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Bougie on a budget: How to do Cannes for cheap

Oct. 27, 2019
5 min read
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We here at TPG love a good deal — more than that, we love a good deal on a spendy location. Today we're looking at Cannes, the high-end home of the world-famous annual film festival, as well as fabulous beaches, restaurants and hotels. Let's take a look at how to visit this French Riviera city on the cheap.

Hotels

(Image courtesy of Marriott.)

Your best bet for a hotel stay in Cannes is with IHG, which has two good options within the city. First, the InterContinental Carlton Cannes will run you 60,000 points a night.

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That's expensive, but within reach if you have the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card, with its sign-up bonus of 125,000 bonus points plus a Reward Night after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Of course, the point of this is to be fancy and cheap, which instead leads us to the Holiday Inn Cannes, which costs 30,000 points per night.

During the film festival, when rates skyrocket, you'll score a whopping 1.1 cents per IHG point, more than double TPG's valuation of 0.5 cents each.

If you're loyal to Marriott, you can stay at the JW Marriott Cannes, a Category 6 hotel, which remains at standard pricing during the festival.

The only other option available for this night is a package at a whopping $15,000 (or 13,500 euros) a night. Most importantly, this Category 6 hotel qualifies for the annual free night offered by Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (worth up to 50,000 points). I can think of no better use for your up to 50k certificate than a night in the glamorous JW Marriott during the Cannes Film Festival.

Airfare

You're not going to get to Nice (NCE, Cannes' nearest airport) without routing through Paris, unless you're flying during film festival season, when you can score nonstop options on La Compagnie's all-business-class aircraft, United's 767 with Polaris, or Delta One, also on the 767. Otherwise, you're stuck with a single-stop flight using one of Paris' airports (or other regional options, though Paris is most common).

Luckily for our on-the-cheap adventure, Paris often sees screaming deals from the East Coast, with round-trip flights routinely falling below $400. Of course, if you want to spend no money at all, you're also in luck.

Paris is a major hub for every conceivable airline operating flights through one of its airports, either Charles de Gaulle (CDG) or Paris Orly (ORY). This means that award availability is easy to come by, whether you're committed to SkyTeam, Oneworld or Star Alliance. If you're frugal like me, you'll be interested in flights via Norwegian, the low-cost carrier known for dirt-cheap airfares and sky-high fees. (The secret is to wear everything you would normally carry in your luggage. It's not like they're going to weigh you at the check-in counter.)

As an example, from Oct. 16 to 20, 2019, Flying Blue's promo awards are available from New York to Europe (including Nice) for just 11,000 miles each way. You can transfer to Flying Blue from every major currency to top off your balance.

Otherwise, saver business-class awards to Europe are not terribly hard to come by and cost just 57,500 AAdvantage miles, plus $5.60 each way. You can earn nearly this number of miles with a single credit card sign-up bonus, such as the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, which is currently offering 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 within the first three months of account opening.

My favorite technique is to use Avianca LifeMiles (transferred from Capital One, Citi and American Express), to book flights across the ocean for 30,000 miles (63,000 in business class). Avianca, though one of the lesser-known Star Alliance members, frequently offers phenomenal deals on purchased miles and doesn't add on fuel surcharges, which makes it my go-to airline for spending as little money as possible.

Even better, Avianca doesn't differentiate between the East Coast and West Coast when booking awards, which means I can snag a flight from Los Angeles as easily as I can from New York, with no difference in cost.

Bottom line

It's hard to be bougie without all the money, but fortunately for us fancy-at-heart wannabes, there are tons of options to visit high-end locales on low-end budgets. Now take your points-earning selves to Cannes and enjoy. Don't forget the photographic evidence.

Featured image by Image courtesy of Hermann Traub
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases