$23,000 Ten Day Trip to Europe for $633

Tower Bridge with red phone booths in London, UK. $23,000 ten day trip to Europe for $633

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One of the best times to travel to Europe is during the winter. The off-season keeps prices lower. Here’s how to get a $23,000 ten day trip to Europe for $633.

Four years ago I travel hacked Europe. It wasn’t my first visit to Europe. But it was the first time I used miles and points to pay almost 100% of my trip.

Three countries in ten days.

One of those quick-strike trips with only two days in each city. Enough time to see the highlights of each place.

I loved being able to visit several places in one trip. It’s a long flight from the West Coast so maximizing my time and planning my itinerary was crucial.

Traveling with only a carryon and not unpacking each night saved time and money.

But there wasn’t a lot of downtime. Time to sit and contemplate. Take in the scenery and people watch.

Visiting four different cities added $237 in extra transportation costs. On a positive note, I discovered the secret to avoiding baggage fees on easyJet and other low-cost airlines.

Next time, I’ll visit two cities on one trip. Okay, you got me. Maybe three cities.

A free luxury trip to Europe is possible by using miles and points from travel rewards cards. Keep reading to find out how.

$23,000 Ten Day Trip to Europe for $633

Tower Bridge with red phone booths in London, UK. $23,000 ten day trip to Europe for $633

This is part 1 of a multipart series on travel hacking Europe.

I flew Business Class from the United States to Europe, stayed in luxury hotels, and flew First Class home all for less than the cost of an economy ticket.

Gotta love travel hacking!

I used miles and points to pay for the Business Class and First Class flights and the luxury hotels.

But I paid cash for the cheap plane tickets, inter Europe flight, and a budget hotel. It makes more sense to pay cash when flights and hotels are cheap and use miles and points for expensive redemptions.

Here’s how I paid $633 for a trip that should have cost $23,000.

Cost

 Cash CostWhat I Paid (Actual Cost)Miles or Points Used 
1-way Business Class flight from Los Angeles to London$7,901$5.6050,000 American Airlines miles
1 night at the Hyatt Regency London - The Churchill - Saatchi Suite$4,095$122.647,500 Hyatt points
2 Nights at The May Fair - Superior Room$914$070,000 Radisson points
1-way First Class train ticket from London to Manchester$52.07$52.07
2 Nights at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester Hotel Premium Room$671$050,000 Radisson points
1-way ticket train ticket from Manchester to Edinburgh$65.67$65.67
2 Nights at the Radisson Blu Hotel Edinburgh Suite$1,036$070,000 Radisson points
1-way flight from Edinburgh to Amsterdam$119.13$119.13
1 night at Andaz Amsterdam King Bed Canal View$353$025,000 Hyatt points
1 night at Hyatt Place Amsterdam$109.09$109.09
1-way First Class flight from Amsterdam to San Diego$7,465$158.5662,500 American Airlines miles
TOTAL$22,780.96$632.76112,500 American Airlines miles
32,500 Hyatt points
190,000 Radisson points
AMOUNT SAVED$22,148.20

Flights

For my flights, I used American Airlines miles. I flew Business Class from Los Angeles to London. My flight cost 50,000 American Airlines miles and $5.60 in airline taxes and fees.

A Business Class ticket includes free access to the American Airlines Flagship lounge. Because I have Executive Platinum status with American, I also had access to the Qantas First Class lounge.

woman with brown hair sitting in First Class, Debra Schroeder flying American Airlines First Class from LHR to LAX
Enjoying First Class from London to Los Angeles

On the way home, I flew First Class from Amsterdam to San Diego. I used 62,500 American Airlines miles and paid $158.56 in airline taxes and fees. 🙁

Pro-tip: Airline taxes and fees leaving London are expensive. Because the fees are so high it’s worth flying home in a premium cabin instead of coach.

I paid cash for the flight from Edinburgh to Amsterdam because it was inexpensive.

Hotels

I stayed at six hotels during this ten day trip to Europe. 

London

Want to score that sweet suite? If you’re only staying one or two nights, you’re more likely to get that suite upgrade than if you’re staying a week. My upgrade to the one of kind Saatchi Suite at the Hyatt Regency London The Churchill. | hotel hack | travel hacking | TravelingWellForLess.com
My one night stay in the Saatchi Suite at the Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill

The first night I stayed at the Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill in the Saatchi Suite. It was one of the most interesting and unusual (in a good way) suites I’ve stayed in. I used Points + Cash and a Suite upgrade certificate.

Pro-tip: As a Hyatt Globalist (it was called Diamond then), I got free Regency Club lounge access so my dinner, drinks, and breakfast were included.

The next two nights I stayed at The May Fair in a superior room during Fashion Week. No upgrades for me because the hotel was sold out.

superior room at The May Fair London

I used 70,000 Radisson points for a two-night stay, saving 70,000 points because back then the credit card offered the second night free on award stays of two nights or longer.

Pro-tip: There’s a grocery store around the corner from The May Fair so you can buy breakfast items and other snacks.

Manchester

premium hotel room at Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester Hotel

In Manchester, I stayed two nights at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester Hotel in a premium room. I loved the location of this hotel. There was a brewery across the street. 🙂

As in London, it was a BOGO (buy one get one) of 70,000 Radisson points for the two nights. 

Edinburgh

hotel suite at Radisson Blu Hotel Edinburgh

For my two nights in Edinburgh, I stayed at the Radisson Blu Hotel Edinburgh in a suite. 

Another Radisson, another inexpensive two night stay for only 70,000 Radisson points with the second night free on award stays of two nights or longer.

Pro-tip: Take a taxi from the train station to the hotel. The hotel isn’t that far from the train station and it’s walkable but not pleasant. You have to go up a narrow staircase up a hill. Even with a small carryon bag, it’s not the safest way to get there. 

Amsterdam

king canal view room at Andaz Amsterdam

The first night in Amsterdam I stayed at the Andaz Amsterdam in a King Bed Canal View. I redeemed 25,000 Hyatt points. I transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt.

As a Hyatt Diamond, it’s now called, Hyatt Globalist, breakfast was free.

Pro-tip: The Andaz is a 10 minute walk from the Anne Frank house.

Points weren’t available for the second night and I had an early flight so I stayed at the Hyatt Place Amsterdam. The hotel was cheap, $109 a night so I paid cash.

For the stays at Hyatt hotels, I used Hyatt points from the World of Hyatt card and Chase Ultimate Rewards points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and Ink Business Preferred.

You could also use the other cards that earn Ultimate Rewards. Ultimate Rewards points transfer instantly to Hyatt on a 1:1 ratio. 

For the Radisson hotel stays, I used points from the Radisson card. When I took this trip, Radisson offered the second night free for each award night. 

Trains

On this ten day trip to Europe, I rode on two trains. From London to Manchester I booked First Class for $52.

From Manchester to Edinburgh I booked a coach ticket for $66.

woman with brown hair and glasses riding purple chaired train, Debra Schroeder taking train from Manchester to Edinburgh in coach

The tickets were inexpensive so I paid cash using my Barclaycard Arrival Plus to “erase” the cost. It’s similar to how Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card point redemption works.

How to Earn the Miles and Points

The quickest way to earn miles and points is credit card signup bonuses.

Although signup bonuses are the fastest way to earn lots of miles and points, I earn most of my miles through creative ways to earn unlimited miles and points

By taking advantage of category bonuses, airline dining programs, shopping portals, and other ways to earn frequent flyer miles without flying you can value from your cards.

This table includes a list of the travel rewards cards I used for this trip.

 Signup Bonus & Minimum Spending RequirementsAnnual FeeValue of Points Toward Travel
Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard 50,000 miles when you spend $5,000 in purchases in the first 3 months$450
CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard65,000 miles when you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first 4 months$99 (waived the first 12 months)
HyattEarn 25,000 points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. Earn another 25,000 points when you spend $6,000 (total) in the first 6 months$95
Freedom$150 after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account$01 cent
Chase Freedom Unlimited$150 after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account$01 cent
Chase Sapphire Preferred60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account$951.25 cents
Chase Sapphire Reserve50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account$5501.5 cents
Chase Ink Cash$500 after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account$01 cent
Chase Ink Business Unlimited$500 after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account$01 cent
Chase Ink Business Preferred100,000 points after spending $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account$951.25 cents
Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature Card85,000 points: 50,000 points after first purchase and 35,000 points after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months$75

Conclusion

It’s easy to travel hack a trip to Europe.  My $23,000 ten day trip to Europe only cost $633. Less than an economy ticket.

Earning miles and points through travel rewards credit cards is a quick way to earn tens of thousands of miles. 

When you combine credit card signup bonuses with creative ways to earn unlimited miles and point, category bonuses, airline dining programs, shopping portals, and other ways to earn frequent flyer miles without flying the miles and points add up quickly.

Stay tuned for the next part of this series: London.

Have you travel hacked Europe? Which countries, cities did you visit? Would you do it again?

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Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card for beginning travel hackers. It is the first card you should get to start traveling for free because the welcome offer is 60,000 points (after spending $4,000 in the first three months).
 
My favorite perks about this card are earning 2X points on travel and dining, no foreign transaction fees, and transferring points to 13 airline and hotel partners like Hyatt, United, and Southwest.
 

Debra Schroeder

Debra is a former 12-year travel industry executive and has traveled the world using airline miles and credit card points since 1994. She'll teach you the secrets of traveling well for less.

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9 Comments

  • The below responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.
  • Linda (LD Holland) February 18, 2020 at 12:17 pm

    I love reading stories like this. So great when people get the most out of their reward points and miles. I agree with you about using rewards for expensive redemptions. It always feels like more of a splurge for me. I do love the great variety of credit card options you have in the U.S. Makes earning rewards a bit easier than for us Canadians.

  • Rhonda Albom February 18, 2020 at 1:32 pm

    That’s incredible how you managed to save so much! We live in New Zealand, which is far from everything, so every time we fly anywhere we rack up so many miles. But we don’t really try to benefit much from them, mostly because we didn’t know how. I can see that was a mistake! I’ll be saving away your list of travel rewards cards to start looking into. I can’t believe you managed to fly business and first class without paying thousands.

  • Agnes February 18, 2020 at 3:36 pm

    Great travel tips. Excellent budget and prices. I like the room where you stayed in Amsterdam. I would like to stay in this hotel. I plan to go to Amsterdam for the weekend soon, so I will consider this place to stay. Earning miles and points is a great idea.

  • Elizabeth February 18, 2020 at 7:01 pm

    I love learning travel hacks from you! It’s so impressive that you got such an expensive trip for the price you did. That suite in London is crazy expensive! That’s awesome you got to stay there for a reasonable cost using your points.

  • Hailey February 19, 2020 at 11:16 am

    What amazing savings! I need to get better at traveling hacking and using points. I love the table showing the differences between credit cards, that is very helpful! I don’t have a great card right now for miles but I will have to check into the chase sapphire like you suggested!

  • Anda February 19, 2020 at 5:48 pm

    Your post title got me really excited, but when I’ve read that you used miles and points to pay for your trip I cooled off. I was never able to find a decent ticket to Europe (from the US) using miles. They always gave me so bad connections, that I couldn’t fly. However, I see it worked out great for you. I would be curious to know how long did it take you to save all these miles and points.

  • Adele Gee February 19, 2020 at 9:37 pm

    Well, one thing’s for sure , you have convinced me to start collecting those loyalty points everywhere I travel. I love that you travelled in luxury especially when going back home. I love to comfort myself when I have to return to real life. Those hotels you stayed in London and Amsterdam, they are in expensive cities , so I can see how you saved a bundle from that! Great tips.

  • Yukti Agrawal February 19, 2020 at 11:11 pm

    Wow, you had 10 day trip that too a luxury trip in 633 USD which really seems dream trip to me. Visiting Europe is expensive and then staying at luxury hotels too add up our budget. But it great that you used your card miles in business class air travel and luxury hotels. I am now accumulating all my hotel points into Hyatt and Radisson Blu after reading your post. In 633 USD we can’t even purchase a one way Economy class ticket and you did so much in this amount.

  • Ami Bhat February 20, 2020 at 10:35 pm

    The math that you have shared is what makes the deal so believable. I am amazed how much you have saved using the different miles. I somehow never got around to figuring this for myself. In fact, am so bad that the miles expire. Also, some of the terms and conditions get me all tired about how to use them. Guess it is much easier in Europe.

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