Award Trip Breakdown: Long Weekend in Paris for $181!!

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.

Andrea's Christmas Gift

Andrea’s Christmas Gift

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.

Lock 2

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!

 

Some Tips from Our Trip to Paris

Bonjour from Paris! We’ve had great trip so far in Paris (that unfortunately ends today) and while I had a free moment, I wanted to share some tips I learned on this trip flying on American Airlines and staying at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome.

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– For those traveling on the AirTrain to JFK and going to American Airlines (terminal 8), get off at Terminal 1 and switch to the inter-terminal AirTrain instead of riding the AirTrain all the way around to Terminal 8. You will easily save 10+ minutes.

– Interesting note on TSA Precheck. My wife changed her last name after our marriage and we even went to the Global Entry office to update her name there too. However, when checking in for our flight, I had TSA Precheck but she did NOT. I tried to sneak her past the TSA Precheck line with no avail but the agent said I could use the priority lane (usually reserved for elite or first class passengers). So we approached the priority line, I told the agent manning the line I had precheck and she didn’t and we were sent over here, all she replied was “That Sucks” but still let us through!. I was surprised this worked and honestly not sure the reason behind it but I’ll take it.

– If you fly AA internationally, try to take one of their new Boeing 777-300 planes. Even in coach, I fit fine (not always the case at 6’3”, 210lb) and it had a great entertainment system. Service was good too. For 20k miles one way to Europe, its unbeatable.

– First impression of Paris was not good. I almost got scammed by following what I thought was a taxi driver to his car as he told me all other cabs were “pre-booked”. I then realized this was a scam and promptly just ducked into the nearest actual taxi. Then checking into the hotel was fine but the concierge forgot to obtain a museum pass for us (after replying to emails before we left they would have it for us at checkin) and then tried to tell us we shouldn’t get one and it wasn’t a problem. I did not appreciate the concierge’s defensive attitude but it worked out in the end.

– After 4 days here, I can say I actually really like Paris and I look forward to returning. There is a ton to do and it is a great city to walk around in. Food is excellent as well.

– I will touch more upon this in a future post but I don’t think I would recommend the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome at 30,000 Hyatt points a night. Don’t get me wrong its a great hotel but with so many other options in this city, I don’t think its worth the high cost in points. The service (outside the concierge is great) but the rooms are small, the breakfast overpriced at 50 EUR and the place had a stuffy kind of feeling (that happens when people actually pay the 700-800 EUR nightly rate).

– Lastly, highly recommend taking a cooking class while you’re here if your into that sort of thing. We did a French desserts class and it was a blast! I swear my Creme Burlee was better then the restaurant’s where I had it the night before.

Good Deal Alert: $300 Flights to the Caribbean! Will not last!

Via the Flight Deal, there is a fare war right now on American and US airways offering $300 flights to the Caribbean, including Aruba, Cayman Islands, The Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Punta Cana and much more.

The best part is most of these deals are good for travel this summer/fall in addition to over long weekends like Labor Day, MLK day and President’s Day. If your from NY you remember how bad the winters were this year – book your escape for next year now!

Another key benefit to book now and think later: American Airlines offers a 24 hour free hold on tickets while US Airways allows you to cancel for free within 24 hours.

These flights are usually a lot more especially around the long holiday weekends closer to $500-$600 if not more! You lock in cheap flights today, then book the hotel rooms later. In fact, if your flying to Aruba for example, you could pick up a Club Carlson or Hyatt Credit card and get 2 nights free there!

Aruba Palm Beach

Aruba Palm Beach

 

1,000+ Free American Airlines Miles!

Well this has been a good week for free miles! First Delta gave away 1,000 miles and now American Airlines is giving away 1,000+ miles for playing its Facebook game!

American Airlines created a Passport Challenge promotion that utilizes Facebook to gain some free AA miles. Some of the activities include:

  • Learn and earn. Up to 700 miles (50 to 100 per activity)
  • Be social and earn. Up to 350 miles (25 to 50 per activity like following American on Twitter, watching a video, and sharing a video with friends)
  • Fly and earn. 500 to 2500 miles for flying on US Airways, US Airways Shuttle, a new domestic route, flying international, a oneworld airline partner, and exceeding qualifying points goals for up to 9000 miles

I say its a 1,000+ miles because you earn the miles in increments of 50-100 miles for playing some trivia, flipping plates in a game, recognizing tail fins and watching videos. You can decide how much (or little) you want to do.

In about 10 minutes of clicking through the games on Facebook, I earned 1,165 miles. If you have any plans to fly American or US Airways in the next few months, you could earn even more miles!

Free 1,165 Miles!

Free 1,165 Miles!

1,000+ miles by itself won’t get you a free flight but for a few minutes of your time, it’s worth it to gain some valuable miles. You never know when you will be 1,000 miles short of an award for a free flight

(h/t  One Mile at a Time)