3 Ways to Do Paris on Points
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Paris is a bucket list destination of travelers around the world, and rightfully so. Home to some of the most iconic artistic, architectural and culinary treasures in the world, there’s always plenty to see, do and taste in The City of Light — the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées, Nôtre Dame Cathdral, the Louvre and Nutella-filled crêpes, just to name a few.
But as one of the most visited cities in the world, it’s also one of the most expensive. As a result, a trip there could be the perfect opportunity to put your hard-earned points and miles to use. Here are three ways to visit the city using points and miles, depending on your budget and your interests.
Although Paris as a whole is a pricey destination, savvy travelers can still get the full experience without shelling out a ton of cash. For instance, many museums, including the Louvre, offer free admission on the first Sunday of the month. You can also score a free Seine River cruise by hopping on the boat that shuttles between the Corentin Cariou Métro station and the Le Millenaire mall.
As with the rest of Europe, there are plenty of ways to get to Paris on a budget. And believe it or not, the best option may be to save your regular airline miles and forego transferring points from Amex, Chase or Citi to one of their airline partner programs. Instead, it could make more sense to redeem your points directly through your credit card.
We’ve been seeing some great flight deals from the US to Paris, including fares under $200 round-trip on low-cost carriers and sub-$300 fares on full service carriers (albeit in basic economy). If you book one of these flights using a card like the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, you could redeem your miles at a fixed value for a statement credit toward the expense. In other words, that $200 round-trip ticket would set you back just 20,000 points. If, on the other hand, you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve and booked the $200 fare through Chase’s new travel portal, you would only need about 13,300 points. As a point of comparison, most domestic US flight awards cost 12,500 airline miles one-way, so you’d snag a round-trip award to Europe at almost the same price.
If you’re fixated on using airline miles, or there simply aren’t any cheap cash flights for your dates, you still have many options. In mid-2018, Air France/KLM’s Flying Blue mileage program ditched its award charts for a new flexible mileage calculator based on your origin and destination. That change combined with its rotating Promo Rewards opens up some great deals. For instance, Flying Blue awards between Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) and Paris (CDG) now start at 22,000 miles each way in economy. And if your departure city is on the current list of Promo Awards, you may wind up with an even better award rate. If you’re short on Flying Blue miles, you can transfer points from any of the major transferrable points currencies, which now includes Capital One. Just beware of fuel surcharges that may become so high that they defeat the purpose of redeeming miles in the first place, especially if paid tickets aren’t exorbitant.
Partner airline Delta has also been posting some cheap flash award sales, including ones to Paris for 40,000 miles round-trip. The program is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards if you have a card like The Platinum Card® from American Express or the American Express® Gold Card.
If your travel dates fall between January 10 and March 14 or November 1 and December 14, you might want to consider booking a MileSAAver Off Peak award through American Airlines. These low-season flights cost 45,000 miles round-trip (instead of 60,000 miles), and as long as you pick flights that are operated by the airline itself (as opposed to a partner), you won’t incur any fuel surcharges.
One thing to take note of when making travel arrangements is that Paris has two airports — Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Orly (ORY). If you’re flying a low-cost carrier like LEVEL, chances are you’ll be flying into ORY. Although CDG is Paris’ main airport, ORY is generally preferred by passengers as it’s closer to the city and smaller.
Where to Stay
Budget-friendly hotel options aren’t as plentiful as flights, but they’re still there. As with flights, in some cases it might make more sense to redeem points for a hotel stay using the fixed-rate approach as opposed to transferring them to a hotel loyalty program, so you’ll always want to compare the actual cost of a hotel with the cost in points.
With ten Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express hotels in the city, ranging in price from 30,000 to 40,000 points per night, IHG offers the greatest selection of economical options. Among them, the Holiday Inn Paris Opera – Grands Blvds and Holiday Inn Paris Notre Dame are the best located. As a reminder, international Holiday Inn properties tend to be nicer than the ones you’ll find in the US, and you’ll always get complimentary breakfast when staying at a Holiday Inn Express. Holders of the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card could save even more thanks to the card’s fourth night free perk.
The new Courtyard Paris Gare de Lyon and soon-to-open Moxy Paris Bastille (accepting reservations for stays beginning February 22, 2019) both cost 25,000 Marriott points per night. You could score even lower rates on stays more than four nights by leveraging Marriott’s fifth night free benefit on award redemptions, and the Moxy is even offering discounted PointSavers awards for just 22,500 points per night through the end of February.
…or the newly renovated Le Méridien Etoile, located more on the northwestern side of the city near the Arc de Triomphe.
Located just across the street from the Le Méridien is the Hyatt Regency Paris Étoile. Rooms here go for 15,000 points per night, making it a solid option for free night certificates from The World of Hyatt Credit Card. If you don’t have the World of Hyatt points necessary, you can also transfer them in from Chase Ultimate Rewards if you have a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.
If you’re willing to stay farther afield, Hilton offers the Hampton by Hilton Paris Clichy, where room awards range from 23,000 – 40,000 points per night.
If you have a few more points and miles to spare, you could make your trip to Paris a whole lot more comfortable, both in terms of how you’ll get there and where you’ll stay. And with the money you save by using your points and miles, you might even have a little cash left over to shop on the Champs-Élysées.
As with budget flights, there are plenty of ways to use miles to book premium cabin flights to Paris.
The cheapest (and possibly most convenient) premium flight option would be Air France premium economy, booked through the carrier’s own Flying Blue program. As previously mentioned, Flying Blue awards vary based on the price of the actual ticket, but to give you a general idea, a round-trip premium economy award from New York (JFK) costs a minimum of 91,000 miles and a minimum of 109,000 miles out of Los Angeles (LAX). That said, thanks to the monthly Promo Rewards, you may be able to score awards as low as 45,500 miles round-trip.
Air France offers premium economy on its entire long-haul fleet, though not everyone’s a fan of the seats due to their shell-like design (which is the same as Aeroflot — another SkyTeam carrier). If you want something a bit more comfortable, consider booking a business class award for a minimum of 115,000 miles round-trip out of JFK or 135,000 miles out of LAX. Again, you could score fantastic savings through the monthly Promo Rewards, where business class awards can drop under 80,000 miles round-trip.
Alternatively, you could fly American Airlines business class for 115,000 AAdvantage miles round-trip. Saver business-class awards to Europe aren’t terribly hard to come by, and unlike Air France and its Oneworld counterparts, AA-operated flights don’t come with any fuel surcharges. The carrier offers nonstop flights to Paris from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Miami (MIA), New York (JFK) and Philadelphia (PHL) using a combo of 787-8s, 777-200s, A330-200s and 767-300s, respectively.
In Star Alliance, United, which is a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, will charge you 120,000 miles round-trip for business class on its own flights, or 140,000 miles for premium cabin partner flights. Although you likely won’t find the new “real” Polaris seats flying to Paris in the near future, the Polaris soft-product remains consistent, including amenities like Saks Fifth Avenue bedding, mattress pads and cooling gel pillows.
While the airline isn’t a part of a major alliance, meaning there aren’t many ways to nook award flights using miles, another option is to fly the all-business-class airline, La Compagnie. It’s not quite as luxurious as other business class flights running the same routes, but it’s a lot more affordable, and there are somewhat frequent sales offering flights as low as $998 round-trip. This could also be a good opportunity to redeem your points using the fixed-value approach previously discussed. The only limitation with La Compagnie is that it only flies between Newark (EWR) and Paris-Orly.
Where to Stay
A few more points could go a long way when booking accommodations in Paris.
In the Marriott family, you can spend 50,000 points per night to stay at the Paris Marriott Opera Ambassador Hotel or the Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe Hotel. This same rate is currently available at the Renaissance Paris Vendome Hotel as well, though this property will jump to 60,000 points per night as of March 5.
In February 2019, Hotel Banke will join the Autograph Collection and be bookable for 50,000 points per night.
You would almost have enough for two nights at these properties with the current welcome offers on two of Marriott’s newly-rebranded cards: new applicants to the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (formerly the SPG Luxury Amex) receive 100,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months and the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card is offering an offer of 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
Remember too that you can use the program’s Points Advance feature to book these rooms even if you don’t have enough points in your account.
Hilton Honors members could spend about 60,000 – 80,000 points per night at the Hilton Paris Opera or Maison Astor Paris, Curio Collection by Hilton. There are also the Hilton Paris La Defense and the Niepce Paris Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton, but the former is located well outside of the city center and the latter does not show any award availability in the entire calendar.
Though the points can be harder to earn, as you can transfer them in from any of the major credit card point programs, let’s not forget about Radisson Rewards. You could use 70,000 points per night to stay at the Radisson Blu Hotel Champs Elysees, Paris.
It should come as no surprise that as one of the most expensive cities in the world, Paris has no shortage of opportunities to splurge, in terms of flying first class, staying in world-class hotels and enjoying Michelin-starred meals. Just remember that although French cuisine is obviously a highlight of any trip to France, there are many other options on offer in Paris, including Michelin-starred Asian restaurants.
If you really want to ball out, you need to arrive in style, and by that, I mean, first class (cue the heavenly choir).
Naturally, your first option is to fly Air France’s “La Première” first class. It’s a terrific product overall, but as explained in our Ultimate Guide to Air France’s La Première, it’s incredibly difficult to book with miles. Award space is only released to Flying Blue elite members (sorry, elite members of partner airlines aren’t eligible). Plus, Flying Blue elites can only redeem at the “flex” level (i.e. not saver), meaning a ticket between the US and Europe will cost 200,000 miles one-way.
Pro tip: If you book La Première and have a choice in aircraft, pick the 777-300ER over the A380 — you’ll thank me later.
While you’d need to add a layover in Frankfurt (FRA), a much better option (both in terms of accessibility and experience) is Lufthansa first class. It’s undoubtedly one of the finest ways to cross the Atlantic and relatively attainable using points and miles, That is, assuming you’re fine with booking your flights at the last minute. Let me explain.
One of the best ways to book Lufthansa first class is through Avianca LifeMiles, a transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One and Citi ThankYou Rewards. A round-trip ticket booked through the program will set you back 174,000 miles and a low $30.60 in taxes and fees. Most other programs, including Lufthansa’s own Miles & More, have similar redemption rates but add several hundred dollars worth of taxes and fees.
However, you’ll generally have to wait until 15 days prior to departure to book a Lufthansa first class award through a partner. While the airline does indeed often release last-minute award space, it’s not a guarantee, so you might want to book a flexible backup option.
Where to Stay
If you want to sleep in luxury, Paris is ready to bring it.
Arguably the best points redemption you can make in the city is the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme, which prices out at 30,000 points per night. The property’s been visited by TPG staffers (as well as TPG himself) a few times over the years, and it’s never disappointed.
Another top-tier Hyatt property frequented by the TPG team is the Hyatt Paris Madeleine, where award nights are available for 25,000 points per night. As the second-smallest Hyatt in the world, it’s ideal for those looking for a luxury option with a boutique feel.
There’s also the Hôtel du Louvre by Hyatt, but that’s currently closed for renovations.
Marriott’s seven highest-level hotels in the city will each set you back 60,000 points per night, though they’re not equal. You’ll get the greatest value from your points by redeeming them for a stay at the new Prince de Galles, a Luxury Collection Hotel, or the Prince de Galles, a Luxury Collection Hotel.
IHG, meanwhile has the InterContinental Paris Le Grand for 70,000 points per night.
Hilton’s most luxurious property is the Waldorf Astoria Trianon Palace Versailles. Rooms here cost 60,000 – 80,000 points per night, but the hotel is located in Versailles so you’d be a roughly 45 minutes’ drive from the city center.
If you plan on paying cash for your flights, you should think about doing so with the The Platinum Card® from American Express or the The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. Besides being able to earn 5X points on the airfare purchased directly through airlines or Amextravel, you can leverage the International Airline Program to score significant discounts on premium economy, business class and first class tickets on over 20 participating airlines, including Air France and Lufthansa. While you won’t necessarily get the highest value redemption, you can even use Pay With Points as a Business Platinum holder to pay for the tickets, which means a 35% points rebate on business and first class award tickets.
Likewise, Platinum and Business Platinum cardholders have access to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) collection, while cardholders of many Chase credit cards (like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and United Explorer Card ) have access to the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection (LHRC). These programs can unlock valuable perks at luxury hotels, such as room upgrades, free daily breakfast, late check-out, credits for spa or dining and more.
The seventeen participating FHR hotels in Paris include the Mandarin Oriental, the Peninsula, the Four Seasons Hotel, Hôtel de Crillon and Le Royal Monceau Raffles, among others. The LHRC has sixteen participating hotels, four overlapping with FHR and the others including the Pavillon de la Reine, the Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg and the Grand Hotel du Palais Royal. The Hotel du Louvre Paris will also be bookable through the LHRC once it reopens after its makeover.
Finally, if you do intend to pay cash for your hotel stay, you’ll also want to consider using your Citi Prestige Card to get your fourth night free (though this perk will be limited to twice per year later in 2019) or your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to get 10x miles by booking and paying for your hotel through Hotels.com Venture (through Jan. 31, 2020). The latter of these two options gives you an effective 20% rebate when you combine the earning rate with the Hotels.com Rewards program.
It’s not secret that a trip to Paris can cost you a pretty penny, but as you can see, if you play your cards right, it doesn’t have to. Hopefully the tips and tricks discussed will allow you to say bonjour to the French capital in no time. Plus, if you visit now you’ll have an easier time finding award availability and avoid some of the worst crowds. Just remember not to make these mistakes on your first trip.
Featured photo by Harald Nachtmann / Getty Images.
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