Fly Your Family to Europe From 6 US Cities: Part 1 – Award Flights

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Lyn writes about flying nearly free around the US on Southwest on her blog,  But she and her family recently took their first international trip together using miles, and I’ve asked her to share her strategy.

Lyn:  Are you within driving distance of Boston, Chicago, Hartford, New York, Newark, or Washington, DC?  Because your family could save thousands flying to Europe using miles!

This summer, my family of 4, including my husband and 2 school-age boys, took our first family trip to Europe.  And we flew there using miles and points.

Fly Your Family To Europe From 6 US Cities Part 1 Award Flights
Our Family Took Our First Trip Together to Europe Using Miles and Points – I’ll Show You How We Did It

I’ll share how easy it is!  And how 1 or 2 credit card sign-up bonuses can get you and your travel companions on your way to eating pasta in Italy, sipping Guinness in Dublin, and cruising down the Seine in Paris.

How to Fly a Family of 4 to Europe Using Miles

1.   Getting From the US to Europe

There are many ways to fly to Europe using miles and points, but one of the best deals is through Aer Lingus, Ireland’s national airline.

Fly Your Family To Europe From 6 US Cities Part 1 Award Flights
For 26,000 British Airways Avios Points per Person, You Can Fly Round-Trip Non-Stop to Dublin From 6 US Airports on Aer Lingus During Off-Peak Dates

Aer Lingus flies non-stop from several US cities to Dublin:

  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • New York City (JFK)
  • Hartford
  • Newark
  • Washington, DC

You can fly from these cities to Dublin (and in a few cases, Shannon, Ireland) for 26,000 British Airways Avios points per person during their off-peak dates, which are two-thirds of the year.  Off-peak dates include:

  • January 5 to April 6
  • April 24 to June 16
  • September 11 to December 15

For 4 people, you’ll pay a total of 104,000 British Airways Avios points (4 x 26,000 points).

You’ll pay taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges in addition to points.   We chose to fly from Chicago, which is just a few hours from us by car.  And we paid ~$113 per person each way in surcharges.

The further your airport from Dublin, the higher the fuel surcharge.  You can see the complete list of Aer Lingus fuel surcharges by city.  These fuel surcharges are less than they would be if you used British Airways Avios points to book British Airways or American Airlines flights.

2.   Flying Around Europe

From Dublin, you can fly Aer Lingus to other major European cities.  Or fly a discount airline like Ryanair for cheap flights throughout Europe.

Fly Your Family To Europe From 6 US Cities Part 1 Award Flights
From Dublin, You Can Get Cheap Flights Into Major European Cities on Discount Airlines Like Ryanair

We cobbled enough points together to book intra-Europe flights from Dublin to Paris, and from Bologna (Italy) back to Dublin on Aer Lingus.  We did this by transferring points from Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood to British Airways.

Plus, Starwood gives you a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 Starwood points you transfer to airlines with a 1:1 transfer ratio, like British Airways.  We then transferred British Airways Avios points to Aer Lingus Avios points to book the flights.

Flights from Dublin to Paris cost 4,000 Aer Lingus Avios points one-way.  And to fly from Bologna to Dublin costs 6,500 points one-way.  Aer Lingus has a distance-based award chart, so shorter flights cost fewer points.  Price also depends on if your travel dates fall within their “peak” or “off-peak” seasons.

We paid a total of 42,000 Aer Lingus Avios points for the 4 of us for these 2 flights (4,000 points X 4 = 16,000 points, plus 6,500 points X 4 = 26,000 points).

I used:

  • 20,000 + 5,000 (bonus) Starwood points transferred to British Airways, then to Aer Lingus
  • 17,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points transferred to British Airways, then to Aer Lingus
Note:   It takes up to ~7 days for Starwood points to transfer to British Airways, so be sure to allow time.

We booked paid tickets on Ryanair from Paris to Bologna for ~$300 for 4 of us, because it was cheaper than a train and took significantly less time than train travel.

Alternately, you could rent a car from a company like Hertz Europe (we rented a car in Italy and drove through Tuscany) and take a European car trip!  Renting cars in Europe can incur additional fees when crossing borders or picking up / dropping off at different cities, so be sure you are aware of all the fees and charges.  Tolls can also be confusing so get advice from the rental agency before heading out.

Earning British Airways Avios Points

British Airways is a Chase Ultimate Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner.  We put together our plan for the transatlantic flights using Chase Ultimate Rewards points transferred to British Airways, and then to Aer Lingus.

To earn the 104,000 points we needed for our flights to Dublin, we signed-up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve when the 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards point bonus offer was available.

The current sign-up bonus is 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account.

Once we met the minimum spending of $4,000, we earned 104,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, then transferred them to British Airways at a 1:1 ratio to book our flights.

Fly Your Family To Europe From 6 US Cities Part 1 Award Flights
Spend a Few Days in Dublin and Learn How to Pour a Pint at the Guinness Storehouse Like We Did!

While the 100,000-point Chase Sapphire Reserve offer is no longer available, there are other options for quickly earning the points you need, like:

You can also move Starwood points to British Airways, from cards like the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express or the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express.  You’ll get a 5,000 British Airways Avios point bonus for every 20,000 Starwood points you transfer.

Or consider transferring points from American Express Membership Rewards card like the The Platinum Card® from American Express But keep in mind, the transfer ratio isn’t as good (5 AMEX Membership Rewards points = 4 British Airways Avios points).

Transferring Flexible Points to British Airways

British Airways, Aer Lingus, and Iberia use the same points currency, called Avios.  This means you can easily transfer Avios points between them.

Most travel blogs recommended booking Aer Lingus award flights by calling British Airways.  You can’t search for Aer Lingus award flights on, but you can find available award seats on

This is how we booked our transatlantic flights, but the agent said we could have searched for available award seats on or, which shows more available seats.

So I booked our intra-Europe flights online as he suggested, and it was much simpler and showed more award seats!  I’ll show you how I did it.

How to Book Aer Lingus Award Flights Online

If you are using Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you will want to transfer them to British Airways Avios first, because Aer Lingus is not a transfer partner.  Here are the steps:

1.  Sign-Up for British Airways Executive Club & Aer Lingus Aer Club Accounts

First, you will need to sign up for a British Airways Executive Club account, as well as Aer Lingus’ loyalty program, AerClub.  It’s free to join both.

Fly Your Family To Europe From 6 US Cities Part 1 Award Flights
First, You’ll Need to Sign up for Both Aer Lingus’ AerClub Loyalty Program and British Airways’ Executive Club

2.   Log-In to Chase Ultimate Rewards

Go to Chase Ultimate Rewards and log-in to your account.

3.   Choose Use Points and Transfer to Travel Partners

Select “Use Points then “Transfer to Travel Partners.”  Look for British Airways as an option and then transfer the number of points needed, which usually happens instantly or within 1 business day.

At this point, you could skip to “Finding a Flight below and call British Airways to book your preferred flight directly.  Or you could continue on as I did to book the flights online.

Fly Your Family To Europe From 6 US Cities Part 1 Award Flights
Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to British Airways’ Executive Club

4.    Log-In to Using Your Aer Club or British Airways Executive Club Passwords

The next step requires you to transfer British Airways Avios points to Aer Lingus Avios points.  First, you’ll need to log-in to, using either account’s information.

Fly Your Family To Europe From 6 US Cities Part 1 Award Flights
Log-In to Using Your British Airways Executive Club or Aer Lingus AerClub Information

5.   Combine Avios Points

Once logged-in, go to “My Account and look for “Combine My Avios in the “Overview section.  Once you select “Combine My Avios,you may need to log-in to the other airline’s loyalty account, as well.

Fly Your Family To Europe From 6 US Cities Part 1 Award Flights
Select “Combine My Avios” Under “My Account” on

Here, you’ll want to select “British Airways to Avios and then enter the number of Avios points you need to transfer.  Select “Transfer Points. serves as the “middle man,” if you will, between British Airways and Aer Lingus, and is where you will book your flight.

Fly Your Family To Europe From 6 US Cities Part 1 Award Flights
Choose “British Airways to Avios”

You can follow the same process if you already have British Airways Avios points from the Chase British Airways card, or other means.

6.   Find Your Flight

Once you’ve accumulated the miles you need, it’s time to book your flight.

Fly Your Family To Europe From 6 US Cities Part 1 Award Flights
Book Your Flights for Aer Lingus on

To search for flights, log-in to your Aer Club account and choose “Aer Club, “Spending Avios,and then the green “Spend Your Avios Points button.  Alternately, you can visit and select “Spend.

Fly Your Family To Europe From 6 US Cities Part 1 Award Flights
Select “Spend Your Avios Points” to Book Your Aer Lingus Award Flights

Next, enter your desired departure airport with Dublin as your arrival airport, along with dates, and number of passengers.  Avios will show you available award flights, as well as the additional fees and surcharges required.  There is also an option to book with points and cash if you do not have the total points required.

Fly Your Family To Europe From 6 US Cities Part 1 Award Flights
Enter Your Departure and Destination Airports, Travel Dates, and Number of Passengers

When you find an option that works, you can either select “Continue With Booking, which will take you to the final payment screen.  Or you could call Aer Lingus at 800-474-7424 to book the flights.

Fly Your Family To Europe From 6 US Cities Part 1 Award Flights
Select “Flights” to See the Total Number of Points Required, Along With Fuel Surcharges. Then Choose “Continue With Booking” When You’re Ready to Book
Note:   You can also search for available award seats on, then call British Airways to book the flights with British Airways Avios points without having to transfer them to Aer Lingus.

Bottom Line

It is absolutely possible to fly a family to Europe using miles by signing-up for 1 or 2 credit cards and taking advantage of Aer Lingus’ reduced awards during their off-peak dates.

Early in the summer season is a great choice for families.

Instead of for searching available award seats on then calling British Airways to book, you’ll see more available award seats on on or

In my next post, I’ll share our Aer Lingus flight experience!

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