Reader Success! Over $20,000 Saved on a Family Vacation for 5 to Europe!
Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full advertising policy: How we make money.
Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.
Welcome to the next installment of our Reader Success Series where Million Mile Secrets Readers share how they booked a trip with miles & points to get Big Travel with Small Money!
Bill is our newest reader success story to show folks it’s possible to travel without spending a lot of money.
A big thank you to him for sharing his family’s story!
1. What’s your name and how long have you been involved in the miles & points hobby?
My name is Bill Osuch. I’ve been collecting miles haphazardly for 5 to 6 years. But I got strategic about it in the last ~3 years.
2. What was the goal of your trip?
We wanted to take a family vacation to Europe. Our oldest son is in college, and our middle son will be starting in another year. So we knew this was probably the last big family trip we would take together for a while.
3. How long did you collect miles and points for your trip?
I started collecting the miles & points we needed ~2 years before the trip. I earned credit card bonuses and made sure I always used the card that earned the most rewards for every purchase. I would say 90% of the miles & points we used came from credit card bonuses!
4. Which points did you save to take your trip?
We booked the trip with American Airlines miles and Chase Ultimate Rewards points. We needed 575,000 American Airlines miles for 5 round-trip flights between the US and Europe. And we needed a large number of Chase Ultimate Rewards points to cover our hotel rooms and cruise.
We chose to use these types of rewards because of the large number of credit cards that earn American Airlines miles. And because of the large bonuses on Chase Ultimate Rewards earning credit cards.
5. Which cards would you recommend to open for a trip like yours?
- Barclaycard AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
6. How did you search and find the award flights?
I found our flights on the American Airlines website. I checked it daily for 2 to 3 weeks, looking for space that would work for us.
7. How did you find your hotel accommodations?
I used the Chase Travel Portal to book 10 free hotel nights. We weren’t staying at major hotel chains, so this was more useful than transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to a hotel partner.
We also used Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book 2 rooms for our weeklong cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line from Barcelona, to ports in Spain, Italy, and France!
8. What was the most challenging part about planning your trip? How did you solve it?
The most challenging part of the trip was finding award flights. Especially because I was booking Business Class Saver awards (57,500 American Airlines miles one-way).
I considered using our American Airlines miles to book tickets with British Airways, and there were lots of available seats. But those awards would have cost us an extra ~$500 to ~$600 in fuel surcharges per ticket. Or ~$5,000+ more between the 5 tickets!
I solved this issue by being flexible with our departure and arrival airports and dates.
Our cruise dates were set. But we were willing to fly to or from any major European city within a 4 to 5-day trip from our cruise’s departure port, Barcelona.
After a couple weeks of searching, I secured our flights into London. And a few days later I found award flights home from Paris!
I used miles & points to book 10 one-way American Airlines Business Class tickets between the US and Europe, 5 flights from London to Barcelona, 10 hotel rooms, and 2 Norwegian Cruise Line staterooms. I estimate we saved ~$20,550!
9. Give us a few recommendations or tips for what to do at your destination. Parks, restaurants, hidden gems, etc.
We were in each city for 1 to 2 days, so we did mostly “touristy” stuff and didn’t get to sample many hidden gems. But we came away with some tips that could apply to just about anyone!
First, book all your sightseeing activities in advance. We booked tickets online for Westminster Abbey in London and the Colosseum in Rome, and were able to skip the lines of people buying tickets on site.
And don’t eat at restaurants across the street from a tourist attraction. Go a couple blocks away and eat with the locals, where it’s better and cheaper!
Also, skip the tours offered by the cruise lines and do it yourself. In the ports in Italy, the cruise offered a shuttle bus to and from the city center starting at ~$80 per person. We took buses and trains for ~$10 per person. With 5 people and 3 different ports in Italy alone, the savings was huge.
10. What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
We saw that our children are almost fully grown, and it’s bittersweet. We’re so used to trips where we all have to hold hands to not get separated. But on this trip, our boys were reading maps, figuring out metro timetables, and calculating currency conversions. They’re ready to travel on their own!
11. What would you say to folks looking to plan a similar trip? Or to those who haven’t taken a miles & points trip yet!
If you’re flexible on where and when you travel and don’t mind staying at smaller local hotels rather than chains, your miles & points can go considerably farther. And even though not many people talk about it, booking a cruise with Chase Ultimate Rewards points is a fantastic deal!
We paid ~53,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per person (for 4 people, the 5th was free!) for 7 nights lodging plus 3 meals a day! In comparison, a typical 4-star hotel in Rome is 25,000 to 30,000 points for a single night.
If you haven’t used miles or points yet, start planning a trip! It doesn’t need to be complicated. With just a few of the best credit card bonuses and your everyday spending, you can get just about anywhere.
Want to Share Your Story?
If you’d like to be considered for our reader success story series, please send us a note! We’d love to hear about how you travel with miles and points!
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! :)