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One day in Europe: How (and why) I spent 365,000 points for 36 hours in Rome with two friends

Oct. 13, 2022
8 min read
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Being a college swimmer, my schedule is pretty rigid.

For six months out of the year, my teammates and I do not get more than 36 hours out of the pool. While that does mean that my travel is extremely limited, it also means I get to accrue a ton of points through welcome bonuses and everyday spending and redeem them in the spring and summer months before swim season starts again.

Related: How I earned 21,672 points buying a new computer

Because of my limited travel schedule, I try and go all-out when I can get on the road. In this spirit, I recently used 365,000 points and miles to fly myself and two friends to Rome for a long weekend. It was a lot of points for a short weekend away, but the memories were priceless. Better yet, it helped me redeem points I had sitting in accounts from canceled trips during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Let's take a closer look at our trip, how I booked it and what I'd do differently the next time.

Planning the trip

RYAN PATTERSON/THE POINTS GUY

I was putting off homework on a Sunday night and had 165,000 Air France-KLM Flying Blue miles burning a hole in my travel piggy bank from a canceled trip.

For those of you that travel frequently, you know how dangerous it can be for a stash of points to be sitting idle without any trips booked. They're open to devaluation at any moment — and some currencies are subject to expiration if you don't earn and redeem miles often enough.

Related: How to keep your points and miles from expiring

I also had a few parameters in mind for booking a trip.

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First, I needed award availability for three business-class tickets that included lie-flat seats that departed after my last class on Friday afternoon. Additionally, I needed the flights to price out to 55,000 Flying Blue miles (or less) each on the flight out and wanted to fly to a city I'd never been to before. The return flight could be in economy, giving us a bit of flexibility.

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With this strategy, I could explore a new city and arrive in Europe fully rested for a full day of exploring before the flight home Sunday. Plus, it'd put my dormant Flying Blue miles to good use.

I priced out a few destinations for an hour or so and eventually stumbled across award tickets to Rome that cost exactly 55,000 Flying Blue miles per person. It fit all of my other parameters perfectly and, to add a cherry on top, there was a direct flight home with award space for three. Not bad for booking just a few days in advance.

Related: Planning a trip to Italy? Here’s how to get there on points and miles

Booking flights and hotels

RYAN PATTERSON/THE POINTS GUY

I ended up booking the last three award tickets available on the flight for 55,000 Flying Blue Miles each plus moderate taxes and fees.

Then, I found United economy award space on a direct flight home to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) and booked my friends in economy for 30,000 Avianca LifeMiles each. I transferred the 60,000 miles from American Express Membership Rewards and they were all set. While it was not the most luxurious experience, it got them home quickly and in time for class the following day.

I would've joined them on that flight too, but I'm an aviation geek. And right around the time of our trip, Lufthansa reactivated part of its A340-600 fleet after the plane had been temporarily retired during the pandemic. I knew I had to fly it, especially since it's an aging plane that could be pulled from service once newer planes enter the fleet.

So, I ditched my friends and spent 63,000 LifeMiles for a business-class flight on the A340. My itinerary took me from Rome to Boston via Munich, then I booked a last-minute Southwest flight for 16,500 Rapid Rewards points back to the Washington D.C. area.

Related: Here’s why you need a healthy stash of Avianca LifeMiles

Booking a hotel in Rome

JESSICA PUCKETT/THE POINTS GUY

Being a Marriott Titanium Elite member during the stay, it made the most sense to stay at Marriott for free breakfast, a room upgrade and other perks.

Wanting to splurge a little bit with my friends, I chose the St. Regis Rome.

I did this for a few reasons. It was within walking distance to all the iconic Rome sites, I knew I could take advantage of breakfast benefits (three swimmers eat their weight in food), and it was reasonably priced during the nights I booked.

I spent 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for the one night we stayed, but your pricing may vary given Marriott has since removed award charts. Later this year, the lowest price I see at this property is 74,500 points per night when booking during Marriott's Week of Wonders sale.

MARRIOTT.COM

I already had the points in my account, so there was no need to transfer in from Amex Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards.

I looked at cash rates, too, but I wasn’t too interested in what they offered as I knew I couldn’t afford it on a student budget. For reference, a night at the property costs a whopping $740 on a random November date.

If you're interested in boosting your Marriott Bonvoy balance, consider applying for the Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express® Card which offers 85,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of card membership. Plus, you'll enjoy Gold Elite status as long as your card is open and in good standing.

Related: 7 ways to maximize Marriott Bonvoy award night redemptions

The trip

The trip could not have gone smoother.

We boarded our beautiful KLM A330 bound for Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport (AMS), had a great meal, and got some much-needed sleep before arriving in Europe. With a surprisingly easy connection in Amsterdam, we made it to Rome just before lunch.

Our one collective regret is we did not plan anything ahead of time. Unfortunately, all of the prime attractions were long sold out, so we did not get to go inside the Colosseum or tour the Pantheon.

Instead, we settled for multiple refueling stops at gelato stalls as we made our way around the city on foot. Next time, we'll make plans further out from departure to be able to tour the city properly, but the gelato helped ease our disappointment.

The way home was just as easy as getting there. I got to enjoy the Lufthansa A340-600 and catch up on sleep while my friends traveled home on an earlier flight. Not even as much as a delay had us all home in our beds and ready for morning swim practice on Monday.

Related: Watch us fly KLM 2 different ways: Business class versus economy

Was it worth it?  

RYAN PATTERSON/THE POINTS GUY

So was burning 365,000 points in 36 hours worth it? Absolutely.

I got to treat my friends to an incredible weekend in a city that none of us had ever visited before. They got to experience business class for the first time, and we have some amazing memories to show for it. And while I can’t recommend burning that many points every weekend, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Featured image by RYAN PATTERSON/THE POINTS GUY
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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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees