Redemption of the Week: A Trip for 2 Across Europe
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
For the next Award Redemption of the Week, I want to share a story from TPG reader David, who used favorable transfer ratios to book premium transatlantic flights:
I recently started accumulating points and miles mostly through welcome bonuses. The idea was to have enough for a sightseeing trip to Europe for my wife and me. After many hours of trying to piece this trip together, and using your guide to maximizing Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, I was able to discover great value when using VS miles to book Delta flights.
After researching flights and dates, I transferred 77,000 Membership Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic, which gave me 100,000 miles due to the 30% transfer bonus from Amex. I also transferred 77,000 ThankYou points to Virgin Atlantic, taking advantage of another 30% transfer bonus from Citi to give myself a total of 200,000 miles.
With those miles I booked us one-way Delta One flights from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Amsterdam for 50,000 miles and $5.60 per person, and back from Dublin to New York-JFK for 50,000 miles and $157.64 per person. Although over $150 in taxes is a bit high, it’s significantly less than the $250 to $500 I saw for flights out of London and other European cities like Amsterdam, Paris or Milan. Our outbound flight was going for over $8,200, giving me a whopping redemption value of 21.4 cents per Amex point! Our return flight was going for over $3,500, giving me still a very good redemption value of 9.1 cents per ThankYou point.
The next step was to get us to Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) and back from JFK, as we live in Texas. I used United Airlines miles to book economy flights from Dallas-Fort Worth to MSP (arriving about six hours before our flight to Amsterdam) and Newark to Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) the day after we got back to JFK. Those flights cost 25,000 miles and $11.20 per person. I then used the United Excursionist Perk to book a flight from Amsterdam to Venice for zero miles + $44 per person. Finally, I found a flight from Venice (VCE) to Barcelona for 15,000 miles + $44 per person.
During Iberia’s recent promotion, I purchased two flights for about $40 each and was awarded 18,000 points, which I put toward the rest of our itinerary. I found a flight from Barcelona (BCN) to London-Heathrow for 7,500 points and $21 per person. I then transferred 9,000 points from Chase Ultimate Rewards and booked flights from London-Heathrow (LHR) to Dublin (DUB) for 4,500 points and $55 per person.
All told, we’ll be visiting Amsterdam, Venice, Barcelona, London and Dublin for a total of 77,000 Membership Rewards points, 77,000 ThankYou points, 80,000 United miles, 24,000 Avios and approximately $520 in taxes and fees.
Several parts of this story stand out to me as exemplary. One is how thoughtfully David scheduled his positioning flight to Minneapolis and his flight home from New York. You might be tempted in a similar situation to try and book the shortest turnaround you can find, but cutting your connections too close is playing with fire when you’re flying on separate tickets. A lengthy delay on the DFW-MSP leg could have been disastrous, since David would have been on the hook for any additional cost to rebook his transatlantic flight. Instead he left plenty of room for error, and I agree it’s better to give yourself an ample buffer and spend some extra time in the lounge than risk blowing up your trip before it’s really started.
Another notable aspect of this story is David’s creative use of United’s routing rules. TPG Senior Points and Miles Contributor Richard Kerr does a great job breaking down how to maximize the Excursionist Perk, and one of his key takeaways is that your free segment can occur anywhere so long as it’s not the same region where your itinerary begins and ends. David was able to tack a flight within Europe onto his award for just the cost of taxes and fees. He could likely have found a similarly inexpensive ticket on one of Europe’s low-cost carriers, but this way he was able to fly with a full-service airline and avoid fees for baggage or other add-ons.
Finally, David made excellent use of transfer bonuses to amass miles quickly. Delta flights have historically been one of the best options for booking Virgin Atlantic Flying Club awards, since mileage requirements are low on many routes and availability tends to be good. Those bonuses compounded the already excellent value David got from his points. Virgin Atlantic did recently start to add hefty carrier-imposed surcharges to awards on Delta metal, but these have since disappeared, and a statement from the carrier confirmed that nothing has changed along these lines. Assuming those surcharges don’t return in the future, there’s still a lot of value to be found in booking on Delta and other partners.
In appreciation for sharing his story, we’re sending David a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and we’d like to do the same for you. Please send your own award redemption stories to email@example.com; be sure to include details about the booking process and what you learned from it, and put “Award Redemption Story” in the subject line. As always, we’d also love to hear your success and mistake stories. If your submission gets published, we’ll send you a gift to spark your next adventure.
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Featured photo by Pedro Szekely/Flickr
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
- Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
- Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees