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How to Book a Family Trip to Europe With 100,000 Miles
With a few simple strategies, a family of four can enjoy a European vacation entirely on miles.
Introduce your children to the wonders of Europe this summer using airline miles.(Getty Images/Hero Images)
For families who have been dreaming of a trip to Europe but always thought it was out of reach, there is a way to get there largely using airline miles. Read on to find out how you can fly a family of four across the pond with 100,000 miles, as well as how to collect them.
Aer Lingus, the national airline of Ireland, offers a deal that allows you to fly to Dublin (or Shannon, Ireland, in a few cases) from several major U.S. cities, including Chicago, New York City, Washington, D.C., Newark, New Jersey, or Hartford, Connecticut, for 26,000 miles round-trip per person. That totals 104,000 miles for a family of four.
But the offer is only good for travel in the airline’s off-season, which is about two-thirds of the year. Off-peak dates for Aer Lingus run through June 16, 2017, (with about two-and-a-half weeks in April not included) and start up again September 11 through December 15, 2017, making fall, winter and spring ideal times to grab this deal.
From Dublin, you can take an inexpensive flight on discount carriers like Ryanair to other major cities in Europe or use additional miles and points to book more Aer Lingus or British Airways flights to other European destinations. Aer Lingus intra-Europe flights range from 4,000 to about 8,000 miles per way.
While your miles will cover the actual fare price, there are additional charges to consider. The most significant is the fuel surcharge, which ranges from $90 to $120 per person per flight, depending on your departure city.
Collecting the Miles
Aer Lingus is part of the Avios loyalty program, which also includes British Airways and Iberia. That means you can use British Airways loyalty points, also called Avios, to book Aer Lingus flights.
You can collect British Airways Avios quickly by signing up one or two travel credit cards. British Airways has a branded card through Chase, the British Airways Visa Signature Credit Card, which earns 50,000 Avios after you spend $3,000 on the card in the first three months. You can earn 50,000 more Avios for meeting additional spending minimums within the first year.
Other options are the Chase Ultimate Rewards credit cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points. These points can be instantly transferred to British Airways Avios. Both cards typically offer a 50,000-point bonus after card approval and a minimum spend of $4,000 on the cards.
Additionally, Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Cards by American Express allow you to transfer Starwood loyalty points, called Starpoints, to British Airways and earn a bonus 5,000 points for every 20,000 points you transfer.
To reach your 100,000 Avios, you’ll need to sign up for two cards and meet the minimum spend on each, which earns you another point per dollar (or up to three points per dollar on some Chase Ultimate Rewards cards), or you could choose one card and continue spending on the card until you reach the required number of points.
Booking the Flights
Booking your flights using Avios requires a series of steps:
1. Set up British Airways and Aer Lingus Loyalty Accounts. First, you need to have loyalty accounts with both programs. If you’ve collected British Airways Avios, you will have an account with that airline but likely will need an Aer Lingus account. Aer Lingus’ loyalty program is called Aer Club, and you can join at AerLingus.com.
2. Transfer British Airways Avios to Aer Lingus Avios. Next, you will need to transfer your Avios from one program to another on Avios.com. Once there, log in with account details from either airline’s loyalty program. Select "My Account" and then "Combine My Avios" under the Overview tab. Choose the number of Avios you’d like to transfer from British Airways to Aer Lingus (you may need to provide log-in details for the other airline’s loyalty program), and then select "Confirm Transfer."
3. Book your flights. On Avios.com, log in, choose "Spend" and enter your flight details. Choose "Search Flights," and the resulting screen will show you available flight options. Once you select outgoing and incoming flights, at the bottom of the screen you will see the total Avios points required to book the flight along with taxes, fuel surcharges and fees to be paid in cash.
Choose "Continue with Booking," and on the next screen, you have the option to book your flight with a combination of Avios and cash, so if you don’t have all the Avios you need, you can use what you do have and pay for the rest.
4. Select your seats and other items. When booking on Avios.com, you are not allowed to pre-select your seats, which is available at no charge through Aer Lingus. Instead, you will have to call its customer service number, which at times can be very busy and difficult to get through. The best number is 1-800-IRISH-AIR, or alternately, you can trying reaching them on Twitter at @AerLingus, where they are often more responsive.
When calling, you may also want to book kid-friendly meals for your children for the flight, which are also available at no additional charge. Aer Lingus allows each person to bring one checked bag weighing no more than 20 kilograms, or 44 pounds, as well as one carry-on and one personal item at no charge.
That’s it! You’re on your way to international travel and introducing the world to your children.
About En Route
Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.
Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.
Edited by Liz Weiss.
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