For Christmas this past year, I gave Andrea a lock for Christmas. Yup, that exact one below. Instead of being cliché and giving the plane tickets as the gift, I gave her the lock and led her through hints to what the lock was for – the Pont des Artes, the famous bridge in Paris. This was the very beginning of a romantic long weekend in Paris and here is how I did it for almost nothing.
Flights: Departure – JFK-London-Paris, economy class on American/British Airways. Return – Non-stop Paris-JFK flight on American Airlines.
Retail Cost: $1,000-$1,500 per person.
My Cost: 36,000 American miles + $181 in taxes per person.
American Airlines usually charges 30,000 miles each way for an economy class ticket to Europe. However, during the off-peak season, as defined by American Airlines to be October 15th to May 15th (that’s over half the year!), a one way flight to Europe is only 20,000 miles. For a nice fall trip or spring weekend in Europe, that is a bargain! You will notice my taxes were quite high at $181 and that is because I could not find award space on AA’s direct JFK to Paris flight, thus requiring me to make a connection on British Airways, who charges high taxes on all flights (both award and cash). If I could have eliminated that flight, the total taxes would have been~ $95 per person.
However, I said my net mileage cost was 36,000 miles, not 40,000. How? One of the benefits of the Citi American AAdvantage Platinum Select card is a 10% rebate on miles redeemed each year with American Airlines if you pay the taxes and any fees with this credit card when making the award reservation. So when I redeemed 40,000 miles for my award flight, a few days later I saw 4,000 miles added back to my account to make my net mileage cost 36,000 per ticket.
I obtained these miles via signing up for various American Airlines credits card. I’ve had 3 different cards (and my wife has had 3 as well) that offered anywhere between 50,000 to 100,000 miles as a signup bonus. Currently there is a 50,000 mile offer for the Citi American AAdvantage Platinum Select mentioned above but the better offer is a 100,000 mile signup bonus for the Citi Executive World Elite Mastercard. That’s enough for two tickets to Europe and you would still have 20,000 miles leftover towards your next trip!
Lodging: Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome.
Retail Cost: $800-$1,000 per night.
My Cost: 2 Free nights from Hyatt Credit Card + 22,000 Hyatt Points per night (for last 2 nights).
For this romantic weekend in Paris, I wanted to stay in one of the top hotels in the city and I settled on the Park Hyatt which right near the Palace Vendome. However, with rates usually hovering around 600-900 EUROS per night, a stay here was only possible on points. The Hyatt Visa by Chase offers 2 free nights at ANY Hyatt in the world as its signup bonus so I planned my application for the card to coincide with this trip.
With a signup bonus like this, it makes sense to maximize the redemption at high end luxury hotels (if that’s your thing). My thinking is simple – at these high end properties around the world, there is no chance in hell I could ever afford to pay cash for them. Sure I might get enough points for them but when the bonus is simply two free nights anywhere, I want to stay at a place I can’t normally otherwise. For the additional two nights, I transferred some of the points from my Chase Ultimate Rewards account which were achieved with my Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. This redemption highlights the flexibility of transferable bank reward points I discussed last week.
In the end, my long weekend in Paris cost me $181 out of pocket per person for flights and hotels. And the icing on the cake was Andrea loved seeing the bridge and adding our lock to it.
I think a long weekend at a top end hotel in Paris for under $200 is something we all could afford. Want help in making it happen? My consulting services and award booking services will do the work for you.
Stay tuned for more award trip breakdowns!