Success Stories

Reader Success Story: European Honeymoon

By: Chris Centeno

After my trip to Thailand and an upcoming proposal and wedding, I was already planning to use miles and points to plan our honeymoon.

Knowing that money was going to be spent regardless, all I really had to do was plan ahead.

We both opened a Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard which was offering a sign-up bonus of 60,000 American AAdvantage miles at the time. I also opened a Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard which offered 50,000 points as a sign-up bonus and a Capital One Venture card also offered 50,000 points. We then spread the ring and wedding expenses across the four cards and immediately paid down the balance.

And just like that, we had knocked out the minimum spends and had earned the sign-up bonuses!

From there, we were off to the races. We knew we wanted to visit Paris, Barcelona, Santorini, and London. We also knew that Santorini was not the easiest place to visit with miles and points. But, it was our honeymoon and we wanted to make it work so we needed to cover the other three cities with points.

When earning the points for our Thailand trip, we actually overshot the amount of points we needed which left us with enough Chase Ultimate Rewards points for one business class flight on United Airlines for 57,500 United miles. Between travel for work and other spend on my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, we earned another 57,500 Ultimate Rewards points that we transferred to United. With that we had two business class tickets from Chicago (ORD) to Paris (CDG).

Off to Paris! A literal cherry on top the sundae to start us off right.

For the Paris hotel stay, we both opened the Chase Hyatt Card that was offering 2 free nights at any of their properties. We used those 4 nights to book a stay at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome, which was a truly amazing hotel and would have cost us $2,428 for the 4 nights.

We needed one more night in Paris and chose to do it on the first night. We booked a room at the Wilson Opera hotel with a view of the Eiffel Tower and erased that charge with my Barclaycard Arrival Plus card. We had a great balcony view of the Eiffel tower and champagne to welcome us to the room.

Next up was Barcelona. I used my Capital One points to book a flight through their portal for 120 dollars’ worth of points.

We got a little lucky (or unlucky) as I had a very unfortunate stay at the W in New York (a Starwood property) for work. Due to that stay, they deposited 80,000 SPG Starpoints into my account as a courtesy. With 60,000 Starpoints, we booked the W Barcelona for 3 nights and woke up with an amazing view every morning!

Click image to play video.

Santorini was next on the list. I again used Capital One points to book a low-cost carrier, Vueling, through their portal for only $120 more points.

We weren’t happy with our points booking options in Santorini, so this was the part of the trip we knew was going to require some cash. We stayed at Astra Suites and it is one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever seen.

This is why I use miles and points. We saved money everywhere else so that we were able to splurge on our honeymoon! We woke up to a hotel employee knocking on our door each morning with breakfast. How awesome is that?! And the view was amazing.

Astra Suites Santorini

I used my Barclaycard Arrival Plus to book the flight from Santorini to London, where we spent our last 2 days in Europe. The tickets were $360 I erased the purchase with the points I’d earned with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus.

We stayed two nights at Le Meridien Piccadilly, another Starwood property, in the heart of London and again used Arrival Plus points to erase one night. To take care of the other night, we use the remaining points from my Capital One card.

For the return flights, we used the American AAdvantage miles to book business class tickets. Unfortunately, flying British Airways meant a hefty carrier-imposed surcharge of about $260.

To be clear, if we had decided not to visit Santorini, this trip would’ve cost us only $271 for 10 nights in hotels and round-trip business class flights for two.

Using points allowed us to splurge on things like Michelin Star restaurants, Santorini sunset boat tours, and more wine and food than you could imagine.

From seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night, checking out some of the best restaurants and cocktail bars in Paris, Barcelona, and London, and waking up to the most beautiful view we’ve ever seen in Santorini… it was the trip of a lifetime and there’s no way we could have done it without using miles and points.

Santorini Honeymoon

All in all, here’s what the trip looked like:

  • Chicago (ORD) to Paris (CDG in business class on United Airlines
  • Paris for 5 nights
  • Barcelona for 3 nights
  • Santorini for 7 Nights
  • London for 2 Nights
  • London (LHR) to Chicago (ORD) in business class on British Airways

After all was said and done, we booked a $41,829, 17-day trip through Europe for $4,448 — and most of that was for Santorini. Needless to say, we’ll never forget our honeymoon.

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