Visit these 5 reopened European capitals with your points and miles this summer
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The European Union announced it would begin welcoming American tourists this summer, but some European countries have accelerated their opening plans. Iceland and Greece were the first countries to open their borders, and others like France, Spain and Italy followed suit this month.
This means you can visit some of Europe’s most iconic capitals this summer for a much-needed break from work-from-home life. Better yet, you can use your points and miles to fly to and stay in these cities in style. Yes, this includes business class flights and upscale hotels.
In this article, I’ll give you an overview of some of the European capitals you can visit this summer and how to travel there with points and miles. Use this as inspiration when planning your 2021 European adventure
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In mid-May, Greece reopened to more travelers without quarantine, including permanent residents of the U.S. To visit without quarantine, U.S. permanent residents must be fully vaccinated or possess a negative COVID-19 PCR test result taken 72 hours before arrival. And once in Greece, tourists are expected to abide by all COVID-19 restrictions, including wearing masks (indoors and outdoors) and adhering to a late-night curfew.
Booking points hotels in Athens
There are many options if you want to redeem points for your hotel in Athens. For example, if you want to redeem IHG Rewards points, the InterContinental Hotels Athenaeum Athens and Crowne Plaza Athens City Centre are well-located and reasonably priced.
On most dates this summer, both IHG hotels are bookable for under 40,000 points per night. So, you could use up-to-40,000-point anniversary night certificates to stay at either property on most dates. Or, if you have an eligible IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, you could get a fourth-night reward when you redeem IHG Rewards points for a stay of four nights or longer. Check out our guide on earning IHG Rewards points if you need more points for your redemption.
If you want to redeem Hyatt points, you can book the Category 3 Grand Hyatt Athens or the Category 6 A77 Suites by Andronis. However, availability is scarce at the 12-suite A77 Suites, so you’ll likely find yourself at the Grand Hyatt. Luckily, the Grand Hyatt has a roof-top pool with great views.
You can book a standard room at the Grand Hyatt for 12,000 points per night, but you can also redeem Category 1-4 reward night certificates. If you need more points, here’s how to earn more World of Hyatt points.
Marriott Bonvoy points unlock the largest number of hotels in Athens, Greece. But frankly, Marriott’s award pricing in Athens can’t compete with other programs. And, on both dates I searched this summer, only three of the eight Marriott hotels in Athens offered award availability for a five-night stay. Remember that you can get a fifth night free when you redeem Marriott points for a stay of five nights or more. If you need more Marriott points, here’s how to earn Marriott points.
If you want to redeem Hilton Honors points, there’s only one hotel in Athens for you: the Hilton Athens. Currently, nights in June through August cost between 44,000 and 59,000 Hilton points per night. However, this Hilton will be undergoing redesign work this summer.
Award flights from the U.S. to Athens
Transiting in Europe can complicate your trip. So, if you want to fly from the U.S. to Athens, Greece, this summer, you may want to fly one of the following trans-Atlantic routes:
- Atlanta to Athens on Delta, operating July to Oct.
- Chicago to Athens on American, ending in Oct.
- Newark to Athens on Emirates
- Newark to Athens on United, ending in Oct.
- New York JFK to Athens on American, ending in Oct.
- New York JFK to Athens on Delta
- Philadelphia to Athens on American, operating Aug. to Oct.
- Washington IAD to Athens on United, operating July to Oct.
However, if you want to use one of the best ways to redeem points and miles for flights to Europe, you may need to transit in Europe on your way to Greece. As such, you’ll need to decide whether you’re willing to transit in a third country to snag a good deal.
For example, you might consider booking through Turkish Miles & Smiles or ANA Mileage Club if you want to fly on Star Alliance airlines. After all, you can fly round-trip to Europe in business class for 88,000 ANA miles. And you can fly Star Alliance business-class flights to Europe for 45,000 Turkish miles each way. However, beware of high taxes and fees as well as mixed cabin awards.
Or, if you want to fly on SkyTeam airlines, you could book through the Air France-KLM Flying Blue program. After all, this program allows you to fly from the US to Europe from 21,500 miles each way. Likewise, if you want to fly on Oneworld airlines, you may want to book through the Etihad Guest program.
To find the best award for you, start by considering the airlines with which you have miles. You may also want to consider airlines to which you can transfer points, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards points or Amex Membership Rewards points. Then, search for award availability in the programs you’ve identified.
However, airline miles are more likely to devalue than transferrable currencies. So, if you have a large balance of airline miles with a specific airline and find a reasonably priced award, now may be a good time to use some of those miles instead of transferring points into another program to book an award at the best possible rate.
Denmark reopened to more travelers, including select travelers from the U.S., on June 5. In particular, permanent residents of the U.S. who are fully vaccinated can now visit Denmark for non-essential reasons without testing or quarantine when traveling from yellow or orange countries. Denmark classifies countries as red, orange or yellow on a weekly basis; check this website for the most recent list.
Booking points hotels in Copenhagen
If you want to use hotel points for your stay in Copenhagen, you’ll find the most choice with Marriott Bonvoy. After all, there are four Marriott Bonvoy hotels in Copenhagen.
If you’re short on points, the Category 4 Moxy Copenhagen Sydhavnen (that’s currently on the PointSavers list) will likely be your best bet. For sample dates this summer, a five-night stay would cost 105,000 points or $543.70. So, you’d get 0.52 cents per point on this redemption, which is lower than TPG’s valuation of Marriott points at 0.8 cents.
If you want to be more centrally located while using Marriott points, the Category 6 Copenhagen Marriott Hotel will be a better option. However, a five-night stay on the same sample dates would cost 240,000 points or $1,342.72. As such, you’d get 0.56 cents per point on this redemption. So, you’ll likely want to book a paid rate instead of redeeming Marriott points for these stays. But, if you do want to redeem Marriott points but don’t have quite enough, check out our guide to earning more Marriott points.
If you want to redeem Hyatt points, there is one hotel you can book in Copenhagen — and it’s a special one. You can redeem 40,000 Hyatt points or pay around $1,000 per night to stay at the Nimb Hotel in Copenhagen’s famous Tivoli Gardens through Hyatt’s Small Luxury Hotels of the World partnership.
You can also redeem IHG Rewards points to stay at the Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers. But, the location of this IHG hotel won’t be ideal for most tourists. There are also several hotels bookable with Choice Privileges points in Copenhagen. But, besides the Clarion Hotel Copenhagen Airport that may be ideal for late arrivals and early departures, most of the hotels in Copenhagen that are bookable with Choice points have limited award availability this summer.
Award flights from the U.S. to Copenhagen
Especially as Europe reopens, it’s often easiest to fly non-stop from the U.S. to your destination. As such, you’ll want to focus on award flights on the following routes:
- Boston to Copenhagen on Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), starting in Aug.
- Chicago to Copenhagen on SAS
- Los Angeles to Copenhagen on SAS
- Miami to Copenhagen on SAS, operating Oct. to April
- Newark to Copenhagen on SAS
- San Francisco to Copenhagen on SAS
- Washington IAD to Copenhagen on SAS
All of these flights are operated by SAS, which is a Star Alliance member. As such, you’ll want to book through your favorite airline mileage program for booking Star Alliance awards. For example, you could redeem United miles on several dates to fly round-trip non-stop from Washington IAD to Copenhagen in economy class (66,000 miles plus $49.55) or business class (148,000 miles plus $49.55).
Or, you could redeem Singapore KrisFlyer miles. For example, you could redeem 55,000 KrisFlyer miles plus $49.60 to fly round-trip from Washington IAD to Copenhagen in economy class.
Or, you can redeem 144,000 KrisFlyer miles plus $49.60 to fly round-trip from Washington IAD to Copenhagen in business class. One highlight of Singapore KrisFlyer miles is that you can transfer all five major transferrable currencies to the program. So, regardless of whether you have Citi ThankYou Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, American Express Membership Rewards points, Capital One miles, Marriott Bonvoy points or a combination of these currencies, this award may be in reach.
Likewise, you could redeem ANA Mileage Club miles. For example, you could redeem 55,000 ANA miles plus $49.60 to fly round-trip from Washington (IAD) to Copenhagen in economy class.
Or, you can redeem 88,000 ANA miles plus $49.60 to fly round-trip from Washington IAD to Copenhagen in business class. The quickest and easiest way to earn more ANA miles is to transfer American Express Membership Rewards points or Marriott Bonvoy points.
I traveled to Paris on day one of France’s reopening and enjoyed every minute of my trip. Cafes, bistros, museums and everything else that makes Paris a stunning city is back open and ready for visitors. There are still some restrictions in place, but they should be lifted by the end of the month.
Booking points hotels in Paris
Paris is home to countless points hotels, with Hyatt having some of the best properties in the city. Whether you stay at the iconic Park Hyatt Paris Vendome or the budget-friendly Hyatt Regency Paris, you’ll get a great redemption value for your World of Hyatt points and be located in the heart of the action in France’s largest city.
Here’s a look at World of Hyatt award pricing at some of Hyatt’s best Paris hotels.
- Hôtel du Louvre: 25,000 points per night
- Hyatt Regency Paris Étoile: 15,000 points per night
- Hyatt Paris Madeleine: 25,000 points per night
- Le Pavillon de la Reine & Spa: 40,000 points per night
- Park Hyatt Paris, Vendôme: 30,000 points per night
You can transfer points from Chase to World of Hyatt or earn points with the World of Hyatt Credit Card. The card currently offers 30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 more bonus points by earning 2 bonus points total per $1 spent on purchases that normally earn 1 bonus point, on up to $15,000 in the first six months of account opening.
Award flights from the U.S. to Paris
There is no shortage of ways to get from the U.S. to Paris. All the major U.S. airlines fly to Paris from their hubs and Air France flies to its Paris hub from many American gateways. Award space in business class is booking up fast, but you can still find reasonably priced SkyTeam award tickets with Air France/KLM’s joint Flying Blue loyalty program.
For example, you can book New York-JFK to Paris (CDG) for as little as 57,500 miles in Air France business class:
Or, you can book Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to Paris via Amsterdam (AMS) for as low as 58,000 miles in KLM business class:
In terms of economy awards, you’ll find flights from New York-JFK to Paris for as little as 22,000 miles each way this August.
Flying Blue prices award tickets dynamically, so play around with dates and look for a deal that best fits your travel plans. You can transfer Amex, Capital One, Chase and Citi points to Flying Blue.
Consider opening one of these Chase cards to top up your Ultimate Rewards balance for your next trip.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card – Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve – Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
I also visited Rekjavik when Iceland opened to tourists (for the first time) this March. I had a great time in the city too. It’s filled with great bars and restaurants, and close to all of the natural wonders in Iceland. It’s a great jumping-off point for a tour of the country or a great long weekend city break if you’re coming from the East Coast.
Booking points hotels in Reykjavik
There are a handful of points hotels in the Icelandic capital. One of my favorite properties in the city is the Mr. & Mrs. Smith Kvosin Hotel in Reykjavik’s city center. You can book this property with your IHG Rewards points, thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s partnership with IHG. The program now prices award nights dynamically, but you can expect to pay between 50,000 and 70,000 points per night.
Alternatively, you can book the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica with your Hilton Honors points. This hotel is great — rooms are modern and there’s an excellent bar and restaurant in the lobby. My only complaint was its distance from Reykjavik’s city center. Award nights start at 46,000 points per night this August.
Award flights from the U.S. to Reykjavik
Delta and United have restarted nonstop flights to Reykjavik (KEF) this summer. Delta is flying from Boston (BOS), Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) and New York-JFK. United is flying to Reykjavik nonstop from Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) and Newark (EWR).
Unfortunately, there isn’t much open award space this summer on either airline. Thankfully, Icelandair is flying from its Reykjavik hub to a handful of U.S. cities this summer too. Cash rates are reasonable in both business class and economy, so you may want to book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal.
For example, you can book a round-trip flight from Boston to Reykjavik on Icelandair for $457.99 in economy class. Travelers with a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card can use just 36,639 points to cover the ticket.
If you go the Icelandair route, make sure to credit your flight miles to partner programs like Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan or JetBlue TrueBlue. Tickets booked through the Chase portal are considered standard paid tickets by the airline.
Anyone can now travel to Italy without quarantining upon arrival by taking a “COVID-tested flight.” They’re offered from the U.S. to several major Italian cities, including the capital, Rome. Here are the requirements for these special flights:
- Take a COVID-19 PCR test no more than 72 hours before your scheduled departure to Italy
- Take a rapid antigen test at the airport before departing the U.S.
- Take a rapid antigen test upon arrival in Italy
Booking points hotels in Rome
Marriott Bonvoy has the most options in the city. Top hotels include the Category 8 St. Regis Rome for 70,000 to 100,000 points per night and the Category 7 Westin Excelsior or Rome Marriott Grand Hotel Flora for 50,000 to 70,000 points per night. For a more trendy stay, consider the G-Rough, a Member of Design Hotels (Category 8) or the Pantheon Iconic Rome Hotel, part of the Autograph Collection (Category 7). There’s also the W Rome, slated to open in September 2021.
Some more budget-friendly Marriott options include the Category 6 Le Méridien Visconti Rome, which costs 40,000 to 60,000 points per night and the Category 4 Courtyard Rome Central Park, which costs 20,000 to 30,000 points per night.
If you want to redeem Hilton Honors points, you have options ranging from the DoubleTree by Hilton Rome Monti (44,000 to 60,000 points per night) to the Aleph Rome Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton (72,000 to 80,000 points per night) to the luxurious Rome Cavalieri, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel (66,000 to 80,000 points per night). Then, in summer 2022, it will open the highly anticipated Hilton Rome Eur La Lama, where rooms will start at 39,000 points per night.
Meanwhile, World of Hyatt offers nine properties in the Italian capital. They’re all part of Hyatt’s partnership with Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH), so you’ll get perks like free breakfast, early check-in, late check-out and a room upgrade even if you don’t have elite status. Here’s the full list of Rome hotels you can book with World of Hyatt points:
- Villa Spalletti Trivelli: 30,000 points per night
- Hotel Splendide Royal: 30,000 points per night
- Palm Suite: 25,000 points per night
- Hotel d’Inghilterra: 25,000 points per night
- Palazzo Manfredi: 40,000 points per night
- Margutta 19: 30,000 points per night
- Babuino 181: 25,000 points per night
- Hotel Lord Byron: 20,000 points per night
- Hotel De’ Ricci: 25,000 points per night
IHG offers some more budget-friendly options, including a Crowne Plaza and two Holiday Inns in Rome. Then, in 2022, it will open the InterContinental Rome Ambasciatori Palace.
Award flights from the U.S. to Rome
All three major U.S. carriers — American, Delta and United — offer COVID-tested flights to Rome from their hubs. Alitalia also offers nonstop flights from several American gateways.
If you’re looking to fly United or another Star Alliance airline, your cheapest mileage options would through ANA Mileage Club or Turkish Miles & Smiles. ANA charges just 55,000 miles round-trip in economy, 88,000 miles in business class and 165,000 miles in first class, while Turkish charges 60,000 miles, 90,000 miles and 135,000 miles, respectively. Just note that unless you’re flying on United, you may be on the hook for high fuel surcharges. Also, to book through ANA, you must book a round-trip award.
If you’re looking to fly American, you’ll usually get the lowest rate by booking directly through the airline’s AAdvantage program. While its only transfer partner is Marriott Bonvoy, you can score round-trip awards for 45,000-60,000 miles in economy (depending on the time of year), 80,000 miles in premium economy, 115,000 miles in business and 170,000 miles in first class.
Although availability is harder to come by, you can also book Delta awards through Virgin Atlantic Flying Club for 60,000 miles round-trip in economy or just 100,000 miles in Delta One business class. Virgin Atlantic partners with Amex, Chase and Citi ThankYou Rewards, giving you an array of options for boosting your mileage balance.
With more European capitals reopening, you have more and more options for summer travel this year. I showed you some of the most intriguing options in this article and how to travel there with your points and miles. Make sure to keep an eye on the news as more reopening announcements are made.
Additional reporting by Katie Genter and Benji Stawski
Feature photo of Copenhagen by Alexander Spatari/Getty Images
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