Last summer our large family of six traveled to Europe for two weeks. We visited London, Paris, Normandy and Dublin. By using miles that we earned by flying and with credit card sign up bonuses, our out-of-pocket costs for six roundtrip international flights was less than $600.
My trip goal when we first started in the miles and points hobby was to take our family to Europe. I knew that it was a lofty goal and wasn’t really sure I could pull it off. I also knew there was no way my husband would be on board if it was going to cost a fortune (which we don’t have) so I wanted all flights and hotels to be covered with miles and points. I spent months and months extensively researching and pouring over blogs. I hope you’ll see that you can apply these methods to your trip, just change the airline, destination, etc. A lot of planning for a great reward at the end!
First, choose an airline:
Our biggest deciding factor in choosing an airline was two-fold. We live in Dallas/Ft. Worth which is an American Airlines hub city, this means we have access to several direct US to Europe flights. Also, my husband travels on American quite a bit for work and had a small stash of AA miles that I knew we could build on.
American Airlines opens up their reservation window 330 days out so I started looking for award seats a year before our trip. I was lucky enough to find 6 award seats all on the same flight! With my husband’s AA Gold status we were able to choose Main Cabin Extra seats for no extra cost (this benefit was just removed last month unfortunately).
Every airline publishes a Flight Award Chart that shows you how many miles are required for award seats at different levels, including coach, business and first. Find the award chart for your airline in the early stages of planning so you know how many miles you’ll need. According to American’s chart, we knew that we needed 30,000 AA miles each to get to Europe in economy.
Earn the miles:
There are several cards that will earn you American miles. We each applied for the U.S. Airways MasterCard (now the Barclaycard Aviator World MasterCard) which earned us 40,000 AA miles a piece after making one purchase. My husband applied for the Citi AAdvantage MasterCard which earned him 50,000 AA miles after spending $3,000 in 3 months. This brought our grand total to 130,000 combined AA miles. With the miles my husband already had in his account from business travel we had enough miles to get all of us to Europe. But, how would we get back?
Ideally, we would have been able to purchase roundtrip tickets on American for 60,000 AA miles per person. But we didn’t have 360,000 AA miles. Travel hacking for large families is possible, but it requires a little creativity. I knew from my research I could fly Aer Lingus from Dublin to Boston for only 12,500 Avios (miles earned through partner British Airways). British Airways is a transfer partner of the Chase Sapphire card, so my husband and I each applied earning us 100,000 Ultimate Rewards each.
Cards applied for:
- Citi AAdvantage x’s 1: 50,000 AA miles ($3K min spend in 3 months)
- US Airways MC x’s 2: 80,000 AA miles (make one purchase each in 3 months)
- Chase Sapphire x’s 2: 100,000 UR points ($6K min spend in 3 months)
American Airlines: DFW-LHR: 30K miles x 6 plus $5.60 fees = 180K AA miles + $33.60
Aer Lingus: DUB-BOS 12.5K miles x 6 + $93.30 taxes/fees per person = 75k Avios + $560 (note the high fees charged on the departure)
I’ll share in my Europe trip report how we paid for our hotels using points, how we used flexible reward points to help pay for train tickets and intra-Europe flights and how we used miles to get back to DFW from Boston.
Have you ever used miles to travel with your family? Would love to hear your miles redemption stories!