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
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.
|Cash Cost||What I Paid (Actual Cost)||Miles or Points Used|
|1-way Business Class flight from Los Angeles to London||$7,901||$5.60||50,000 American Airlines miles|
|1 night at the Hyatt Regency London - The Churchill - Saatchi Suite||$4,095||$122.64||7,500 Hyatt points|
|2 Nights at The May Fair - Superior Room||$914||$0||70,000 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||$0||50,000 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||$0||70,000 Radisson points|
|1-way flight from Edinburgh to Amsterdam||$119.13||$119.13|
|1 night at Andaz Amsterdam King Bed Canal View||$353||$0||25,000 Hyatt points|
|1 night at Hyatt Place Amsterdam||$109.09||$109.09|
|1-way First Class flight from Amsterdam to San Diego||$7,465||$158.56||62,500 American Airlines miles|
|TOTAL||$22,780.96||$632.76||112,500 American Airlines miles|
32,500 Hyatt points
190,000 Radisson points
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.
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.
During the flight, I caught up on the best movies to watch before going to London and England.
I paid cash for the flight from Edinburgh to Amsterdam because it was inexpensive.
I stayed at six hotels during this ten day trip to Europe.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 credit card and Chase Ultimate Rewards points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card, and Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card.
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.
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.
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.
This table includes a list of the travel rewards cards I used for this trip.
|Signup Bonus & Minimum Spending Requirements||Annual Fee||Value of Points Toward Travel|
|Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard||80,000 miles when you spend $5,500 in purchases in the first 3 months||$450|
|CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard||65,000 miles when you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first 4 months||$99 (waived the first 12 months)|
|World of Hyatt||30,000 points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. An additional 30,000 after spending $15,000 on non-bonus categories in the first 6 months.||$95|
|Chase Freedom Flex℠||$200 after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account||$0||1 cent|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited®||3% cash back on up to $20,000 your first year, 6.5% cash back on travel booked through the Chase travel portal, and 4.5% cash back at drugstores and restaurants your first year||$0||1 cent|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account||$95||1.25 cents|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card||60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account.||$550||1.5 cents|
|Ink Business Cash® Credit Card||$900 after spending $6,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account||$0||1 cent|
|Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card||$900 after spending $6,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account||$0||1 cent|
|Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card||100,000 points after spending $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account||$95||1.25 cents|
|Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature Card||Card no longer offered|
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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