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My Ambitious Plan To Get 3 People To Europe With Points And Miles

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle

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?

Image:Wikipedia Commons

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. Sounds like a great trip! Boston might be my favorite US city, it is very much like Halifax (where I live) and you’ll have a great time in the UK! My brother in law is from outside Belfast and he and my sister in law just go back from visiting family/friends in N. Ireland, Ireland and Scotland. UK was never on my top European travel plans (I really wanna go back to Germany plus Austria, Switzerland) but after her last trip home with him I really wanna go! My sister in law has also traced my husbands family history to the 7th century in Scotland so it’d be amazing to see some of those places 🙂

    • Scotland is on our list of places we are visiting. Jim picked Scotland and Amsterdam, and I picked London and Paris, and we get Dublin in there because it’s our launching point. There is so much I want to see that even three weeks will barely scratch the surface. I’m excited about Boston too. I’ve never been on the east coast except for a trip to NYC when I was 18.

  2. Whoa! That sounds awesome – and some made skills accumulating all of those points! I sometimes think that accumulating them is only 1/3 of the work, though. It’s finding all of the correctly timed flights for the least amount of points that’s a bit overwhelming for me!

    • You will see from future installments that I am not always great at maximizing points. I read travel blogs like I read personal finance blogs, so it’s certainly something I’ve studied over the past couple of years. I still get nervous until it’s all booked and confirmed, afraid I’ll pick the wrong day or place and lose all my points, but you can usually cancel with little or no penalty if you do it within the correct timeline, so that’s reassuring.

  3. Besides our Hawaii trip in January we have no trips planned, though we do still have $400 in travel credits from my wife’s Barclaycard. I don’t think your daughter is spoiled at all for getting to go. I wish I had an opportunity to go to Europe when I was younger. I still haven’t been!

    • I’ve only been to Italy, so I’m looking forward to putting a few stamps on my passport. I love Barclay points. I just erased some or our Hawaii spending last month.

  4. My parents always took us traveling. We didn’t have cars or ipods or other stuff the other kids had, but we had incredible experiences that I credit for making me value those things more than “stuff”

    • My daughter has been to 17 states. I believe I’d been to KY, where we lived, and Tennessee (only 8 miles away) when I was her age. Most of my family could care less about travel, but I’ve always really wanted to go places. I’ll never be an around the world traveler, but if I can give my daughter the experience to be comfortable in different places and surroundings, I think that’s a great gift or she might just be a homebody as an adult. We’ll see!

  5. This is actually really inspiring Kim! We were JUST talking about taking our son to Europe next summer or the summer after and trying to point/miles hack our way through it. It’s amazing when you take the time to really think through it, just how much you can get with points/miles.

    • I would say I probably spend too much time researching ways to travel with points, but I guess it beats watching Tv or doing something mindless. It is so easy to get there from the East coast. I’d probably fly to Dublin all the time if I was based there.

  6. That’s great you are able to be so savvy with your travel points. I would have loved to go to Europe as a kid so good for her! I was planning a trip to Croatia last year and had the airline points, but I might have to cash that in for money and not go on the trip due to my work situation.

    • Here’s to hoping your work picks up or you find a job you like and that makes money. We do hope to use our points for travel as much as possible, but it’s good to know you can get cash back or gift cards if you need it.

  7. Pretty good job on the travel hacking. I’m not really good at the credit card churning because most of them required I spend $3,000 in 90 days or about $1,000 a month. I don’t spend that much money a month because I can’t pay my rent with my credit card. If I could pay rent with the cards, I’ll churning credit cards left and right.

    • I’m not sure whether it’s a good or bad thing that we have more than $1000 a month in expenses per month. You could do the US Air card or Chase Freedom card. Those don’t have very high minimum spend at all. One is first purchase and the other is something like $750 in 3 mos.

  8. I think this is awesome! My dad always took us traveling and it’s one of my greatest memories of him. It was always a great time and much better than material items for me when I was a child.

    • We didn’t travel much when I was a kid, but I remember the few places we did go. I think those are much better memories than any gifts I ever got.

  9. Taylor was 7 when we took her on the Disney Cruise and she did really good with the all-day explorations. Your daughter will do fine and I definitely don’t consider her spoiled, but fortunate! I think travel is so good for our kids. One of our very good friends went to Ireland a few years ago and they loved it. I’m sure you will love it too. And business class – way to go, Kim!

    • I’ve never flown anything other than coach except when we somehow got upgraded on a flight to Hawaii years ago. I think the European carriers are much nicer than American ones as far as business vs coach, at least I hope.

  10. I am all for using credit responsibly. I believe you can gain a lot from credit card perks if you are careful. I myself have gotten cash back, gift cards, and even some free hotel night by leveraging credit card rewards. As long as you are careful, then there is def. some good stuff to be had.

  11. What a great way to use credit cards points. But after years of having trouble with controling my credit card spending, I’m still going to have to avoid using credit cards. No points usage for me.

  12. As you know, we love us some points in our household. You can do it!!!

  13. We will probably take our kids to Europe in a few years. I don’t think it is unreasonable. I hear ya on the flights though- it can be a pain to book with points. Not impossible, but usually a pain!

  14. I think it’s great you are traveling with a young child. We feel the same way, wanting to expose our kids to different places, people and cultures. I think more good can come from it than harm, most importantly building that family connection and togetherness.

  15. Boston, the city of neighborhoods! I went there just last month. I recommend you visit the Berkeley Building to see the weather beacon at its summit. Very remarkable!

  16. We’ve always wanted to go to Ireland and have been eyeing the Boston to Dublin itinerary myself. We should be able to build up enough points in a couple of years to get this done, and hopefully there will be no BA chart changes until then! Would love to see a trip report post once you get back.

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