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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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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


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?

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. Firstly, well done. But secondly, how did you accumulate that many points across platforms in only one year?

    • Marc, it is almost overwhelming to thing about, but I’ll share a few of the ways we earned those points. First you have to always be thinking about big expenses coming up and stay on top of the credit card bonuses. I do this by reading several travel blogs. For example, I knew we’d have a big expense for one of our rental properties last spring, so I got two cards and used them to pay for it. Between my husband, myself, and our two businesses, we can apply for all kinds of cards, and I have no problem splitting expenses between more than one. I put all my utilities, car insurance, home insurance, every bill possible on cards. If there is a huge bonus offer, like then 100K American miles that was available earlier this year, I did the buying gift cards to put on a Bluebird account, which allows you to pay bills that don’t take credit cards, like our property taxes. I will also pay my income taxes with a credit card if the bonus is lucrative enough. There is a fee to do this, but if the bonus will be worth a few thousand, I have no problem paying a couple hundred dollars. Amazon payments was another great way to get points without a cost, but that ended this month, unfortunately. We also got a couple of targeted offers in the mail, that most rewarding was for 100k Amex points, which was not a public offer.

      If you don’t have any big expenses, that’s awesome, but tough to get credit card points. In that case, you have to jump on the ones that have a low spend, like the IHG, Hyatt, or some of the Hilton cards. Those only require $1000 in three months, or the US Airways card, which gives you points after the first purchase. I hope some of that makes sense. It does seem like mad scientist work when I look at it written down. Please feel free to email with more specific questions.

  2. This is awesome, Kim! Yeah, it is crazy expensive without rewards. I don’t see how people do it!

    • think they either don’t or save up their whole lives and go on one trip. Points allows. us to take multiple trips for what most families pay for that one bucket list vacation.

  3. WOW!!! This is amazing Kim!! We are discussing something similar and know that we have to start planning now with the rewards points if we are going to make it in the next year. Great job!!!

    • Yes, if you’re trying to book flights for three people, you almost need to do it on the day they open up, which is usually 330 days out. You can still book on short notice, but you won’t get to be picky about dates and you might have to split up on the flights.

  4. Good work Kim! That would be nuts without your rewards.

    I remember traveling Europe with my dad and brother on spring break during high school. We would just drive around sightseeing then find a hotel with vacancy when it got late. My dad would go check in with my brother, then I’d sneak in as the third person later on.

    • It would not happen without rewards. We would go, but not for as long and certainly not in such nice hotels. If I were paying, I don’t think I’d have a problem with sneaking in, but since it’s on points, I feel bad not following the rules.

  5. Wow, did I miss a like to your travel hacking secrets post? Great job!

    Also, I was chuckling about the 3 people rooms thinking of some of the places we stayed on our trip that barely fit the bed.

    • Our room in London is supposed to have three twin beds. I think we’ll feel like the three bears! I am no expert for sure, but anyone who doesn’t mind hours of research and managing multiple cards can pull this off.

  6. I almost passed out when I read that total: $37,700.17. Holy crap! I really appreciate you putting together this post, though. I know posts like this can be time-consuming and meticulous. It’s valuable information for me and others who are looking to do something similar. I’d love to “travel hack” a vacation next Summer for my wife and me. Europe would be amazing as we’ve never been there.

    • It did take alot of time, but I love posts like this. It reinforces my madness when I see the value. I actually am such a nerd that I have a Google doc with all the retail and points cost for the trip, so it wasn’t that hard to write the post going from those numbers.

  7. I am in awe at all the things you got for not even the price of three cheap flights. You will have such an amazing time.
    I don’t know if you paid for the train tickets already, I guess not because they open up something like 90 days in advance so you want to mark that date so you are online to book asap for the best rate. You can also get them for Avios which are the miles from Iberia / British Airways.
    Not sure that is the best bang for your mile though as the 90 days in advance tickets are just $50 or so.
    Also if other people read this, Novotel chains allows two kids in the room with breakfast and so do Travelodge (no breakfast but rooms start at $30 when they have a sale) in the UK, Ireland and Spain.

    • I have not booked any train tickets but plan to do that as soon as they are available. That is good information about those hotel chains. If we hadn’t had points, we would not have picked places that were so expensive or we could have done AirBnB. I am going to pick your brain about getting around when it gets closer to trip time. Even if blogging never made any money, I would still have these amazing connections to people around the world.

  8. Holy shit lady!!! I’m super impressed and totally jealous! Can you sneak me in your suitcase? 🙂

  9. Hello,

    I went to Dublin and Edinburgh myself, the public transportation system is very easy to use.

    I am also going to London in December, I bought a London Pass-You can pick how many days you want it for, and it covers entrance to over 60 attractions-you can also get a travel card with the pass. I believe Paris has something similar. Check it out, if its worth it you know in at least two cities the attractions have already been paid for.

    • I will certainly have to look into those passes as trip time gets closer. We need to decide which things we really want to see and do and find out the best way to accomplish that.

  10. Wow, this is truly awe inspiring! Your total would have been crazy without miles. I just got into travel hacking and now have enough miles for a trip to Europe! Holding off for now as I want to save for the actual trip. You are going to have a blast going to all of these places!

    • I hope we have enough time to see the things we want to see and not feel too rushed. I think when you have limited time you feel like you need to squeeze in as much as possible when just having a down time day is OK sometimes. I’m going to try to remember that.

  11. We love airBnB for finding different rooms to rent. It seems to be a lot easier than searching for hotels that can accommodate.

  12. 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

    • 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

    • 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.

      • 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!

  15. 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!

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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!

  18. 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.

  19. Mind-blowing! The trip of a life-time on next-to-nothing. Absolutely outstanding!

  20. Great job. I like the concept of getting free things, but I have not exploited the miles like you have. Keep up the great work!

  21. I’d love to know your MS methods! I’ve been trying to figure this out since I have a small budget, and need to pay rent with my BB…with Walmart being tricky on loading GC’s to your BB, have you found any tips to be useful? I can’t get stuck w/a bunch of GC’s, and not be able to pay off hte CC right away. 🙂 Good post and great coordinating it all!!! I’m needing to figure out some ways for free hotels for my husband and I in europe, and once we get the United card, we’ll have 2 roundtrip tickets. 🙂

    • I actually don’t do a ton of MS. I did use Bluebird to meet the bonus for the American Airlines card, and that was before it got hard to load gift cards. I have not tried it, but apparently Serve is easier and I believe it can be loaded online. I would look into the IHG and Hyatt credit cards. I believe both offer decent reward points with a $1000 spend.

  22. Wow, congrats on accomplishing this trip with points. I just started churning seriously this year and it does take some planning and thinking ahead. I actually stayed at the same Residence Inn in Boston a few years ago. It’s a great place. We loved it there.

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