This was a unique trip for me in that it was not only a trip that I took on a whim, but as it turned out, a trip that I needed to take. Not to mention this was the first trip that I was booking flights and hotels abroad literally hours before checking in – which was a first for me.
For those of you that read the blog regularly, you may have noticed that I have not been posting as much over the past few months. Unfortunately, personal life matters are to blame for that and they have kind of sucked a good bit of the fun out of writing about this miles and points game that I love so much. So I knew I needed a trip to break me out of the funk and hopefully remind of why I got into this crazy game in the first place – to see the world! I had originally planned on doing another Southeast Asia trip to see Angor Wat in Cambodia, but I happened to have some friends traveling Europe who invited me to come meet up with them. That spawned an epic trip that was booked extremely last minute which made for some interesting routings and meeting some even more interesting people!
Introduction – Europe On A Whim
Review – United 737-800 BusinessFirst – RSW-IAH
Review – KLM Crown Lounge – IAH
Review – United 767-300 BusinessFirst – IAH-EWR
Review – Lufthansa Senator Lounge – EWR
Review – Austrian Airlines 767-300 Business Class – EWR-VIE
Review – Sky Lounge (Non-Schengen) – VIE
Review – Sky Lounge (Schengen) – VIE
Review – Austrian Airlines Lounge – VIE
Review – Austrian Airlines A320 Business Class – VIE-DUS
Review – Holiday Inn Express Dusseldorf
Review – Element Amsterdam
Review – KLM Royal Crown Lounge – AMS
Review – Air France A318 Premier Class – AMS-CDG
Review – Air France Salon Lounge – CDG
Review – Air France A320 Premier Class – CDG-LIS
Review – Intercontinental Lisbon
Review – ANA Lounge – LIS
Review – Iberia A320 Business Class – LIS-MAD
Review – Iberia Sala VIP Velazquez Lounge – MAD
Review – British Airways 767-300 Business Class – MAD-LHR
Review – British Airways Galleries Lounge – Terminal 3 LHR
Review – No. 1 Lounge – Terminal 3 LHR
Review – Swissport Lounge – Terminal 3 LHR
Review – American Airlines Admirals Club – Terminal 3 LHR
Review – American Airlines 777-300ER (77W) Business Class – LHR-DFW
Normally on my introduction posts I like to give a brief rundown of the flights I took, the lounges I visited and the hotels I stayed at. Except, for this trip, there were a total of 9 flights, 3 hotels and 13 lounges I reviewed and quite frankly, I do not think you want to read short snippets on each of them. So instead I will just give you the rundown on my redemption costs:
Fort Myers (RSW) to Dusseldorf (DUS)
I opted to redeem my United miles for this as I had a glut of them. Normally I would try to utilize my United miles for a roundtrip itinerary so I could get in a free stopover or open jaw. The problem was, I had no idea where I was going to be flying back from as I literally booked my flight out of Amsterdam the day of. But I really wanted to check out Austrian Airlines and their Flying Coffee House. The deal sealer was when I could incorporate a leg on lie flat equipped United 767. I ended up paying 70,000 United miles + ~$36 in taxes and fees. I used this clever trick to avoid the close in booking fees since I booked 3 days before departure.
Holiday Inn Express Dusseldorf
The cash price was a little over $80 per night, so I just went ahead and paid cash for this hotel as it was a short walk to where my friends were staying and was right off the metro line that I could grab from the airport. Total cost for two nights was ~$163 + $0.67 for soap (but more on that in the review!)
Cash prices for hotels in Amsterdam were insane. My friends were staying in an AirBnB out in the Amstelveen area, so I decided to book a cash + points stay at the Element Amsterdam. It was conveniently located a short walk from two major metro lines that took me right into the heart of Amsterdam, so at 3,500 Starpoints + $55 per night, I thought it was a pretty good deal. Paid rates at this property were ~$200 per night, so I was pretty happy paying 3,500 Starpoints to save ~$150 per night. And the hotel was fantastic to boot.
Amsterdam (AMS) to Lisbon (LIS)
When I say I booked the day of, I literally mean I booked a half hour before I left the hotel for the airport. I was up in the air on where I wanted to go next and thanks to a game of “drunk travel roulette” (copyright LeeAnne – because she didn’t think I would give her credit for coining the phrase!), I decided on Lisbon. Since Amsterdam is a hub for KLM, I figured burning some Delta SkyMiles was a good call. Availability was not great so last minute, so I did not really get great value out of my miles, but I have them to burn and I wanted to fly the A318 (the smallest Airbus commercial airliner made), so I picked a business class route via Paris (CDG) on Air France for 25,000 SkyMiles + ~$46.
Having never been to Lisbon before and booking so last minute, the pickings were slim and the prices were pretty high. Paid rates were ~$235 per night at the Intercontinental, so I opted to redeem 35,000 IHG points for my first night. For the next 3 nights, I booked through the Citi ThankYou Point portal. Oddly, Citi was showing room rates of ~$140 per night instead. I redeemed ~22,000 ThankYou Points + $100 for those 3 nights. The hotel itself was underwhelming, though the staff was probably one of the best, if not the best that I have ever encountered anywhere.
Lisbon (LIS) to Fort Myers (RSW)
This leg was tricky. One thing I did not consider when booking into Lisbon was getting back to the States. Lisbon is a TAP Portugal stronghold. American has a daily flight on an old 757 with angle flat seats and the only other two options were flying Iberia to Madrid or British Airways to London. Space was slim on both, but I worked a pretty interesting itinerary that allowed me to finally try business class on the flagship of the American Airlines fleet – the 777-300ER (77W). I ended up routing to Madrid on Iberia, then on to London where I caught my American flight back to the States. Although Iberia and British Airways both charge surcharges, on short intra-European hops they are not horrible. Plus they made for some interesting reviews, so why not? All in this segment cost me 57,500 AAdvantage miles + $167 in taxes, fees and surcharges. The $75 close in booking fee is waived for me as I am an AAdvantage Platinum member.
I tried to review as much as I could on this trip that was new and unique, so I hope you guys enjoy it. This was a really fun trip overall and kind of reminded me why I got into this game and started this site in the first place. I think we are all guilty of getting wrapped up in life sometimes because it is so easy to do. But when you reach that point, it is time to burn some points and miles to go explore somewhere new. Who knows, along the way you might just find out something new about yourself or make new friendships. The bottom line is this – if you are in a funk, travel. If you are down on yourself or life, travel. If you feel burned out, travel. If you just feel overwhelmed and like you need some space to breathe, travel. I promise, it will reinvigorate you and you will never miss the points and miles it cost to get you there!
What was your best trip to Europe?
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