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. What a great job planning this Kim! Travel hacking is truly a labor of love, and if you focus on accumulating miles and getting the best deals possible, it can really pay off. And looks like you’ve done just that.

  2. I can’t offer any advice re using point, but as a Londoner, I would suggest that flying from Edinburgh may be better as it is around a 4.5 hour train journey. That said, the sleeper train is quite cool (if absolutely tiny rooms for 2). You can get a sleeper train ticket for around £40 if you book 3 months in advance. It’s a 6 hour journey but overnight. Check Caledonian Express.

    1. Thanks for that advice. We are actually looking forward to train travel. It will give us some down time and a way to see the country.

      1. If you want the scenic route, make sure you reserve seats and buy food for the journey anywhere other than the train and the train station as food there is highly marked up. I have done the train journey, as long as you have a seat it is relaxing. Try Virgin Trains.

        Have fun!

  3. How can I acquire reward points to lessen my expenses for these kind of trip? You’re totally awesome for having made such trips like these one. I have never had travels by just using reward points. Gawd, your planning skills rock.

  4. Wow, Kim, I am super impressed at your travel hacking skills! This is amazing, and you’ve planned everything out so meticulously. It’s crazy to see what the real cost is compared to how much you’re paying by using points. I would love to do something like this eventually, as I’ve never traveled overseas. Well done!

  5. Kim, I had to read the post more than once to wrap my mind around the $37,000 price tag before applying the mileage points. That being said-YOU ROCKED THIS TRIP!! Great job. Can’t wait to see the pictures 🙂 I also would love to see your commenter Christeen’s breakdown of her trip and when she actually traveled. I’m also curious about wether or not she traveled coach/business/etc. I’ve rocked some pretty good deals but I would love to hear how 3 people flew from Australia to the States for only $1300 I want to fly that airline!

    1. Hi Michelle. We only flew from New York to Amsterdam with Iceland Air for that price. We flew from Brisbane to San Fran with Air New Zealand(Brilliant airline BTW). United from LA to NY. Iceland Air NY to AMS. Finally Singapore Airlines(Our most favourite airline) AMS back to Brisbane. Hubby found the best prices by separating the flights and then booking them through the airlines themselves. I believe it was just over $3200AUD each.(Daughter was a little cheaper at the time) We only ever fly economy. When we win Lotto I am going to fly just once to Europe first class.

      1. That’s awesome! I am very excited about Iceland Air because they now fly out of Denver. The key is to separate the flights for those long haul situations. Thanks for the information!

  6. Wow, just wow! That is just crazy awesome Kim! I LOVE this line – “I’ve had my husband tell me that I’m truly mad on several occasions, but I got it done!” I feel that way with Nicole and I. She tells me she’s done with it and that I’m crazy but then we get a free trip and she’s good. 🙂 I’d love to do something like this, but with the three kids it would be exponentially more difficult and with no family nearby it would be hard to justify going for a shorter time as we’d have to depend on friends to watch the kids. So, we just focus on smaller trips and be happy with that. But, I am wanting to plan something in Mexico or the Caribbean for the two of us here in the next year or so.

    With regards to Dublin, we spent four days there for our honeymoon and the airport isn’t that far from the main part of the city – maybe 15-20 minutes most. It’s pretty American-ized but there is a lot to see there.

  7. Hi Been reading you blog for a little while but this is the first time I’ve commented. This time last year my Hubby, 11yo Daughter and I went to The Netherlands via America from Brisbane Australia. We spent time on the west coast (Disney, LA, San Fran,Grand Canyon etc and then New York) We flew from New York to Amsterdam with Iceland Air. It was no where near the price you are paying for your flight. I believe it was under the $1300AUD for the 3 of us.(The US$ and AUD$ were on parity last year) We don’t have points of any kind. The flight was fine with no problems. In fact we are thinking of going home from The Netherlands via Florida at the end of next year and I have no reservations about booking Iceland Air again. BTW I married a Dutch man and spent 12 years in The Netherlands. Learning Dutch is very tricky but doable. Christeen

    1. Thanks for commenting. I agree there are much, much cheaper flights. If we were paying cash, it would be a much different trip. I’m not sure why Austrian is so expensive, but it worked for the day we needed and there were three award seats in business. I think that’s a great way to break up your trip by stopping along the way. We hope to make it to Australia in a few years.

    1. That would be a wonderful option for a family in Europe. I think having a kitchen and washer/dryer would be great.

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