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.
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.
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 🙂
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 🙂