This post is part two in a series about how I’m taking a family trip to Europe with the help of points and miles. If you are not into travel rewards, feel free to go back and read about debt or retirement.
When when we last discussed this trip, my family was booked on flights from Durango, Colorado to Boston, then from Boston to Dublin. Now that we’re across the pond, the real fun begins. Let me say, it’s very hard to find basic hotel rooms in Europe that accommodate more than two people. You can’t even sneak in a cot. It’s a
money making scheme fire safety rule that you have to either upgrade to a suite or pay for two rooms if you have a family.
Since we ARE NOT putting our daughter in a room by herself, I’ve almost made my eyes bleed doing research to find hotels that we can book with points and be able to have 3 people in a room. Some of them are not right in the main tourist center, but that’s OK. It will give us a chance to explore and learn to use public transportation. We don’t have to be on a schedule, so getting lost might actually be fun.
We will be staying in Boston for 3 nights before we fly to Dublin. Holy crap, is Boston expensive! Hotel prices are actually comparable to those in Europe.
Residence Inn Boston Harbor- Three nights priced at $1369. Instead we used 105,000 Marriot points. We also get free breakfast, plus drinks and snacks in the evening.
I’m afraid Dublin might be mostly for getting over jet lag, as we’ll be arriving at 8AM local time, but it will seem like 3AM to us. I decided to book a hotel near the airport so we don’t have to struggle with transportation in our sleep deprived state. It looks like the airport isn’t far from Dublin city center, so we can venture on after we’ve napped.
Radisson Blu Hotel, Dublin Airport- Two nights would have cost $334, but we used 38,000 Club Carlson points.
This one we booked with the hope that Jim can score tickets to the British Open golf tournament. It’s a bucket list experience for him, and we will have to get lucky with a lottery system when they go on sale later this month. It is actually in St. Andrews, but lodging was really tough there. Edinburgh is a short train ride away. If he can’t get a ticket, he will just have to explore the city with the kiddo and me.
We booked three tickets on Aer Lingus to fly from Dublin to Edinburgh for $184.
Holiday Inn Express Miracle Mile- Two nights would have set us back $498, but we used 70,000 IHG points instead. This is also a free breakfast hotel, Any free meals are a huge plus.
From Scotland, we’ll take the train into London for the next four nights. I might try to stalk the royal family. I also hope to do a day trip to Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey is filmed.
London Hilton Metropole- Hilton points are really easy to acquire, but probably the worst value because rooms take tons of points per night. This hotel offers triple rooms, and I had a ton of Hilton points, so that’s why we chose it. I still only had enough points to book three nights, and we will pay for one out of pocket. Total cost would have been $1660, but we will be paying $332 plus 180,000 Hilton Honors points. I may be able to get the last night on points if we earn enough before the trip, but I didn’t want to chance the rooms selling out. Since I am a Hilton gold member, we’ll get free breakfast here too!
Next, it’s under the sea on the channel tunnel train to Paris for another four nights.
Hyatt Regency Paris Etoile- Four nights here would have cost $1172. Instead we used 84,000 Hyatt points. I spent a few extra points to get a club room instead of a standard for guess what? Free breakfast and snacks/drinks
After we say au revoir to Paris, we’ll take the train to Amsterdam.
Park Plaza Victoria- Three nights normally cost $643.10, but we’ll use 100,000 Club Carlson points instead. I don’t feel like this is a great value for this amount of points, but we don’t really use Club Carlson in the US, and I don’t want to pay over $600. I might change this to a Hyatt if we earn enough points between now and then.
New York City
We will be flying out of Amsterdam on Austrian Airlines via Vienna to NYC. I wanted to go back through Dublin to Boston, but there was no availability with points for the whole week we needed to come home. I decided to dump a ton of United points and book us in business class for this 9 1/2 hour flight. Maybe something would have opened up later, but I don’t want to risk getting stuck in Amsterdam and end up having to pay a ton to get home. We also did not want to split up and take different flights.
Amsterdam-JFK on Austrian Airlines Business Class– Hold onto your bottom lip. 3 tickets would have cost $17,145 out of pocket. Coach tickets were $10,830! I guess we would have taken up permanent residence and learned Dutch if we hadn’t had 210,000 United miles and $273.30 to book these tickets.
Intercontinental Times Square-We’ll stay two nights in Times Square before flying back to Durango from Laguardia. This hotel normally costs $1334, but we used 100,000 IHG points.
Our flights back home would have been $1300.80, but we used a combination of 35000 AMEX membership rewards, 30,000 American Airlines miles and $389.20 in cash. This could have been a great place to use our US Airways $99 companion certificate, but I really didn’t want to do a 5 hour flight from NYC to connect through Phoenix. This one connects through Dallas, which makes the flights shorter. I think we’ll be tired of planes at this point!
Total Out of Pocket For Hotels and Flights
Our total out of pocket for 20 hotel nights and 5 flights for three people to see 7 cities is $1,254.67. Now, we would not be booking a three week trip of this magnitude without points and miles, but if we did take this same trip paying out of pocket, the cost would be $9,633.77 for hotels and $28,066.40 for flights, a grand total of $37,700.17, which is more than a teacher’s salary for an entire year!
We will still have other expenses like trains, cabs, subways, food, attractions, dog sitting, etc. that can’t be covered with points. There were also a few hundred dollars in annual fees associated with the credit cards that earned us these rewards. I don’t feel bad at all paying for those things since our main trip expenses are less than taking a road trip to Disneyland.
It did take us over a year to accumulate the points and miles to fund this trip. It also took about that long to plan and get everything booked. I’ve had my husband tell me that I’m truly mad on several occasions, but I got it done! Travel hacking is not for the impatient , but if you are smart with money and can manage multiple credit cards without going into debt, the sky really is the limit!
Can you believe people would spend over $30K for a trip? How far in advance do you plan vacations?