My oldest daughter was accepted into a study abroad program with her college. She was excited and Susan and I encouraged her to take advantage of the opportunity to go. She, in response requested that the family travel together before the program on a family trip to Europe. Susan jumped on the proposal and said “that’s a great idea.” Before I could say anything, the decision was made, and we were going to Europe for ten days as a family of four.
Introduction: Study Abroad in Copenhagen
Review: American Express Centurion Studio Seattle
Review: Delta One International Business Class Seattle to London
Review: United Club London Heathrow
Review: Austrian Airlines European Coach London to Vienna to Copenhagen
Review: Park Hyatt Vienna
Review: Copenhagen Admiral Hotel
Review: SAS Business Lounge Copenhagen
Review: SAS Intra-European Business Copenhagen to Frankfurt
Review: Lufthansa Senator Lounge – Frankfurt
Review: Lufthansa International Business Frankfurt to Seattle
Review: Alaska Airlines Lounge North Satellite Seattle
In planning for the trip, we had relatively short notice. Our first flight would be in early June, and this was just two and half months before leaving. I wasn’t very optimistic on redeeming points in regards to our overseas flights as your best opportunities are usually either way in advance (10+ months), or just a couple weeks before. Planning a last-minute trip with just Susan and myself was one thing, but as a family of four it would be much more difficult. For this family vacation, we had decided on visiting Vienna for four nights, and then Copenhagen for another four nights.
Surprisingly, several flight opportunities did present themselves. It was going to be very difficult to fly directly into Vienna from the U.S. using points. After some research, we could redeem Delta SkyMiles for a Sacramento to London flight (via Seattle) for 62,500 miles in business (coach on the US domestic) and amazingly four seats were available. This was a very good redemption for just two and a half months of planning. We have many SkyMiles, and have been trying to use more of them before Delta completely devalues them.
SMF to SEA coach Alaska Air, SEA to LHR Business Delta One
Per person: 62,500 miles and $5.60
Total 4 persons: 250,000 miles and $22.40
Going forward from London and onto Vienna we considered other possibilities including tagging on a SkyTeam flight via Amsterdam, Paris or Rome; but nothing reasonable was available. We also thought about flying a European low cost carrier like EasyJet or Berlin Air, but ultimately we purchased a flight on Austrian Airlines in coach from London to Vienna, and then Vienna to Copenhagen for $274 per person. The Austrian flights gave us direct connections while traveling together as a family, and there was a lot of value in this solution.
When I originally priced flights on Austrian Airlines I was looking at two separate one way flights; London to Vienna and then Vienna to Copenhagen. This search was pricing out around ~$1,200 per person, and I wasn’t very excited about that potential purchase. But then I remembered to price this as an open jaw within Europe and a stopover in Vienne. With that method, the ticket price came down dramatically. This was a lesson to remember, for best pricing always try combining separate legs into an open jaw when routing through a carrier’s hub city. Airline flight pricing isn’t always apparently logical, and being creative can reveal some deals.
London to Vienna and then Vienna to Copenhagen Austrian Airlines in coach
Per person: $274.00
Total 4 persons: $1,096.00
When looking at our return flight, Delta and SkyTeam had very few options that worked well for the three of us traveling together. I did find a Star Alliance flight; SAS Copenhagen to Frankfurt, and then Lufthansa Frankfurt to Seattle onboard a Boeing 747 in business class. I liked this option because 1) we could use Chase Ultimate Reward Points transferred to United to pay for this redemption and 2) I’ve selfishly always wanted to ride in the upper deck of a Boeing 747 and now I was going to be able to do so. Total cost was 70,000 united miles and $58.00 in taxes and fees per person.
For hotels, we looked at the Park Hyatt in Vienna. This is a category 6 property and redemption nights run 25,000 Hyatt points. They also had a point plus cash rate available at 12,500 points and €127.00, which is a great value. We could redeem two rooms for that nightly rate. Additionally, Hyatt lets you upgrade a point plus cash rate with a suite upgrade if one is available. The Park Hyatt Vienna is very good about releasing inventory and a suite upgrade was available for our dates. Our total cost was 100,000 Hyatt points, a suite upgrade, and €1,016. For this we reserved 1 standard Park Twin and a Park Suite for a total of four nights for both rooms. I thought this was the best deal of the trip.
It was more difficult to find a good deal for a room in Copenhagen. For our dates, most locations were already full, and Hyatt and Hilton do not have any properties in the city (Hilton does by the Airport). We finally selected the Copenhagen Admiral Hotel for ~415/night. The total amount came to $2905 for seven nights. It was an expensive and less than perfect choice, but with the constraints we had it was our best option. We booked these seven nights (4 + 3) on Hotels.com and received the corresponding seven night credit.
After finally putting the entire itinerary together we were ready for our family European vacation. Susan and our two girls were very excited about going. I was excited about having a good trip together, and saving some dollars by using points when it made since. Considering the short notice we had for this trip, we were able to book some good redemptions.