I am in the process of searching for a worthy award redemption to Europe — and by worthy, I mean that I would like to enjoy the luxury of business class, but would also like to reserve some of my well earned points for later. This is maybe one of the biggest things I struggle with — I want to fly all of the amazing airline products out there, like Emirates First Class, but I also can’t commit to using all my points on one trip, or even one flight!
In doing my research I’ve learned a bit of a trick that I figured I’d share. It’s pretty simple really..
Consider flying to another city, then connecting to your destination
For this trip of mine I’m looking at flights from Washington DC to Paris — what I’d consider to be a fairly popular route. I will also take my own circumstances when maneuvering the different options — I have a slew of Chase Ultimate Rewards points that I’ve gained from the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred, and soon the Chase Ink Preferred for Business.
While you can use AwardHacker to find the best award redemptions between different cities, the real trick is finding availability on said flights. While it varies amongst airline, there is usually only a small percentage of seats available to be redeemed with miles — because in reality the airline doesn’t make any money when you use miles to purchase a ticket.
The rule of thumb seems to be 330 days prior to departure when airlines release award availability. So ideally, you’d want to check then to ensure you’re award ticket is available. I don’t know about you but it is hard for me to plan 30 days ahead, let alone 330 days. That is the issue I have now, there isn’t a ton of saver-level (meaning the lowest award redemption) tickets for the flights — in this case Washington – Paris. Instead of paying for a cheaper economy ticket, or sacrificing a large amount of points I would recommend two things:
1) Wait. You never know when saver-level awards will open up, so you could risk it and hope some eventually opens up.
2) Look elsewhere. Consider a bit more travel — which is what I’ll go over here.
No matter where I end up, my plan would be to fly into Paris and then return from somewhere farther south — which means I am looking to buy two one-way tickets..
According to AwardHacker, the best option that I have while using Ultimate Rewards points is either United or Air France — United would be 60k miles or Air France at 62.5k miles. I also want to mention that because of work, and wanting to be in Europe for the most amount of time possible, my schedule is not super flexible. So looking at both United and Air France, one-way, my options are as follows:
As you see, the cheapest options showing up on that date, or even around that date is 155k miles — not even close to what I’d be willing to pay. From here, it looks like United may be the cheaper option, so I check where else I could go within range of Paris.
The most obvious I think is London. (I admittedly looked up Brussels first, as I know there is a quick train from Brussels to Paris, but there weren’t much better options). So I found the following option into London.
From there I looked up possible options to get to my final destination, and there are plenty. British Airways has flights for 67 pounds but a bit later in the day, or EuroStar has train fares around the same price at all times throughout the day. While this requires a bit more travel, and it won’t get me to my destination as fast, I am able to get to my destination for 70k Chase Ultimate Rewards points and under $100 — that’s compared to the 155k points and over $200 in fees. I am still weighing my options, and considering the “wait” option, but this is definitely a very viable alternative.
Travel within Europe is so much more affordable than it is in America — in general. I am simply taking advantage of that benefit here. While I am sacrificing some ease and comfort with this strategy, I want to make sure my points go as far as possible. Even if you do prefer direct flights, and are willing to pay more, I’d still recommend considering your options. You never know!