One of the main reasons I’ve completely changed my work and money habits over the last few years was to spend more time with my family.Travel is one of our main priorities, and we’ve taken some really sweet trips. Since learning to use credit cards responsibly, we’ve taken advantage of some amazing bonus offers to vacation for pennies on the dollar.
Right now, I’m in the process of planning our most ambitious trip yet: 3 weeks of travel. We’ll be starting on the east coast, then on to Europe next summer, mostly with points and miles. I honestly never thought we could afford a three week trip to anywhere, let alone one with multiple flights and hotel stays, but I promise it’s possible and here’s how we’re going to do it.
A Word About Travel Hacking
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know we used to be bogged down in the swamp of credit card debt. It really was like slogging through sludge to pay it off. I can totally see how someone who pays off debt would never want to use credit cards again, but I also see the beauty of taking advantage of all they have to offer. I’d cut off my third toe before I would ever pay a penny in credit card interest again, so that’s why I feel confident to take advantage of points and miles offers. If you aren’t at the point where you’d remove a digit before going into credit card debt, you might not be a good churning candidate.
Our Travel Goals
Since this is a long trip, we had a few goals from the beginning. Normally, we drive anywhere from 4-8 hours to get to a major airport from our small town. It takes fewer points to fly out of big airports, and you have more airlines to choose from. We wanted to fly from our regional airport in Durango so we don’t have to leave a car, and we can maximize our time instead of spending two days on the road. We also have to go during the peak month of July because that’s when Jim and the daughter aren’t working or in school.
We don’t want to spend 24 hours at a time in airports. That requires flying to the east coast and staying a couple of days before and after our trip across the pond. This is not travel to optimize points. This is a trip to spend the points we’ve been saving over the last two years for a dream vacation. It might not be your style of travel, but it works for us. At least it does as far as I know. We’ve never tried such a big trip before!
Since our daughter will be 8 next summer, that’s old enough to suck it up for long travel, but she’s still a kid. Another goal was to fly business class if we had a long or overnight flight. I’m not sure any of us can sleep on a plane, but I think we have a shot if we have seats that turn into beds. I also find it really funny that I could care less if I drive a crappy car or have nice clothes, but I will spend lots of points for a chance to sit in the front of the plane.
Flights To Europe Next Summer
We decided to take advantage of what I think it may be the best use of points to get to Europe, using British Airways Avios to get from Boston To Dublin. Dublin wasn’t at the top of our list for European destinations, and we don’t live anywhere near Boston, but you can’t let those things stop you in the game of points and miles. This flight only takes 12,500 Avios per person in coach or 25,000 in business class. That’s a bargain that is truly a bargain!
We have been saving Chase points from the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, and Freedom cards. We also have lots of American Express Membership rewards points from a couple of targeted offers that showed up in the mail. It’s almost instantaneous to transfer those to British Airways.
To get from Boston to Dublin and avoid fuel surcharges that you would pay if you actually flew British Airways, you have to fly on partner airline, Aer Lingus. This award can’t be booked or searched online, but you can search it with the United Airlines website. It costs lots of points on United, so you wouldn’t book it through them, but you can check availability and then call British Airways.
One the first day our outgoing flight was available, I called just after their call center opened. I got a delightful British agent, told her the flight numbers I wanted, and she booked us with no problem. The one glitch was that there were only 2 available award seats in business. Jim gets to sit in coach. (Way to take one for the team, honey!) This flight is under 6 hours, so it’s not bad, even if it is overnight. For 62,500 Avios, we are set for getting to Dublin.
Getting To Boston
Now we have to get to Boston. There are three easy ways we can do that from our regional airport on either United, American, or US Airways. To get award flights out of Durango is tough because there are never any saver type awards or reduced point options. The planes are small, so the awards they release almost always take more points than flying from a larger airport. If you are booking from a small airport, I would advise doing it as soon as the flights open up, usually around 330 days out.
I had a bunch of American Airlines points from an offer they ran last spring where you could get 100,000 miles with one card sign up. It really pained me to pay 30,000 miles each for a one way trip, but it saves hours of driving, and like I said, this is why we collect points and miles.
So yes, it costs more miles to fly from Durango to Boston than it does from Boston to Dublin, but what can you do when you live in the boonies?
Points Vs Retail Price
For our family of three to get from Durango to Boston to Dublin, this is what we’ve spent so far.
62,500 British Airways Avios plus $58.97 in taxes and fees
90,000 American Airways miles plus $16.80 in taxes and fees.
You can put the cost of fees on a card like the Barclay World Arrival and erase those for completely free flights if you want. We will use our Barclay points later on in the trip and decided to just pay for this part.
This is the retail cost.
Aer Lingus- 1 Coach Seat= $753, 2 Business Class Seats= $7128!!
American Airlines- 3 Coach Seats= $1555
I like my price much better! Although in reality, we’d all fly coach if we were paying out of pocket.
Stay tuned for where we are going next and how much more this mega trip will cost us.
Do you have any travel plans for next year. Do you think my child is spoiled for getting to take a trip to Europe so young?