Europe tends to be on most people’s list of places to visit at some point. You either go as a college student, with your family or both. As some say, the old world has many charms.
Weaker Euro/Pound, great airfares due to more competition thanks to new budget airlines have made Europe even more irresistible. Those who can take advantage of ridiculously low airfares should not think twice. As a family with a young child, we are at the mercy of school breaks. We can only travel during high season. However, there are ways to mitigate the situation: points and miles to the rescue! Let’s put it this way, if there is award space available, then even high season can’t stop you from crossing the Atlantic. We encountered a number of issues since our summer vacations were not approved until a few short weeks before our target dates. Airline and hotel award space for some of our desired cities is gone.
Our cities and Itinerary
Originally, we thought about Paris and Rome, and maybe Barcelona. There was a chance to meet with our friend in Rome, but it had to be done by the end of the month, but his travel plans changed. We agreed on spending half of the time in Italy, visit Paris and maybe another place. Some suggested, including Amsterdam and Greece to the list. The sheer number of possibilities can be both joyous and overwhelming! Then, we thought, let’s just fly to the least expensive destination and from there visit Paris, Florence, Venice and Rome. Through compromise we ended with the following itinerary:
London (2 days), Zürich(1 day), Paris (3 days), Venice (2 days), Rome (2 days) and Milan (1 day). Yes, it might have made more sense to spend 4 days in 3 cities, but we have done crazier itineraries that worked out just fine for us in the past. What’s ideal for most, might not make sense for you and vice versa.
How we plan to get there
Our goal was to use all our points and then use cash or combine points and cash. For our flights, the best available choice was to take advantage of Chase’s Ultimate Rewards 1.5 redemption when booking through their portal. We booked a night flight on Virgin Atlantic to LHR, returning from MXP on Delta. We thought flying back to London wasted time we could use visiting other places. In addition, whenever possible it’s a good idea to avoid flying out of London due to its high fees. We used 105k UR points plus about $1000 for the 3 flights. We paid ~$180 for 3 British Airways flights from London to ZRH. We also used $198 in cash and 24k MR points to pay for a very expensive flight (in the era of $25 intra-Europe flights) from Paris to Venice. The higher price is due to the time at which we will fly and it seems Sundays can be expensive this time of the year. I had planned to take a night train from Paris, but the spouse thought it was better to sleep in Paris and fly out the next morning.
We opted for traveling via high-speed rail the rest of the way: Zürich to Paris, Venice to Rome, and Rome to Milan. The total came up to €449 after using a promo code.
We think finding the least expensive flight to Europe (Google Flights it’s perfect for this) and then taking advantage of inexpensive intra-Europe flights to go to your most desired cities makes the most sense. If done with ample time in advance, high speed rail might be a good option as well. Designing an itinerary with so many wonderful choices can be a blessing and a curse. Most people recommend spending no less than 3 days in each city. The truth is your mileage maybe vary. On the next post, we will discuss where we plan to stay and the challenges we have encountered as a family.