch while our bags found their way to our rooms. As we introduced ourselves to the other guests, lunch appeared.  One delicious dish after another was set in front of us family-style. Nearly everyone at the table was new to the island. And our shared first-time-on-island experience quickly bonded us together.

Necker Island view from table near beach pool

Our first-lunch view

I hadn’t intended to tell the other guests about how I used miles to book the trip, nor that I blogged about earning miles without flying for a living. I feared that people who had spent over $30,000 for the week would be pissed. But soon enough I was asked directly about why we chose Necker Island and I answered truthfully. No one seemed disturbed at all. Instead, their eyes lit up. They wanted to know how to find my blog and whether they could do this too! Most of the guests were British, though, and so wouldn’t have access to the same credit card offers and deals that I write about. Still, they promised to share the blog with their American friends.

One guest who arrived later that night asked if I was The Points Guy. Um, no.

Frequent Miler

Shown above is me, Frequent Miler, NOT The Points Guy.

My favorite conversation starter was to ask other guests why they chose Necker Island. Over the course of the week I learned that I wasn’t the only one with an interesting story. At least two other guests had booked the island with miles.  One flies Virgin Atlantic for work and charges everything to his Virgin Atlantic credit card.  The other owns a business and charges all expenses to his Business Platinum card. This was his third year visiting the island thanks to transferring Amex Membership Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic.  One guest had won the week at a charity poker tournament. Two had won charity auctions. One had received the week as a gift from a friend! Another was there for the second week in a row. She explained that she was signed up for Virgin Galactic and that every year many soon-to-be space tourists visit Necker Island at the same time (the week before my trip). Was Necker Island included in the Virgin Galactic price?  Nope.  Apparently (and, in retrospect, this shouldn’t be surprising) many who can afford a Virgin Galactic ticket (currently: $250,000) can afford an annual week on Necker Island as well.

virgin-galactic

One guest was vacationing on Necker Island while waiting for her someday ride into space.

Activities

You can’t get bored on Necker Island…

I hiked:

I only got lost twice hiking around the island

I paddle boarded (and got my name on the records board despite a very slow time):

Yes, Liam bested my time by 10 minutes, but at least I beat that 3rd place guy

Yes, Liam bested my time by 10 minutes, but at least I beat that 3rd place guy

I pedal boarded:

That didn’t go exactly as planned

I snorkeled, free dived, and SCUBA dived (dove?):

Sadly my underwater camera is now permanently underwater. I forgot to strap it to my scuba gear.

Group activities included a guided hike around the island (no getting lost that time!), zip-lining, Lemur feeding, off-island excursions, a tour of Richard Branson’s estate on nearby Mosquito island, a tennis tournament, Champagne Sabering lessons, and several evening parties. It was great.

Zip-Lining
Lemur Feeding

Sir Richard

Richard Branson frequently spent time with the guests. He dined with us several times, joined a few parties, and actively participated in the island tennis tournament (and scored the winning point).  I had a number of opportunities to talk with him.  We discussed what would happen if Alaska Airlines dropped the Virgin America brand (he would re-start Virgin America as a new company).  We talked global warming (I mentioned that my wife and I own a positive energy home and we earned a “well done!” from Richard).  We talked politics.  And, we discussed miles.  In fun, he gave me the finger.

Sir Richard Branson Necker Island

Here’s what Richard thinks of those who book the island with miles (in jest)

Lodging, meals, and weather

Our room was in the truly great Great House. Our patio and full ocean view was drop-dead gorgeous. The patio included an outdoor shower which I used daily. While the room itself wasn’t huge, it was luxuriously appointed and perfect for our needs. The king bed was incredibly comfortable. Every room included island necessities such as sunscreen, bug repellent, straw hats, and a wicker beach bag. Laundry deposited in the bathroom laundry bag was washed and pressed daily.

Necker Island View from Our Patio

View from our patio

Breakfast was served every morning at the Great House at a large outdoor table. Both buffet and menu service was available. My favorite but admittedly boring choice was their Eggs Benedict.

Breakfast table

Breakfast table

Breakfast (Delicious)

Breakfast (Delicious)

Lunch and dinner locations varied each day. Some meals were served family style, some included menu service, and a few were buffet style. Meals were almost always excellent.

Necker Island Food

A Necker Island meal

Drinks flowed non-stop. Nearly every gathering spot on the island includes a well-stocked bar. And every staff member was more than happy to step behind the bar to serve drinks. Sometimes we even ordered non-alcoholic drinks.

With regards to weather, we were very lucky. Even though it rained several nights (almost always while we slept), every day was sunny and clear. Each day’s high temperature was in the low 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Was it worth it? Was it worth 1.2 million miles?

The single 1.2 million Virgin Atlantic mile price included all taxes, all tips, all meals, all activities on the island (except massages), and all off-island excursions for two people for 7 nights. We did have to pay ourselves (mostly with points, of course) to fly to the British Virgin Islands. Once we arrived, though, I put my wallet away and never touched it again all week.

On the other hand…

While the island was beautiful, we’ve been to more beautiful places. While the food was excellent, we’ve had better. Price-wise, I expect that it would be possible to cobble together a similar sounding trip for far fewer points.

But…

I don’t believe that anything else in the world would be quite like this. The island, the incredible staff, the animals, the fellow guests (now friends!), and even Sir Richard Branson himself combined to make Necker Island magical… a true fantasy island.  It was a vacation of a lifetime.

So, was it worth 7 months of my time to collect 1.2 million Virgin Atlantic miles?

Hell yeah.

See Also:

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.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

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Waylo
Guest

That photo with Richard Branson is worth 1.2M miles

Mark
Guest
Mark

Well, unlike most folks, you also got a ton of blog “content” and publicitity.

JP
Guest
JP

I’d love to see you do an article entitled, “A Poor Man’s Necker Island: How to plan something similar with fewer points.” Please . . .

GringoLoco
Guest

FWIW, your trip is worth 10x Maldives (hola VFTW) and 50x Paris Vendome – at least to me.

Again, very well done sir!

Dave
Guest
Dave

Your trip looks awesome.

Though honestly, I thought this post would be the 1.2M miles relative to Dansdeals’ first pitch in Game 7 of the World Series.

Jenny
Guest
Jenny

How were the mosquitoes on the island? Any issues?

Peter
Guest
Peter

In the beginning I was rather bored with your endless posts describing this quest and your status updates, but this has turned into a fun, epic journey that I truly enjoy reading. Other points bloggers out there may have more fame, but gosh their blogs would be worth reading if they produced original content like this.

Ken
Guest
Ken

Exposure = Demand = Prices increase. Probably would’ve increased without this series though as that’s the trend of things in general.

Really cool trip though, and that time with Branson is priceless.

Treesha
Guest
Treesha

A shout out for the use of the Fantasy Island photo. I remember watching that as a kid…”the plane, the plane!” Enjoyed reading your post!

Penn Adam
Guest
Penn Adam

Can you please consider writing a post on your positive energy home?

I know it usually involves solar systems, but would be nice if you could share your experience with it. I know it is not miles/points related, but I hope you can make an exception.

Rufuss C Kingston
Guest
Rufuss C Kingston

Great House Room Question. Looks like you stayed in room 2. Any insight into which rooms in the Great House are the best. I’m guessing needs to be 2,3 or 4 since they look at the (nearer) water.

RCK

ucipass
Guest
ucipass

I LOVE the “middle finger picture” ! It makes me smile every single time you post it. Well done…!

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[…] Even though this card offers a signup bonus of up to 75,000 points, many will be surprised to see it in this top 10 list.  After all, many blogs have written about how relatively worthless Virgin Atlantic miles can be (mostly because they add huge fuel surcharges to awards).  But, Virgin Atlantic miles can be used to book Delta awards with no surcharges and often at extremely competitive rates.  And, of course, they can be used to book Virgin Limited Edition properties such as Necker Island. […]

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[…] Virgin Atlantic miles can also be used to book trains, hot air balloons, resorts and more through Virgin group partners (found here).  Many of these offer poor value, but there are a few gems such as Necker Island. […]

Richard
Guest
Richard

Thanks for the review of Necker! I was partly inspired to kick up my Flying Club accumulation partly thanks to your idea during your Virgin churn.

We have a stay at Necker booked for this September. I was wondering what time you left the island on the last day. Do most people stay until the 12 p.m. checkout, or do they start leaving at various times throughout the morning?

Thanks again!

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[…] 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 […]

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[…] Is Necker Island really worth 1.2 million miles? – This is the final full review of my week on Necker Island.  How great was it? […]

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[…] with no surcharges and often at extremely competitive rates.  And, of course, they can be used to book Virgin Limited Edition properties such as Necker Island.  Still, I wouldn’t recommend this offer unless you have specific plans for using Virgin […]

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[…] and video) of how he made it to Necker Island and got to hang out with lemurs and Richard Branson! The trip sounded and looked just absolutely astounding, and out of reach for many. The cash price for a […]

Ray
Guest

While there might be more beautiful exotic islands elsewhere in the world, you are spot on about the opportunity to interact with Richard Branson multiple times makes the 1.2 million points worth it. This guy is a visionary and I would love to hear what he has to say about travel trends and other viewpoints about where our society is headed. I can see why a one week stay here costs $30,000 in this case.

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[…] 12 months.  This is a drastic change that makes earning valuable Alaska miles that much harder.  I don’t think that Greg will be able to fund his next Necker Island trip via BOA Virgin Atlant… this time […]

Richard
Guest
Richard

that is awesome! congrats on the amazing experience! hope you’ll share how you got that 1.2 million miles

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