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Reader Success Story: A First Class Honeymoon In Switzerland

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By: 10xT Reader Matthew F

After getting into the points and miles game almost two years ago we decided to take the plunge and go all out for our honeymoon.

We started planning almost a year out. At first, we couldn’t decide where we wanted to go, but knew we wanted to go to see snow since we were getting married on December 16 and the mountains are very special to us.

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W Hotel in Verbier

We finally decided to go to Switzerland, as it was at the top of our bucket list.

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Ski Slopes Verbier

How we earned the points and booked the trip

We had enough American AAdvantage miles thanks to the sign-up bonus we each earned with the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select credit card. At the time, the sign-up bonus was 60,000 American miles. We also opened a Citi gold checking account which offered 50,000 American miles for doing so.

For a round-trip first class award ticket, we each needed 170,000 American miles. However, one of the perks of the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card is that you get a 10% rebate on the miles you redeem up to 100,000 miles (10,000-mile rebate). Since we both have the card, we each maxed out the rebate and now have American miles left for another trip.

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British Airways 787-9 First Class, London to Atlanta

British Airways, London to Atlanta

We still had to figure how to get our hands on the rest of the miles, so we ended up doing a few things such as transferring some SPG Starpoints (and other obscure hotel points) and buying some American miles during a sale.

Editor’s note: Make sure you understand the pros and cons of buying miles as the times when it makes sense to buy are few and far between.

To make the experience really special, we decided to see if we could experience a true international first class flight. We found first class award space on American’s partner British Airways from Atlanta (ATL) to Geneva (GVA) with a connection at London Heathrow (LHR). Our return started in Zurich (ZRH) and again connected at LHR on our way to ATL.

The cash rate for this would have been over $5,700 round-trip per person. While we did have to pay taxes and fees including the high surcharges required by British Airways, we felt it was more than worth it for our honeymoon.

Hotels In Switzerland (And A Wedding Night In Atlanta)

With a little research, we decided to visit a few places in Switzerland. We settled on flying into Geneva for a few days then spending the next 4 days in Verbier before returning home from Zurich. Once we had the destinations lined up, we needed to figure out hotels.

Not to mention, we still needed to figure out our wedding night in Atlanta—we wanted to have massages to start our marriage and honeymoon off stress free.

W Hotel in Verbier

I opened the Chase Ritz-Carlton credit card which came with 3 free nights after meeting the $4,000 minimum spend. After meeting the minimum spend requirement in the first month, I sent a secure message to Chase to see if they’d match the recently expired offer of 3 free nights. As luck would have it, they gave it to me!

We booked a room at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead for our wedding night and used a free night certificate from the Chase Ritz-Carlton card for what would have been a $350 hotel night. The spa was supposed to be top of the line and we knew we’d have plenty of time since our flight to Geneva wasn’t scheduled to leave until 10pm the next day.

The week before our wedding, the hotel property left the Ritz-Carlton brand and became The Whitley—part of Starwood’s Luxury Collection. We were never notified of the change, but the reservation remained intact. Because of the mixup, we were refunded the free night certificate and ended up staying for free. To top it off, we were upgraded to a suite!

Oh, and we had one of the best 90 min massages I’ve ever had – highly recommend!!

For our stay in Geneva, we settled on the Ritz-Carlton Hotel de la Paix for our two nights. The service was phenomenal and we were upgraded to a suite with a stunning view of Lake Geneva. We paid $85 to have the hotel pick us up from the airport in a Mercedes and it was totally worth arriving in style. If you stay in Geneva, I cannot recommend this hotel enough.

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Ritz Carlton Hotel de la Paix Geneva

For Verbier, we had a lot of recommendations thanks to the J.P Morgan concierge  (benefit with the Chase Ritz-Carlton card), we chose The W which is a Starwood property. We thought about using 35,000 SPG Starpoints per night, but we didn’t have enough for the entire trip so we ended up paying for this hotel stay. We figured this would be our only hotel expense for the entire trip, so why not? It was a little pricey at $1,000 a night for a mountain valley view, but ended up being worth it as the views were absolutely stunning.

W Hotel Verbier

In Zurich, we decided to stay at the Hilton Zurich airport. We used Hilton Honors points that I’d earned with the Hilton Surpass Card from American Express.

Editor’s note: this card was replaced by the Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express (learn more)

This wasn’t a bad hotel after being upgraded to a suite. The only real downside to our stay was being on the bottom floor. It also wasn’t as close to the airport as we thought, but the hotel shuttle made it a quick trip.

Dealing With Delays In Atlanta

We did have quite a big, unexpected hiccup due to the Atlanta airport blackout on December 17. As a result of the blackout our flight to Geneva was canceled so we had to scramble to find another way to get there.

We knew that all the canceled flights from Atlanta would create a backlog for the next few days, so we wanted to get away from the Atlanta mess and try a different airport—good thing we did as the flight was delayed for 3 days!

Lucky for us, we knew some of our family would be driving to Birmingham, Alabama so we joined them. Rather than getting stuck in Atlanta, we were able to get a flight on American Airlines to Philadelphia (PHL) to connect on an American flight to Madrid (MAD) before catching a flight on Iberia to Geneva.

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American Airlines 777 First Class, Philly to Madrid

In the end, we only had to leave one day late instead rather than the 3 days we would have waited in Atlanta.

Final Thoughts

All in all, it was an amazing and unforgettable trip. We took the trip of a lifetime for our honeymoon that could have cost at least $20,000. Even with the issues getting out of Atlanta and losing a day of our honeymoon, it still ended up being an absolutely fantastic experience.

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