Emily’s France Trip Report – Part 1: Introduction & Planning

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Emily’s France Trip Report – Part 1:  Introduction & Planning

EmilyEmily’s France Trip Report – Part 1:  Introduction & PlanningMillion Mile Secrets Team

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Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.

Emily:  My partner Alfy and I wanted to take a summer vacation, so we planned a visit to France.  We paid ~$410 each for our family of 4 to fly round-trip to France in Business Class.  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.

A Family Trip To France On Miles And Points And How You Can Do It Too
Miles & Points Helped Get Us a Visit to the Louvre!

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.

Jered:  When Emily asked Jen and I if we wanted to come with them to France, we had just ended a project with a client (both of us are designers).  So it was perfect timing to take a much-needed break before jumping into another project.  Honestly, I thought she was joking at first, but when I realized she wasn’t, it was a no-brainer for Jen and me to accept the offer.  We love traveling but neither of us had ever been to Europe!

Using Miles & Points to Visit France Trip Report Index:

Cost Breakdown

 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 OPEN

The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN

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
Alternatives
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 options when it comes to flying to Europe.  Including using United Airlines miles, AMEX Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, or American Airline 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.  Plus a $100 statement credit after your first purchase.

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:

A Family Trip To France On Miles And Points And How You Can Do It Too
The South of France is Definitely Worth a Stop
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

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.  And all the ways you can use United Airlines miles to fly to Europe.

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.

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.

What Are the Best Cities to Visit in the South of France?

My favorite cities to visit in the South of France were Antibes and Moustiers.  I picked up a copy of Rick Steves’ book about Provence & the French Riviera to help in my trip planning.  I followed his suggestion of doing a road trip through the southern part of the country.  And because I’ve been to Paris a few times, and love the city, we decided to stay in Paris a few days before we ventured south.

The chart below shows our original itinerary and then our revised one.  Staying 1 night anywhere is just too rushed!

Original France ItineraryRevised France Itinerary
Paris – 4 nightsParis – 4 nights
Nice – 5 nightsNice – 5 nights
Verdon Gorge – 2 nightsVerdon Gorge – 2 nights
Provence – 3 nightsProvence – 3 nights
Cassis – 1 nightAntibes – 2 nights
TBD – 1 night
A Family Trip To France On Miles And Points And How You Can Do It Too
Taking the Required Eiffel Tower Selfie

This was a jam-packed trip, and it’s important to build in some downtime.  So we built in 1 “free day” where we each did what we wanted, including sleeping in, alone time, etc.

This is especially important when traveling as part of a group.  If there isn’t enough down time, grumpiness can creep in because of being on the go too much.  Looking back, 5 cities with 4 people in such a short time frame was ambitious!  But we had an amazing time together.  I can’t wait to travel with them again!

A Family Trip To France On Miles And Points And How You Can Do It Too
The French Take Their Food Seriously…and So Do These Guys

How to Fly to Europe With Miles

It helps to be flexible with your travel dates.  If you can’t find available award seats from your home airport, then try searching for tickets from other large airports, like New York City (all airports), Chicago, Atlanta, etc.  Because it’s sometimes possible to piece together award flights.

When I searched, I looked at various airports and departure and return dates.

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 on (preferably!) Business Class flights to and from Europe.  During the peak summer travel period, nonetheless!

A Family Trip To France On Miles And Points And How You Can Do It Too
Flying Overseas in Comfort in Business Class

My cousin, Jered, and his wife, Jen, had never experienced Business Class before.  So I wanted to treat them to a memorable vacation.

I used AMEX Membership Rewards points that I transferred to Air Canada Aeroplan miles for the outbound flights.  And I used American Airlines miles for the return tickets.

A Family Trip To France On Miles And Points And How You Can Do It Too
All Together at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris

I spent 55,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles plus ~$40 in taxes and fees for each outbound ticket on United Airlines.  And 57,500 American Airlines miles plus ~$370 in taxes and fees a piece for our flights home on British Airways.

Our Favorite Stay Was at the Hyatt Regency Nice Palais de la Méditerranée

Because our trip was 2.5 weeks long, I knew I couldn’t use hotel points for our entire trip.  But I did want to treat my family to a bit of luxury, so I booked us at the Hyatt Regency Nice Palais de la Méditerranée in Nice, France.

A night at this beautiful hotel costs 25,000 Hyatt points.  You can use Hotel Hustle or Award Mapper to find hotels you can book with points.

On previous trips to Europe, I’ve used Hyatt points for stays at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome and the Hyatt Hôtel du Louvre.

Where To Book Discounted Hyatt Nights Our Top 5 Favorite Hyatt Hotel Stays
I Spent 2 Free Nights in a Suite at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome, Which Usually Costs ~$1,400 per Night

Short on Miles & Points?

There are several great travel credit card offers available right now!

Update: Some of the offers in the table below are no longer available.

Card Name Bonus
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (worth $800 in cash back or $1,000 in travel) after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card


50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (worth $500 in cash back or $625 in travel) after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN


Up to 100,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points

Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $10,000 on purchases and an extra 50,000 points after you spend an additional $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card
60,000 Southwest points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card$500 bonus (50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
50,000 Venture miles (worth $500 in travel) after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months.
Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business

or

Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business



50,000 Capital One Spark miles (worth $500 in travel) after you spend $4,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening



$500 cash bonus after you spend $4,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

Chase Sapphire Reserve

50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (worth $500 in cash back or $750 in travel) after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
A Family Trip To France On Miles And Points And How You Can Do It Too
Use Your Capital One Venture Card to Pay for Airbnbs Like This One in Paris

Our hotel points splurge was on the Hyatt Regency Nice.  It was a gorgeous hotel with an excellent location – right on the Mediterranean Sea!

A Family Trip To France On Miles And Points And How You Can Do It Too
Our 5-Night Stay at This 5-Star Hotel Was a Whopping ~$160

We booked my cousin and his wife in the suite.  They’ve never stayed in such a fancy hotel, and I was anxious to treat them to something special!

Check out the video here:

Here’s what Jen had to say about the hotel stay:

It was magnificent – and so generous of Emily and Daraius to give such a gift to us as a belated wedding present since they were not able to physically attend our wedding in August 2015.

Aside from the king bed, the entire hallway dedicated to a walk-in closet, fully furnished living room and fully furnished dining room, there were two toilet rooms!  For those not married, you may think, “Whatever, what’s the big deal?”  But let me tell me, as a married person – sometimes, separate toilet and sink areas are extremely helpful, haha.

A Family Trip To France On Miles And Points And How You Can Do It Too
Jen & Jered Enjoying Their Living AND Dining Room

In all of the other towns and cities we visited in France, we stayed at Airbnbs.  I loved booking our Airbnbs because we got a more local feel.  If you use my Airbnb referral link, you can get $40 off your next rental!

What to Do in France

We did a lot in France – much more than seeing the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre!  In Paris, the highlight was biking all around the city.

We Stopped for Pics in Front of the Eiffel Tower During our Bikeride
We Stopped for Pics in Front of the Eiffel Tower During our Bikeride

In the South of France, we drove through the mountains for scenic views.  There were many beautiful places to stop to take pictures!

Our Road Trip Through the French Mountains Was Spectacular
Our Road Trip Through the French Mountains Was Spectacular

In the small town of Moustiers, we went boating through the river canyon.  I would have loved to spend more time in this area.  There is so much to do, including bungee jumping, white water rafting, canyoning, and swimming!

We LOVED Boating Through This River Canyon
We LOVED Boating Through This River Canyon

In Nice, the most exciting thing we did was to jet ski in the Mediterranean.

We All Thoroughly Enjoyed Renting Jet Skis! What an Adventure!

Where to Eat in France

We went to so many great restaurants in France!  I love the outdoor eating culture.  You can sit outside and watch people walk by and inhale the fresh air.  The only downside is that service in France is sometimes slow.

Don’t go out to eat thinking that a cheery server is going to come to greet you as soon as you sit down.  You may have to wait a few minutes – sometimes several minutes – to order.

In Antibes, we went to a great little restaurant for breakfast and watched live musicians play in the square.

The Cafe Culture Is One of My Most Favorite Things About France

At another restaurant, we had some amazing local French food.  The cook brought wood-fired pizza to an art form!

It’s Hard to Go Wrong With Woodfired Pizza

Wherever you go, you’re almost always guaranteed to enjoy your meal.

Bottom Line

Our family of 4 flew round-trip in Business Class for ~$1,640 TOTAL.  A one-way flight in Business Class can easily cost $5,000+, so using miles saved us ~$38,000+ in airfare.  And we saved even more money by using hotel points for a 5-night stay in a ~$1,600 per night suite that cost us just $160 out of pocket.

France is full of beautiful places to visit!  I LOVE Paris, and each time I go I experience something different.  Touring the South of France was a perfect complement to the trip, too.  I especially loved the smaller towns.

But being able to take my cousin and his wife and treat them to a bit of luxury with miles & points was the highlight of this trip.  Have you used points to travel to Europe?  Tell me about it in the comments below!

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Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases–with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more – your points don't expire as long as your account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • $95 Annual Fee

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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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