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Emily: My partner Alfy and I wanted to take a summer vacation, so we planned a visit to France. We paid ~$410 a piece for our family of 4 to fly to France in Business Class from New York. And had a luxurious stay in a ~$1,600 per night suite for ~$160 TOTAL.
This series of posts will highlight our trip, and give you step-by-step instructions so that you too can go to Europe using miles and points! Plus, I’ll share my tips for the cheapest car rentals and the BEST credit cards to use when traveling internationally.
My cousin, Jered, and his wife had never traveled to France before (and neither had Alfy!), so we invited them to join us! The trip turned into a long double date to France on miles & points! We decided on our own “tour de France” and visited 5 cities in ~2.5 weeks.
Using Miles & Points to Visit France Trip Report Index:
- Part 1 – Introduction and Planning
- Part 2 – How to Book 4 Round-Trip Business Class Flights to Europe for ~$410 per Person
- Part 3 – United Airlines Business Class Flight Review – Newark to Paris
- Part 4 – Where to Stay in France
- Part 5 – What To Do in France
- Part 6 – Our Favorite Restaurants & Cafes
This was the first time I planned a trip for 4 primarily by myself using miles and points. Daraius and I took trips with our parents before, but he did all the planning. Now, I was faced with the excitement (and challenge!) of finding 4 seats in Business Class flights to and from Europe. During the peak summer travel period, nonetheless!
My cousin, Jered, and his wife, Jen, had never experienced Business Class before. So I wanted to treat them to a memorable vacation!
I have a lot of American Airlines miles, as well as AMEX Membership Rewards points and Chase Ultimate Rewards points. I find Chase Ultimate Rewards points are the most valuable to me because I can transfer them to Southwest for domestic flights and to Hyatt for a bit of luxury.
So, I try not to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points for international trips. But sometimes you’ll run into those pesky fuel surcharges, and it makes more sense to use your Ultimate Rewards points for award tickets on transfer partners like United Airlines.
We wanted to meet up in New York for our Business Class flight across the pond. And after quite a bit of searching, I found the routes with the lowest mileage required. The chart below summarizes my trip planning. As you can see, it was a complex trip to schedule!
|Travelers||Departure City||Arrival City||Airline||Miles / Points||Out of Pocket Cost|
|Jen & Jered||San Jose||Paris||United Airlines||60,000 United Airlines miles (booked through United Airlines website)||$150 ($75 per person in close-in booking fees)|
|Alfy & Emily||Austin||Newark||Southwest||16,740 Southwest points (added a companion for $5.60 with the Southwest Companion Pass)||$11.20 ($5.60 per person)|
|Alfy & Emily||Newark||Paris||United Airlines||110,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles (55,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles a piece)||$80 ($40 per person)|
|Jen & Jered, Alfy & Emily||Nice, France||New York (JFK)||British Airways||230,000 American Airlines miles (booked through American Airlines)||~$1,480 (~$370 per person)|
|Jen & Jered||Newark||Oakland||Southwest||20,600 Southwest points (10,300 Southwest points per person)||$11.20 ($5.60 per person)|
|Alfy & Emily||Newark||Austin||Southwest||9,764 (added a companion for $5.60 with the Southwest Companion Pass)||$11.20 ($5.60 per person)|
Here’s How I Found Our Flights:
Step 1 – Search for One-Way Tickets for the Outbound Flight
Begin by doing a search for one-way award tickets to Europe from various major US airports, like New York (JFK), Newark, Chicago, Washington D.C., etc. If you can’t find enough seats for your group, you can book a few tickets then keep checking for more award seats to open up.
I love to use Expert Flyer to see how many seats have been booked and if more seats are likely to become available.
For my search, I used Paris as the final destination and rotated the departing US cities. I created an Excel file listing the departure and arrival cities, class, dates, and miles required.
Step 2 – Search for One-Way Tickets for the Return Flights
I went through the same process to find our return flights. Only this time, I was using Nice, France, as our departure city. And I searched for open award seats between Nice and various major US airports.
Step 3 – Search for Domestic Positioning Flights
Once I found our long-haul international award seats, I looked for our domestic award flights.
Alfy and I would be flying from Texas and Jen and Jered would be flying from California. Trying to coordinate all of our flights was very challenging! Especially because our domestic flights and international flights were on separate itineraries.
This is where using my spreadsheet helped.
Step 4 – Book Your Award Flight Online (or Call an Agent)
Once I found all the flights I wanted, I booked our tickets online.
If you don’t see the full availability online, you can call to book the flights. If they try charging you, politely let them know you tried booking online and request if they can waive the fee.
It cost ~$1,640 for the 4 of us to fly round-trip in Business Class from New York to Europe. I used a combination of miles & points from different programs to book flights for me and my family. Including AMEX Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
To snag the flights you want, especially if you don’t live near a major US airport, I suggest finding available award seats for the long transatlantic portion of your trip first. Then, you can book a positioning flight between your hometown and that major US airport, separately. Or you might just get lucky and be able to book all your flights on the same itinerary!
After you’ve found the seats you want, you can book your tickets online or call the airline’s contact center.