Fresh off a beautiful February Tampa weekend, it is time for the next stop in the AYP Destination Series…
Oui oui Paris!
Just a couple of weeks ago, I visited the city of Paris with my wife and we had an amazing trip! Paris overwhelms you (in the most fantastic way) with art, architecture, history and of course, food and wine. I definitely recommend that everyone make a trip there at some point in their lifetime, as it really is a magical and charming city!
The trip all came about one day a few weeks ago while I was at work and overhead a colleague talking about her trip to Paris this summer. Then I started thinking… maybe I, too, would enjoy a trip to Paris! Rather than plan for the summer, I decided to avoid the crowds and plan for February.
This impromptu trip is slightly at odds with my advice in the AYP Starter Guide, where I explicitly state that you should have a travel goal in place prior to applying for credit cards, but sometimes it just feels nice to break the rules (though I still strongly advise that you follow the rules at first until you get the hang of the points and miles game)!
In true “AYP Destination Series” fashion, I will limit my focus to how points and miles can help you achieve the following:
- Getting to/from Paris, France (from the US)
- Staying within Paris, France
There are other factors to consider that add to the cost of cost of trips abroad (i.e. travel within the region, the time of year, dining, excursions, etc.) but for now I will focus on the above 2 items, since they are the most costly for most travelers, yet the easiest for which to redeem points and miles!
AYP Disclaimer – STOP! AND CHECK YOURSELF! The last thing I want to do is overwhelm you with too many details – to keep this post “reader-friendly” I excluded some of the finer details. And as always, keep in mind that AYP can take all the planning effort out of this for you – check out AYP Travel Consulting tab for more details!
I normally have a set plan for all of my points and miles, yet I had a decent amount of Delta Skymiles (about 70,000) that I didn’t have a plan for, and a chunk of American Airlines AAdvantage miles (about 50,000) that just might be enough to get two people across the pond and back. It turned out that my suspicions were correct!
Getting to Paris (from the US):
There are a number of ways to get to Paris, but, I will provide you with a firsthand account of my process!
For our flights from the US, I first checked the availability on Delta Airlines. Though Delta Skymiles get a bad rap, they can still provide some amazing value if you are patient and are able to wait for Delta low level Saver Awards. After some casual searching on the Delta iPhone app, I immediately noticed that there were available flights (Tampa – Atlanta – Paris CDG) on Air France (a Delta partner) for the exact day that we wanted to travel – costing only 30,000 Skymiles and $5.60 per person!
Unfortunately, I was not quick enough to book these flights and the segment from Tampa to Atlanta that we needed was sold out. However, the main transatlantic flight from Atlanta to Paris was still available, so all hope was not yet lost!
Luckily, I remembered that I had a stash of Southwest Rapid Rewards points and was able to book a 1 hour “positioning flight” to Atlanta to set us up for the Air France flight!
Here is a breakdown of the flights that we took:
Cost in Miles –
While 30,000 Skymiles for Economy Class was very reasonable, the cost in miles for Business Class for this particular flight was a whopping 125,000 Skymiles per person, so not an option for us!
One other note – Delta does not have published award charts, which means that finding where availability should be becomes a bit tougher. Check out Delta’s website for more on award availability.
Credit cards I opened in order to achieve this specific flight –
For this outbound flight we needed a total of 60,000 Delta Skymiles. A majority of that was covered since I applied for the Gold Delta Skymiles American Express the last time a 50,000 Skymiles sign-up was offered (this comes around a few times a year, so wait until it appears again if you are considering the Gold Delta Skymiles Amex card, rather than applying for the current 30,000 Skymiles offer).
The remaining 10,000 I earned though referring two friends (make sure that when you refer friends and family to a credit card that they apply through your personalized link otherwise, you will not be awarded the bonus points). That gave me a total of 60,000 Skymiles and just enough for this redemption!
Other options to build your Skymiles account include:
- Sign up for the Platinum Delta Skymiles American Express Credit Card – 35,000 sign-up bonus
- Sign up for a card that earned American Express Membership Rewards (like the Premier Rewards Gold) and then transfer your points to Delta.
Coming home (to the US) from Paris, France:
Since my Skymiles were spent on the outbound flights, that meant I had to use my American Airlines AAdvantage miles on the way back. In order to find availability I search on aa.com, but made sure to focus of American Airlines hub cities (Chicago, Dallas, New York, Miami). I focused on Chicago, since it is an AA hub and I knew I wanted to fly with AA, rather than their partner airlines, to avoid higher taxes and fees. Under American Airlines current award chart, off-peak (October – May 15) economy flights to/from Europe are just 20,000 for a one way (this amount increases to 22,500 for redemptions made after the March 22, 2016 award chart changes).
Another quick tip – although American Airlines is a OneWorld partner with British Airways, unfortunately British Airways charges exorbitant taxes and fees on award flights, so always try and avoid them!
Similar to the outbound flights, I was able to find award availability on AA for the flights from Paris (CDG) to Chicago (ORD), but the last segment to Tampa (TPA) was not showing any availability. I decided to check the actual price of that last one way from Chicago to Tampa, and it priced out at $89 a person, which I was happy to pay considering I was booking an entire itinerary to/from Europe for two people and was out of pocket $178! Fortunately, I was able to use my Annual $250 Air Credit with my Citi Prestige card in order to get the full $178 credited back to me – keeping the trip virtually free!
Here is a breakdown of the flights that we chose:
Keep in mind that American Airlines award charts are set to change March 22, 2016. Check out the old charts here, and the new charts here, for the exact AAdvantage miles required for an award redemption!
Credit cards I opened in order to achieve this specific flight:
For these flights, I utilized American Airlines AAdvantage miles earned through my Barclays Aviator card (converted from a US Airways card when the airlines merged this past year).I also earned miles through dining bonuses and shopping portals!
Other options to build your AAdvantage account include:
- Sign up for Citi American Airlines co-branded credit cards:
Total Flight Path:
Now that you have found your way to and from Paris, it’s time to figure out where you will stay! My strategy when it comes to hotels is to start with the major hotel chains (Marriott, Hilton, Starwood, Hyatt, etc.), and then determine what hotel chain has hotels in the cities that I want to visit.
From there I determine what hotel points I need and what credit cards I need to earn those necessary points. There are other options like Airbnb (sign up with my link for $20 off your first Airbnb booking!), and other non-chain hotels, but my goal is to stay in hotels for free with points and the easiest way to do that is to stick to the larger hotel groups that have accompanying credit cards.
I was able to identify the following hotels affiliated with the major brands and the points needed in each brand’s respective rewards program:
For our trip, I read in the past that the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome was a top choice for using 2 Hyatt Free Night Certificates (which I earned through the Chase Hyatt card), so I focused my attention there to start! Since we were only staying for 3 nights, I just needed to consider other hotel options for that 1 remaining night!
We ultimately chose the Hyatt Paris Madeleine and paid 12,500 Hyatt Gold Passport points + $150 in cash for the one night redemption.
Credit Cards opened in order to achieve these free nights:
- Chase Hyatt Card – 2 Free Nights at any Hyatt Property – used for nights at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome
- Chase Ultimate Rewards (earned through spending on the Chase Sapphire Preferred – see here for more info, then transferred to Hyatt Gold Passport) – used Points + Cash for 1 night at the Hyatt Paris Madeleine. In order to cover the cash portion of the rate, I used Citi ThankYou points earned on my Citi Premier card to redeem for a $100 Hyatt Check certificate, which can be redeemed at Hyatt properties across the world, including this one!
- Other Hotel Cards with some great current sign-up bonuses:
And there you have it. Time to start planning your trip to Paris, France on points and miles!
Now, in an effort to keep the post to a manageable length, I left out some of the nitty gritty details, but as always, feel free to email me with any specific questions that you might have. If you are overwhelmed, just know that AYP is here for you – check out the AYP Travel Consulting section or send an email to AcCountingyourpoints@yahoo.com and I can work directly with you in order to plan your ideal trip to Paris, France on points and miles.
Your free travel is waiting…