The Silliness of Utilizing Airline Miles to Go to Europe

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Once I first began within the miles and factors world again in 2013, I used to be obsessive about “free” journey. I signed up for playing cards, spent on them, and pored over arcane award charts, all within the hopes that I’d by no means should pay for journey once more.

Whereas I do nonetheless imagine it’s doable to get free or almost free journey — relying on how a lot time you wish to put into it and what different stuff you’re prepared to sacrifice — I’ve additionally determined that typically it simply makes extra sense to pay money as an alternative of utilizing miles.

Nowhere is that this extra related than after we discuss getting from the Midwest and East Coast of the U.S. to Europe.

The state of award charts to Europe

Let’s check out what number of airline miles it takes to get from the U.S. to Europe on a few widespread airline award charts.

American Airways: 60,000 AAdvantage miles for a round-trip economic system ticket (or 45,000 in case you journey off-peak and discover saver-level award area).
United Airways: For now, 60,000 MileagePlus miles for a round-trip economic system ticket in case you discover saver-level area; in any other case 140,000 miles. (In November United is eliminating award charts, which means it’ll be lots more durable to know precisely what number of miles you’ll want.)
Delta Air Strains: No award chart. Again in 2017, Delta moved to a dynamic pricing mannequin the place the variety of miles required for flights is determined by various components that Delta doesn’t disclose. It typically roughly correlates with the worth of the flight utilizing money, which makes it more durable to get outsized worth out of your Delta SkyMiles. Right here’s an instance of some fares I discovered:
Alaska Airways: It is determined by which Alaska companion you’re flying, however typically you’re wherever from 45,000 to 65,000 Alaska miles for a round-trip economic system ticket from the U.S. to Europe.

Most different airline award charts are related. One doubtlessly fascinating different is Air France/KLM, which affords month-to-month promo awards. Each month, these promo awards provide choose offers from 25% to 50% off, which implies yow will discover one-way journey from the U.S. to Europe as little as 14,500 Flying Blue miles.

Air France/KLM Flying Blue is a switch companion of all 5 main versatile factors currencies (Chase, American Categorical, Citi, Capital One and Marriott). However even when spending your rewards factors, taxes and costs on Air France award tickets will typically run $100 to $200 for a round-trip flight.

Fare offers to Europe

So is spending round 60,000 airline miles the one means to make use of miles and factors to get to Europe? Nope — there are higher methods, one in all which is being versatile sufficient to snag an ideal deal.

Not too long ago, it appears we’ve been seeing frequent fare gross sales to Europe almost consistently. When you’re in any respect versatile along with your dates and/or your areas, discovering fares below $400 to Europe isn’t unusual.

One essential be aware is that these fare offers are nearly completely for flying economic system class. It’s uncommon to discover a enterprise class money fare from the U.S. to Europe below $1,000, so if that have is what you’re in search of, you’re often higher off utilizing your miles. As at all times, there isn’t any one-size-fits-all reply on your miles and factors — all of it is determined by your particular person scenario and the way you wish to journey.

» Study extra: Our information to discovering low-cost flights

Actual-life instance: My household’s journey to Lisbon and Barcelona

This previous summer time, my household determined that we wished to go to Europe, significantly Spain. Whereas we did wish to slim down our search a bit of bit, we additionally wished to chase the deal as an alternative of the vacation spot.

In early February, a fare deal popped up: TAP Portugal had a one-way flight from Newark to Barcelona with a three-day stopover in Lisbon for $148. We used 14,800 Citi ThankYou factors every to guide this. It won’t be the “most beneficial” redemption of ThankYou factors, however for my part the most effective use of your factors is the one which will get you the place you wish to go whenever you wish to go there.

For the return flight, we discovered one other one-way on TAP Portugal by way of Lisbon for $189. This time we used our Chase Sapphire Reserve® to redeem for 1.5 cents per level, spending 12,581 Final Rewards per individual.

» Study extra: Full evaluation of the Chase Sapphire Reserve

All instructed, for simply over 27,000 factors per individual, we flew round-trip from New York to Barcelona, together with a three-day stopover in Lisbon. That’s cheaper than one-way award would have been with American Airways. These fares didn’t include checked baggage, however they did embrace carry-ons and meals, even on the intra-Europe Lisbon to Barcelona legs.

Our household at Sintra, Portugal because of 27,000 factors round-trip.

What in case you don’t stay in New York Metropolis?

You’re in good firm — I don’t stay in New York, both. It’s true that many of the good fare offers are out of the bigger cities (particularly New York); typically fare gross sales come out of smaller airports, however they aren’t as widespread.

On this case, one good use of airline miles is usually a positioning flight to get you arrange on your flight to Europe. For instance, we determined to drive from Cincinnati to New York and made that a part of our trip, utilizing resort factors to cowl the in a single day keep.

So in case you stay in a smaller metropolis that doesn’t see a few of these actually robust fare offers, take into account the financial savings that flying out of a big metropolis would get you versus the prices of repositioning with the intention to discover what works finest for you.

In our case, fares flying out of our house of Cincinnati would probably have been at the least $300 to $400 extra. Multiply that by eight passengers, and you’ll see why driving to New York made a variety of sense in our scenario.

Optimizing this example from the West Coast might be a bit trickier, however it’s not not possible. There are many fare offers to Europe from Los Angeles and San Francisco (and much more nice offers to Asia). In a latest search, I discovered nonstop fares between San Francisco and London for as little as $368 round-trip, and one other journey from Seattle that Google Flights reveals is sort of $400 cheaper than regular.

Picture by Dan Miller.

How one can maximize your rewards

You need a journey bank card that prioritizes what’s essential to you. Listed here are our picks for the most effective journey bank cards of 2019, together with these finest for:

Planning a visit? Try these articles for extra inspiration and recommendation:
Discover the most effective airline bank card for you
Ought to I get a journey bank card that earns factors or miles?
Earn extra factors and miles with these 6 methods

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