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Reader Success Story: A $50,000 European Adventure for Under $3,000

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Today, we’re going to hear from Lalaine Mackey about an amazing European adventure she and her husband, Russ, had last year.

If you’d like to share your story with the 10xTravel readers, drop us an email and share how you did it! (bryce [at] 10xTravel [dot] com)


A September to Remember

It all started when we got a bill from the IRS – we needed to pay more on our income tax in the prior year (UGH!). My husband said, “Wouldn’t it be nice to get a free trip out of this payment?”

So, he decided to research everything he could find about travel with frequent flyer miles and found 10xTravel. Then he found the 10xTravel Facebook group. That’s where the fun really began!

In October 2015, his initial goal was to earn enough points for a week in Hawaii! By January 2016, he had already earned enough for this trip! Take note insiders – this is how you convince your skeptical significant other to join in the fun!!!

He introduced me to the world of miles and points when he had enough points for a week stay in Hawaii for pennies on the dollar!

Who wouldn’t want to be here?!


Let’s Go To Europe!

I was convinced and raised the stakes for our next vacation – I asked about Europe! I jumped into miles and points by applying for the same cards as my husband. By March 2016, we had enough points and miles to get round-trip tickets to Europe and some hotel stays on points. By June, we had enough for business class!

We booked round-trip business class tickets with American Airlines miles we earned through the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card plus a Citi checking account bonus. Two round-trip tickets cost us 215,000 American miles.

We booked one-way tickets from San Francisco to London (connecting in New York City) prior to AA devaluation (March 2016) and used 100,000 AA miles for two tickets. We used our Barclay Arrival+ cards to pay the taxes/fees and then redeemed our points to erase all $800 of those taxes/fees.

One of the perks of flying business class was access to the British Airways lounge during our layover at JFK (New York City). We used the shower after walking around Central Park the entire day. Access also comes with complimentary 15 minute massage!

We also used the arrivals lounge in London and had a sumptuous British breakfast before we headed for our hotel.


Returning from Europe

Our Rome to San Jose (connection in London) flights were booked after the American Airlines program was devalued. As a result, our return trip cost 115,000 AA miles.

This flight was on American’s oneworld partner British Airways. Thanks to our business class tickets, we had access to the Fast Track security lines. Because of this, we moved quickly to the British Airways lounge.


How We Stayed in Europe

For our hotel stays, we started with London’s DoubleTree at Westminster using 120,000 Hilton points for two nights. We have Hilton Gold status thanks to our American Express HiltonHonors card. Our status gave us access to free breakfast and a daily happy hour.

After our stay in London, we continued to Paris where we used four Hyatt free night certificates to stay at the famous Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris. This amazing five-star hotel is centrally located in the Fashion District and is located five minutes from the Tuileries Garden and the Louvre.

We walked everywhere and soaked up everything Paris had to offer! At the end of each day, it was refreshing to return to such an amazing room, complete with remote window shades!

To get some beach time – we started this trip with Hawaii in mind, after all – we decided to visit Saint-Tropez. We stayed in an out-of-the-way hotel, La Ferme d’Augustin St. Tropez, using about 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

This stay felt like a couples retreat. We loved it so much we didn’t want to leave. This working farm and hotel had less than 50 rooms and service as if you are the owners’ guest. Dinner was always caught in the morning and the vegetables were grown on the property.

The staff made it a point to remember everything which meant you only had to ask and you received. There was no pesky signing of receipts until the end of your stay.

We practically owned the pool while we were there!


On to Nice, France!


We loved the beach idea so we decided to stay in France longer. Our next stop was Nice. We stayed at the Hotel Suisse for three nights by using about 77,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points and a fourth night out of pocket.


The Journey Continues in Milan!

After a week-long beach day, we kept moving. Milan was the next stop. We combined our SPG points accrued through Amex Starwood Preferred Guest cards and used 56,250 points to stay at the Sheraton Diana Majestic for three nights. We went to see DaVinci’s Last Supper and the Milan Cathedral.

Our Italian adventure then took us to Venice where we stayed at the J.W. Marriott with 120,000 Marriott points.

Our final stop was in Rome. We stayed at the Marriott Grand Hotel Flora for three nights using 110,669 Capital One points to cut the price in half.


Taking Stock of an Amazing Adventure

All in all, this trip could have cost us $50,000 but we did it for under $3k. It was a great introduction into award travel.

Thanks to Bryce Conway and the 10xTravel team! We could not have done it without you.


What an amazing story! Thanks for sharing how you put it together, Lalaine. If you would like to see how others are traveling like this, join us in the 10xTravel Facebook group to learn more!

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