Booking a long weekend in Europe: Revisiting Prague after a year away
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Call me crazy, but I've always been a fan of the long weekend in Europe. For those of us living on the East Coast, flying to some of Europe is similar in time and distance to flying to Los Angeles (LAX) or other West Coast destinations.
This is especially relevant right now as Europe is one of the regions open to vaccinated American tourists amid the COVID-19 pandemic. I've actually traveled to Europe a handful of times since the coronavirus pandemic began.
That said, I haven't been back to Prague — my second home — in almost a year. I went once mid-pandemic to visit family thanks to my Czech dual-citizenship and the low COVID numbers at the time, but a COVID surge in the country prompted me to cancel my usual holiday trip in Dec. 2020.
Thankfully, the situation has improved in the Czech Republic and I am starting to plan out a trip for the fall with points and miles. Since the trip is only going to be five days long done over a long weekend, I will focus on using my points and miles to make this trip as seamless and comfortable as possible. This means flying in business class and not getting too adventurous with hotels.
Here, I'll show you how I'm using points to book my long weekend in Prague including what I'm booking and how I earned and redeemed the points and miles. Even if Prague isn't exactly your intended destination, you can use this as inspiration for your own short trip across the pond.
For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Booking flights for a long weekend in Prague
Flying business class is pretty much always nicer than coach, but when the trip length is short, it can help you arrive well-rested and ready for the quick trip. That said, I still want to do it as cheaply as possible to conserve points for future trips. I'm also personally focused on using American Express Membership Rewards points as I have an ever-growing stash on hand.
My original plan was to use ANA Mileage Club to book United or LOT Polish Airlines flights from the U.S. to Europe for 88,000 miles round-trip. That's actually one of our favorite award chart sweet spots here at TPG. I zeroed in on these two airlines because they don't charge fuel surcharges on ANA-issued tickets (unlike Austrian and Lufthansa). That said, award space has dried up recently thanks to the reopening borders, so that strategy didn't work out and it was back to the drawing board.
Related: The ultimate guide to visiting Prague with points and miles
In the end, what I found available was an outbound flight in British Airways business class that I booked using 61,000 Amex Membership Rewards points transferred to Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. I booked with Asia Miles because the program charges lower fuel surcharges than other Oneworld partners.
For example, this flight has just under $280 in taxes and fees on a one-way ticket, compared to $600+ in fees I'd pay if I booked the same flight with British Airways Avios.
On the way home, I'll use Avianca LifeMiles for a one-way business class ticket on Turkish Airlines from Prague (PRG) to New York-JFK via Istanbul (IST). I already have 23,000 Avianca LifeMiles already in my account, so I will only need to transfer 40,000 points from my Membership Rewards account in order to book this ticket. Taxes and fees cost a modest $72.33 for this itinerary.
Earning American Express Membership Rewards points
You can earn American Express Membership Rewards points with a handful of Amex cards. Here's a look at the current welcome bonus for some of the more popular cards:
- American Express® Green Card: Earn 40,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership. Earn 3x points at restaurants, travel and transit, 1x points on all other purchases, $150 annual fee (see rates and fees).
- American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first six months of card membership. Earn 4x points on dining at restaurants; 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year; then 1x points); 3x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines; 1x points on all other purchases, $250 annual fee (see rates and fees).
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after spending $6,000 on purchases on the card in your first 6 months of card membership. Earn 5x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines or Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year, starting Jan. 1, 2021), 5x hotels booked through Amex Travel and Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts; 1x on all other purchases, $695 annual fee (see rates and fees).
The information for the Amex Green 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.
Related: Move over Sapphire: Why I prefer Membership Rewards instead of Ultimate Rewards
How I'm booking my hotel in Prague
Prague doesn't have as many points-friendly hotels as larger Western European cities like Paris or London. But, it still has a number of Marriott properties that can sometimes be a good redemption value. This time, however, it didn't end up being a great use of points.
I often stay at the Courtyard by Marriott Prague as it's near where much of my Czech family lives. During peak travel times, rates usually hover around $125 to $150 per night based on my past experience. This October, rooms are going for just $74 per night after taxes and fees.
My five-night trip cost $369 out of pocket, or I could have used 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points with the fifth-night free benefit. I would have gotten just 0.45 cents per point in value from this redemption, which is less than TPG's valuation of 0.8 cents per point. I frequently redeem Marriott points for more than TPG's valuation, so I don't feel great about using my hard-earned points on this stay and opted to earn points instead.
Instead, I'll pay for the stays with my Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card. I haven't used the up to $300 annual Marriott statement credit on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program that's included with the card, so this will shave off a good chunk of the cost off of the stay. Plus, I'll earn 6 points per dollar on the stay (since this hotel is in the Marriott Bonvoy program), resulting in an extra 2,214 Marriott Bonvoy points on top of the points I'll earn for the stay.
This is a good reminder to compare the cash and points cost of a redemption every time you redeem points. This will help you maximize your points and not leave any value on the table when redeeming your hard-earned points and miles.
Related: How I decide when to redeem points for a flight or pay cash
For a total of 124,000 points, $421 in cash and the up to $300 Marriott credit on my Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card, I'm going to Prague for five days, staying near family and flying both ways business class.
Points, miles and credit card perks make the trip significantly more affordable and let me visit my extended family after over a year away. And frankly, that's pretty much priceless.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
Feature photo by vojtech.loksa / Shutterstock.com