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How I Did It: A Week in Italy on Points and Miles

By: Bryce Conway – Founding Editor if 10xTravel.com

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Hi Travel Junkies,

I just got back from an amazing week-long trip to Italy with my wife.

We flew business class, stayed at a fantastic hotel, ate more pasta than I thought humanly possible, and drank enough wine to make 10xT Contributor Julie Szpira proud.

image28As always, I booked this trip with points and miles.

Today, I am going to show you exactly how I booked this week-long trip, complete with booking screenshots and overviews of how I earned the points. Hopefully, this post can act as a blueprint for your own trip to the land of wine and ruins.

Here we go!

Lufthansa Business Class For 55,000 Lufthansa miles and $1,123.92 Round Trip

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I know, there is a lot to unpack here. Did Bryce move to D.C.? Was it really just 55,000 miles for round-trip business class to Europe? Why the hell were there $1,100+ in taxes and fees?

To understand all of that let’s talk about how this trip came to be.

It was a warm August day and I was doing my travel blogger thing, helping a reader book a flight using miles from the rarely discussed Miles & More program. This is the frequent flyer program shared by Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Swiss Air, and a handful of other European based airlines.

We don’t talk about Miles & More a whole lot on 10xTravel because the vast majority of our readers don’t have these particular miles. Myself included, or so I thought.

After helping said reader put together their booking, I vaguely remembered having earned Lufthansa miles a couple years back. So, I ran a quick search in my email and sure enough I had opened a the Barclaycard Miles and More credit card in late 2014 and earned 55,000 miles (50,000 bonus + 5,000 from spending). Turns out my wife had done the exact same thing.

I had totally forgotten about these miles. Amateur move, I know.

After logging in to my Lufthansa account I was notified that my miles were going to expire in January 2018. And unlike most other airline programs, there really was no easy (or worthwhile way) for me to extend them.

So, it was use them or lose them and I fully intended to use them.

image4 1Lufthansa Mileage Bargains are one of the best uses of Lufthansa miles

One of the best uses of Miles & More miles is their Mileage Bargains, which feature off-season routes to many major European cities for as little as 30,000 miles round-trip in economy (normally 60,000) and 55,000 miles round-trip in business class (normally 105,000).

The catch? The taxes and fees on these tickets are steep. Usually, $1,000+ for business class bookings.

So my decision became whether it was worth paying ~$1,000 per ticket to fly business class to Europe. This was an obvious “yes” in my book.

I ran a few award searches, called my wife to discuss dates and destinations, and booked a round-trip business class flight to Rome less than 24 hours later.

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55,000 Lufthansa miles and $1,123.92 for round-trip business class to Rome

The total price was 55,000 Lufthansa miles and $1,123.92 in taxes and fees per ticket.

I had to use Washington D.C. as my origin since Lufthansa doesn’t fly to my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. I used 3,500 Southwest Rapid Rewards points to book a positioning flight to Washington D.C. where I had enough time to grab brunch with 10xTravel Editor in Chief Spencer Howard.

image21After a quick bite with 10xTravel’s Spencer Howard, we met up with a reader in the Turkish Lounge.

I was also able to spend a few minutes hanging out in the Turkish Airlines lounge with 10xTravel reader Tim Henderson while enjoying a couple of cocktails. Access to this lounge was complimentary thanks to my Priority Pass Select membership, which is one of the many benefits of having the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card.

image20image6Lufthansa 747-8 Business Class – Upper Deck vs Lower Deck

Shortly after booking, I was able to select seats on the upper deck of the 747-8 aircraft that flies this route. The upper deck features a 2-2 business class cabin layout that is a little more intimate than the 2-2-2 configuration on the lower deck.

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Pro Tip: Minimize the distance between you and the champagne bottle

I selected seats 84A and 84C, which were right next to the emergency exit so nobody would be in front of us. Conveniently, they were also closest to the champagne.

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Lufthansa A321 “Business Class” FRA>FCO

Our Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt (FRA) to Rome (FCO) was on their dreaded A321 aircraft, which features all the amenities of a partially empty Southwest flight. “Business Class” features an economy seat layout with the middle seats reserved for “Your Space”. This is very common for intra-European business class cabins.

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Flying over the Alps en route to Rome

Thankfully the flight was only about 90 minutes long and featured some beautiful views of the Alps.

Rome Marriott Grand Hotel Flora: Five Nights for 180,000 Marriott Points and $36

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Rome Marriott Grand Hotel Flora – Image Courtesy of Marriott

After doing some research on Rome hotels I decided to stay at the Rome Marriott Grand Hotel Flora.

This category 9 property typically goes for 45,000 points per night but Marriott award bookings get the 5th night free—that’s right, no extra points for the 5th night! I booked 5 nights for 180,000 Marriott points and about $36 in taxes and fees which brought the rate down to just 36,000 points per night.

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5 Nights at the Rome Marriott Grand Hotel Flora, 180,000 Marriott points and $36

I used a combination of points earned from my Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card and Starwood Preferred Guest credit card—which transfer to Marriott at a rate of 1 Starpoint to 3 Marriott points.

The location of this hotel is not ideal for most activities in Rome but it could have been much worse. It was about a 15-20 minute walk to most major attractions in the City Center, though I ended up taking Uber a quite a bit—rides were about $12.

I have Gold Status with Marriott thanks to The Business Platinum Card from American Express—this card provides SPG Gold status which provides Marriott Gold automatically when you link your accounts—which helped me score an upgrade to a King Bed Room and allowed us to have breakfast every day at no extra charge.

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Free breakfast at the Rome Marriott Grand Hotel Flora thanks to The Business Platinum Card

The free breakfast alone saved me about $100 a day. One of the many reasons I consider the Business Platinum Card with American Express to be one of the best offers on the market right now.

Hilton Garden Inn Rome Airport – One Night for 36,000 Hilton Points and $0

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Free night at Hilton Garden Inn Rome Airport for 36,000 Hilton points and $0

I decided to book a room at the Hilton Garden Inn Rome Airport for my last night in Rome because I had an early flight and FCO is ~40 minutes from Rome City Center. Better to get that drive out of the way the night before and buy myself an extra hour of sleep.

My free night set me back just 36,000 Hilton points and $0.

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Hilton Garden Inn Rome Airport – Image Courtesy of Hilton

The hotel was nothing special, but I have Hilton Gold status—again, thanks to The Business Platinum Card from Amex.

Washington D.C. to Rome – Business Class for 55,000 Lufthansa miles and $1,123.92 Round Trip

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The flight home was simply the reverse of my flight to Italy—Rome to Frankfurt to Washington Dulles. I even booked the same seats.

image23Frankfurt to Washington, D.C. in Lufthansa Business Class

Upon arrival, we collected our bags and made our way to one of D.C.’s other airports, Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA), where we caught a Southwest flight home to Columbus—felt a bit like eating a 99 cent ice cream cone after a $100 steak dinner. Thankfully, this was only about a 50-minute flight.

Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it! Everything I booked in Rome can be copied today for the exact same price (subject to availability of course). The Miles and More Mileage Bargains vary a bit, but you can often find flights to a number of European cities from several U.S. cities.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time in Rome. The hotel, while not in an ideal location, was very comfortable and just a short Uber or walk from major attractions. I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again.

Lufthansa business class is great for couples but I wouldn’t recommend it for solo travelers. The seat arrangement provides for very little privacy between you and your seatmate.

While in Rome I threw a coin into the Trevi Fountain to ensure a return to this beautiful city. I can only hope it works out for me.

Ciao!

Happy Travels,

Bryce

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