Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Paris for a Pittance

David and I are flying this June from Tucson to Raleigh where we'll spend five nights celebrating my son's wedding. Then we're going on to Paris for four nights, staying in our favorite apartment near the Marais, before heading to Colmar in the Alsace region of France for a week.  We'll round out the trip by renting a car in Germany to tour the Black Forest, the Alps, and the Romantic Road with detours here and there to see some of Switzerland and Austria, before boarding a flight in Frankfurt for the return to Tucson.

American Airlines says that these tickets (a one-way to Raleigh and an open-jaw ticket to Europe and back) should cost $1,885.50.  Momondo, a website The New York Times frugal traveler mentioned recently, says we can do it for $1,872.

But we'll do it for less.  A lot less.

My flights cost $513. (David paid $775 because he did not have Southwest FF miles.) And if we'd had a bit more time, the cost could have been zero.*

Here's how I did it.  I used frequent flyer miles to pay for my Southwest ticket from Tucson to Raleigh; my only cost for this leg of the trip was $5 for taxes.

I had 39,928 frequent flyer miles with American Airlines so I opted to buy 16,000 more at a time when AA offered a bonus of 4,500 miles (Bonus miles are offered at various times throughout the year.) therefore giving me a total of 60,428 FF miles.  I paid $440 for the miles plus a service charge and taxes for a total of $508.  So, my total for a trip to Raleigh ($5 on Southwest Airlines) and then to Europe (American Airlines which "cost" 60,000 FF miles) totaled $513!

Once the actual reservation was made, AA tacked on $137 for additional taxes and fees, but I used my Barclaycard Arrival to erase that amount from my bill.

I first wrote about earning free flights in 2011, but now the approach involved in achieving this free travel is the subject of many blogs.  If you want to learn how to travel for free, click here to see how to take advantage of credit card sign-up bonuses.

In June, 2013, when I first began accumulating frequent flyer miles in earnest, I had only 35,000 or so points on American Airlines.  Six months later I had accrued these amounts:  30,000 Delta Sky Miles, 50,000 Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Points, 40,000 Barclaycard points that can be used to "erase" any travel-related expense (flight, hotel, rental car, train), and 39,928 American Airlines frequent flyer miles.

As you might guess, since I've earned roughly six or seven free trips in only six months, I've become a convert to this approach to free travel.  When you discover how easy it is, I bet you'll be a convert, too!

Practicalities -
Frugal travelers worry that they might not be able to meet the spending requirements to earn the sign up bonus.  This article will help you learn how to do that.

*If we had planned our trip a bit earlier when FF seats were more readily available on American Airlines, we could have booked a trip to Paris with a free stopover in Raleigh for five (or thirty!) days.  A stopover, which essentially gives you two trips for the cost of one frequent flyer mile international trip, is a great bargain.  For the best explanation I have seen on this sometimes confusing subject, click on Part 4 in the middle of Daraius Dubash's page .  Also be sure to check out the rest of his blog at  Million Mile Secrets.

No comments:

Post a Comment