Honeymooning in Paris and Prague — reader success story

Mar 18, 2020

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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Doug, who used points and miles to book a multi-destination trip to Europe:

I have been a TPG reader for more than three years now. I stockpiled points and miles to book a fantastic honeymoon itinerary for October of 2020. We will be getting married in Scotland, and honeymooning in Paris and Prague.

We live in Amarillo, Texas, so finding award space in and out of our home airport can be difficult. I began searching the three major alliances a year out from our travel dates. I first was able to book our Paris hotel by transferring 120,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (earned on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and others) to World of Hyatt for four nights at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme. At the time of booking, the cash price of our stay would have been $3,592, netting me a redemption value of 2.99 cents per point.

Next, I found award space on Delta for our outbound leg, flying from Dallas to Edinburgh via Detroit and Amsterdam, including a chance to fly the Delta One Suite on the A350. I booked it by transferring 160,000 Membership Reward Points (earned on the American Express® Gold Card and others) to my SkyMiles account. On the day of purchase, the tickets cost $7,570.50 per ticket. I also booked a short hop on American Airlines from Amarillo to Dallas for $250 each. Less the American flight, taxes and fees, I was able to get a redemption value of 9.22 cents per point.

Finally, I booked our return flights using AAdavantage miles. I had a balance of 73,750 miles earned from flying and the sign-up bonus from the AAdvantage Aviator Red Card. I found award space from Prague to Amarillo (via London, Nashville and Dallas) for 115,000 miles total, with the chance to fly the new BA Club Suite on the 787-10. I could not force through an identical itinerary for cash fares, but a similar one was listed at $5,212 per person when I booked. For two tickets, less the cost of the remaining miles I purchased and the infamous taxes and fees out of London, I was able to get a redemption value of 7.6 cents per mile and return home on one reservation.

We plan to use cash to book our Prague hotel, as redemption values do not seem to be all that great (at least currently). Thanks to TPG, I have been able to book a honeymoon that has a cash value in excess of $27,000 using points and miles! Thank you for getting me hooked!

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Doug’s story highlights several award travel strategies. First, booking a positioning flight (like his short hop to Dallas) is a great way for those who fly out of smaller airports to take advantage of flight deals and award availability from hubs and other large cities. That approach may also come in handy even if you live in a major metropolitan area, so look for opportunities to save on your next trip by expanding your search to include nearby airports.

Second, if you don’t have enough miles on hand to book an award, consider buying more to cover the balance. You’ll get the best return by waiting for a promotional bonus, but points and miles purchases can also make sense at standard prices if you need to top up your account for a high-value redemption. Finally, when award rates are subpar, you may be better off paying cash like Doug plans to do in Prague. Save your rewards for the best opportunities rather than burning them to lower your out-of-pocket expenses.

One part of Doug’s analysis I disagree with is his methodology for calculating redemption value. One-way transatlantic fares tend to be hugely inflated compared to round-trip fares, so they don’t make a good basis for assessing redemption value unless buying round-trip isn’t an option. For example, I see round-trip business class itineraries from Amarillo to Edinburgh and back from Prague for around $3,100 per person in October. It’s not an apples to apples comparison because the flight products are different, but it indicates the prices Doug used in his calculation are too high. That’s not to knock his redemptions, but to remind you to consider alternatives, and to not make redemption value the focal point of your awards.

Related: Maximizing redemptions with American Airlines AAdvantage

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Doug a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured photo or Prague by Marius Serban/Unsplash.

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