Dreaming of the Greek Islands: How I’m rescheduling my trip to Greece on points and miles

Apr 17, 2020

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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 travel until later this year — and even then, be mindful of cancellation policies.

When I spotted a deal to Greece for just $286 round-trip on Delta back in February, I immediately texted my sister, asked for her availability and booked a mid-May trip.

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Greece has always been a dream trip for us; we grew up hearing stories about the sister-trips our mom and aunts took to the Mediterranean islands. Now the timing and, of course, the pricing had aligned and we were on our way.

Then coronavirus took hold of the world.

Although it’s definitely not happening as soon as we had hoped, I’m still planning to take the trip when we get the all-clear. That means more time to figure out my points strategy and plan how I’ll spend my time.

(PHoto bySven Hansche / EyeEm
How I’d like to spend my vacation. (Photo bySven Hansche/EyeEm/Getty Images)

Flights

As I mentioned, I already had booked a great deal on the flights, but sadly those flights were canceled by Delta. The upside of the cancellation is that I was eligible for a full refund to my credit card. However, instead of taking the refund, I rescheduled our flights for later in the summer. Through a quick search, I saw that flights weren’t pricing out quite as low as they were before, but I was willing to pay $130 more to postpone the trip rather than cancel it all together.

Canceled flight? The ins and outs of vouchers and refunds for flights, hotels and cruises

When I looked into how much it would cost in miles, I found main cabin availability from 32,000 SkyMiles, plus $59 in taxes and fees.

Based on TPG valuations, this would essentially equal $384 round-trip, but once you add in the taxes and fees it comes out equal to the cash price. The big difference is that the SkyMiles price is for main cabin and the cash price is for basic economy. Neither of those are a big concern to me, so ultimately it came down to whether or not I wanted to spend cash or miles.

Related: Here’s why I don’t plan to spend cash on travel this year 

Because my original flights were canceled, I reached out to Delta via Twitter direct message and the agent was able to take of me within the hour. Like I said, I was willing to pay the difference to reschedule for a later date, but the agent kindly offered an even exchange on my tickets.

Sure, $130 isn’t a crazy difference, but I don’t mind having some extra money in my pocket. It shows that a little kindness and understanding can make all the difference. As a matter of fact, this kind gesture made me consider switching my loyalty to Delta. Currently, I’m an American Airlines loyalist but I’ve had nothing but great experiences with Delta. And with elite-status extensions and not too many flights under my belt for 2020, I may switch it up. But then again, AA did just lower their elite qualifications significantly. I guess I’ll wait and see when travel picks back up and where I go.

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In-country transit

Once we arrive in Athens, I’m planning to leverage low-cost carriers like Ryanair to do some island-hopping. You can typically book one of these quick flights for as little as $30, though the price is always subject to change, depending on the demand. For the most part, they’re pretty affordable. If I were to go ahead and book now, I could pay as little as $33 for a one-way flight.

Though, I’ll end up paying a bit more since I’ll be bringing a larger carry-on bag. There are a few options here. I could pay $32 more for a “regular” ticket that would allow me to choose my own seat and bring a personal and carry-on bag. Or I could choose the basic fare, deal with the seat I get for the short flight, and only pay $9.30 more at checkout to add a carry-on.

Related: The ultimate survival guide for flying Ryanair

I’ll book these flights with my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to earn 2x points, but also to protect myself in case of any trip cancellations or delays.

I’m also planning to use the ferry system for trips like the nearly two-hour boat ride from Crete to Santorini.

The pricing for this is similar to the flights. and though the trip is a bit longer by boat, I figure I’ll end up spending the same amount of time getting to and from the airport as I would on the boat. So why not enjoy the fresh air and sun? I may even try to turn it into a sunrise or sunset cruise if I can get the timing right.

Hotels

I’ve been eyeing the Blue Palace on Crete. This five-star Marriott Luxury Collection property starts at 80,000 Bonvoy points or $480 a night during the high season. Sadly, I don’t have any status (yet) with Marriott, so I won’t be eligible for any upgrades. I do, however, have a decent collection of Bonvoy points, plus Chase Ultimate Rewards points that I plan to transfer from my Chase Sapphire Preferred at a 1:1 ratio.

I would have been able to snag this stay for just 65,000 points on my originally scheduled dates, but … I guess you win some, you lose some.

For a stay at the Blue Palace you can also transfer American Express Membership Rewards to Marriott at a 1:1 ratio or you can use Amex’s Fine Hotel & Resorts that’s an included perk on cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express. Just be sure to do a quick comparison of both awards options to see which offers the better redemption.

(Photo courtesy of the Blue Palace)
(Photo courtesy of the Blue Palace)

Anywhere you stay in Greece is probably going to offer dreamy, Instagram-worthy views, but the view from the Blue Palace pool looks exceptionally great. Will it be worth the splurge? I guess I’ll have to stay to find out.

Aside from that, I’m planning to leverage Hotels.com’s loyalty program for our stays since there aren’t many points hotels on the the Greek islands. Instead, there’s a wide variety of boutique and locally owned hotels that are a bit more affordable than Marriott’s Blue Palace. By doing this, I can earn reward nights towards a future stay (which I plan to redeem during a trip to Tokyo later this year).

Related: 12 mistakes most tourists make in Greece

For the most part, my sister and I will be soaking up the sun on the islands, but no trip to Greece is complete without some time spent touring historic Athens. I’ve been looking at the new Grand Hyatt Athens, which is available for just 12,000 World of Hyatt points. Again, I can transfer points from my Chase Sapphire Preferred at a 1:1 ratio. The property offers chic rooms, but what really caught my eye was the view of the Acropolis from the rooftop pool.

(Photo courtesy of the Grand Hyatt Athens)
(Photo courtesy of the Grand Hyatt Athens)

TPG UK Contributing Writer Anthony Grant stayed at this property in September 2018 and found that it lived up to Hyatt’s reputation but the location wasn’t particularly impressive. However, he mentioned that it’s an easy spot to hail a taxi to tourist hot spots such as the Acropolis and the more charming Plaka neighborhood.

Bottom line

It’s unclear if we’ll be able to take our dream trip this summer, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we can. Meanwhile, I’ll be building up my points and daydreaming about Mediterranean sunsets.

For more future trip inspiration:

Featured photo by Nikos Karanikolas/EyeEm/Getty Images.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,600

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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