AYP Destination Series – Iceland

For as long as I can remember, Iceland has been near the top on my travel wish list. The country is full of natural wonders –geysers, hot springs, waterfalls, glaciers, black-sand beaches and of course, the Northern Lights. Every time I hear or read the word Iceland, I pine for a trip there. In fact, the researching and writing of this post has so greatly inspired me that I started planning a trip here in December 2016! So for all of you out there who have ever considered visiting Iceland and all its natural wonder, follow me!

Northern Lights 2 - AYP
The Northern Lights are calling me…

Consistent with previous “AYP Destination Series” posts, I will limit my focus to how points and miles can help you achieve the following:

  • Getting to/from Iceland (from the US)
  • Staying within Iceland

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!

The Flights:

While I have never taken a flight to Iceland, I have searched for flights countless times and I plan to book one soon!

Getting to Iceland (from the US):

In order to get to Iceland from the US, you will have to fly into Iceland’s capital city – Reykjavik. Through all of my searches, I have narrowed down the options to just two airlines – on one airline you can redeem miles, and the other is a low cost carrier (no points or mile but cheap fares). While there are a few other airlines that provide seasonal service to Iceland (Delta for example), the prices in dollars and in miles don’t really justify me pursuing them any further than this sentence.

You may have considered Iceland as just a stopover destination on your way to the rest of Europe, which is definitely an option, but for the purposes of this post I will stick to highlighting Iceland as the final destination.

Iceland Waterfalls - AYP
What a beautiful Icelandic waterfall!

Option 1 – Iceland Air – Iceland Air flies direct between Reykjavik and various US cities (mostly East Coast). The good news is that airline miles can be redeemed for these flights, but maybe not the miles you initially thought… Enter Alaska Mileage Plan miles! While Alaska Airlines does not belong to any major air alliance, they do partner with various airlines (including Delta, American Airlines, and Iceland Air, among others), which allow you to redeem miles on a variety of airlines!

In order to search & book award flights on Iceland Air using Alaska Mileage Plan miles, you can go directly to the Alaska Airlines website!

Route –

Here is the Iceland Air Route Map illustrating the US cities which Iceland Air flies in/out of:

Iceland Air US Route Map - AYP

Cities include: Boston, Washington DC, Newark, Orlando, Chicago, Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland. As a note, there are a few Canadian cities that I excluded to keep this just US based, but feel free to reference the full chart here (including other European Destinations as well).

Not located in one of the cities above? Utilize a “positioning flight” in order to get you to the right city to fly the award flight. On my last trip to Paris my award flight left from Atlanta and I was able to book a quick and cheap positioning flight on Southwest to get me from Tampa to Atlanta.

Cost in Miles –

And here is the Alaska Airlines Award Chart for redeeming miles on Iceland Air:

Iceland Air Award Chart - AYP.JPG
USA – Iceland will set you back 22,500 one-way economy. Note the option to make Iceland a stop-over on your way to Europe for an extra 5,000!

Sample Booking –

Flight Options Iceland Air - AYP
Weekly view makes specific award flights a bit easier to locate…
Icelandair flight example - AYP
Economy US to Iceland is not a bad use of 45,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles… I just wish there wasn’t over $200 in fees & taxes!

Credit cards I would open in order to achieve this specific flight –

For Iceland Air flights, you will need to acquire Alaska Airline Mileage Plan miles –

Option 1: Apply for the Bank of America Alaska Airlines Personal and Business Credit Cards (which offer sign-up bonues of 25k miles each), or

Option 2: Apply for the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Personal or Business cards (the all-time high sign-up bonus of 35,000 Starpoints ended yesterday, March 30th, and the new sign-up bonus is 25,000 Starpoints) and subsequently transferring your miles to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan (and receiving a 5,000 bonus for each 20,000 Starpoint transfer).

Option 2 – WOW Air – WOW Air is a fairly new (since 2011) low-cost airline offering direct service from the US to Reyjavik, Iceland, then onward to the rest of Europe. Although I am not aware of any mileage or reward program, I do know that WOW Air offers some seriously cheap fares to Iceland fairly regularly.

Route –

WOW Air’s route map is limited a few North American cities, with most of the lowest fares coming out of Washington (BWI) and Boston (BOS).

Here is the full WOW Air Route Map for the US:

WOW Air US Flights - DW

Cities include: Boston, Washington DC (Baltimore), Los Angeles and San Francisco. As a note, there are a few Canadian cities that I excluded to keep this just US based, but feel free to reference the full chart here (including other European Destinations as well).

Cost in Miles –

NA – WOW Air does not have mileage program (that I know of?), but the fares are so cheap that this makes this a viable alternative to redeeming points/miles!

Keep in mind that this is a low-cost airline, and while the fares are low, they will undoubtedly charge you for EVERY SINGLE add-on (i.e. baggage, drinks, seat selection, etc.), so make sure you factor this in prior to booking!

Sample Booking –

Flexible Calendar WOW Air - AYP Post
Utilize the calendar function to find all those $99 low one-way fares!

 

A ticket price of $278 from the US to Iceland is tough to beat… don’t forget about baggage and seat selection fees!

Credit cards to consider in for this specific flight:

For these flights, consider a card that earns points which can be redeemed for travel expenses, like the Barclay Arrival Plus, for instance, which has a sign-up bonus of 40,000 points (which equates to $400) and provides a 5% points rebate upon redemption.

Other options might be to pay using a card that offers point bonuses on travel purchases:

Hotels:

Now that you have found your way to Iceland, you just have to determine where to lay your head! I have had a few friends travel to Iceland, and while they spent time in the city of Reyjavik, there was much to see in the rural/natural areas outside of the city as well. Rural and major chain hotels (MarriottHilton, StarwoodHyatt, etc.) don’t exactly go hand in hand, but there are still a few hotel options in Iceland to consider for point redemptions!

Iceland Pic - AYP
I don’t see a large Hilton “H” sign out here… do you!?

I was able to identify the following hotels affiliated with the major brands and the points needed in each brand’s respective rewards program:

Hotels on Points - Iceland - AYP.JPG
Not an extensive collection of properties…

I have really been eyeing the Starwood Ion Hotel, and it may end up being the property I redeem my 35,000 point sign-up bonus on my new Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card!

SPG ION Design Hotel - AYP Post
This property looks amazing… and at 20,000 Starpoints (or 10,000 +$110 in Points + Cash) I am really considering it…

Additionally, as I was writing this post I did a quick search on Airbnb (sign up with my link for $20 off your first booking!) and found some really amazing and affordable stay options, so be sure to check it out as well!

Iceland Airbnb - AYP Post
Plenty of reasonably priced Airbnb!

Credit Cards to open in order to achieve free nights:

Starwood Preferred Guest American Express – earn 25,000 Starpoints – after meeting the minimum spending requirement you will have enough to redeem for at least 1 night at the ION Adventure Hotel, Nesjavellir, a Member of Design Hotels!

Club Carlson Premier Rewards (US Bank) – earn 85,000 Gold Points – enough for a one night redemption at the Radisson Blu 1919 Hotel Reykjavik, or a two night redemption at the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel Reykjavik.

Hilton HHonors Surpass American Express – earn 100,000 HHonors points – enough for at least 2 free nights at the Hilton Nordica! This is a new limited time high offer (up from the previous limited time offer of 85,000 points). Thanks to Running with Miles where I saw this first!

American Express Premier Rewards Gold – earn 25,000 Membership Rewards points (not the best sign-up bonus, so check cardmatch for a better targeted offer). Remember, American Express Membership Rewards points can be redeemed for Airbnb stays (bad value) or they can be redeemed for Airbnb gift cards to then be used for Airbnb stays (better value).

In addition, consider a card that earns points which can be redeemed for travel expenses, like the Barclay Arrival Plus, for instance, which has a sign-up bonus of 40,000 points (which equates to $400) and provides a 5% points rebate upon redemption.

And there you have it. Time to start planning your trip to Iceland with the help of points, miles and low-fares!

NOrthern Lights - AYP
Let the Northern Lights motivate you to plan your trip to Iceland!

 

Final Thought

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…

DW

 


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