Cleared for Takeoff: A week in Paris with round-trip business class for $400 out of pocket
Things are finally looking up for aspiring international travelers: The European Union is set to welcome travelers back as early as May. If you've been dreaming of strolling the picturesque streets of Paris and eating your weight in chocolate croissants (guilty), you won't have to wait much longer. Reader Elliott M. recently reached out to us about booking an award ticket to Europe this fall:
We are interested in San Francisco to Paris and return flexible early September to early November. Two travelers. We would like to travel Business.
We have 431k miles United and 113k Chase.
Help would be appreciated.
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Current points stash
Elliott is in an ideal situation in terms of his points and miles balance. WIth 431,000 United miles, he has more than enough to cover two round-trip business class tickets to Paris.
- 431,000 miles United miles
- 113,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards
His plans to travel between September - November 2021 give him plenty of flight options, since this is technically shoulder/low season.
United provides a handy award calendar displaying business class space months in advance. According to this tool, Elliott has plenty of dates to choose from where he can book saver-level business class tickets. The only concern here is regarding hotel bookings. In terms of hotel rates, I'd recommend he travel in October when hotel rates are lower.
Marriott is showing lower rates on both points and cash. Hyatt will be introducing peak/off-peak pricing in July, which will impact the number of points Elliott will need during his stay in Paris. Because paid hotel rates will be lower in October, award rates will probably also be in the standard or off-peak level. So overall, October is probably going to be a better time to travel.
Airfare to Paris
Route: SFO-YUL-CDG, CDG-ZRH-SFO
Miles needed: 300,000 United miles + $307.10
Airfare to Paris is incredibly easy to book using United miles. There are two advantages: 1. United is a Star Alliance member, which has a strong airline network flying to Europe. 2. United allows you to book award tickets online. No lengthy call center holds, fuel surcharges or availability issues. Simply log in to your MileagePlus account, enter your destination and dates and book your tickets
One thing to keep in mind is that you may encounter mixed-cabin itineraries with one or more economy segments. These will price out at 66,000 miles each way, though there are a few 75,000-mile awards that contain one or more segments in economy class.
On the outbound segment, I would personally opt for a mixed-cabin award with an economy segment on a shorter route. It knocks 9,000 miles off the full business class award price. Plus, intra-Europe business is just economy class with an empty seat in the middle. Not worth the extra 9,000 miles per person, in my opinion.
On the return segment, I've noticed a trend of mixed cabin awards with multiple and/or longer segments in economy class. I would avoid those and opt for a full business class award at 75,000 miles per person each way.
Related: Miami to Singapore and Mumbai in business class
How to book this award with points
United makes the online booking process for this award very straightforward. Start by logging into your United Mileage Plus account.
Step 1: Once you're in, enter your travel information on the home page and check off "book with miles."
Step 2: On the search results page, pick the flight you want. You can sort by shortest distance or cheapest redemption rate in business class. Note, the taxes will vary depending on which carrier you choose.
Once you've picked your outbound flight, you'll get to choose your return. The page looks identical and has the same functionality.
Step 3: You'll be directed to a page displaying your itinerary and the total cost of miles and cash for the award. Make sure everything is correct before you proceed. If you don't have enough miles, you can transfer them instantly from Chase Ultimate Rewards.
How to earn enough miles for this award
Elliott has plenty of United miles to cover this award. But if you wanted to replicate this itinerary, you could do so fairly easily. You can earn United Miles by picking up the United Quest℠ Card and United Explorer Card. If you're starting from scratch, I don't recommend the United Mileage Plus program for award tickets to Europe.
Instead, consider ANA Mileage Club, another Star Alliance reward program, offering round-trip business class tickets to Europe for 88,000 miles. That's almost half the cost of a United award. What's more, ANA also lets you book these award tickets online and the miles are easy to earn. Currently, you can earn enough for a round-trip ANA business class award ticket to Europe by applying for The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. It's currently offering a welcome offer of 120,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.
Having this card long-term is a good bet against devaluations since you're not tied to a single airline and can transfer them instantly to 22 airline and hotel partners.
Related: How to fly round-trip to Europe in business class for 88,000 miles
Paris hotels you can book with points
With 113,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Elliott is best off transferring them to Hyatt for the cheapest award options. Hyatt has several well-located hotels in Paris, ranging from Category 6-8. These properties can be booked for 25,000-40,000 points per night:
- Hotel du Louvre - 25,000 points
- Hyatt Paris Madeleine - 25,000 points
- Park Hyatt Paris Vendome - 30,000 points
- Grand Hotel Du Palais Royal - 30,000 points
- Le Narcisse Blanc Hotel & Spa - 30,000 points
- Le Pavillion De La Reine & Spa - 40,000 points
When Hyatt implements peak and off-peak pricing this year, those rates could drop from 21,000-35,000 points per night or go as high as 29,000-45,000 points. Personally, I'd secure the current standard rates while it's still possible. If Hyatt ends up reducing the number of points per night for fall bookings, then Elliott can always cancel and rebook at the lower rates.
The Park Hyatt Paris Vendome has long been a popular choice among Hyatt members and is available for 30,000 points per night. However, I would argue the Hyatt Regency Paris Madeleine offer better value for just 25,000 points per night. The location is still good and the rooms are quite nice.
Related: A post-pandemic trip to Spain with a backup plan for Colombia
How to earn hotel points
If Elliott transfers his existing Ultimate Rewards balance to Hyatt, he'll have enough for three-four nights at a Hyatt hotel in Paris. For the remaining nights, he can pick up a World of Hyatt Credit Card, which offers up to 60,000 bonus points: He'll earn 30,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 more bonus points by earning 2 bonus points per $1 spent in the first six months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 bonus point (up to $15,000 spent).
He'll also get Hyatt Discoverist status and the ability to earn additional elite status credits via card spending.
If the spending requirement is too high and Elliott doesn't need the elite night credits, an Ultimate Rewards-earning card from the Chase Quartet is a solid alternative.
Related: How to earn Hyatt points for free nights
Thanks to points, miles and modern science, a trip to Paris will once again be possible. Many of you have been saving up points and miles over the past year, making this a terrific way to put them to use. In Elliott's case, he'll be able to book his fall trip to Paris for just over $400 if you factor in award taxes and the annual fee for a new Chase card to cover his entire hotel stay.
All screenshot courtesy of United.com