Dream destinations: Dublin and Edinburgh via New York on points and miles post-coronavirus
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Someone recently asked me where I’d go if I could go anywhere.
My response? Anywhere.
At this point, hanging out at my favorite coffee shop for a day sounds as appealing as a trip to the Maldives. Meanwhile, I’ve done so much researching and planning for different trips that I’m ready to book as soon as it’s safe to do so.
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There’s that late-summer trip to Turkey that I’ve been planning since I got back from the country in January. I'm not counting on that happening anytime soon. Then there are the dozen food spots in New York that I didn't get to during my trip to TPG headquarters in February and thought, “I’ll just check these off when I come back in March.” That didn't happen.
And of course, there’s that spur-of-the-moment London trip I backed out of on my last day in New York. (“I’m tired. I can always go to London.”) Never again will I take for granted the ability to jump on a plane and go anywhere at a moment’s notice.
When I'm finally able to travel again, I want to make that food run to New York, visit family in London, take a train through the Scottish countryside, explore Edinburgh and see The Library at Trinity College in Dublin (yes, I realize what a nerd this makes me). In the past, I’ve planned trips around the weather and the “ideal” time to travel. That goes out the window the minute travel becomes a possibility again. As soon as it’s safe, I’m booking the first JetBlue flight to New York and from there the adventure begins …
Flying from Sacramento to New York
I have three airports within an hour of where I live, but I often choose Sacramento (SMF) because it’s the most hassle-free. It’s small, there’s no traffic getting there and they even opened up their first airport lounge recently, so there's lots to be excited about.
JetBlue offers direct flights between Sacramento and New York-JFK, starting at 8,700 points each way. JetBlue's economy-class seats on the A320 are spacious and incredibly comfortable. Yes, flying Mint would be nice but JetBlue doesn’t offer that product on the SMF-JFK route. I’m fine with trading in a lie-flat seat on a five-hour flight for a more convenient airport.
Related reading: The cheapest way to fly in JetBlue’s premium Mint cabin
Flying from New York to London on points
I like a bargain and if that means redeeming just 10,000 Virgin Atlantic miles and $70.60 for a one-way economy-class ticket between New York and London, I’m here for it. I have plenty of Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou and Membership Rewards points I can transfer to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club at a moment’s notice. All of these currencies transfer at a 1:1 ratio and award availability isn’t an issue.
The $70.60 fee is higher than the $5.60 in taxes Delta charges on this route, but I’ll gladly save 25,000 SkyMiles and pay a little more out of pocket. I'm applying for the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card this month and will just redeem part of the sign-up bonus toward the award taxes and fees.
If you have the Citi® Double Cash Card you can use your rewards to cover the taxes on the card and then convert another portion to Citi ThankYou points. Then transfer them to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club to cover the actual award redemption. See how easy and cheap that was? That’s another thing I’ll never take for granted again.
Edinburgh on points and miles
After a few days in London with family, I’m torn about what to do next. Do I fly directly to Dublin for three nights in the city and two nights at the Powerscourt Hotel in Enniskerry? Or do I take a ride on the Caledonian Sleeper, dubbed “the most civilized way to travel between London and Scotland,” to Edinburgh? Let’s be adventurous and plan for both.
A Club Room with a private bathroom and access to the Club Car (i.e., a hotel club lounge on wheels) goes for around 235 pounds ($290) each way, depending on travel dates. There are cheaper and faster ways to get from London to Edinburgh, but there isn't a more scenic route than an eight-hour train ride through the Scottish countryside. I'll also have a chance to get a full day’s work done ... or fall asleep re-watching Tiger King.
Once in Edinburgh, I plan on spending three nights at the Nira Caledonia for just 20,000 World of Hyatt points per night. I have a stash of Ultimate Rewards points from my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card that I can transfer. Another option would be to pick up the up to 60,000-point welcome bonus from the World of Hyatt Credit Card (earn 30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 more bonus points by earning 2x bonus points total on purchases that normally earn 1x bonus point, on up to $15,000 in the first six months of account opening), enough for at least three nights at this hotel.
Dublin on points and miles
Flights between Edinburgh and Dublin cost just $50 each way if you’re willing to fly Ryanair. There are few things I’ve sworn off in life but Ryanair is one of them. It’s the one travel preference that I’m an unapologetic, uncompromising snob about. Aer Lingus clocks in at $90 each way, while awards cost just 4,000-4,500 miles. I earn miles fairly quickly through my Chase Ink Plus Card (no longer open to new applicants), so I'd rather redeem miles and put that $90 toward food and fun in Dublin.
There are tons of great hotels to choose from in Dublin, but I have a stash of Radisson Rewards burning a hole in my pocket. Plus, the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel is actually nice and has a great location for 70,000 points per night. That may sound pricey, but considering I earn 5x points on all spending with my Radisson Rewards card, the balance is easy to replenish. I’m happy to finally put my points to use and come out with a $0 bill at checkout.
Related: 7 great Radisson redemptions
The Powerscourt Hotel goes for 50,000 Marriott points per night or about 202 euros ($220) in the fall. TPG values 50,000 Marriott points at $400, so points aren’t the best option here. The sign-up bonus from the Capital One Venture Card is a better use of miles in this case.
Another great option would be to take advantage of the fourth-night-free benefit on the Citi Prestige® Card, but four nights is too long. A weekend stay is, by all accounts, enough at this hotel.
The information for the Citi Prestige card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
As much fun as I have on these trips, I'm always happy to go home at the end. Nothing beats a lie-flat seat, good food and 10+ hours of sleep deprivation brought on by binge-watching The Walking Dead for the hundredth time. One of the cheapest ways to fly between Dublin and the West Coast of the U.S. is with ... Etihad miles.
As a partner of American Airlines, Etihad Guest requires just 50,000 miles for a one-way business-class ticket between Europe and North America. Taxes are also reasonable at just $44 each way. Short of actually flying Etihad, you can accrue miles by transferring them from your Citi ThankYou or Amex Membership Rewards accounts.
Related reading: The ultimate guide to Amex Membership Rewards
In total, this trip will set me back around 387,200 points/miles and around $121 out of pocket. For a nearly two-week trip, that’s an incredible value. Of course, all this depends on when things go back to normal and assumes that award redemption rates and prices don’t change. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s to be flexible, which is why I always keep a healthy stash of transferable points. So if, for example, Virgin Atlantic doesn't work out in the fall, there are dozens of other airline partners I can transfer my points to:
- Flight from Sacramento to New York = 8,700 points + $5.60
- Flight from New York to London = 10,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles + $70.60
- New Caledonian Sleeper = $290 (offset by cash-back rewards)
- Three nights at the Nira Caledonia Hotel = 60,000 points
- Flight from Edinburgh to Dublin = 4,500 miles
- Three nights at the Radisson Dublin 210,000 Radisson points
- Two nights at the Powerscourt Hotel = 44,000 Capital One miles
- Flight from Dublin to San Francisco = 50,000 Etihad Guest miles + $44
Editor’s note: The team at The Points Guy loves to travel, but now is not the time for unnecessary trips. Health officials say the fastest way to return to normalcy is to stop coming in contact with others. That includes ceasing travel. We are publishing travel guides because we should all use this time to think about and plan our next adventures. TPG doesn’t advise booking trips for travel until later this year — and even then, be mindful of cancellation policies.