You don’t have to be rich to travel to Europe. Seriously! I wish more people knew that Europe (or any other destination for that matter) can be within reach for middle-class families if you know how to find good airfare deals and/or travel hack with credit card bonuses.
My family traveled to Europe this past summer, and we’re going again next summer. Here is an example of how a family of four can travel from Dallas to Paris on the cheap with two current credit card offers available now.
Card #1: Citi Premier (X2 with spouse/Player2)
First, I recommend applying for the Citi Premier card. It currently offers 80,000 bonus points after spending $4000 in the first three months. The card earns 3X points at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, flights and hotels. It has a $95 annual fee. See my earlier detailed post on this card.
In order to get enough points for flights to Europe, your adult spouse/partner/travel buddy needs to sign up for this card separately to also get the 80k bonus. Remember, for this deal make sense, you have to pay off your credit card balance every month so you don’t incur any interest. Charge all of your normal bills (food, gas, sports/dance lessons, car insurance, restaurants, etc) on this credit card until you reach the $4k spending threshold. See my Travel Hacking 101 post for more details.
When you’re all done, you will have a combined balance of over 160,000 Citi ThankYou points.
Card #2: Capital One Venture Rewards (x2)
The Capital One Venture Rewards card currently has a bonus of 75,000 miles after spending $4000 in the first three months. It earns 2X miles on all purchases and has an annual fee of $95. See my post on this card here. Just like with the Citi Premier card, your spouse/partner/travel buddy needs to sign up for this card separately as well.
When you’re all done, you will have have a combined balance of 166,000 miles (150k from two bonuses and 16k from the minimum spending to get the bonus).
Book Flights First, Then Lodging
I always recommend booking flights before lodging so that you can be flexible with dates and get the lowest award redemptions.
In this case, flying from Dallas to Paris, I recommend looking for flight availability on Air France. You can transfer your Citi ThankYou points (as well as your Capital One miles) to Air France. ALWAYS LOOK FOR FLIGHT AVAILABILTY BEFORE TRANSFERRING POINTS! If you don’t already have an Air France Flying Blue loyalty number (which most people don’t), simply create a free loyalty account here.
On certain days, Air France has nonstop flights from DFW to Paris for 20,000 miles in coach each way + around $207 in taxes round-trip. In a quick search, I was able to find these low reward flights on several dates next summer:
Both directions had award availability for 4 people. Note: Award availability and prices are constantly changing, so what you see today might not be what’s available in three months or even tomorrow. Even though Air France has higher award taxes than other airlines, I like the nonstop flight and the amount of award availability. Total cost for round-trip tickets: 160,000 miles (transferred from Citi ThankYou program) +$1018 ($828 in flight taxes and fees + $190 in credit card fees).
Not interested in Paris? Fly there, and book a cheap flight to another city on RyanAir. Not flying from DFW? Check out Air France flights from other major U.S. cities OR pay cash for a cheap positioning flight to DFW.
Now for lodging: I recommend booking an apartment on Airbnb and erasing the cost with your Capital One miles. Your 166,000 Capital One miles are worth $1660 in travel expenses, and airbnb counts as travel. I found several highly-ranked apartment rentals in Paris for six nights within that budget in June:
There are so many apartments you could get within the miles budget! Too many to list. You can save money on eating out by visiting a bakery and/or grocery store for breakfast and dinner.
Adding Up the Costs
This trip to Paris isn’t exactly free, but it is a lot less than what flights and hotel/apartment would cost you on cash rates. Plus, you can book it all online and the flights are nonstop.
Flights: $828 in taxes round-trip for 4 people
Credit card fees (X4): $380
Total cost for flights and lodging for 6 nights in Paris for a family of 4: $1208
That’s likely less than you would pay out of pocket for a domestic trip!
When you start travel hacking with credit card bonuses, you can stretch your budget and travel to places much cheaper than you ever imagined. This is what my family does, and we keep doing it over and over again!
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.