How to score a cheap getaway to Europe any time of year
Newsflash: February is an excellent month to travel to Europe. The perception is that it is cold and miserable, a post-holiday downer. I recently embraced this myth and had a glammy girls' getaway in London with my BFF from college. How? Sly mileage machinations and strategic point application allowed us to ditch our kids and revel in 96 hours of unfettered fun.
Purchasing a ticket at least six months in advance could save you hundreds of dollars. When researching your ticket, be flexible. Flying at annoying times will reduce the price. But, wait. Don't pull the trigger. This number can be drastically reduced by applying points accrued on credit cards and/or airline loyalty programs to the base fare.
Here's where the fun begins. Before booking anything, check your airline loyalty program and credit card for points/miles accumulated. There are dozens of ways to mix and match point redemption, especially at this time of the year. Certain credit cards transfer points directly to your airline loyalty program while others will apply points to offset the price of the ticket. Because I booked so far in advance, my off-peak fare was reasonable. I used my American Airlines points to upgrade to business class.
Research credit card promotions
When booking through an airline, online or with your credit card company, always investigate "off peak" awards and other promotions. My pal sniffed out an American Express promotion that yielded a 50K-point signing bonus that she transferred into her Delta Sky Miles account. The total cost of her ticket to London? $200.
Points can also be used to offset hotel stays. After checking with the hotel directly for hotel promotions (one night free, upgrades, etc.), use your loyalty points to offset the hard costs. According to Brian Kelly, the mastermind behind The Points Guy www.thepointsguy.com, Starwood, Marriott and Barclays Arrival Plus offer the most flexible travel rewards which allow customers to book any hotel and use points to wipe hard charges such as a night or two, meals, spa services, etc.
Kelly also advises consumers to take advantage of lucrative credit card signup bonuses. Many offer 40,000 points that translate into $400 towards your hotel stay. Then, there are upgrades. It may not save you cash, but hotels will often award a complimentary upgrade if the hotel is not filled to capacity. Be nice, smile and tell them how much you enjoy recommending your itinerary on Trip Advisor. Word of mouth advertising is worshipped in the hospitality industry.
Amy Tara Koch and friend outside Mandarin Oriental London