Celebrating My Birthday in Vienna — TPG Reader Success Story
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here: Citi Prestige
One of the things I love most about being The Points Guy is getting to hear stories from readers about how award travel has affected their lives — the exotic vacations they’ve planned, the trips they’ve made to be with family and friends, the premium seats and suites they’ve experienced and so much more, all made possible by points and miles. I love to travel and explore, and it’s an honor to be able to help so many of you get where you want to go.
I like to share these success stories to help inspire you the way you inspire me! From time to time I pick one that catches my eye and post it for everybody to enjoy. If you're interested in sharing your own story, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. If we publish it, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure!
Recently, I posted a success story from Christopher, who leveraged renovations on his condo to earn points for a 24-day trip to Asia. Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Michael, who recently traveled to Europe for his birthday using points and miles. Here's what he had to say:
I only started reading your blog about a year ago, but I've been amazed at the value you can get by doing something most people do anyway: spending money on credit cards. I just returned from a weeklong trip to Vienna to celebrate my birthday, and it was all made possible by strategies I learned from reading TPG.
For my outbound flight, I redeemed 62,500 Delta SkyMiles (50,000 of which came from a sign-up bonus on my Delta Amex) to fly Air France business class from New York to Vienna with a layover in Paris. Taxes and fees on the award ticket were $77, which I paid for with the $250 air travel credit on my Citi Prestige Card. I booked a one-way flight with a 12-hour layover at CDG so I could visit Paris for a few hours. I was able to have breakfast at one of my favorite cafés, do some shopping and see the Fondation Louis Vuitton, and still arrive back at CDG with plenty of time to spare.
For my return flight, I had my eye on Lufthansa's 747-8 first class service from Frankfurt. I set an ExpertFlyer seat alert for that flight, but unfortunately no space opened up, so instead I booked an award in first class on Lufthansa's A330 from Munich to JFK, which included a business class connection from Vienna to Munich on Air Dolomiti. I booked the award with 70,000 Amex Membership Rewards points (earned from sign-up bonuses on the Platinum Card and Premier Rewards Gold Card), which I transferred to Aeroplan. Once again, I used my Citi Prestige to cover some of the $330 in taxes and fees.
My Lufthansa experience could not have been better! It was exactly as you described in your reviews, and with only one other passenger in first, it was like flying in a private jet across the Atlantic. The purser and flight attendants really did everything to make my time in the air as comfortable as possible, and even sent me home with an extra Rimowa amenity kit with La Prairie creams.
Thanks to your tips, I was able to have a luxurious birthday trip for about $160 spent on travel (my boyfriend was in Vienna for work, so our hotel was covered). The flights alone would have cost close to $13,000, so I felt good about the redemption value I was getting (around 10 cents per point for both Delta and Amex).
Our time there was incredible. We visited the Leopold Museum and Belvedere Palace, delved into both traditional and modern parts of the city's culinary scene, and were even able to see the Bavarian Radio Symphony perform at the Musikverein. Normally, I would consider this a "once-in-a-lifetime" trip, but with everything I've learned from your blog, I know it can happen many times for many people, and I'm already looking forward to the next one. Thanks again and happy travels!
In my opinion, Lufthansa offers one of the best ways to fly to (or from) Europe in first class, and awards booked through Aeroplan remain reasonably priced despite the recent devaluation. For more on Lufthansa's premium service, check out Eric Rosen's review of Lufthansa A380 first class, as well as Zach Honig's post on his experience at the Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt.
Many people dread layovers, but that extra time on the ground doesn't have to be wasted. Michael did a lot with his 12 hours in Paris, but some airlines will let you build a longer stopover into certain awards, which means you can effectively visit two (or more) destinations for the price of one. Routing rules vary from one carrier to another (and are constantly changing); make sure you know what options are available when planning your next trip so you can use them to your advantage.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Michael for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on his travels (purchased from Office Depot with my Chase Ink Plus, of course), and I’d like to do the same for you.
Again, if the strategies you’ve learned here have helped you fly in first class, score an amazing suite, reach a far-flung destination or even just save a few dollars, please indulge me and the whole TPG team by emailing us with your own success stories (see instructions above). You’ll have our utmost appreciation, along with some extra spending money for your next trip.
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!