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Cleared for Takeoff: A week in Paris with round-trip business class for $400 out of pocket

April 28, 2021
8 min read
Eiffel tower in Paris
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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.
Elliott M.

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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.

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

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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.

(Photo by The Points Guy)

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

Hyatt Paris Madeleine (Photo by Becca Manheimer / The Points Guy)

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

Bottom line

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

Featured image by (Photo by SosnaRadosna / Shutterstock.com)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
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  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023