How to Have an Epic Vacation to Spain With Credit Card Rewards Points

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How to Have an Epic Vacation to Spain With Credit Card Rewards Points

EmilyHow to Have an Epic Vacation to Spain With Credit Card Rewards PointsMillion Mile Secrets Team

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Last year, my family and I had an epic trip to France.  This year, we decided to go to Spain and visit Granada, a picturesque town located in the south.  Here’s how 2 couples (one with a baby!) went to France in Business Class for a fraction of the price using miles and points!

There’s nothing NOT to like about this hidden gem in Europe—we had a fantastic time enjoying live flamenco, sampling tapas around the city, learning how to make paella, and visiting the Alhambra!

You can do it too with the best credit cards for travel!

Another AWESOME Vacation in Europe Thanks to Miles & Points!

Here’s how to do it!

How to Book Flight & Hotel

Summary Chart

 One-Way Business Class Ticket From NYC to ParisOne-Way Business Class Ticket From Nice, France to NYC Domestic Round-Trip Flights Between Austin and NYC5-Night Stay at the Hyatt Regency Nice
Retail Cost~$5,000~$5,000~$500~$1,600+ per night for suite

~$400+ per night for a standard room
Our Cash Cost$160 ($40 per person)~$1,480 (~$370 per person)~$24 (~$6 per person)$162
Miles & Points Used55,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points per person57,500 American Airlines miles per person~10,000 Southwest points per person25,000 Hyatt points per night

1 free night certificate

1 suite upgrade
Source of Miles & PointsThe Business Platinum® Card from American Express

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The World of Hyatt Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
The Platinum Card® from American Express

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
Chase Sapphire Reserve

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
Additional InformationYou can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratioYou can transfer Marriott points to American Airlines at a 3:1 ratio. And get a 5,000 mile bonus for every 60,000 points you transfer!
You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest at a ratio of 1:1You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt at a ratio of 1:1

You Can Do It, Too!

How to Earn Miles & Points for Your Trip

There are LOTS of award options when it comes to flying to Europe.  Including using United Airlines miles, AMEX Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, or American Airlines miles!

Earn American Airlines Miles

If you need more American Airlines miles, consider cards like:

Earn United Airlines Miles

If you’re looking to earn United Airlines miles, you could apply for cards like:

  • United Explorer Card – 40,000 United Airlines miles after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account.

And don’t forget, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United Airlines miles at a 1:1 ratio!

Earn Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

So, you could also consider cards like:

Earn AMEX Membership Rewards Points

If you’d like to earn AMEX Membership Rewards points, consider cards like:

How to Redeem Miles for Your Trip

1.   Using American Airlines Miles

Link:   American Airlines Award Chart

Link:   American Airlines Partner Award Chart

A flight from the US to Europe costs:

  • 30,000 American Airlines miles one-way in coach
  • 57,500 American Airlines miles one-way in Business Class
  • 85,000 American Airlines miles one-way in First Class

Using American Airlines miles to get to Europe is a good option, because their taxes and fees are often lower than other airlines.  And if you can travel at off-peak times (like spring and fall), you’ll pay fewer miles!

You can use American Airlines miles to fly to Europe on American Airlines or on their oneworld alliance partners, like British Airways, Finnair, or Iberia.

Be sure to check out our ultimate guide for using American Airlines miles here.

2.   Using Air Canada Aeroplan Miles

Link:   Air Canada Aeroplan Award Chart

Link:   Using Air Canada Aeroplan Miles to Europe

For our trip, I transferred American Express Membership Rewards points to United Airlines’ Star Alliance partner, Air Canada, then used those miles to book United Airlines award tickets.

For a one-way award flight from the US to Europe 1 (Europe 1 includes France), you’ll pay:

  • 30,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in coach
  • 55,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Business Class
  • 70,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in First Class

You’ll pay slightly more for one-way award flights to Europe 2 countries:

  • 37,500 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in coach
  • 57,500 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Business Class
  • 80,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in First Class
3.   Using United Airlines Miles

Link:   United Airlines Award Chart

To fly from the US to Europe, you’ll pay:

  • 30,000 United Airlines miles one-way in coach
  • 60,000 United Airlines miles one-way in Business Class
  • 80,000 United Airlines miles one-way in First Class

Note:   Award prices on partner airlines in Business and First Class are higher.

Here’s our series on how to use United Airlines miles.

4.   Other Ways to Get to Europe

Check out our posts for more ways to fly to (and within) Europe cheaply:

Are You New to Miles & Points?

If you are new to collecting miles and points, start by reading our Beginner’s Guide and applying for 1 to 2 credit cards to get comfortable with the process.  I have applied for 3 to 5 cards every few months, but do what you are comfortable with.

Our favorite card for beginners is the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

If you’re looking for ideas about how to complete minimum spending requirements, see our post that includes 40+ ways to meet your card’s minimum spend.

We Booked 4 Business Class Flights on SWISS Airlines With AMEX Points

We scored flights on SWISS Airlines, and were very happy in our Business Class seats!  It costs 55,000 American Express points, which I then transferred to Aeroplan.  I am usually a fan of flying American Airlines for international trips, mainly because I have a healthy balance of miles.  Flying United Airlines can also be great for flying to Europe, and there’s no risk of paying hefty taxes and fees like with American Airlines (British Airways can tack on hundreds of dollars of fees, making flights booked in coach usually not worth it).

But this time, I wanted to use points earned from my AMEX Business Platinum Card.  Plus, this gave me a chance to use up the Aeroplan miles on hold from the biggest mistake I made in my miles & points history — booking a flight from the wrong airport!

We flew from New York (JFK) to Zurich, where we had a ~2 hour layover.  Then we flew from Zurich to Madrid.

Thank You AMEX Points – We Scored 4 Business Class Tickets to Europe!

It felt great using up my points, and flying in luxury on a SWISS flight!  Even Arya got a baby bassinet for sleeping, which was VERY nice for us.  I learned that you can’t pre-select your seats on SWISS (yes, even in Business Class) unless you pay a ~$100 fee.  Because I was traveling with 4 people, I really didn’t want to pay ~$400 for the luxury of sitting together, so I decided to chance it.  But I did end up scoring seats together, which was awesome!

For people traveling with a small baby, you must request a bassinet prior to your flight.  I learned from the purser that every flight doesn’t always have an extra bassinet, and that we got lucky to have one on board.

We loved the food and the excellent flight attendants on this flight.  They even served us Lindt chocolates – a Swiss speciality!

The Flight Attendants Offered Lindt Chocolates

The Swiss Airlines Lounge Was a Luxurious Getaway Between Flights

In Zurich, we popped into the SWISS Airlines lounge for some free drinks, snacks, and Wi-Fi.  I’m a big fan of lounges because of their comforts while traveling.  You can get FREE access to many lounges with certain credit cards.

Escaping Into an Airport Lounge Is a Great Way to Spend a Layover

I have the Citi AAdvantage Executive card that gives me free access to American Airlines lounges, and am thinking of applying for other cards to get access to more than one type of lounge.  Having flexibility is very nice!

The SWISS lounge was very classy!  If you have a Business Class or First Class ticket, you can enter the lounge for free.

You Can Be Like Jered & Get FREE Lounge Access With a Credit Card

Stay at the Marriott Using Points

After we finally arrived in Granada, we stayed at the Marriott Hotel Palacio De Santa Paula, Autograph Collection using Starwood (now Marriott) points.  It was a former monastery and is located in the heart of the city.  Rooms here cost 35,000 Marriott points a night, or you can do a cash and points option.

We Used Starwood Points (Which Are Now Marriott Points) to Book Our Hotel in Granada

We had a wonderful time in this hotel!  The highlight (besides the central location), was the historic aspect to it.

The Highlight of This Hotel (Besides the Location) Was the Inner Courtyard

What to Do in Granada, Spain

We had SO MUCH fun in Granada!  The number 1 thing to see is the Alhambra, which is a palace and fortress from AD 889.  The architecture is fantastic.  But be warned that you need to book tickets FAR IN ADVANCE.  The guidebooks will say at least 1 month, and further out in the busy season.

We got very lucky because we went to a local tour group office and snagged 4 tickets.  But this was a rarity, and I tried to book tickets on every website I could find, only to find out nothing was available.

Plan Ahead If You Want to Visit the Alhambra

We took a cooking class, where we learned how to make paella.  We also received a lesson on Spanish food and wine, and learned the importance of aceite de oliva (olive oil).

We Learned How to Make Paella In Our Cooking Class

There Are so Many Great Places to Eat in Granada, Spain

We had some very good food in Spain, and had fun sampling the tapas.

You’ll Find Lots of Meat and Cheese in Spain

Thankfully, there is a lot of variety in Granada, and we found some excellent restaurants.  We found a crepe restaurant (which we ended up visited daily during our trip!), a restaurant that specialized in local/organic food, and also a Lebanese retaurant.

We Enjoyed Dinner at a Lebanese Restaurant

And if you are craving your cereal from back home, there is even a restaurant for that, too!

Craving Lucky Charms? There’s a Restaurant for That, Too!

Bottom Line

We planned ~1 month in advance for our family of 4 (plus baby!) to go to Granada, Spain.  We used American Express points that I transferred to Aeroplan to book our flights.  One-way flights in Business Class cost 55,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles.  For our return, we flew on American Airlines in coach.

It’s easy to earn miles and points for a similar trip from the best travel credit cards.  And check out our guide on using Chase Ultimate Rewards points to travel to Europe!

We had an amazing time in Granada and loved the unique architecture, learning how to cook paella, and exploring the diverse neighborhoods.

Have you traveled to Spain?  Share your tips below!

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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 "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises 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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