We’ve decided to start sharing some of our favorite travel hacks on the blog during Travel Tips Tuesdays. Last week, we shared a hack for roundtrip tickets to Hawaii for $11 over on our Facebook page. This week, we’ve selected another dream destination for a lot of our readers and friends. Let’s go to Europe!
Today’s ticket hack is for a roundtrip ticket to Europe from most places in the US for less than $100.
One of our favorite options for flying to Europe from the US on points/miles is with American Airlines (in the OneWorld Alliance).
Let’s take a look at what a trip to Paris could cost you, but keep in mind that you can fly into most major European cities for the same amount of miles and similar fees/fuel surcharges. It’s just takes a minute to price these trips out on the American website.
Let’s Go To Europe on American Airlines for less than $100!
American Airlines is one of the cheapest in terms of mileage for a roundtrip ticket to Europe. You can get a MileSAAvers ticket for 40,000 miles roundtrip/person from anywhere in the continental US to most destinations in Europe. All of these flights were booked through the American Airlines website.
But be careful when you’re selecting your specific flights. To keep the cost of this ticket under $100, you will need to fly on AA or US Airways. If you select AA or US Airways flights, your taxes and fuel surcharges will be less than $100. We priced a bunch of different cities in the US, on both coasts and several places in the middle. From the continental US, your ticket will be 40,000 miles and $88.50 if you choose a MileSAAvers fare and AA or USAir flights.
Here is the cost of a roundtrip ticket to Paris from Albuquerque (our hometown): 40,000 miles and $88.50.
But if you select British Airways international flights (they’re an American Airlines codeshare partner) you could pay as much as $750 in taxes and fuel surcharges. British Airways has some of the highest fuel surcharges in the business, especially for international flights. Here is that same MileSAAvers fare, but with BA flights (rather than AA or USAir).
$715.70 in fees and fuel surcharges is no bargain, especially compared to $88.50 for the same trip (ABQ to PAR) on the same dates.
American Airlines’ fee is so much lower because they don’t charge you fuel surcharges on reward tickets (tickets booked with miles). British Airways’ fee is high because they do, and their fuel surcharges are some of the highest.
A few other tips for booking on American Airlines:
Always try and book a MileSAAver award. These awards have significantly lower mileage requirements than even Economy AAnytime reward fares. 20,000 miles one way vs 45,000 miles one way on tickets to Europe from the US.
If all the MileSAAver and Economy AAnytime Awards are taken or are at the higher rate of 25,000-45,000 miles, take a look at the Business class fares. Sometimes you can find a Business MileSAAver at a mileage rate comparable to a higher Economy AAnytime reward.
Fly during Off Peak times of the year for the cheapest mileage cost: Off peak for these bookings (flights to Europe) is Oct 15-May 15. Those travel dates are when you are most likely to find reward fares for 20,000 miles each way.
Bonus Tip: You can add another European location to your trip for only 10,000 more points & a higher fee.
Here’s a trip to Paris and then on to Athens (before flying back to the US) for 50,000 points and $280.10. Still a pretty great value.
Don’t have enough points/miles to do this? Here are some options on how to get American AAdvantage points/miles quickly (because earning them by flying will take you FOREVER).
You can apply for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard. They’re offering a 50,000 mile bonus with $3,000 in purchases in the first three months. Put all your gas and groceries and restaurant bills and utilities on it (& anything else you could pay with a credit card but usually pay for with your debit card) and pay it off every month. I know that for us, especially in our old life, it was easy to wrack up ~$700/month in expenses in those categories – categories where we were already spending the money – I’m not talking about charging up that credit card with nonessentials or things you wouldn’t already be paying for. The card does have an annual fee of $95 but it is waived for the first year, and you can always cancel it after you’ve received the rewards points and never pay the fee. Three months from now you could have enough miles to go to Europe for less than $100.
Couples could each apply for the card separately and each of you can get the 50,000 AAdvantage points bonus. Just make sure to spread out your applications enough that you can each meet the $3,000 spend. That would give you enough points to go to Europe together.
Option two is the American Express Starwood Preferred Card. Their miles/points transfer directly to American’s AAdvantage program, and they offer a 5,000 mile bonus on every mileage transfer of 20,000 or more. So, if you transfer 20,000 miles/points from AMEX SPG to AAdvantage, you actually get 25,000 miles. Their current offer is 25,000 points with $3,000 in purchases in the first three months. So the Citi card is the better one to go for at the present time if you just want American AAdvantage miles.
Keep in mind that when you are working towards a mileage bonus on a rewards credit card you usually won’t see the miles until you’ve paid the balance off. So if you charge $3,000 and don’t pay it off right away, you won’t see the miles in your account. Also, we always strongly recommend that you use credit responsibly. If you can’t pay the card off in full every month, this is not the travel hack for you.
We’re looking for suggestions & trip ideas to hack for this column. Tell us what you’d like to see in the comments.
Need help figuring out how to hack your dream trip? Let’s talk! We can help.
Another good post. One comment, though: I don’t know whether open-jaw tickets are more expensive using miles, but I think you could buy a non-miles-reward ticket from Paris to Athens for less than the approximately $200 difference between your quotes, and you would likely not have a stop along the way (http://www.kayak.com/flights/PAR-ATH/2015-10-27).
Kat & Kyle says
Hi Jay! Good question. American does price an open jaw ticket a bit differently. It doesn’t treat it completely like two one way tickets. To do the trip open jaw (ABQ-PAR & then ATH-ABQ) on a rewards ticket would price out at 40,000 miles and $212.40. But then you still have to get from Paris to Athens, so add on the $94 ticket price you found.
For comparison, here is the trip as two one-one way reward tickets:
ABQ-PAR for 20,000 miles and 11.20 (with no BA flights)
ATH-ABQ for 20,000 miles and $175.80 (we have to use one BA flight to get from Athens to London)
Total: 40,000 miles and $187 to book it as all one way reward tickets. Once again, we still have to get from Paris to Athens, so add on an additional $94.
So, the trip (ABQ-PAR-ATH) can be booked in three different ways using rewards miles:
Option 1: Roundtrip multicity Ticket on Rewards: 50,000 miles and $280.10
Option 2: Open Jaw Ticket on Rewards/Pay for ticket from Paris-Athens: 40,000 miles and $306.40 ($212.40 fees + $94 for ticket to Athens)
Option 3: Two one-way rewards tickets/pay for ticket from Paris-Athens: 40,000 miles and $281 ($187 fees + $94 for ticket to Athens)
The short answer is that options 1 & 3 are comparable in price but option 3 saves you 10,000 miles. So, in this case, it would be a good option to price it as two one-way tickets and pay out of pocket for the Paris to Athens ticket. But it may also be too complex of a booking for some people and they may prefer to book it other ways.
Love the dialog though. These posts are really about getting everyone thinking outside the box when it comes to travel and what we “think” it should cost vs what it may actually cost if you get creative.
Got it. Thanks.
I don’t fly often enough, and accruing miles other ways is much more difficult in Israel, so I’ve never redeemed miles for a flight myself. In the past, though, my parents have redeemed miles for me to fly to the US.
I did not know, and they might not have known that flying on AA or US Airways saves that much money.
Thanks again for the info!