Family Trip To Europe With Points and Miles

Courtesy: Wikipedia Commons
Courtesy: Wikipedia Commons

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.

Part 1: My Ambitious Plan To Get 3 People To Europe With Points and Miles

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.

Boston

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.

Dublin

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.

Edinburgh

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.

London

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!

Paris

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

Amsterdam

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?

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Written By
Sydney White is a Texas-born stay at home mom who enjoys spending time with her family, bargain hunting and, of course, writing. She is currently the editor-in-chief of Snipon.com.

42 Comments

  1. Wow, this is truly awe inspiring! Your total would have been crazy without miles. I just got into travel hacking and now have enough miles for a trip to Europe! Holding off for now as I want to save for the actual trip. You are going to have a blast going to all of these places!

    1. I hope we have enough time to see the things we want to see and not feel too rushed. I think when you have limited time you feel like you need to squeeze in as much as possible when just having a down time day is OK sometimes. I’m going to try to remember that.

  2. Hello,

    I went to Dublin and Edinburgh myself, the public transportation system is very easy to use.

    I am also going to London in December, I bought a London Pass-You can pick how many days you want it for, and it covers entrance to over 60 attractions-you can also get a travel card with the pass. I believe Paris has something similar. Check it out, if its worth it you know in at least two cities the attractions have already been paid for.

    1. I will certainly have to look into those passes as trip time gets closer. We need to decide which things we really want to see and do and find out the best way to accomplish that.

  3. I am in awe at all the things you got for not even the price of three cheap flights. You will have such an amazing time.
    I don’t know if you paid for the train tickets already, I guess not because they open up something like 90 days in advance so you want to mark that date so you are online to book asap for the best rate. You can also get them for Avios which are the miles from Iberia / British Airways.
    Not sure that is the best bang for your mile though as the 90 days in advance tickets are just $50 or so.
    Also if other people read this, Novotel chains allows two kids in the room with breakfast and so do Travelodge (no breakfast but rooms start at $30 when they have a sale) in the UK, Ireland and Spain.

    1. I have not booked any train tickets but plan to do that as soon as they are available. That is good information about those hotel chains. If we hadn’t had points, we would not have picked places that were so expensive or we could have done AirBnB. I am going to pick your brain about getting around when it gets closer to trip time. Even if blogging never made any money, I would still have these amazing connections to people around the world.

  4. I almost passed out when I read that total: $37,700.17. Holy crap! I really appreciate you putting together this post, though. I know posts like this can be time-consuming and meticulous. It’s valuable information for me and others who are looking to do something similar. I’d love to “travel hack” a vacation next Summer for my wife and me. Europe would be amazing as we’ve never been there.

    1. It did take alot of time, but I love posts like this. It reinforces my madness when I see the value. I actually am such a nerd that I have a Google doc with all the retail and points cost for the trip, so it wasn’t that hard to write the post going from those numbers.

    1. Our room in London is supposed to have three twin beds. I think we’ll feel like the three bears! I am no expert for sure, but anyone who doesn’t mind hours of research and managing multiple cards can pull this off.

  5. Good work Kim! That would be nuts without your rewards.

    I remember traveling Europe with my dad and brother on spring break during high school. We would just drive around sightseeing then find a hotel with vacancy when it got late. My dad would go check in with my brother, then I’d sneak in as the third person later on.

    1. It would not happen without rewards. We would go, but not for as long and certainly not in such nice hotels. If I were paying, I don’t think I’d have a problem with sneaking in, but since it’s on points, I feel bad not following the rules.

    1. Yes, if you’re trying to book flights for three people, you almost need to do it on the day they open up, which is usually 330 days out. You can still book on short notice, but you won’t get to be picky about dates and you might have to split up on the flights.

    1. think they either don’t or save up their whole lives and go on one trip. Points allows. us to take multiple trips for what most families pay for that one bucket list vacation.

    1. Marc, it is almost overwhelming to thing about, but I’ll share a few of the ways we earned those points. First you have to always be thinking about big expenses coming up and stay on top of the credit card bonuses. I do this by reading several travel blogs. For example, I knew we’d have a big expense for one of our rental properties last spring, so I got two cards and used them to pay for it. Between my husband, myself, and our two businesses, we can apply for all kinds of cards, and I have no problem splitting expenses between more than one. I put all my utilities, car insurance, home insurance, every bill possible on cards. If there is a huge bonus offer, like then 100K American miles that was available earlier this year, I did the buying gift cards to put on a Bluebird account, which allows you to pay bills that don’t take credit cards, like our property taxes. I will also pay my income taxes with a credit card if the bonus is lucrative enough. There is a fee to do this, but if the bonus will be worth a few thousand, I have no problem paying a couple hundred dollars. Amazon payments was another great way to get points without a cost, but that ended this month, unfortunately. We also got a couple of targeted offers in the mail, that most rewarding was for 100k Amex points, which was not a public offer.

      If you don’t have any big expenses, that’s awesome, but tough to get credit card points. In that case, you have to jump on the ones that have a low spend, like the IHG, Hyatt, or some of the Hilton cards. Those only require $1000 in three months, or the US Airways card, which gives you points after the first purchase. I hope some of that makes sense. It does seem like mad scientist work when I look at it written down. Please feel free to email with more specific questions.

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