Bougie on a budget: How to do Cannes for cheap

Oct 27, 2019

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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.

That’s expensive, but within reach if you have the IHG® Rewards Club 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.

Feature photo courtesy of Hermann Traub/Pixabay

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