How To Travel For Free: Free Flights To Europe On Miles

How To Travel For Free: Free Flights To Europe On Miles

I think it’s no surprise that I like free stuff (see here and here). If I can get something for free, I’ll put in a little extra effort to make it happen. And when it comes to free travel, I’m all about getting as many miles as I can for as little out of pocket as possible. I then use those miles in ways that gets me the most travel 🙂

We’re heading off on our Free Hawaiian Vacation soon, and I have already started planning our next 2 trips (I may have a miles problem). I wanted to visit my grandpa down in California, and then head off to Tahoe for a long weekend on the lake with the family.

Things were lining up nicely, and I have already gotten 3 American Airlines cards from Citi bank (2 personal, 1 business). At 50,000 miles a piece, we’d have about 150,000 (plus spending, so closer to 160,000) saved up for our two trips.

But then our neighbors mentioned that they might be moving to Cambridge in the next few months. Crazy! It would be sad to lose a neighbor….but then I thought about possibly traveling there to visit…

My mind started churning (pun intended) with ideas on how we could get there, and I found some really sweet options.

Travel For Free - Flights To Europe

How Much Does It Normally Cost To Fly To Europe?

Before I burn miles, I always look at actual costs to fly. I don’t really intend to spend money on tickets ever again, but I always like to know how much my miles are really worth before traveling. So a quick Google search of flights from Seattle to London brought up a low ticket price of $1000 one way! So at $2,000 per ticket, we’d be looking at $6,000 to fly, since we now have to purchase for our son (who would be 3 years old).

No thank you.

I even did a search for fun on AA.com to see what they had available next spring.

AA Seattle To London Cost

Yeah, not paying $14,000 per ticket. ICK!

Flying To Europe On Miles

Since I have already started racking up a ton of AA miles, I wanted to check with them first to see how they do on international travel. I have heard things from friends and forums online, but I wanted to plug in some dates and see what a trip from Seattle to London would cost in miles.

I picked the same dates as I did earlier when I got the (GASP!) $14,000 tickets. But this time I selected the “redeem miles” checkbox to see what it would cost in AA miles.

To my surprise, HOLY CRAP, it only costs 20,000 each way! Which means I could get a round trip ticket for as little as 40,000 AA miles!

So, we would only need 120,000 miles to get us 3 RT tickets from SEA to LONDON. Which is pretty ridiculous. WOOP!

Caution About British Airways

Now, 40,000 miles for a free ticket is crazy awesome. BUT, there is a VERY IMPORTANT rule you must remember.

DO NOT FLY ON BRITISH AIRWAYS!

When you book through AA.com, it usually has the domestic leg of the trip on AA, but the international leg is usually on US Airways or British Airways. Unfortunately, on British Airways, they slap you with fuel surcharges, which suck. They could cast over $600 per ticket, which totally negates the whole “Fly For Free” thing.

So, when searching for each ticket, you need to find dates and times that ensure you DO NOT FLY ON BRITISH AIRWAYS! You can do this by un-checking the British Airways option under “Airlines.” It may take a bit of searching, but for a $2,000+ discount on your ticket, definitely worth the flexibility 🙂

AA No British Airways

Screw Coach, Fly Business Class!

Free flights are awesome, especially when finding your way across the pond to go get cultured in Europe. You’ll most likely leave Europe speaking like 4 languages and become an art connoisseur on your trip. So why not fly there and back in style too!

The flight from the East Cost to London is a minimum 7 hours! That’s a long flight, and being cramped in coach with a million other germ-y passengers does not sound like the ideal vacation. Why not stretch your legs and get yourself a Business Class seat? Based on this award chart, you can get a one-way ticket for 50,000 miles. So, for 100,000 miles, you’ve got round trip business class seats to Europe. FANCY!

How Do I Rack Up The Miles?

I’m glad you asked. Traditionally, the best way to get AA miles would be through the 50,000 miles offer for the Citi AAdvantage Credit Card. You can find the latest links on Flyertalk.com HERE. That’s where I picked up my 3 Citi cards and am on my way to 160,000 miles. WOOP!

But you’ll need a few more points if you’re going for a pair of Business Class tickets.

Luckily, I just got an email from American Airlines and found out that the Us Airways / AA merger is happening on January 1, 2015. The email explicitly stated that US Air Dividend Miles will become AA miles during that merger.

Why is that awesome?

Because the US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®

(note: this is now the AA Aviator card, and no longer provides a 50k bonus)

For an $89 annual fee, you get 40,000 miles upon your first purchase. This makes it ridiculously easy to get yourself a round trip ticket to Europe. Add another card with your partner or friend, and you’re off to Europe in 2015!

Now, if you want to get fancy, combine this card with the Citi AA card 50k deal, and you’re at 93,000 miles (90,000 bonus, 3,000 from $3,000 minimum spend on AA card). Put another $7,000 on either card, and you’re at the magic 100k miles number for your fancy Business Class ticket to Europe 🙂

And make sure you grab the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard  ($400 in free travel rewards after $3k spend) as well, to pay for any taxes / fees you may incur. 🙂

So, When Are You Going To Europe?

Our plans are still in the works, but with our AA cards and the new US Airways merger putting another 80k miles at our fingertips, we’re excited at the real possibilities of a family European vacation for next to nothing.

So, when are you going?

Disclosure: If you sign up for any credit card using the links on my Free Travel page, I do receive a commission. I appreciate any and all support 🙂

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Comments

  1. This is really helpful info about the British Airways surcharges. I just got enough AA miles for a flight to Europe for 40k miles — churning another card for some more! But I wouldn’t have known about BA, so thank you for saving me money!
    Melanie @ My Alternate Life recently posted..This Weekend’s Declutter: The Office NookMy Profile

    • Yeah, fuel surcharges SUCK!

      Now, there are taxes and fees that apply (probably $100 – $200 or so, I’ll admit I’m not 100% sure), but those can be covered with your Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite card 🙂

  2. We spent 40K AA miles each for our upcoming trip. From Indianapolis to London then Paris to Indianapolis. I think the taxes and fees were $197 total. They key to avoiding those surcharges, like you said, is to make sure BA is not part of the deal. That usually means not getting the exact dates you want and being slightly flexible. In our case, we are going Tuesday-Tuesday because those were the best flights.
    In other news, I have a post almost exactly like this in my queue! I’ll change the title- sorry!
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..How Much Should You Budget for a Trip to Europe?My Profile

  3. Just wondering…so you have many credit cards it seems…what do you do with all these credit cards after you get the points? Do you cancel them before the annual fee kicks in, and then sign up for more cards to get more points? Doesn’t that hurt your credit score? Any help on this front would be great! Thanks much, love the free travel tips!

    • I briefly address it in this post, but since I’ve opened about a dozen accounts in the past 2 years, here’s what I’ve done.

      Once we hit the minimum required, we spend a little more on each card ($100 or so), to ensure we get the bonus, then we put the cards in a lock box and rotate in the other ones. I track all my cards on Mint.com to ensure no false charges for anything. I also have to change all my auto-pay accounts. I keep the website of each in a tab in my browser, so I can open them all and change them in about 10 minutes.

      When coming up on the annual fee for the card, I usually call to see if they can waive it, or downgrade to a no-fee card. If not, I just cancel and move on.

      My credit has dropped as much as 35 points, but rebounded right (and even higher than before) back a few months later. If we were looking at getting a loan anytime soon, we’d stop churning ONE YEAR prior to getting financing to ensure our credit report looks a little cleaner.

      Hope that helps 🙂

  4. I love the idea of travelling free, so I will be looking into the miles on offer in the run-up to my trip to Asia next year. It’s amazing to think that you can save so much money by using credit cards to rack up the miles.
    Myles Money recently posted..Halloween #SmartMoney RoundupMy Profile

  5. Another factor in flights to Europe is that some cities (airports) have mandatory fees to fly in, and/or fly out. If you can be flexible, look at different combinations for your arrival airport and your departure, to get the best rates there. We just got back from our first trip to Europe and we did it for 100,000 Alaska Airlines points (two people, 25K points each for the outbound and return flights) on Delta, plus $178 in fees total.

  6. I am looking forward to lots of travelling this christmas season. I have been shopping using my credit cards, so I am pretty sure I will redeem enough miles to cater for all my travelling quench.
    Amos recently posted..A Review of Basic Economics by Thomas SowellMy Profile

  7. I usually try to use few cards as possible on my purchases in a while truing to gain as much points as possible. Free miles feels like being appreciated for using the card.
    Amos recently posted..5 Things You Are Probably Overpaying ForMy Profile

  8. It’s another learning method on How To Travel For Free: Free Flights To Europe On Miles. This is very helpful and useful for those who love to travel. I learned and many great insights here. Thanks for sharing the article. Great post!
    Alexis recently posted..5 Retail Marketing IdeasMy Profile

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