Booking BAP: A $5,000 Trip to Europe for $238 & Points!

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In a few weeks, I’ll be in Brussels, Amsterdam, and Prague for the first time. I am calling this trip “BAP” (after the 3 cities).

This is the trip I booked waaay back in August 2016 for biz class seats with Etihad miles. At the time, I paid ~37,000 miles for round-trip seats from New York to Brussels on Brussels Airlines. Etihad has since raised the price to 88,000 miles – which can still be a good deal to Europe in Business.

That was about 9 months ago – the furthest out I’ve ever planned a trip. At the time, I figured I’d fill it in when the time came. Which is now.

brussels amsterdam prague

I’m coming for ya, Brussy

Here’s how I put together a $5,00+ week-long trip to Europe for $238 out of pocket.

Booking BAP (Brussels, Amsterdam, Prague)

1. To New York and back

First things first, I had to get myself to New York for the flight.

I booked the way there with 6,637 Citi ThankYou points and nothing out of pocket:

One ticket :(

One ticket

This will be my first big solo trip as a single guy. Still feeling a bit strange about it…

Then I booked my way back to Dallas with 5,810 Southwest points:

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Total bargain

The reason for the different airlines simple came down to schedules.

For this flight, I charged the $5.60 in taxes to my Citi Prestige card. I hadn’t used my $250 annual airfare credit yet, so again, nothing out of pocket.

2. New York to Brussels

I wrote about the gory details of booking these flights with Etihad miles.

I paid 36,620 Etihad Guest miles and ~$93 back in August 2016.

So this gets me to Brussels!

I’ll spend 2 days exploring the city.

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Cuuute

I’m staying at this cute Airbnb duplex near Grand Place for 2 nights.

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$18 a night

I had a $100 Airbnb gift card from a promotion a long time ago. And an $80 credit for referring a new Airbnb host. So $180 skimmed right off the top.

In the end, I charged $39 to my Chase Sapphire Reserve to earn 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards points. That’s $18 a night out of pocket.

3. Brussels to Amsterdam

Then I’ll take the Thalys train from Brussels to Amsterdam.

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Cheep!

A First Class “Premier” seat was a little more than the regular seat. Considering this was my biggest expense of the entire trip, I decided to splurge. And paid $106 for the train ticket to Amsterdam.

Remember Club Carlson? A few years ago I Club Carlson-ed my way through Europe. And stayed at several of their hotels in Ireland. Of course, they are now dead to me, but I had 117,000 Club Carlson points literally just chillin’. And I wanted to burn them on this trip.

My free digs in Amsterdam

My free digs in Amsterdam

Lucky for me, I found 2 nights at the Park Plaza Victoria Amsterdam for 100,000 Club Carlson points.

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I love seeing a $0 subtotal

Of course me being me, I wanted to see how much it would’ve cost with cash:

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Nearly $600, or $300 per night

In this case, my 100,000 Club Carlson points were worth ~$595 – not bad at all.

4. Amsterdam to Prague

Next, to Prague.

Just paid for it

Just paid for it

I found an EasyJet flight for ~$160. I bought it outright with my Citi Prestige card, which covered the entire cost thanks to the remainder of the $250 annual airfare credit.

3 nights in Prague for 21,000 Starwood points

3 nights in Prague for 21,000 Starwood points

I found 3 nights open at the Sheraton Prague Charles Square Hotel for 7,000 Starwood points per night. So I booked it on the spot.

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Or, ~$719

The 3 nights would’ve cost ~$719, so in this case, my Starwood points were worth over 3 cents each. That’s not stellar for Starwood points, but I really didn’t want to pay over $700. Plus, I just signed-up for a promotion to earn 20,000 Starwood points in the next couple of months, so I figured I could easily replace them.

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Value added tax indeed

Because this is a Sheraton, I have access to the Executive lounge thanks to my SPG biz Amex (yessss!). This includes breakfast, snacks all day, and drinks in the evening – I expect I’ll be here a lot, if only for the drinks. 😉

And not having to pay for those things adds a ton of value to the Starwood points in my eyes. I know I’ll be grateful for these perks once I get there.

So for the flight to Prague and hotel stay, I paid nothing out of pocket. Boom.

5. Prague back to Brussels

The flights back were over $200:

No way Jose

No way Jose

There was no chance in Hades I’d pay if I didn’t have to, and it occurred to me I could book the flight, again, with Etihad miles. You can book one-way flights with their new award chart. And Prague to Brussels is only 5,000 Etihad miles each way!

I found the flight I wanted on the United website, then called Etihad to book it. 10 minutes and ~$23 later, I was booked. It was so easy.

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I am LOVING Etihad miles!

$216 – $23 is $193, which means my 5,000 Etihad miles were worth 4 cents each. Perrrfect.

So that gets me back to Brussels where I’ll catch my flights home – and will conclude BAP 2017. I already can’t wait to write about it!

Bottom line

In total I paid:

  • Dallas to New York American Airlines flight: 6,637 Citi ThankYou points (~$106)
  • New York to Brussels round-trip Brussels Airlines flights: 36,620 Etihad Guest miles and ~$93 ($3,057)
  • 2 nights in Brussels at this cute Airbnb: $39
  • Brussels to Amsterdam Thalys train ticket: $106 (my biggest expense lol)
  • 2 nights in Amsterdam at the Park Plaza Victoria Amsterdam: 100,000 Club Carlson points (~$595)
  • Amsterdam to Prague EasyJet flight: $160, but $0 after airfare credit
  • 3 nights in Prague at the Sheraton Prague Charles Square Hotel: 21,000 Starwood points (~$719)
  • Prague to Brussels flight on Brussels Airlines: 5,000 Etihad miles and ~$23, but $0 after airfare credit (~$193)
  • New York back to Dallas Southwest flight: 5,810 Southwest points and $5.60, but $0 after airfare credit (~$83)

I calculate the value of this trip is ~$5,058 for everything above (noted in parentheses).

So I really cobbled this together from all my points and miles efforts over the past year or so. In the end, I paid ~$238 out of pocket for a week in Europe. Incredible.

I put it together with points from:

  • Citi ThankYou
  • Club Carlson
  • Starwood
  • Southwest

Although I believe this could be replicated for similar prices with Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards points.

It would be unwise not to mention I’m paying annual fees on many of the cards I used to earn the points. Even with those included, I got way outsized value with points. Like, extremely.

Trips like this are the reason why I’m always thinking about category bonuses, signing-up for promotions, and making calls to get approved for new cards (or get bonus points for keeping a card). It’s some work, but the reward far outweighs the effort.

Hopefully this gave you some ideas for your next trip. And if there are any must-visit places in Brussels, Amsterdam, or Prague – please share. I want to fit in as much as I can while I’m there!

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Dallas.

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Comments

  1. that’s a great and simple itinerary! You could have maybe also paid the train with Ultimate Rewards and save even more (but at 1.5 cpp not sure if it was worth it). I love hotel lounges, best place to pre-game and take one for the road!

    • Absolutely!

      The train was so cheap I just paid it with cash.

      Agreed about the hotel lounges. 😉

      Thank you for reading and commenting!

  2. “In a few weeks, I’ll be in Brussels, Amsterdam, and Paris for the first time. I am calling this trip “BAP” (after the 3 cities).”

    Prague is beautiful, you’ll love it.

  3. Harlan,

    Nice score, I hear Prague is absolutely amazing! This inspires me to book my next trip. Funny you posted this today, as I was just wondering what you do with your TYP haul you’ve been reeling in. I just signed up for the SPG promo as well but not sure if I’ll hit that spend. Looking forward to hit my first Sheraton since I’ve acquired the SPG Biz card. Be sure to give a review of that lounge. Have a great time!

    • Now you know! 🙂

      I’m staying at a Sheraton tonight and in Prague – I will let you know how they are! 🙂

      It’s so easy to meet minimum spending requirements. How do you usually meet them?

      And yes, book your next trip! Thanks for the well wishes!

  4. I only spent 2 days in Prague, and mostly hit the touristy spots, but…

    The Prague Castle really is amazing. We paid for the more expensive tour/pass and it was well worth it. Climb the tower. It’s awful getting up, but beautiful and worth it. Just make sure to give yourself enough time to see that and the st vitus cathedral so you aren’t rushing before they close.

    Do the walk from the old town through the powder gate to Charles bridge on the way to the castle.

    Get a drink in Charles square one night. Lots of street performers and great ambiance. Food and drink are so cheap there.

  5. Both Brussels and Amsterdam have amazing art museums.I wasn’t that impressed with Brussels, overall-I”d take a daytrip to Brugge during one of those days.

    I’d recommend going to see the tulips-Keohunhof (sp?) gardens near Amsterdam if you weren’t a guy, so I’m recommend the Red Light secrets museum of prostitution and Boom Chicago’s improv show instead.

    You’re probably too late for tickets to the Anne Frank house in AMS, and the lines there can be crazy crazy long. But do check the website for online reservations.

    • I will check for the Anne Frank museum. I might be too late but I’ll try.

      And maybe the tulips too! 😉

      Thanks for the other recommendations, too. Added to my file. Thank you for this!

  6. Thanks for the tip about using Citi to Etihad for short haul European airline flights. Many of the major European airlines charge more for one-way flights than for round trip tickets. I need to book an expensive ticket on Austrian Air, Vienna to Warsaw. Can I book it using Etihad miles?

  7. If you are still in Prague, there is “History of Sex Museum” that you’ll probably get a kick out of. Prague was such a stunningly beautiful city to see. Thank you as always for sharing your adventures.

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