Help Maximizing Miles for Europe

Discussion in 'Newbies' started by Stranger in the Alps, Dec 12, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. Stranger in the Alps

    Stranger in the Alps Active Member

    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    10
    Status Points:
    55
    Hi everyone. I'm looking for some help and maximizing my miles and points for a roughly 2-week trip my wife and I want to take to Europe in May or June of 2013. I know that's quite a ways off, but I want to make sure that I'm doing all I can to prepare and be ready, especially since I know I'll have to have the miles to at least book the flights a little less than a year in advance, which isn't that far away. This will probably be our last big trip (and our first European trip) before kids come along a ruin travel for years to come. Just kidding. Sort of.

    Ideally, we want to start the trip in Florence, use that as a base to see some of Italy, and then finish with a good week or so in Paris. We'd rather spend more time in fewer cities rather than hop all over and only get a glimpse of places.

    Here's the current inventory:

    Ultimate Rewards: 122,000 (Sapphire Preferred)
    Starwood Preferred Guest: 40,000 (my first dear travel card)
    UA Mileage Plus: 51,000 (no current card)

    I realize that isn't very much compared to what many people have, but I at least have a start here. I just applied for the Chase Freedom card and should get approval, which will give me another 30,000 UR bonus points (I have Sapphire Preferred, so I can transfer those).

    So, a few questions/points:

    1. I know I'll need a minimum of 120,000 UA miles for a StarAlliance coach award to Europe. If I can get enough miles, business class would be great, but that may not be likely. Now, from looking at routing, it appears that we could potentially get a stopover somewhere on the way to Florence for a day or two (maybe Munich or Zurich?). Is that allowed ... to fly from MCI-FLR with a stopover, then fly CDG-MCI back? How do I know what is an eligible city for a stopover?
    2. I figured that if I could retain enough UR points after transferring what is needed for flights, we could stay a few nights in Paris at the Park Hyatt. However, are there better redemption options for my UR points in either of these cities?
    3. How would my SPG points best be used? I figured we could get a few nights in Florence with them, but am open to more efficient uses.

    I mentioned the Freedom app bonus, which will help, and I figure I could probably do the MP Explorer card in a few months (hopefully there's a better offer). I already opened and closed the OnePass plus card, so that's done.

    This is all pretty wordy and hopefully not too jumbled. In short, I'm looking to get as many UA miles as possible, which will give me more options to use my Ultimate Rewards points at Hyatt or other properties. If there are better uses for the above points, though, I'm all ears.

    Thanks to everyone for their advice and patience. What a great resource this is in making a dream trip possible!
     
    Scottrick and gwhit21 like this.
  2. MSPeconomist
    Original Member

    MSPeconomist Gold Member

    Messages:
    58,563
    Likes Received:
    98,528
    Status Points:
    20,020
    For the SPG points, try to either use them for Cash and Points or for a hotel where you stay five nights and only pay the points for four.

    The Park Hyatt Paris is stunning, but very expensive and it might be more fun to stayin a traditional or historic Paris hotel rather than one that is styled as international modern, albeit extremely good.
     
    gwhit21 likes this.
  3. Stranger in the Alps

    Stranger in the Alps Active Member

    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    10
    Status Points:
    55
    Thanks for the rec. I've thought about that -- using more of the UR points to get a business class ticket, then just paying more out of pocket for a more boutique Paris hotel. Any recs on a reasonably (for Paris) priced one? Location is the most important thing.

    Just trying to strike a balance between using points for as much as possible, but still enjoying a few top-notch properties/experiences. I don't want blow all the points on a few nights in Park Hyatts, but I also don't want to do an entirely coach-class/Holiday Inn trip either.
     
  4. Toula
    Original Member

    Toula Gold Member

    Messages:
    1,194
    Likes Received:
    4,807
    Status Points:
    2,400
    Why don't you and your wife both apply for the Hyatt credit card? That would give you 2 nights each for a total of 4 nights you could redeem at PH Paris.
     
  5. sharris503

    sharris503 Silver Member

    Messages:
    303
    Likes Received:
    415
    Status Points:
    500
    I'm by no means an expert, but if it were me I would transfer the UR points to UA miles. If you get the Freedom card that would give you 152,000 UR points. If you transfer that to UA you would have over 200,000 UA miles which is good enough for two roundtrip business class tickets at the saver award level.

    I realize that would leave you short on hotel nights, but if you are dying to stay at the Park Hyatt Paris you can apply for the Hyatt card which comes with two free nights. If you wanted to rack up some hotel points quickly you could also apply for the two Hawaiian cards and the Virgin Atlantic card. They convert to Hilton points at a 2:1 ratio, so those three cards would net you 240,000 hilton points and if you applied for the Hilton Amex as well you would end up with 300,000 Hilton points.

    Although in Paris I think the way to go is to stay at a family run pensione. Get your two nights at the Park Hyatt and then go stay at a small family run joint. To be honest, when in Europe I like the family run places better than the big hotels. They make me feel closer to the culture I am trying to connect with and learn about.
     
    gwhit21 and Stranger in the Alps like this.
  6. Stranger in the Alps

    Stranger in the Alps Active Member

    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    10
    Status Points:
    55
    As someone who's never experienced it, is business class worth trading 2 nights at a Park Hyatt? I've always viewed flights as something to endure to get to a destination. Then again, if we may not be doing this again for awhile, it might be a fun experience.

    Thanks to those who mentioned the Hyatt card. That could be a good offer; it just looks like I might need to get a bit closer so the award nights are issued within a year of the trip.

    Wish I could get the wife on board with applying for more cards herself (she did apply and receive the regular Sapphire a few months back w/ a 50,000 point bonus). She's still a little wary of messing with credit, so that's an uphill battle.
     
  7. gwhit21

    gwhit21 Silver Member

    Messages:
    47
    Likes Received:
    61
    Status Points:
    145
    My wife and I just visited Florence/Tuscany and loved it! Our last big trip before kids.

    Personally, I would fly business. I agree with sharris, you should use your UR points for biz class seats. If you plan right you can book during the "non" peak season and save some points that way. Your dates are right on the cusp of non peak rewards.

    There are plenty of ways for you to earn hotel points before you travel, but I would definitely suggest staying at the local b&b's.

    Hope this helps and good luck on your planning.
     
  8. Scottrick
    Original Member

    Scottrick Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,586
    Likes Received:
    4,078
    Status Points:
    2,570
    I've been thinking abou that myself. It's probably about five years out (I don't want to wait until I'm 40 like my parents). Best case scenario, I take my kids with me on the mileage runs, get them 1K status as toddlers, and raid their accounts to pay for our jetsetting lifestyle while they stay home with their grandparents. :cool:

    Use your SPG points for cash+points redemptions. There are many nice hotels in Europe in category 5 for 4,800 points + $90. However, some of the bigger cities are going to require you to step up to category 6 for 8,000 points + $150. Remember that you can get stay credit for award redemptions, so ask for a gold or plat challenge before you leave. You'll have enough points for at least 5 nights, maybe more. Apply for the Hyatt card to get an extra two free nights in Paris. If you want to spend a week there, you can get your two nights at the Park Hyatt for some flashy excitement and then go some place local for the rest of it.

    I would seriously try to get your wife to apply for a couple more cards for hotels since you have enough to fly there but not enough to stay there. It took time, but my girlfriend has finally relented. Our credit scores are actually higher now. The Hyatt Visa will be easiest at $1000 spend for two nights, but another SPG card, if you apply before tomorrow, there is a 30K offer instead of the usual 25K. Need to spend $5000 in six months, which is tougher but possible. You could also apply for the Citi Thank You Preferred card to get 50K points that can be converted into $500 Hyatt gift cards, but that requires $2500 spend. You should probably be able to get approved for all of these at once.

    As for the value of business class, I have never flown in international business. I am young, and I don't mind the discomfort. In E+ with a bulkhead by the window on a 777, it's actually not bad. On US, it's an entirely different story. However, my parents recently flew on LX C and LH F for the first time and loved it. They can be penny pinchers and didn't see the point, but they were very thankful when they came back that I had found those flights. I would suggest if you go for coach, make sure you are on a PMUA plane with E+ if you can get it. On the other hand, if you splurge for business, try for a foreign carrier.
     
    Stranger in the Alps likes this.
  9. Stranger in the Alps

    Stranger in the Alps Active Member

    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    10
    Status Points:
    55
    Ha. Now there's an idea I hadn't considered before.

    Thanks for the other tips. I'll have another ~20,000 more UR points coming in soon thanks to their holiday shopping portal bonuses, but it looks like the best route may be to put in another credit card app or two.

    Does anyone know if United will allow mixed-cabin awards after the merger? I know Continental has in the past, but United hasn't. If so, maybe we could do business class on the way over to Europe for the red-eye flight, then suck it up and deal with coach for the return leg. That would conserve quite a few points, if possible.
     
  10. Scottrick
    Original Member

    Scottrick Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,586
    Likes Received:
    4,078
    Status Points:
    2,570
    I wouldn't bet on what UA is going to do, but they seem to have adopted a lot of CO policies. If you are going in late spring/early summer, you probably want to start looking for availability soon. The merger may not be complete until Q2.

    Besides, if you are going to be traveling around Europe, it might make sense to book two one way awards, so there's no mixed cabin issue. It doesn't sound like you really need a stop over, and traveling within Europe by train is more convenient than flying IMO.
     
  11. Stranger in the Alps

    Stranger in the Alps Active Member

    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    10
    Status Points:
    55
    So every response appears to raise another question from me. Is there ever an issue with using one-way awards internationally? I've heard about people having problems, but maybe that's only if they don't have any sort of return ticket booked. Just wondering if I'd need to provide proof of a return ticket, or if that would be in their system.
     
  12. Scottrick
    Original Member

    Scottrick Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,586
    Likes Received:
    4,078
    Status Points:
    2,570
    You should try to secure a return ticket before you leave, yes. It's not the airline that wants it but immigration. The last time I booked an award I couldn't find availability in the cabin I wanted, or on the route I wanted. I just booked something in coach that would get me home and then I changed it a few days before departure while I was there. Of course, that's easier when you have elite status and don't need to worry about fees.
     

Share This Page