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How to Luxury Travel Hack Budapest

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In March, Jeff and I spent almost three weeks in Europe. Our trip began with a luxury travel hack to Budapest for six days. After Budapest, we spent three days in Prague and ended our trip with eight days in the Scottish Highlands.

My travel hacking trips earlier this year to Las Vegas in January and New Orleans in February were short so I was looking forward to a long vacation visiting Budapest.

If we paid cash for everything, our luxury trip to Budapest would have cost $11,155. But we only paid $1,452. But you can do it for $235!

Here’s how we travel hacked Budapest and with these travel tips you can too!

This is the first part of the series on travel hacking Budapest, Hungary.

I love spending winter in Europe because there are fewer crowds. When we travel hacked Vienna it was also during the winter. Living in San Diego, we don’t get a chance to bundle up and enjoy the cooler temperatures. So it’s a treat to visit a city like Budapest with inexpensive public transportation and things to do like taking a cruise on the Danube River.

Cost

 Cost if We Paid CashWhat We Paid (Actual Cost)Miles or Points Used 
Roundtrip Business Class Ticket on American Airlines$7,682 ($3,841 per person)$1,275.50 ($637.85 per person)2 American Airlines Systemwide Upgrades
One-way Coach Tickets on British Airways$176.42 ($88.21 per person)$176.42 ($88.21 per person)
6 nights at Parisid Udvar Hotel Budapest in a Heritage Collection Suite$3,296.70$0.0048,000 Hyatt points
TOTAL$11,155.12$1,451.92
AMOUNT SAVED$9,703.20

We used points earned from the World of Hyatt card and Chase Sapphire Reserve card. You can travel hack Budapest using other credit cards. Scroll down to learn more.

Flights

Blueish Business Class seat on American Airlines
Business Class mini-cabin

Business Class award tickets to Budapest were available for 230,000 American Airlines miles (115,000 per person). But taxes and fees were $1,600.10 !

Pro-tip: Airline taxes flying into the United Kingdom are among the highest of any airport.

We could avoid flying through London by using 308,000 United Airlines miles and only $235.70 in taxes and fees. Flying Star Alliance we would have had access to the Star Alliance Business Class Lounge. The only available flights had two stops each way, which would mean less vacation time. 🙁

So we paid cash instead of using miles because it was cheaper.

Flights from Los Angeles to Budapest were $900 per person in coach. It was cheaper to fly to London and pay for a separate one-way flight on British Airways to Budapest.

And flew in Business Class!

I used two System Wide Upgrades (SWUs) to upgrade our coach tickets to Business Class. This made our roundtrip Business Class flights from Los Angeles to London on American Airlines only $637.85 per person.

Our one-way tickets from London to Budapest cost $88.21 per person. We could have used 22,000 Avios points but it was a poor rate of redemption, only $0.80 cents. So it was worth paying cash.

At LAX we used the Flagship Checkin and lounge hopped between the Qantas First Class Lounge and American Airlines Flagship Lounge.

Pro-tip: If you are flying First Class on any oneworld airline or have Emerald Status such as American Airlines Executive Platinum Status you can use the Qantas First Class Lounge if you aren’t flying Qantas or traveling to Australia.

Hotel

luxury hotel suite at Parisid Udvar Hotel Budapest
Lots of room in the Heritage Suite at the Parisid Udvar Hotel Budapeset

We used 48,000 Hyatt points to stay six nights at the Parisid Udvar Hotel Budapest. I booked this when the hotel was a Category 2 Hotel. It’s now a Category 5 hotel and costs 20,000 points a night.

Thanks to my Hyatt Globalist status, the hotel gave us a free upgrade to a Heritage Collection Suite.

A great thing about a city like Budapest is that there are many hotels including Hilton, IHG, and Marriott.

How to Earn the Miles and Points

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

Pro-tip: You can earn lots of miles and points through creative ways. Enough miles and points for bucket list trips like two weeks in Australia and the Maldives.

After researching all the options it was cheaper to pay cash than use airline miles. But it’s worth considering looking at co-branded airline credit cards for signup bonuses.

We used the World of Hyatt card, and Chase Sapphire Reserve card to travel hack Budapest.

These are the best travel rewards cards you can use for travel hacking a luxury trip to Budapest:

Conclusion

Even though it is one of the cheapest cities in Europe to visit, we decided to travel hack Budapest. Our trip to Budapest would have cost $11,1555 if we paid for everything using cash. But thanks to travel hacking we only paid $1,452.

We could have used miles and points from travel rewards cards to pay for the flights dropping our cost for the entire trip to $236. But we didn’t want to multiple connections.

The award flight with one connection had high airport taxes as much as it cost to buy a ticket. So it made more sense to pay cash than to use miles and points.

Stay tuned for the next part of this series: American Airlines Business Class from Los Angeles to London.

What are your tricks and tips to travel hack Budapest?

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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 100,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months.
 
My favorite perks about this card are earning 5X points on travel when booked through the Chase portal (2X if direct purchase), 3X points on dining , $50 yearly credit on hotels booked through the Chase portal, no foreign transaction fees, and transferring points to 13 airline and hotel partners like Hyatt, United, and Southwest.
 


Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is one of my favorite cards for earning cash back card and travel rewards. It offers a welcome offer of $200 after spending $500 in the first three months.
 
My favorite perks about this card are earning 5% cash back at grocery stores the first 12 months (up to $12k), unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases and no annual fee. When paired with cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can use your points to travel for free.
 
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