It was about this time last year that I booked my flights to Italy for $81 and 40,000 AAdvantage miles, so I indulged in a little fantasy and just started checking where could possibly go this fall with the 170k AAdvantage miles that are burning a hole in my AwardWallet.
American Airlines allows passengers to book its saver rate (20k each way) on flights to Europe after October 15th, so I used that date or a little later to see when it might be possible. I know that any time I get routed on British Airways the value of points-booking evaporates with ridiculously high fuel surcharges, so I always uncheck BA as an operator when searching for flights. It does make the flights a little harder to find, but they are out there and you ought to be taking advantage of them.
What I found was a veritable smorgasbord of almost-free travel… and to Europe, no less! I searched out of SLC since that’s the closest airport to me, but you could likely find these from almost anywhere if you’re willing to spend a few minutes looking for them.
Now, obviously this means nothing to you if you don’t have at least 40k American AAdvantage miles, but if you have a little bit of will and a lot of wanderlust, getting those miles is incredibly easy.
You may have heard the news about US Airways merging with American Airlines. What that means is that their miles are interchangeable – and getting 40k US Airways miles is really this simple:
- You sign up for the US Airways World Mastercard (Using this link because it’s a better offer than the one in the right sidebar of our site, which only gives you 30k).
- You make your first purchase on the card
- You pay off your card for that purchase and the $89 annual fee
- You get 40k US Airways miles
I know you’re hesitating, and you should be. None of us take it lightly to apply for credit and we shouldn’t. It’s a calculated decision and one we need to be careful about, but as you can learn from reading our “Doesn’t it Hurt My Credit” post, the most important pieces to maintaining a high credit score are to never be late on a payment, and pay your balance in full. That’s how my wife, Nicole, and I have applied for 34 credit cards in the past 3 years and accumulated more than 2.3 million points and when checking my FICO credit score last week it was 806.
We are building an army of worldwanderlusters on the premise that international travel doesn’t have to cost what you think it would. You’ll have more questions about the whole idea and you can find answers in our FAQ page. If there’s still more you need to know, please feel free to comment below.
But let’s get back to why you came here and look at each of these potential destinations.
Sigh. My wife and I spent 13 days of bliss touring from Venice to Rome last fall. We ran out of superlatives in the first couple of days – and that was before we saw the abundance of masterpieces in Florence. I’d recommend flying into one city and out of another, but for the sake of ease when searching, I found this option to go in and out of Venice.
Between the $89 for the annual fee and $69 for the flight, you’re looking at a total of $158 and I know what you’re thinking… but wait, could I do the same thing for my spouse? Yes, that’s exactly what I’m telling you.
Ok, well flying for free is great and all, but how will you possibly afford hotels in Europe?
For that I’d refer you to the abundance of posts we’ve done on where you can stay for free with hotel points in Italy:
I’ve spent more time in Spain than in any other foreign country and I can tell you how amazing it is, but I’d prefer to refer you to some posts we’ve done about Spain that also include how you can use the same system to get free nights in amazing hotels.
The AA points-booking timeframe I found was also in October and lower fees made for a total of only $154 on this one, and no, you don’t pay baggage fees on international flights unless you’re bringing the kitchen sink.
Everyone dreams of Paris and of course you’ll need to see the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame… but I happen to think the real treasures are outside the city. This one does wind up being a little more expensive because of the fees to fly into CDG – $189.
We haven’t done a lot of talking about Paris and France on our blog, but we do like the idea of getting in on the Choice hotels program to book free hotels in some of the bigger cities like Paris.
Parts of Germany will be popping with fall colors in late October and of course we’d urge you to visit some of the sites we’ve detailed in posts about touring Alpine Europe. This one is also a little more expensive because of the airport fees, but considering that a flight like this would normally cost you about $1000, it’s hard to complain about.
We also did a post about what to do in Munich and where you can stay there for free, as well. There’s no way I’d let myself go to Germany without seeing the quaint little town of Rothenburg ob Tauber. It’s literally like something out of a fairy tale and even though the idea that you could get there as cheaply as we’re talking about may seem like a fairy tale, it’s not. We’ve been doing it for more than three years now and loving every moment of it.
Thanks for Europe-wanderlusting with us.