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My oldest daughter just turned 13. And for her birthday, instead of getting her gadgets, clothes, or makeup, we’re going to Dublin for a few days – just me and her!
A trip like this wouldn’t be financially possible for us without miles and points earned from the best travel credit cards. And it’s especially exciting because it’s her first time away on a big trip without her siblings.
We’ve never been to Ireland, so we’re flying by the seat of our pants a bit on this visit. Save for the flights, hotels, and one tour, I haven’t firmed up any other plans.
I’ll share how I booked the trip. And if you’ve been to Dublin, I’m hoping you can chip in your best recommendations for things to do there with a teenager!
Miles and Points Make Memories
As a single parent, I’m always looking for ways to enrich my kids’ lives without busting the budget. And that’s where miles and points truly come in handy. Sure, we don’t drive a fancy car or splurge on name-brand clothing, but we get to go on trips more often than most families. In my mind, travel is still the best gift (and education) you can give your kids.
Our Dublin adventure came together quickly and easily – I had no problem finding award seats or hotel nights, and I only booked this at the end of August. By taking advantage of an award sweet spot on Aer Lingus and redeeming points and a free night certificate for hotels, the bulk of the trip isn’t costing us much out of pocket.
Super Cheap Flights With Points on Aer Lingus
Most airlines charge 45,000 to 60,000 miles round-trip to Europe in coach. But because British Airways has a distance-based award chart, shorter flights to Ireland on partner Aer Lingus from East Coast cities are very inexpensive in comparison.
For 26,000 British Airways Avios points each round-trip, I booked non-stop flights from Toronto to Dublin. The taxes and fees came to just over ~$100 per person, which is far less than what the flights would cost had we paid cash!
It made the most sense to fly from Toronto, which is only ~3 hours drive from our home in Western New York. Otherwise, I’d have had to figure out a way to position to a different East Coast city like Boston or New York to get the same deal.
British Airways Avios points are incredibly easy to earn, because they’re a Chase Ultimate Rewards, AMEX Membership Rewards, and Marriott transfer partner. And you can also earn them directly from the British Airways Visa Signature® Card. I happened to have just enough points in my British Airways account to book the flights, but could have topped off my account with points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card had I needed to.
A Little Hotel Hopping in Dublin
I hate having a handful of points or a free night certificate from a hotel credit card lingering in my account. They’re not enough for more than a night or 2, so this short trip was the perfect opportunity for a couple of quick redemptions!
The anniversary free night certificate I earned from my old Chase IHG card (no longer available) is soon to expire. While I’d originally intended to redeem it in Toronto, it made more sense to use it at the fancy InterContinental Dublin instead.
We’ll spend 2 nights here – one with the anniversary certificate and another using 50,000 IHG points. Paid nights on our dates are going for ~$321 per night – so we’re getting a 2-night stay worth ~$642 using credit card rewards. I’d say that more than offsets the card’s $49 annual fee!
This hotel is ~3 miles from central Dublin, which means we’ll have to take public transit or a cab to get to where we want to be. That’s ok with us – I almost prefer staying a little off the beaten path to get a feel for the not-so-touristy areas anyway.
And I’m hopeful we’ll get an upgrade or some treats because the Chase IHG card (as well as the new version, the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card) comes with automatic Platinum Elite status. I let the reservation agent know it was my daughter’s 13th birthday, so we’ll see if they do anything extra special. 🙂
Note: The new Chase IHG Premier card also comes with an anniversary free night certificate, but it’s now capped at locations that cost 40,000 IHG points per night or less. It’s still an excellent deal!
Radisson Blu St. Helen’s
The Radisson Blu St. Helen’s is a bit further from the action, but it looks absolutely charming and exactly up my daughter’s alley. It’s an Irish National Monument built on an old estate dating back to the 1700’s, with lush (well, maybe not so lush in October) gardens on a sprawling property.
I’ve had a stash of Radisson points sitting in my account back from when I had the Radisson Rewards™ Premier Visa Signature® Card. I canceled the card after they got rid of the free night on award stays (boo!), but still had points kicking around from the card and a few paid stays. To be honest, I’ve found Radisson points tricky to use in North America. But in Europe, it’s a lot easier, because there are tons more Radisson locations there.
This hotel burnt through most of my points balance at 50,000 Radisson points per night. A 2-night stay for our dates would have cost ~$410 total. So while it’s not as pricey a redemption as the InterContinental, I still feel like we’re getting decent value given those points were just withering away in my account.
I don’t have status with Radisson, but also let them know we are celebrating a birthday. It never hurts to let the hotel know you’re there for a special occasion!
So, What to Do in Dublin?
Not gonna lie – I’m a little nervous about this trip, only because usually I plan and micromanage the vacation schedule within an inch of its life. This time, I promised my daughter we’d be flexible and go with the flow. So instead of having a jam-packed itinerary, we only really have one day booked (a day tour out to the Cliffs of Moher and Galway, which comes highly recommended by many friends and colleagues) and one evening meeting up with friends. Otherwise … it’s open.
I’m hoping to spend a day doing one of those hop-on-hop-off tour bus things to squeeze in as many sights as we can. I’d also love to visit Trinity College and see the Book of Kells, hit the Guinness Storehouse, and enjoy some pretty epic seafood at Matt the Thresher, as recommended by team member Scott.
My daughter … well, she has other ideas. Shopping is high on her priority list (ugh), as is finding all the spots where kids her age hang out. I mentioned there was an Irish Rock n’ Roll Museum I’d like to check out, and have reminded her of U2 and Sinead O’Connor, but she seems to think that’s mom’s “old-timey” music. Sigh.
So, this is where I pick your brains, friends. Have you been to Dublin either on your own or with kids in tow? If so, I’d love to hear your suggestions for how to spend our time there. We are game for pretty much anything, aren’t picky eaters, and don’t care if we’re on an organized tour or venturing out on our own.
And I’m particularly keen on hearing your restaurant and music recommendations! There is so much food and entertainment to choose from in Dublin and with such a short time there, we don’t want to miss out on the best the city has to offer.
Getting to go to Dublin with my daughter for her 13th birthday wouldn’t be possible without this hobby. And it’s not actually the luck of the Irish that’s getting us there. You could book a similar trip with miles and points earned from the best cards for travel.
We’re flying there round-trip for only 26,000 British Airways Avios points per person on Aer Lingus, plus just over ~$100 in taxes and fees each. And our hotels are pretty much free with points and free night certificates, too.
Now we’re figuring out how to spend our time in Ireland. So if you have any recommendations for a mom and 13-year-old girl in Dublin, please share in the comments! And I promise to report back!