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Important note: Given the global pandemic, and confusing array of border closures, it is clearly not the ideal time to be taking a trip to Europe (or anywhere for that matter). However, if you’re dreaming of the time when things get better, here is an article that can aid in planning a dream trip to Europe. I hope you’ve been stacking your points in the meantime. 😉
Europe is an exciting place to visit. Within this relatively small area there are many countries, hundreds of spoken languages and dialects, great food, and adventures to last a lifetime.
The continent becomes even more exciting when you realize that can fly into one city and out of another for about 60,000 United MileagePlus miles. The United Airlines MileagePlus rewards program is one of the best options for redeeming one-way flights to and from Europe, making it a particularly useful program for amazing vacations.
I thought it would be helpful to show you how a welcome bonus from one credit card can save you, literally, thousands of dollars and can open the doors to experiencing the diversity of Europe.
When searching for award tickets, you are looking for “Saver Awards.” These are the lowest priced award tickets and between the U.S. and Europe start at 30,000 miles each way (plus $5.60 in security fees). Also, these awards can be redeemed on routes that United, United Express and partners of United Airlines fly.
Note: Award bookings made within 21 days of departure will incur an extra fee.
The best part about using United Airlines is they fly into several major European cities including Rome, Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam, and Athens. However, before we plan all the details of this trip, let’s obtain the points first…
HOW DO I GET THE 60,000 POINTS?
Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points are the key to this equation. UR points can be transferred from Chase to MileagePlus miles (aka United Miles) at a one-to-one rate. For example, 60,000 UR points = 60,000 MileagePlus miles therefore Chase Sapphire cards are good options for obtaining United miles.
At the moment, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (CSP) has the following sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Alternatively, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card (CSR) has the following sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
If you live in (or near) a United Airlines hub (e.g. Chicago (ORD), New York (EWR), Houston (IAH), San Francisco (SFO), etc.), it is possible to arrive in Europe on a non-stop flight. Fortunately, if you don’t live in (or near) a United hub, United does not charge additional miles for connections.
So, let’s start with an example to show the possibilities. Let’s say these are our search criteria:
- Departure City: New York Area (EWR)
- Departure Dates: November 2020
- Destination: Paris, France (CDG)
- Time Frame: one week
STEP 1: Search United.com for award availability by selecting the “book with miles” box.
STEP 2: Select the flights that you desire. I selected these non-stop saver awards:
And the total for this entire trip is…
BUT IT GETS BETTER
At first glance, that may appear exciting but there is an amazing (and under-utilized) hack within United’s MileagePlus program that can create amazing value. It’s called the United Excursionist Perk, and it works like this: When you book a round-trip flight using United miles, you can add another one-way flight for no additional miles.
Let expand our criteria a bit more. Let’s say these are our search criteria:
- Departure City: New York Area (EWR)
- Departure Dates: November 2019
- Destinations: Paris, France (CDG) and Athens, Greece (ATH)
- Time Frame: one week in each destination
STEP 1: Search United.com for award availability by selecting the “advanced search.”.
STEP 2: Select “multi-city” and select the cites that you desire. In this case, I selected EWR-CDG, CDG-ATH, and ATH-EWR.
My “roundtrip” is from the US to Europe, therefore the one-way that requires no additional miles is the CDG-ATH leg. However, you will be responsible for the taxes, $32 in this case.
After selecting my flight to Paris (CDG) and my flight to Athens (ATH), I was presented with an interesting option for my flight back to the New York area (EWR). I had the option to stopover in Vienna (VIE) for 1 hour, 35 minutes with Austrian Airlines or I could stop over for nearly 18 hours and pay the same price.
…OF COURSE I SELECTED THAT OPTION!
For 60,000 miles (aka one credit card welcome bonus), I was able to book a trip to three different countries in Europe and this was my final itinerary:
We’re only scratching the surface with these examples but with a bit of creativity, the Excursionist Perk can be a mind-blowing tool to help you see the world. <–I’ll be digging a little deeper on this in a future blog.
While the excursionist perk can appear complicated to understand, it’s worth the work. Once you put it into practice and travel to 3 beautiful European countries, you’ll say “why didn’t I get this credit card before now!?”
But there’s no telling how long United will keep this loophole. They could get rid of it at a moment’s notice. So use it soon!
Pro-tip: You could also return to a different city for few more dollars. I’ll leave this for you to contemplate.