My Summer Trip to Spain and Mauritius and How I Used Miles To Make It Happen

by on July 1, 2011 · 59 comments

in Delta, Trip Reports

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For my big summer vacation, I decided to spend 12 days in one of my favorite countries, Spain, and 6 days in Mauritius. Why’d I choose Mauritius? I’ve always heard it was beautiful and frankly because my itinerary allowed me to add it onto my summer trip for only 20,000 more miles than what I was already spending for my European roundtrip. That’s right – a roundtrip business class trip to Europe is 100,000 Skymiles and it’s only 120,000 miles to Africa (South Africa is 140,000) – so for only 20,000 extra miles I’m adding on a roundtrip business class flight from Paris to Mauritius – approximately 12,000 miles of flying and 22 hours in the air. How did I do it? As I wrote about recently, Delta allows a stopover and an open jaw on award tickets, so I decided Europe (Spain) would be my stopover and Mauritius would be my destination. For 120,000 total Skymiles I built an award that looks like this:

JFK- Madrid, Stopover (Air Europa), Barcelona-Paris, Open Jaw (Air France), Paris-Mauritius, Destination (Air Mauritius), Mauritius-Paris (Air Mauritius), Paris- Newark (Air France) all legs in business class for 120,000 Skymiles and $450 in fees. Last summer when I did a trip to Paris and Seychelles taxes were only $250, so I’m not sure why they were so much this summer, but I still thought $450 cash outlay was a steal for the itinerary.

While I agree Skymiles can be difficult to use because is erratic, they are allowing me to vacation in a way that I never would be able to afford if I had to pay out of pocket. I mean – how many people can say they are vacationing on a tropical island off the coast of Madagascar and getting there in business class for less cash than a coach ticket to Cancun?

I even used points for the short Madrid to Barcelona flight because that leg (at the prime time I wanted) was going for $250, so I used 450 Iberia points (equivalent of 6,300 Amex points) and 20 Euros.

For the JFK to Madrid leg, I could have flown Delta on their 767-400 plane with lie-flat beds (similar to the 777LR which I flew recently to Tokyo) or Air Europa – a Madrid based Skyteam carrier. Since I fly Delta all the time, I decided to go with Air Europa to try something different, even though I knew their Airbus 330 business class would be sub-par to Delta’s BusinessElite. To me travel is an adventure, so I knew I’d be in for a treat with Air Europa, which widely gets panned in the limited reviews I’ve read (stay tuned for my somewhat scathing report).

To find Air Europa award availability, I used and found space on my preferred dates within 5 minutes. In fact, I find that Air Europa has really good availability from their North American gateway cities: JFK, Miami and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. As  I write this post, there are at least 2 business and coach class saver awards for the entire July 4th week. Delta does not charge last minute booking fees, so if you want to go to Spain, call up and ask for Air Europa availability!

Sample ExpertFlyer award availability screen. It allows you to search +/- 3 days on any route. Any classic availability can be booked with Delta Skymiles

I wrote down the date and flight number of the day I wanted because Air Europa flights are not bookable at – you have to call and the more information you can give the rep, the easier it is to get reservations ticketed.

I knew that Madrid would be my stopover en route to Mauritius, but Delta also allows an open jaw, which means I could continue my journey from another city instead of Madrid. I knew I wanted to do Costa Brava/Sitges, so I started the next leg from Barcelona. This allowed me to only buy a one way from Madrid to Barcelona instead of having to buy a roundtrip Madrid-Barcelona-Madrid. It would save me time and money utilizing Delta’s generous open jaw rule and if this isn’t making any sense, please comment and I’ll try to clarify.

For the Paris to Mauritius legs, Air Mauritius codeshares with Air France and the award space is bookable with Delta miles. Once again, I used ExpertFlyer’s Award Availability search for CDG-MRU and surprisingly found tons of dates available. I chose the ones that worked best for my schedule and that aligned with a Barcelona-Paris connection. Once again, I wrote down all of the flight numbers and times.

On the way home I was considering building in a 20ish hour transfer in Paris, but decided on connecting straight back home since I would have been gone for nearly 3 weeks. I like Paris, but it isn’t one of my favorite cities in the world.

So I called Delta, fed them my flight dates and numbers and had an award priced and booked after 10 minutes. If you have any tips on Mauritius, please let me know!

In general, the novelty of redeeming points for showstopping trips has not worn off. I know many TPG readers got 100,000 point paydays for signing up for the Amex Platinum card (and I keep hearing people are still able to bump their bonuses to 100k). Combined with the 50% Delta transfer bonus a single charge card sign-up yielded many of you upwards of 150,000 Skymiles, which is more than enough for a trip to Europe/Africa, like I’m currently on.

The point of this post isn’t to brag about my amazing vacation, but its to show that anyone can do it - you just need to educate yourself on the ins and outs of each program and leverage each one to it’s maximum value.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Sergey

    For my summer trip to Russia/Ukraine, I also used ExpertFlyer to find award space on AirFrance, Czech Airlines and Aeroflot. When I found a space there, I wrote down all flight numbers, dates and times and called Delta. Surprisingly, by feeding them this info, they would able to see award seats, create itinerary and put in on hold (in order to redeem it online and avoid booking fee). The only drawback for me was to find 3 seats in Business, because most of flights provide 1 or maximum 2 seats in business. But after a lot of searching in all possible destinations (thanks again to ExpertFlyer – one month of subscription definitely worth!), I would able to find 3 J seats on each flight. Unfortunately, all TATL flights will be “old” BusinessElite products – Delta B767-300ER to Prague, and AF B747-400 CDG-JFK.

    Brian, I have one question. Is it correct that KVStool can search Delta award space (ExpertFlyer cannot)? If yes, it would make work much easier.

    Please report your experience with Air Europa (unfortunately, I cannot choose it, since my wife does not want to fly ‘unknown’ airlines). She only trusts Delta (or all U.S. airlines) and AirFrance/KLM.

  • Sergey

    I also noticed a `weird’ behavior of award engine. If you use a `flexible dates search’ option, it will show an availability for whole month. If you see, that for some date it shows “Low”, and you click on this date AND you use ‘search by price’, you can see that there are NO low awards seats. But if select ‘search by schedule’, it will show you much less flight options. If you select one of them, you can see that this flight is indeed in ‘Low’ mileage.

    It happened to me for the flights ATL-PRG. I saw that on Jul 16, it should be available for 100K miles. Searching by price, this flight came for 200K miles (I’ve proceed to checkout to confirm), while searching by schedule, this flight came for 100K miles (you have to proceed to checkout to see the price). Very nice feature to fool people.

  • Chad Gibbs

    Well since you mentioned it, what are your favorite cities in the world? Paris is pretty high on my list, but I won’t hold that against you :-) Great post, and great trip!

  • Phil

    Nice trip Brian! Mauritius is a very nice part of the world. Not sure when you are going but if it is in our summer it is their winter so try to stay on the west side of the island as it is more sheltered from the strong winds that can hit the east side and make it quite cold. The Grand Mauritian looks pretty nice and is SPG category 5 so you could get 5 nights for just 48k, pretty good redemption.

    Did you do CDG-MRU on Air France or Air Mauritius? They both fly the route. I flew Air Mauritius a long time ago in First Class back in the day when their first was basically equivalent to their current business and their old business was more like premium economy.

    I have been looking at doing similar trip myself next spring break, Seychelles and/or Mauritius. Our spring break puts it more into their peak season

  • Dave

    Interesting post. I am thinking about a trip to South Africa next summer and just yesterday went on Delta to see how many miles it would cost to get there and found a simple round trip in coach MIA-JNB to be 150,000 miles. Have to study up on your methods and tips.

    Also interested in your favorite cities as Paris is one of mine also.

  • David

    Need to book a business class ticket with mileage from JFK to MAN(chester). Dates are 7/10 to 7/12. I have delta Gold status and about 90,000 delta miles and over 100,000 Amex points. What’s the best way to go about this and how many miles will this cost me?
    Thx in advance!

  • byroshi

    I thought it’d be interesting to share this – I read your post a few weeks back about people asking for extra 50k bonus at Amex. Some with success some with no success, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. I took the advice and called Amex, and instantly got the agent to agree to credit my account with 50k bonus pts! The points should’ve appeared within 24-48hrs, but they never did, and I called to follow up at least once a week for the next 4 weeks. It turns out they’ve been updating their system and for some reason my account was one of the troubled accounts that didn’t take the 50k adjustment requests that they’ve been sending.

    After several weeks of no points, on a Friday I finally called and asked for a supervisor to express my concern, and he assured me that he’ll manually see it done within 2 days. 2 Days later the points were still not showing, and I called to speak to another supervisor again. This time this supervisor informed me that whoever was helping me was located at a different call center and he’s not able to see or confirm if the transaction took place, but he’ll do his share of adding 50k to my account.

    A few days later 100K pts appeared on my account, so it appears that both call center’s supervisor put in seperate requests and got me 50k each! Needless to say while I got real lucky with this one, it all started with taking your advice of “it doesn’t hurt to ask”, and I greatly appreciate all that you’ve covered with your contents.

  • Megan

    @David: you can check on Delta’s website for their award chart and this should show you how many miles it will cost.

  • Phil

    @Dave – Presumably you are looking at Delta’s own inventory, which is expensive. For 140k miles you can go in business class with Air France. You can search it at but you really need to search segment by segment. So search for (US Air France destination)-CDG, then CDG-JNB. The CDG-JNB flight is on A380 and leaves Paris late at night so you will usually end up having a day in Paris as the US flights arrive in the morning/early afternoon.

  • Dave


    Thanks for the tips. Any tips about using AA/BA instead as I have a lot more miles with them (after recent and current promotions) than with Delta?

  • Greg

    A fantastic post! I found your blog about two months ago and absolutely love it. I’ve gone back and tried to read everything in your archive, but still feel like I’m missing a lot of information–this entire process still confuses me.

    Can you/someone explain your flight itinerary again? It appears (probably incorrectly) to me that your JFK-Madrid flight was one-way, since you didn’t fly out of Madrid again on this awards ticket. Then you flew from Barcelona-Paris (open jaw) which means that you can spend more than 24 hours there (correct? like, a week if you wanted to?), and your destination was Mauritius. That part makes sense, but what confuses me then is how you went Mauritius-Paris-Newark…. was this a continuation of the JFK-Madrid booking or a separate one-way?

    I know that’s a lot, sorry. I’ve tried looking, but if you know of any great beginner posts out there, please let me know.


  • Mac

    Hi TPG,

    Great post! The reason you taxes went up is that DL has started chargin a YQ surcharge on certain partner airlines (Air Europa in this case).

    There’s an FT thread well documenting this.

  • The Points Guy

    @Sergey- KVS does search Delta award space, but its confusing and you need to search day by day. I personally do not use KVS- that might change if they were Mac friendly and had a better interface.
    As for Air Europa- oh you just wait for the report! It was very no frills- and it started out by a flight attendant yelling at me as I boarded because I took a picture of the empty coach cabin.

    @Chad- my three favorite cities are NYC, Madrid and Buenos Aires

    @Phil- I am going soon, but the weather seems really consistently nice (maybe mildly chilly at night). Very much looking forward to it and I’ll report back on my stays. Grand Mauritian is definitely on my radar :-)

    @Dave- you should be able to do it in business for 140k if you fly Air France thru Paris. There is a ton of availability on that route and its on their A380

    @David- price it out at Though if you are open to connecting in Amsterdam/Madrid/Paris you should be able to get it for 60k coach or 100k business though I have not looked into availability

    @ Dave- I’d recommend using AA because fees will be lower (but still high if you fly BA). Check the award space for BA at and then call AA to get the ticket booked since partner awards cannot be booked at

    @Greg- Delta does not do one-way awards at half the price of roundtrips like AA and United. I was able to fly into Madrid and continue from Barcelona because that counts as an open jaw and Delta allows 1 open jaw and 1 stopover on awards and they allow routing from US to Africa via Europe.

    @Mac- that bothers me that I paid more to fly Air Europa, which was akin to taking Greyhound across the Atlantic. Sorry to any Greyhound fans out there!

  • Mac

    Thanks again for the data point on Air Europa (I appreciated your twitter pics). I had previously seen that the seat looked decent, but had no idea regarding the service. I’ll cross them off my list of t/atl redemption options.

    The YQ surcharge on DL is definitely a frustrating development, but thanks to your blog I feel alot more knowledgeable about the way the game is played – I recently booked:

    SFO-LAX (DL) LAX-ICN-MEL destination (KE incl a380)
    MEL – KUL stop-over (MH)
    KUL-TPE-LAX (MH) open-jaw

    150k Skymiles x 2 pax + $505 in taxes ea (YQ for the MH portion was $397). While it was tough to pay over $1000 in fees for 2 Award tix their sticker price would have been $28k so still well-worth it in my opinion.

  • Jessica

    I just applied for Delta amex. Is it too soon to apply for the membership rewards card listed in this post?

    Spain is also one of my favorite countries. – can’t wait to go back using points and miles.

  • Cjdjd

    Isnt that a double open jaw? Also, wouldn’t u normally continue on after your stop over, and then start the open jaw as part of the return trip?

  • Superflyer99

    Next time, consider taking the high speed train from Madrid to Barcelona. You get a good view of the landscape and less hassle for such a short flight.

  • Mike L

    The people who complain about SkyPesos should read more of your Delta posts. Using your tips & tricks, I was able to book 2 low award tickets (100,000 miles each) for JFK-LHR, LHR-CDG-MAD, MAD-JFK for my parents in all Business Class!

  • Anonymous

    TPG – What are you doing for hotels on your trip? Is that mostly (completely) paid for using points?

  • Anonymous

    I see you using multiple partners. Are there restriction on how many partners you can use for one award travel? I am looking at flying to Hawaii (delta, american) and then within the islands using partner Hawaiian Airlines. I try pricing out with and it adds 10K if I add an island hop within Hawaii. Is there a way/airline that I could add on leg to another island on same ticket that got me from Continental US?

  • It’s EYE-gor

    I too am baffled as to how a discontinuity in the middle of the outbound makes this an open jaw. I always thought that “open jaw” meant that either a) the origin or b) the destination was different for outbound vs inbound travel (e.g., depart DCA to CDG and return to PHL; or depart DCA for CDG, and then return from MUC to DCA).

    Also, the Delta award chart (at least what I’m looking at) says that medium-level biz seats to Europe/Africa/S. Africa are 100K/115K/125K. Perhaps I’m confused because I rarely travel or redeem through DL.

  • Amitdelia


    Great job with this site — I stumbled onto it and have been hooked for the last 2 months; is it bad that the first thing i do in the morning is pull up your site? I wont let my wife answer that question.

    As a newbie, I just booked a vacation from IAH [houston] to HNL [honolulu] for 35k roundtrip using AA miles. I am getting confused on if I can add an extra segment as part of the award.

    Also, since I am not a gateway city how can i maximize using BA/AA miles? I know I can use BA for south america awards but what else can i do to maximize my miles since Im in houston

    Thanks have a great vacation

  • Richard

    Amen to that. Love the AVE! Plus, Atocha is a place everyone should visit – but beware, it’s a sauna in there during the hot times of the day – which is most of the day, really….

  • Mitch

    I’m not following how it’s an open jaw, either. In fact, I’m not following how DL is pricing it at all.

    I can say that the thing you’re missing about the DL award chart is that the prices are each direction and partner awards are at low only. Thus, you should be looking at 50/60/70K each way, or 120K r/t for US to Africa.

  • Mitch

    JFK/EWR are co-terminals (NYC), so it’s definitely not a double open jaw.

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  • Delegencia

    hey pointsguy- i stumbled upon this by accident, but was amused by what you did!
    i just successfully (though painstakingly) booked a similar flight- for 2, business class- exact itinerary:
    SFO-CDG-MRU (destination) – BCN (stopover) – AMS- SEA. The beauty of this is that we also get 12 hours in Paris and possible 7 hours in AMS for a quick sightsee without need for overnight accomodations …

    My tickets are booked, but I am trying to research where I will get the better seats (Air Mauritius or Air France)- no one seems to know definitely about those AF seats- if they are the new lie flats- do you know?) … I was surpised that they allow Skymiles redemption on Air Mauritius flights that are AF numbered.

    Totally with you on show stopping itinerraries …

  • Globetrekker22

    TPG, can you elaborate on how you were able to pull off this booking? I agree with Mitch, it doesn’t seem like it would be a legal routing?

  • Anonymous

    I just called and got it booked. Ive already started traveling so I can guarantee its a valid, legal itinerary. I see your point about open jaws usually being at the destination, but Delta does not care at what point the open jaw takes place- at least they didnt with me

  • Anonymous

    Hotels are a mix of points and cash. I was able to get a bunch of cheap-ish stays and I’m behind on elite status so I ended up paying for a bunch, but with current bonuses I should make out well

  • Anonymous

    The extra segments on AA awards only really work if you live in a gateway city like DFW/LAX/ORD/JFK/MIA

  • Anonymous

    It was pretty expensive when I priced it out, so I figured I’d use the Iberia points since I had them in my account anyway. Definitely want to try the Ave at some point though, which shouldnt be a problem since I come to Spain several times a year!

  • Latimer

    Presumably, flying on economy or coach would cost half as much. Is this correct? Would I be able to do the same routing for 60K?

  • Latimer

    nevermind … I see that it would be 80K according to the award charts:

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  • Matt

    Thanks for mentioning that the 100k bump from amex was still in-play…secure message sent, and a quick response adding the points!

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  • Guest

    Thanks for the post. But how did you know that you could use Delta miles for the Air Mauritius codeshare? I was under the impression that when booking partner awards you could only book tickets on the partner metal, not their codeshares… are there exceptions, or is this an anomaly?

  • marina

    I am not sure you still could see comments on the older blog entries, but by looking at delta chart reward it is 130 not 120 points. Am I wrong?

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  • Dsi55

    We were looking to book a flight to Europe in the spring. we have built up points with American Express and wanted to use them towards the purchase. In the past, we had reasonable amount of points needed for this flight but was shocked to find out how much our points are now worth. Does anyone have an idea why this happened and any suggestions? Thanks

  • Anonymous

    The best value is transferring to airline programs and booking awards. For example its only 120,000 amex points to book a bueinss class trip to Europe AND africa. With transfer bonuses this is as low as 80,000

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  • Diamond Vargas

    Hey Points Guy, have you heard anything about Air France and/or Air Mauritius dramatically cutting back their business class availability to/from Mauritius? Inspired by your trip and planning one of my own, but I just searched on the Air France website for the full 10-month booking window and found 1 day in the entire period with business class availability. Very different from your “tons of dates available” experience. Is there any reason to believe Expertflyer or another source might turn up better results?

  • Diamond Vargas

    To clarify, this was the CDG – MRU route in both directions.

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  • robertocrise13

    Travel through high speed train from Madrid to Barcelona is very adventurous and full of excitement. My kids always demanding to travel via train rather than flight,they like the views of greenery,old buildings and small towns. When i see the happy faces of my kids all my stress is gone out…Love to travel with family.

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