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A Babymoon Trip to Germany & Switzerland in Business Class for Nearly Free With Miles & Points!

A Babymoon Trip to Germany & Switzerland in Business Class for Nearly Free With Miles & Points!

Million Mile SecretsA Babymoon Trip to Germany & Switzerland in Business Class for Nearly Free With Miles & Points!Million Mile Secrets Team

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Welcome to the next installment of our Reader Success Series where Million Mile Secrets Readers share how they booked a trip with miles & points to get Big Travel with Small Money!

Max and Jen are our newest reader success story to show folks it’s possible to travel without spending a lot of money.

Max and Jen at the “Cinderella Castle,” in Southern Bavaria

A big thank you to Max and Jen for sharing their story!

Please introduce yourself to everyone and tell us how long you’ve been involved in the miles & points hobby.

Our names are Max and Jen.  We recently celebrated our second wedding anniversary and are expecting our first daughter in September.

Baby’s First Beer Garden in Munich

Max has been using points and miles to travel around the world for the past 13 years and used cards and miles to visit Europe, South America and travel across the US.  Since we’ve been married, we’ve gone to Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Hawaii together either for free or at a fraction of the price.

What was the goal of your trip?

To take a babymoon to Europe before our baby girl arrives in September.  We also had a friend to visit who lives in Zurich.  And wanted to see my family in New York on our way back home to Los Angeles.

Side Trip to the Swiss Alps With Breathtaking Views

Our plan was to fly Los Angeles to Munich and spend a few days in Munich and the Bavarian Alps before traveling to Zurich and taking a side trip to Interlaken and Lucerne.  Then spend a week in New York visiting family.  And we wanted to do the entire trip in Business Class.

How long did you collect miles and points for your trip? 

This trip was paid for using a combination of points and miles from cards we accrued over the previous two to three years.  We had generated a lot of points and miles over time and were waiting for the right vacation on which to use them.  Taking a fancy babymoon to Europe seemed like a good opportunity.

Which points did you save to take your trip?

A couple years ago we earned 100,000 American Airlines miles from the Citi Executive AAdvantage card which were combined with miles from previous flights and cards.  (Now expired.)

Jen had the Bank of America Alaska Airlines card and flies on Alaska every time she visits her family in the Pacific Northwest.  Last year we both signed-up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve for 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points each.  (The 100,000-point offer has expired.)

And I also received a 35,000 point sign-up bonus from the AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest card.  (That offer has also expired).

Having a wedding and expecting a baby makes it really easy to reach minimum spends.

We each transferred 70,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United Airlines.  We then used those points to fly Business Class on Lufthansa for less than $6 per person.

Business Class in Lufthansa From Los Angeles to Munich

It was only 50,000 Alaska Airlines miles for my wife to fly in Business Class on American Airlines from Zurich to New York AND New York to Los Angeles.  We then took advantage of Alaska’s stopover rule for her to fly in Business Class from New York to Los Angeles on the same ticket as her Europe flight but allowing us to have one week in New York at no additional cost.

I spent 57,500 American Airlines miles to fly from Zurich to New York in Business Class.  And then an additional 25,000 from New York to Los Angeles.  Alaska Airlines miles were definitely the best deal of the trip by far.

We spent two nights at the Aloft Munich for 10,000 Starwood points per night.  We stayed at a five-star hotelthe Hotel Maximilian – in a place called Oberammergau in the Bavarian Alps, around an hour from the Neuschwanstein Castle.  Our car rentals and train tickets were reimbursed thanks to the Chase Sapphire Reserve $300 travel credit.

What cards would you recommend to someone starting out with miles & points?

The Chase Sapphire Reserve was definitely the best.  It allowed us to fly in Business Class for free to Europe, book a hotel through the Ultimate Rewards portal and we used the travel credit for car rentals and train travel.

Wandering Around the Streets of Fussen, the Bavarian Town Closest to the Neuschwanstein Castle

After that, I’d say the Bank of America Alaska Airlines card was extremely helpful because it was only 50,000 Alaska Airlines miles to fly in Business Class from Zurich to New York, have a week-long stopover for free and then New York to Los Angeles in Business Class on the same ticket.  If they ever were to release a 50,000 point card with the first year free, that would be the best airline card I could imagine.

In the time that I’ve had the AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest card, we used Starwood points for two free nights in Hawaii (last year) and then two free nights in Munich on this trip.  That added up to at least $900 in free hotels without paying an annual fee.

How did you search for and find the award flights?

I took a few minutes every day to search on the United Airlines award calendar and American Airlines calendar until the flights we wanted became available.  Finding flights that matched our dates for two people was difficult but once we had the start and end to our trip, it was a lot easier booking hotels through Starwood and Chase.

Zurich Photo Bomb 🙂

I had to use the advanced search feature on American Airlines to find only American Airlines flights going non-stop between Zurich and New York.  This helped me avoid looking at the costly British Airways flights through London.  When it came to United Airlines, I had to book coach tickets and then upgrade to Business Class as the trip got closer.

How did you find your hotel accommodations?

Starwood’s website was pretty easy and flexible.  When we were researching the trip, we searched through every Starwood hotel in southern Germany and opted against a more ambitious trip to just stay in the center of Munich for a couple days.

The Chase Ultimate Rewards travel booking didn’t have as nice of a user experience but we searched for reviews on different hotel sites for ones that Chase offered and ended up settling on a great five-star hotel in the Bavarian Alps.

View From Our Restaurant at the Hotel Maximilian in the Bavarian Alps Booked for Free Using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

In Zurich, we stayed with a friend, which was a better experience and helped us save a small fortune considering that a chicken sandwich in Zurich costs around $25.  I wish there were a points-earning credit card with Airbnb.  Having a kitchen and shopping for groceries saves a ton of money when we travel.

What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?

The hardest part was getting into Lufthansa Business Class because they only open at the last minute (about a week before our flight).  We solved the problem by booking two seats in coach very far in advance.

Another View From the Swiss Alps

When it was around a month before the flight, I started checking every single day to see if two seats in Business Class had opened up.  The United Airlines award calendar was very helpful for this.  When I found open seats, I called United Airlines to upgrade us from coach into Business Class.  We had to pay a $75 change fee per person, but $150 for two people in Business Class to Europe seemed like a fair price.

Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination.  Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.

Our favorite spots in Munich were wandering around the French Quarter, which felt like a much quieter and equally-beautiful Paris.

Enjoying the German Specialties 🙂

We had an excellent and cheap lunch at a place called Spoon Up and then gorged on pretzel, beer (for Max) and sausage at the Hofbraukeller beer garden.  The surfers in the English Gardens were also pretty fun to watch.

Surfers in Munich’s English Gardens

Our favorite towns in the Bavarian Alps were Mittenwald and Oberammergau.  And then I thought best part of Zurich was taking the S-Bahn to the top of the Uetliberg, which has endless views of Lake Zurich and the snow-capped Alps and is filled with hiking trails that can take you back into the city.

What did you learn about yourself on the trip?

I learned that traveling with a pregnant wife means carrying two people’s bags over cobblestone streets. 😉

Also, every city is going to have their touristy trap version of Times Square or Hollywood/Highland that you feel obligated to see and you won’t get anything close to a local experience.  Get it out of the way early and then get on with the exploring.

What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip?  Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!

Go!  Find a friend in another country you want to visit or pick a place you want to see and start planning a year in advance.  When it’s all said and done, these are the memories that will count a lot more than the reasons you never took a dream adventure.

Want to Share Your Story?

If you’d like to be considered for our reader success story series, please send me a note!  Emily and I would love to hear about how you travel with miles and points!

If you liked this post, why don’t you join the 25,000+ readers who have signed-up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 email per day!) or in an RSS reader …because then you’ll never miss another update!

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel.
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

More Info

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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Glad you were able to do that trip, but by the time the trip takes place and the review comes out, it’s impossible to replicate because of all the credit card changes and the lack of availability on AA for business class for Europe. Other air awards have changed also.

Patrick Ohearn

Re: Upgradin from Economy to Business on United. I don’t know how you were able to upgrade from economy class a week in advance unless you paid enough points to purchase a Business class ticket. Because typically there are few upgradable seats available at the time of booking, but United will take and hold your miles and copay $ until the day of the flight and only reimburse you if you are not upgraded. I called a week before a 1sto flight to Lisbon and inquired about being upgraded, as well as 24 hours before the flight, and I was told that they wait literally until right before boarding passengers to assign upgraded seats in case a late comer wants to purchase a business class seat which earns United thousands of dollars, and little old me only gave them a few hundred and thousands of United miles, so apparently I don’t rate.
This policy is particularly problematic when long-haul flights are not direct nonstop. Coming from LA, all United flights to Europe (except a few flights to London) stop on the East Coast with a change of planes. if I nab an upgrade to business class on a nonstop Los Angeles to London, I get to occupy that seat the whole “long haul” route. But not so with any other United flight LA to Europe, because there’s always a changes of planes before crossing the pond.
Here’s the kicker:
on the day of your flight, having already procured your dollars and Miles weeks in advance for the privilege of being placed on a waitlist until today, United now employs its profitable yet inconsistent and unethical policy that your 1 stop long haul flight upgrade is treated as as a segmented flight (when it is to their advantage), but for other purposes (of course when it serves who?) the same long-haul ticket is treated in whole and not segmented. also, those dollars and Miles you gave them weeks before for the chance to get an upgrade ? It’s an all or nothing proposition: either take what they give you or pay more money to get your points back. Because when that travel day finally arrives, on most occasions, there won’t be an upgradable seat to business class, but worse yet, they will still take the full amount payment of miles in dollars, but you will only get upgraded for part of the trip! Yes that’s true, only for 1 segment of the trip! Because at that point United will tell you that their policy is that if you get upgraded from the East Coast to wherever you’re going in Europe, you got your business class upgrade, but you stay in economy from your original destination to your stopover. same thing for the return flight, segmented with no guarantees until the day of travel what class of service you placed . Moreover, when I asked them One week and One Day before the flight why they couldn’t upgrade me to Business class when I saw that they had open seats, They unabashedly acknowledged that they hold the seats for higher-paying customers. that’s called double dipping, Particularly in the case of awarding you a business class for one segment of the flight but keeping you in economy on the donestic segment because they can make some money off of somebody else for that business class seat that you’ve already paid them for and wont be reimbursed because you got your business class seat, Sir! and I’m a gold elite member!
The majority of times when I am waitlisted on United for an upgrade on an international flight, either i don’t get it all (But at least my dollars and miles are reimbursed to me in full) or I only get the “partial upgrade” which I find despicably greedy and customer contemptuous on United’s part. initially,I didn’t evaluate it all that closely, figuring when I became a gold elite member and Paid a higher economy flexfare etc. that I would be awarded the upgrade for the entire flight, just as I received when I’ve flown Turkish Airlines using United miles to upgrade (a much nicer business class experience by the way). but I realized before even boarding my first flight from Lisbon, as I saw my name on the DC-LA waitlist be bumped from #2 to the lowest ring of hell, and despite several phone calls/ intervention with United customer service in the 24 hours prior to my return home, and having played by all the United rules that supposedly help you be prioritized accordingly, that essentially for unlucky customers that live on the West Coast, the deck is stacked against us unless we take the nonstop flight to/from London and change planes at Heathrow airport. because what I realized is that I will never get the business class upgrade on the final leg home, because there’s too many LA-D.C. frequent travelers that will always be bumped well in advance of me, even though in good faith I gave them my money and miles weeks before, and which they gladly cashed that same day to upgrade from Lisbon. so, unless you are a member of a very elite frequent flyer group you won’t get upgraded from Europe all the way home, more than likely, if you get it at all, you’ll only get to the DC or Newark.
United tries to tell you with a straight face that the upgrade is still a value because you received business class seating on the “long-haul” part of the flight, that being over the Atlantic Ocean. Well if you look at a map, The flights from Los Angeles to New Jersey or Washington DC are almost equally as long as the second half of the trip (and they know that of course). It’s about a difference of one hour. So to hide behind that as a policy which justifies taking and keeping the full amount of your money/miles but only giving you half an upgrade is indefensible, and I believe, in the case of them then selling your business class domestic seat to somebody else for money, is possibly illegal. It’s appalling to me that they do this to profit on the backs of some of their most loyal customers. I encourage every United Elite customer to complain to United about this nasty policy.

I told them they need to do one of two things:
1. they guarantee the upgraded seat the entire flight, From departure to final destination. The ticket is the ticket and cannot be treated as segmented. OR
2. they treat the flights as segmented, BUT ALSO allow the passenger to make the choice whether he or she wants to pay those miles and points for EACH segment, and the segment costs then have to be proportional in cost to the entire flight. so if you don’t get on the upgrade for the final domestic travel segments, the cost in miles and dollars is reimbursed in full from what you were charged for the upgrade for the entire itinerary. Personally, I don’t necessarily need to fly business class across the USA. if it’s not a redeye flight, economy plus serves me nicely but I receive gratis by being a gold elite member. What I don’t want is to to pay lfor an upgrade that I’m not enjoying for the entire trip, which, btw, I would recieve on the same airline if I flew to another city in Europe that they fly nonstop (London). Here is again another reason why their argument falls apsrt. So they either have to treat it as segment of the hallway and then bring him the fees accordingly for the customer so he can choose on each statement but he wants if it’s not a redeye flight, economy plus serves me nicely which I get is being part of the gold elite member. But if I’m playing a redeye to Europe from the East Coast I do want that business class seat. But I won’t have to pay is that I’m getting it all the way from Los Angeles which I’m not. So they either have the treated as segment of the hallway and then breakdown the fees accordingly for the customer so he can choose on each segment but he wants to pay for Business class or not, or they treated as a whole entire trip and if you pay for the upgraded seat you get it the whole entire trip. We can’t sell that seat to somebody else or give it to somebody who prioritizes as a higher valued customer because they do a weekly route from California to the East Coast every week. Because what I told him is I will never flight of the continent then I will fly to London each and every time from California and then I’ll change planes in London. But that’s like having to counter their gaming with more gaming which is unfortunate but that’s the way United plays

Patrick Ohearn

Woops! unfortunately, those last few sentences did not make it through my editing process before I accidentally clicked the submit button. The best strategy at this point if you want to get an upgrade the whole way to Europe from the West Coast, is to book a flight to London and then change planes there. I do encourage you, and especially United elite members, to complain about this unfair practice. as I tried to tell them in the most emotionally contained way possible, “this policy is a dissatisfier to your most loyal customers, and is causing me to reconsider my loyalty to this airline.” They did reimburse me 15,000 United miles. That’s nice, but doesn’t solve the problem. I can’t see any airline outside of the United States that could getting away with this; and I know of no other airline, including the big four of the USA, who employees this duplicitous strategy as a policy.

Just out of curiosity, how far along was she?? I am in debate on taking a trip to Europe (Paris) for about 10 days with my pregnant wife… this is our first, so kind of nervous about it… Anyone have any experience with this…

I traveled while being 7 1/2 months pregnant and it was fine for me. I was able to do the same amount of walking around as before being pregnant. It was just slightly uncomfortable wobbling around being so ‘big’. But, it would’ve been uncomfortable wobbling around at home as well, so…
Oh, as a precaution I had a letter from my doctor saying it was OK for me to travel. No one asked me for it but, I wanted to have something with me in case I had any problems boarding the plane.

I’m new to the points/miles “hobby” and have a question about how you upgraded from coach to Business Class on Lufthansa. Aside from the $75 per person change fee did you also have to use more points? It would seem to me that you would, otherwise everyone would book coach and pay the upgrade ticket fee. Can you please say how far in advance you booked the coach flight and when you upgraded? Thanks. Being a newbie, there is so much to learn. We’re a family of three (2 households) trying to get to Australia in late 2018. We may not make it as we don’t have enough points to fly business class or higher on all segments from the east coast! Thanks for your review, and help!

It was only 70,000 miles for 2 business class tickets to Europe? Or was it 70,000 miles per ticket?

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