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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 Delta.com 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 Expertflyer.com 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!
I wrote down the date and flight number of the day I wanted because Air Europa flights are not bookable at Delta.com – 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.