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Burning Points on Lodging for Our Upcoming Family Trip to Europe

Choosing the best lodging options in Europe when you have to accommodate five people can be a challenge. Sure, if money is no object or if you have hotel points coming out of your ears, it’s probably not an issue. But neither is true in my case. Most chain hotel rooms in Europe have double occupancy, so that’s another challenge. The third guest is usually the odd man/woman/child out.

Burning Points on Lodging for European Trip

In addition, since we’ll be staying in Barcelona for five nights, it would be nice to have a kitchen, washer and a dryer. That’s why I’ve decided that the apartment is the way to go in that particular case. But which one? There are many booking site options and I’ve listed them in my post Rentals or “Free” Hotel Rooms for Your Vacation in Europe? This time, however, I did something a bit different. I used Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to book our vacation rental in Barcelona.

Getting 1.5 cents per UR point on vacation rental 

This is what sealed the deal. Since I currently have Chase Sapphire Reserve (got it when the bonus was 100K points), it unlocks the ability to redeem points on travel at 1.5 cents apiece. But what about prices? I found them comparable to what you would find on VRBO.com or AirBnB (my referral link, you’ll get $40 off your first $75+ booking).

There were many options listed, almost to the point of being overwhelming. So we had to narrow it down. When I visit new city in Europe, I do my best to find as central of a location as possible. Of course, it means paying more $ due to supply vs. demand issue. But take it from a cheapskate, you don’t want to sacrifice central location. I’ve done it before and regretted it each and every time.

There is no such thing as free lunch. If you stay on the outskirts, you’ll pay with your time and incur more stress, which will reduce your overall enjoyment of the trip. One possible exception: If I could book a hotel via PointBreaks promo (5K IHG points per night), I would probably be willing to deal with some inconvenience. Alas, Barcelona isn’t on the current list. So, I went through UR portal. Here is how I booked our rental:

1) First,  you have to go to “hotels” option, because UR portal doesn’t have a special section for vacation rentals:

2) You put in all the details: name of the city, arrival date, number of guests etc.:

As you can see, none of the options listed are hotel chains. They do include TripAdvisor rating and you can do more research on Google, of course.

3) Click on “View  map” in the  top left corner to narrow down your choices based on location:

One of our tours leaves early in the morning from Placa de Catalunya square. So, I wanted to stay nearby if at all possible. Through some research, I’ve discovered that this is one of the best locations in Barcelona anyway. It’s a short walk to Gothic Quarter as well as Mediterranean sea.

Our rental isn’t currently on the map (must be sold out), but as you can see, there are quite a few options, represented by red darts. Click on one and it will take you to rental’s listing description. Then you go ahead and reserve it, just like you would on any other booking site. But do take note of cancellation policy, because it varies by rental. We would have to cancel one month prior to get a full refund, otherwise they would charge us one night penalty. UR portal lets you use combination of cash and points, which is a nice perk.

We got a 2 bedroom/2 bath apartment that has a washer and a dryer. A neat amenity is a small rooftop pool. Here is what I paid for 5 nights:

Nope, not dirt cheap. But like I said, we are paying for central location and to me, it’s worth it. The $10 charged to my CSR card was coded as travel, so I was able to use part of my $300 annual travel credit to offset it. Stay tuned for the review of the apartment when I get back.

An overnight in Frankfurt area

After we stay in Belarus castle (yay!), we have to fly to Frankfurt and spend the night there before our direct flight to Orlando leaves the next day. That’s the unfortunate reality of going to an obscure Eastern European country. We have to break up the journey because there are no direct flights to US, and the kids can’t handle the trip otherwise.

This time the choice on where to stay was easy. My sister-in-law requested that we find a hotel with a spa and I knew just what to book. Introducing Radisson Blu Schwarzer Bock Hotel, Wiesbaden (about 30 minutes from Frankfurt airport).

Here is the description from the website: “First opened as a bathhouse in 1486, the Radisson Blu Schwarzer Bock Hotel, Wiesbaden is the perfect choice for visitors who want to experience the city’s rich history and famed spa culture. Das Badhaus offers traditional spa therapies, drawing from the hot springs—unwind in the thermal spa, sauna or steam bath, or swim in the pool.”  1486!

And here are the award rates for the hotel:

I’ve acquired Club Carlson points dirt cheap via promotions and renewal of its co-branded credit card, so burning them on one night at this fine establishment wasn’t an issue. My husband and daughter will be staying with me in business-class room. It’s bigger and includes full breakfast, so paying an extra 22,000 points is worth it.

My sister-in-law only drinks chocolate milk in the morning and my son will be happy with a muffin. So, in their case, paying the premium didn’t seem worth it. I did offer the upgrade, of course, but my sister-in-law refused it. So we’ll just buy some food and drinks at Frankfurt airport when we land. Club Carlson definitely has some interesting properties in its portfolio, you just have to know where to look.

Bottom line 

When it comes to lodging options, this Europe trip can only be described as mix-and-match. Come to think of it, this term pretty much nails my overall travel style. So, to recap:

1) I’m burning UR points on a vacation rental in Barcelona via CSR card.

2) I’m using points from my sign-up bonus from Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard to pay for castle hotel stay in Belarus.

3) I’m burning Club Carlson points on one night in Germany at a historic grand hotel with a spa.

An interesting mix, wouldn’t you say?

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Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

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13 thoughts on “Burning Points on Lodging for Our Upcoming Family Trip to Europe

  1. We have five people for our upcoming European trip, too. The four of us (two adults and two kids), decided to bring my brother along as a babysitter. We thought about bringing a college gal along, but my brother really wanted to go.

    Anyway, we have a weird mix of accommodations, too. We booked Air BNB condos for our longer city stays, but we’re also spending time in two different hostels! I never thought that would happen, but it’s crazy how expensive Switzerland is. Plus, one hostel let me book a private six-bed bunk for the five of us…so it’s basically a private room.There are also a few cities where we’re staying in a hotel and I just booked two rooms. It’s kinda a mishmash of things!

    • @Holly Nice! Sharing a hostel room with six bunk beds should be quite a unique experience. I bet it will be something you guys will be talking about for years! Definitely thinking outside the box, I love it. Honestly, under the right circumstances, I would totally consider doing something like that. And yes, Switzerland is very expensive according to my in-laws who vacationed there 10 years ago. They were shocked at the price of everything and said it was worse than Scandinavia.

      Believe it or not, I’ve never actually stayed in a hostel before even though we’ve traveled all over Europe. I’m an introvert and so is my husband. We always just wanted our own space. But I have been intrigued by hostels, so maybe we should give it a try with kids. Better late than never, right?
      Hope you have fun with your brother, that’s sweet that he decided to tag along.

  2. We went to Barcelona two years ago and the kids still talk about it! 😀 Kid- “Remember when you took us to that nude beach in Europe!” Me- “That wasn’t a nude beach! In Barcelona people just like to swim topless.” Kid- “It was a nude beach! Almost everyone and their grandma was topless there!”

  3. Leana – sounds like your trip is coming along. Can’t wait to hear the reviews on the places you stayed at. I may take another look at the UR travel portal for some upcoming trips – thanks for the reminder.

    • @Stephanie No worries! UR portal will not be best in all circumstances, but it worked for this particular trip. Getting 1.5 cents per point has allowed us to get a nicer place than we otherwise would via AirBnB or similar site. It’s definitely not cheap, but it has amazing views and a rooftop pool. I’m certain my kids will go crazy for it.
      I just hope nobody gets sick right before the trip, fingers crossed. Today I’m home with two sick children who kept me up all night. Not fun…

  4. I’m all about the UR portal. I love the value I am getting with the CSR 1.5x and the flexibility it affords our travel plans. With 2 CSR bonuses, the 3x categories on CSR, and the 5x on freedom, and the bonuses from shopping through the UR portal, we’ve got a great tool in our travel hacking toolkit. And hopefully I get approved for the CSR once I’m below 5/24 at the end of May. It will be a bummer when we are out of UR points and lose that flexibility and have to go back to just using regular old airline miles.

    • @Cheapblackdad I agree with you! I absolutely love UR points. Chase has come up with just about perfect rewards program. Well, almost perfect because I don’t love annual fees. Hate them, actually. But yeah, the ability to transfer to hotels (Hyatt specifically) and other valuable airline partners like Southwest, United and Korean make UR program an undisputed king. Plus, the rewards are simple to figure out. No convoluted schemes like Uber monthly credit or $200 incidental credit on ONE specific airline (I’m looking at you, Amex).

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