My family of five traveled to Europe last year (on miles in Business Class seats), and we are flying to Europe again this summer (also in Business Class seats). I thought that would be the end of our European travels for a while.
However, we decided to visit Portugal for spring break next year. I have several ideas on how to get us there on miles.
Why this trip will be easier
I’m fairly confident I will be able to make this trip work on miles and points for 3 reasons:
- There will only be four of us instead of five. My older son’s college spring break falls during a different week.
- We will be traveling in the off-season (March) instead of summer
- We’re open to flying in coach and premium economy instead of business class
What? A travel blogger flying across the pond in a “regular” seat? That’s preposterous!
For my family, the destination is more important than the journey. Sure, it’s wonderful to have a lie-flat seat on long flights. But, I would never postpone traveling somewhere just because we don’t have enough miles for the best seats.
On the flip side, my husband and I are getting older (in our late 40s) and we have a few more aches and pains than we did when we were younger. My knee begins to ache if I can’t stretch out my leg every few hours. We loved our Premium Economy seats on American Airlines when we flew to Hawaii in 2021 (8 hour flight). We had a bit more room to stretch, and the seats made our flight a bit more comfortable.
Therefore, if possible, I’d like to book us in Premium Economy. I also don’t want more than one stopover. So either we have one stop on the U.S. side before landing in Portugal, or we fly nonstop from DFW to Europe and then fly to Portugal. We have a lot of options with our current stash of miles and points.
It’s hard to resist Air France flights from DFW to Europe! We flew Air France Business Class to Paris last year, and we are flying Air France Business Class to Italy this summer. Award prices are variable, but in the off-season I see fares as low as:
Economy: 19,500 miles
Premium Economy 32,500
Business: 55,000 miles
Taxes run $148-$225.
We have small amounts of Air France miles from our Air France credit cards. To get these flights, we would also transfer miles from Capital One (we have Capital One Venture Rewards and Capital One Venture X) or Chase (Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve).
American Airlines is my go-to for domestic flights. Unfortunately, when I search for international flights, AA always routes us through London on British Airways partner flights, which results in big fuel surcharges.
However, AA flies nonstop from DFW to a few European cities, including Madrid and Frankfurt. We could book Premium Economy seats to one of those cities and then hop on a discount airline to Lisbon.
Saver awards cost 45,000 in Premium Economy and 22,500 in Economy. We could use AA miles (from my husband’s recent credit card approval plus our bank account bonuses) plus Alaska miles (from my business card) to book these seats. (While we could also potentially book these flights with British Airways Avios, BA won’t let us book in the Premium Economy cabin on AA).
Iberia flies nonstop from DFW to Madrid, which is a very short hop to Lisbon. I love the timing and the award prices for this flight:
Just 42,500 miles for business class! Unfortunately, Iberia seems to only release 2 seats in both Premium Economy and Business. I’d be fine booking 2 of us in Business and 2 of us in Premium Economy.
To book this flight, I’d transfer Chase points to Iberia Plus and/or Capital One miles to British Airways (which can then transfer to Iberia).
I have two 50k flight certificates from my Aeroplan credit card that I want to use this year. While it’s not the greatest deal, I do see flights as low as 70k in Business Class from DFW to Lisbon. The route is through Toronto on Air Canada, and then on TAP Air Portugal from Toronto to Lisbon. With my flight certificates and current Aeroplan stash, I’d only have to transfer about 20k points from Chase to book two one-way tickets.
Of course, this means we will have to split up into 2 and 2 for one way of our journey. We’ve done that before and I have no problem with that.
TAP Air Portugal
There are not many nonstop flights from the US to Portugal. In the off-season, the only airlines that fly nonstop to Portugal are United (from NYC) and TAP Air Portugal (from Boston, Chicago, Miami, NYC, Washington D.C. and San Francisco).
The best way to book TAP Air Portugal award flights is through Avianca LifeMiles program. The sweet spot is from New York to Lisbon for only 35,000 LifeMiles in Business Class (see Leana’s post).
Surprisingly, in off-peak times, I’m seeing 4 seats available at that price in Business Class. Of course, that’s no guarantee these seats will be there for our dates.
We would have to use miles or cash to fly to JFK the day before.
To be honest, I’m not sure this route is worth it. While 35k for Business Class seats is a fantastic deal, the flight is only 6 hours and 40 minutes. That’s not a very long flight, especially after dinner is served.
It makes more sense for us to hop on TAP from Chicago. But, Business Class costs 63,000 miles on that route. If we flew in Economy, I’d want to splurge an extra $70/person for the Economy seats with extra legroom.
To get LifeMiles, we would transfer from our Capital One miles stash.
It’s nice to have multiple options for booking flights on miles and points. I’ll be keeping my eye out for some transfer bonuses that might make these deals even sweeter.
If you are looking to book flights on international carriers, keep in mind that many of them release flight schedules earlier than U.S. airlines (~12 months prior instead of ~11 months prior).
How does my family travel so much? We use miles and points from credit card bonuses. See my Travel Hacking 101 post as well as current credit card offers here.
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.
I agree that you shouldn’t have any issues booking award flights to Europe in the springtime. I think there are pros and cons to each option you’ve mentioned. If you have any interest in visiting Madrid for a day or two, that’s the best deal ( in my opinion). Splurging on business class and premium economy here seems like a no-brainer. Otherwise, I would probably go with the option that will utilize your existing miles and preserve flexible points.
@Leana I’m not opposed to a day or two in Madrid. I haven’t been there since I was 14 years old!
Nini LaFleur says
I’ve also been looking for award tickets for flying to Europe this summer, in business. I started searching one month ago, for two sets of tickets: one passenger in June and three in August. Very low availability out of Boston. Lufthansa, Turkish, TAP Portugal: zero. Swiss: just a couple of dates, but terrible connections. United: a few dates, but bad connections. Air France and KLM: zero for June, low availability for August and with bad connections. American and Delta: zero.
I suspect the airlines are hoping for a repeat of last summer’s exceptional demand so they are not releasing award inventory.
@Nini I was helping a friend look for business class seats to Europe for this summer, and had no luck. I think all the travel hackers already gobbled them up. I recommend looking 11-12 months in advance for the best chance.
Fun stuff. Please tell us if you have any luck booking a free AF stopover in Paris.
I’ve seen good pricing and fees with BA Avios for Iberia flights out of DFW. Think I had to sync up with the Iberia Peak/NonPeak calendar to find best rates. Maybe better to book with BA than IB if things go wrong (CS wise)?
@Peter Hmmm I didn’t think about BA vs. Iberia customer service. Good point. I’ve never booked with Iberia.