Let’s use this hashtag for consistency: #FranciscosGoneEurope4
- Fall 2007 – Nancy and I went to Paris and Rome – no hashtags back then
- Spring 2015 – Italy (Milan, Florence, Pisa, Venice, Lake Como), France(Paris)#FranciscosGoneEurope
- Fall 2015 – London, Budapest, Prague #FranciscosGoneEurope2
- Summer 2016 – back for more #FranciscosGoneEurope4
So most of you may be wondering, “I thought they weren’t going anymore?” Well, you guessed partly right. The original plan was to bring ALL six of us to Europe. But back in May, when Ethan and Madison said they couldn’t go to Europe due to football and cheer, we quickly changed our plans and we landed on Maui instead. We were in Hawaii just over a month ago, and we pulled off a last-minute vacation to Maui. Here’s the link to the very first entry which explained how in the world did we pull off a last-minute getaway to Maui and paid an insane amount for our airfare – $11/person! Click here… #FranciscosGoneMaui2.
Ok, so here goes. After I booked our Maui trip, it dawned on me that I still had enough points left to pull off a 2nd vacation this summer. Since Maddie and Ethan couldn’t go, the points I had remaining were good enough to bring me, Nancy, Caitlin, and Evan to Europe. Once I got everything planned for our Maui trip, I flipped the switch, and had to think of how to get us to Europe in the summer of 2016.
If you know me, you should know that we’re able to go on these vacations and NOT spend an arm and a leg. How? Mostly from the points gained via credit card sign-up bonuses. Some credit card companies reel you in by offering low interest rates, attractive balance transfer options, while others offer enormous sign-up bonuses once you meet the minimum spend requirement.
- 4 Travelers (2 adults, 2 children)
- 19 days exploring Europe
- 3 countries (Portugal, Spain, France)
- 4 major cities (plus other planned day trips)
- 4-5 days stay per country/city
- 5 major hotels (4-5 star hotels)
- 4-5 major airlines
- Overall cost: $528 TOTAL…yes TOTAL!!!
These are the two receipts from United Airlines when we booked the flights from US to Europe, and flights around Europe.
|Jason and Evan’s Reservation
How much if we paid for our flights and didn’t use points?
If we paid for our flights in cash, it was valued over $14,000 yet we only paid $528.
|2016 Summer Vacation||Value|| Amount
|Maui Vacation (June/July 2016)|
|Airfare to Maui for 6 passengers||$4,500||$67||Chase Ultimate Rewards|
| 3 days, 2 nights
Wailea Beach Marriott
|European Vacation (Aug 2016)|
| Airfare for 4 Passengers
(3 countries, 4 cities)
|$14,209||$528||Chase Ultimate Rewards|
| 19 days hotel accomodations
(Doubletree, Sheraton, IHG,
Hyatt, Radisson Blu)
|$4,800||$0||Multiple programs (American Express, IHG, Hyatt, SPG, Club Carlson)|
What are the goals for this trip:
- Minimize paying out of pocket cash expenses(check)
- Maximize our stay by picking the best of the best properties(check)
- Utilize the airline routing and stopover rules(check)
- Go somewhere new (check)
- Visit/Revisit a dream destination by request(check)
I started getting in to the points game in the Spring of 2014. While I have traveled quite a bit using points, I still have a lot to learn. Back in the fall of 2014, I started to share my knowledge with my immediate family members. I told them which cards I signed up for, how I planned to use the points, etc. They weren’t all that thrilled. None of them signed up with any of the credit cards that I shared. I, on the other hand, stuck with what I knew. Since I started earning points in 2014, we’ve gone on these vacations:
Summer 2014 – Maui,Hawaii
Award: 3 free roundtrip tickets to Maui (valued at $2,100)
Award Used: Hawaiian Airlines points earned via Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard
Spring 2015- New York, Italy and France
- 3 free roundtrip tickets from LA to NYC (valued at $500/person)
- 4 discounted roundtrip tickets from NYC to Milan ($399/person)
United Airlines Miles via United Mileage Explorer
Award: 4 Free Roundtrip tickets from LA to Kauai (valued at $750/person), only paid $44.
Award Used: Chase Ultimate Rewards
Award: Six (6) FREE Roundtrip tickets from LA to Maui
(Valued at $750/person or $4,500 total), we only paid $11/person
Award Used: Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Maui – 8 travelers
- Kauai – 11 travelers
- Oahu – 2 travelers
I’d like to call this elite group as my Eleven Dollar Club. Imagine that! A roundtrip ticket to Hawaii for $11 per person! Holy cow!
All Roads Lead Back To Europe
It’s now Wednesday, Aug 10, our flight is at 5:45pm out of LAX. Instead of parking at LAX for nearly 3 weeks, we decided to take an airport shuttle instead.
Caitlin and Evan are excited. They’ve never been to Europe. Ethan has to stay due to football, Madison, on the other hand will also stay, but she’ll be going to Kauai next week with the rest of my family, my Eleven Dollar Club.
As expected, things at home were quite hectic. Lots of last minute errands and packing. This is our first time to go to Europe in the summer time frame. The last 3 times were in the heart of the fall/early winter, and tail end of Winter. So layers of clothing were a must. Not this time. I expect it to be in the 80s or even warmer, or shall I say, hotter. Aaaahhhhh, whatever!!! We simply cannot wait. What’s our first stop? Lisbon, Portugal. None of us have ever been to Portugal, and we’re thrilled that this is a new adventure for all of us to experience.
I’ve got a long plane ride ahead. I’ll be blogging while on board. This is DaddyTravels signing off….see ya in Portugal!
For a change, we started packing a week earlier. We had our luggage in the master bedroom. This would be Evan and Caitlin’s first visit to Europe. We were thinking of using four carry-on luggage, but we decided that since our flights included free check luggage, might as well take advantage of it. We ended up taking 3 carry ons and 1 regular sized luggage. We checked in 3 of them at no charge…why not?
So what’s in my backpack?
- Macbook Air
- iPhone 6 Plus
- SIM Card (I’m using T-mobile’s unlimited international data and texting plan for this trip)
- My new Nikon DSLR
- Sony point and shoot cam
- GoPro and mini tripod
- Lightning cables
- International Power adapter
- Beats Headphones
Finally, it was time to board. We, the passengers, we corralled in different boarding groups. We were one of the first ones to board. We found our seats and got settled.
United Airlines surprisingly great service
As I mentioned before, I don’t expect much from “american” airlines like United. But I gotta tell you, we had excellent service from the time we boarded, to the time that they served food. It was non-stop!
Our nearly 10-hour flight was at times turbulent. I believe it happened while we past through the Midwest, storm perhaps? Other than that, we arrived in London’s Heathrow Airport around 11:30am (local time).
Weren’t we just here?
Yes, we were just in Heathrow a few months ago during our Fall getaway to Europe. Upon landing, I turned on my cell phone and received a welcome text from T-Mobile.I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. What a huge airport! We walked a good 20 minutes to get through the UK Border, and then we had to get to Terminal 2, that’s where we will catch the plane going towards Lisbon. Nancy looked at her Priority Pass app, and sure enough, there were 2 airport lounges for us to choose from. We chose the one closest to security. I went directly to the hot food. Chicken Tika Masala? Thai Coconut Chicken Soup? What???? Yes….that was among the many selections. Thank you, American Express Platinum!