2 Europe Trips for the Price of 1 — Reader Success Story

May 8, 2019

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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Garrett, who cut costs on one trip by booking another:

My wife and I were booking a trip to Paris in May/June for her 30th birthday, but I couldn’t find any decently priced SkyTeam flights to take advantage of our Delta Medallion status (I’m Platinum, she’s Gold). They were all north of $900 per person, which I didn’t want to pay.

She also wanted to see the tulips in Amsterdam in April, so I started playing around with combining the two trips, and found I could book JFK-AMS in April with a ORY-JFK return in June for around $400 per person on Delta. Then I booked another trip of AMS-JFK in April with the return of JFK-AMS in May, also for around $400 per person on Delta. We got two trips for $100 less per person than it would have cost to just book the Paris trip. I used my Platinum Card® from American Express to earn 5x points on the flights*, along with around 14,000 MQMs per person between the two trips.

Searching for hotels in Amsterdam, I noticed a cool looking Waldorf Astoria on the canal in a pretty central location. I remembered I had two free weekend nights from my Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, but there was one problem: no standard rooms were available. To make sure we had a room, I booked two weekend nights at the DoubleTree Centraal, but I confirmed that I could cancel for free until 24 hours prior to check-in. I then checked the Hilton app daily to see if a standard room became available at the Waldorf. About three days before we were traveling, I found one. It would have cost 95,000 points or approximately €700 per night, but I called the Diamond desk and they switched our reservation over seamlessly so we could use our free weekend nights.

We showed up around 10:00 am after our overnight flight, and with my Diamond status there was no problem with checking in early. They upgraded us to a Grand Premier Room with a canal view, which was going for around €1,100 per night. Diamond status also got us free breakfast, for which the hotel was charging €40 per person. So all in all, we got around €2,300 of value out of the Hilton Aspire Card, including two nights at the Waldorf during the beginning of tulip season. For a little cherry on top, I used the $250 airline credit to purchase five $50 Delta gift cards, and put those toward the cost of our flights.

Garrett’s approach to booking flights is reminiscent of another success story I shared last year, though in that case the reader mingled awards and cash fares across multiple itineraries. It’s not for the faint of heart, since a change in one set of plans can throw off another. If Garrett and his wife had to cancel their April trip, for example, they would have been left with a round-trip flight from Amsterdam to New York, which clearly wouldn’t suit their needs. With Delta change fees starting at $200 for most international travel, they may not have been able to salvage much value from their tickets. Still, it’s helpful to remember that you don’t have to book each trip as a consecutive departure and arrival, as more creative itineraries can save you a bundle.

Most hotel free night certificates limit redemptions to lower-tier properties based on the award category. You can still put those free nights to good use, but it’s harder to get an outsized return like you can with Hilton’s uncapped certificates. The tradeoff is that Hilton’s free nights are only valid on weekends (which they define as a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night), so they effectively come with over 200 black-out dates each year. There’s also a short list of excluded properties, but as Garrett’s story shows, the upside is huge despite those limitations. If you have a lucrative redemption in mind, then the free night certificates offer a compelling reason to get the Aspire card even if you’re less sure how you’ll use the other benefits.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Garrett a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex 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.

*5x points only available for airfare booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel

Featured photo of The Waldorf Astoria in Amsterdam courtesy of Hilton Hotels.

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*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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