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My family is literally weeks away from taking our trip to Europe. And yet, not long ago, I found myself still trying to figure out our flight options. And I’m one of those people who likes to book things many months in advance.
One of the many unpleasant surprises coming my way was the cancellation of our AAdvantage award tickets from Dubrovnik to Iceland. I’ve tried to find a decent mileage alternative, to no avail.
So, I had to figure out a cost-effective revenue option, and decided to break up the trip into two legs. Until recently, I held off purchasing the tickets due to all the uncertainty with my parents’ flight from Belarus. But, with our departure date fast approaching, I had to finally bite the bullet. My choice for a stopover was Paris, due to availability of non-stop flights from Tivat, Montenegro. From there we would fly to Keflavik two days later.
What I didn’t expect was how excited my daughter would be due to this new development. I guess I should have known, since she is an artist who loves to draw. Immediately, she has switched her iPad wallpaper to the view of the Eiffel tower. She also asked me to buy her this beret, which she plans to wear while in Paris.
She is also really looking forward to taking a selfie with the Mona Lisa painting. Though I warned her that thousands of people are planning to do the exact same thing while we are in the museum. Up until now, she was kind of lukewarm towards the trip, aside from loking forward to seeing her babushka (“grandmother” in Russian). But now that Paris has been added into the mix, it’s a different story.
My son, however, got a bit disappointed and said he would prefer to visit London instead. Next time, buddy. He has been watching “Doctor Who” series with my husband, and is obsessed with all things British. In case you are wondering, his favorite Doctor so far is David Tennant.
Overall, I’m excited. I’ve never been to France, aside from spending a few hours in a French town during our Andorra tour from Barcelona. I guess it kind of counts. But as my daughter has pointed out, you can’t say you’ve been to France unless you’ve seen Paris.
What I’m not excited about is all the extra cost that it will add to our already very expensive trip.
Booking the flights
I was so impressed with Capital One Travel portal when they recently helped me to rebook my parents’ tickets from Belarus. I normally avoid third-party sellers when it comes to purchasing flights, but decided to make an exception.
I don’t have any travel credit to use up from my Venture One card, but earning 5 points per dollar isn’t too shabby. Plus, I got a price protection for ten days at no extra cost. As travel portals go, Capital One is actually quite decent, at least when it comes to displaying your flight options. I can’t say the same about car rentals, though.
Anyway, the low-cost carriers I was interested in were listed, and the price matched what I could find via their respective websites. We are planning to fly from Tivat to Paris on Transavia, and from Paris to Keflavik on Play Air
I have no idea if either airline is any good and to be honest, I didn’t even bother to do any research. I’ve flown many low-cost carriers in Europe over the years, and found them all to be perfectly acceptable. As long as they get me to my destination alive on the cheap, I ain’t complaining. Yes, you do have to pay for everything extra, including water. But so what? Just buy a bottle at the airport.
All I care about is that the flights are non-stop and leave at decent times, convenient to us. The total for both tickets was $200 per person, though we will also have to pay for one checked bag. But I thought that the overall price wasn’t too bad, considering he complicated itinerary. We could have gotten to Iceland cheaper, but that would mean getting there at midnight. I’ve decided that saving $180 total on four tickets just isn’t worth it.
Obviously, I would have preferred to use miles and did check whether it would be possible to burn Alaska Air currency on Icelandair. It was not. Surprisingly, I could burn Air France miles on Transavia, but it wasn’t a good deal compared to cash rate of $50 per person. So, reluctantly, I paid $800 to lock in our dates.
To use or not to use hotel points on lodging?
If it was just me and my husband, the answer would likely be yes. There are some decent options via Hyatt, Hilton and IHG that don’t look cookie-cutter and are fairly central. And actually, even Best Western and Choice programs are worth looking into if you happen to have those type of currencies. I think Park Hyatt Vendome costs too much via points, but many folks in the hobby have loved it.
Unfortunately, we need two rooms, so that changes the value equation completely. I did consider booking a suite at Hyatt Regency Paris Étoile for 24k Hyatt points per night. The rate actually isn’t too bad, considering the fact that you get a separate living room and a lounge access is included.
However, I’ve decided to pass on it. First of all, my kids are too big to share a sofa bed and the hotel doesn’t offer rollaways. Plus, if I’m in Paris, it seems like a travesty to eat at a sterile hotel lounge instead of a neighborhood cafe. I’m exaggerating, of course, but you get the point.
Also, the hotel isn’t as central as I would like it to be. Of course, that’s why the rate is somewhat reasonable. Still, since we will be in Paris for only two nights and may never come back, I’ve decided to look elsewhere. In the end, I booked two connecting rooms in a boutique hotel that is a mile away from the Eiffel tower. The total cost was $800 for two nights all-in. I wanted to stay right next to the Eiffel tower, but then our cost would have been $1200 or more. I’ve decided to compromise, plus walking is good for you. And there is always Uber and taxis if we get lazy.
So, my Paris stopover is already costing me an extra $1,600, plus the $18 I’ve paid for the cat beret.
Since our time is super limited, I only plan to visit the Eiffel tower, do a Seine cruise and tour the Louvre. Realistically speaking, we may not even be able to do that, though I will certainly try. I found Nancy’s post on Paris to be super helpful and plan to follow some of her suggestions.
If you know of any family-friendly (and wallet-friendly) eateries near Eiffel tower and Louvre, please chime in. Also, if you know of any easy activities in the area that would not require a huge time commitment, let me know. Thanks in advance!
Leana is the 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.