Booking Last Minute Awards: How I Went to Paris With One Day’s Notice
Category : Fees
Paris was awesome. It’s a beautiful city and our first time to Europe. With a plethora of kosher options and world-famous museums, it’s a great way to be introduced to the Old World.
I can continue to wax poetic about the City of Love, but I’d rather tell you how I got there using miles and points and more importantly, avoiding “close-in” booking fees. “Close-in” fees are fees airlines charge when you book an award ticket within 21 days of departure. Not all airlines charge this ridiculous fee, however.
Here’s an example from United on January 11, 2016—15 days from now:
Notice a tax charge of $80.60.
If you clicked the details you’d see this:
Now notice what happens if I search for a flight 21+ days from today, say, January 27:
Beautiful! Standard $5.60 taxes on U.S. originating award tickets.
So how can you avoid the fees? Book with the following airlines to avoid paying a fee of $75:
- Alaska Airlines
- British Airways
- American Airlines
- United Airlines
There are a lot of options to avoid the close-in booking fees. Unfortunately, United and American are pretty popular programs for redeeming miles.
We left New York on Thursday, December 10 and I booked our flights on Wednesday! I used my Alaska Airline miles. The associated fees came out to a total of $36.20 for two passengers. That’s about $113.80 saved on fees if I had booked my flight using American or United miles.
Currently American Airlines has generous off-peak prices to Europe for 20,000 AAdvantage miles each way, per person. American has a close partnership with Alaska, and those off-peak prices carry over to booking American awards using Alaska miles.
Hands down, off-peak awards to Europe using either of those mileage currencies is the cheapest way to get to Europe. Act fast, though; with American Airline’s award chart change looming on March 22, 2016, the off-peak days from U.S.-Europe will shrink from 212 to 107 (the award is also increasing by a marginal 2,500 miles).
If you don’t mind flying in coach, it’s a short 7 hour flight from New York to Paris.
For the return, I transferred 90,000 Membership Rewards to Aeroplan, Air Canada’s loyalty program. At the time of booking they charged 45,000 per person, per direction for business class seats from Europe to the United States. Unfortunately, Aeroplan also went through a change in their award chart. The same award now costs a bit more at 55,000 per person, per direction. Still not horrible, but more expensive than I originally paid.
Aeroplan passes on fuel surcharges when leaving Europe (as do other programs), but I used my miles to fly on United, direct from Paris to Newark. There are still European departure taxes, but Aeroplan does not pass on fuel surcharges on United flights.
My favorite hotel credit card is the Hyatt card from Chase. They have an extremely generous sign-up bonus, only requiring $1,000 spent. The sign-up includes two free night certificate at any Hyatt worldwide. Yes, you read that correctly. As long as a point’s night is available at your hotel you can redeem the sign-up certificates. Hyatt sign-up nights are best used at their top-tier/high-end properties (most notably those in the Andaz or Park Hyatt family). I redeemed my certificates at the Park Hyatt Vendome, a category 7 hotel.
Paid nights typically run anywhere between $650-1000 USD or 30,000 points. At the time of our stay, rooms were going for €749, or ~$820, giving us tremendous value out of our Hyatt sign-up nights.
Our third night was at another Hyatt hotel, the Hotel du Louvre, where I redeemed 10,000 points and $112 in cash. I would have sprung for another night at the Park Hyatt, but most of our time in Paris was NOT in the hotel, so we just needed a comfortable and clean place to crash.
Doing the Math
|Item||Approximate Cash Price||Points + taxes/cash|
|JFK-CDG, coach x2||$900||40,000 + $36.20|
|CDG-EWR, business x2||$3,700||90,000 + $120.40|
|Park Hyatt x2||$1,600||2 Sign-up Certificates|
|Hotel du Louvre||$300||10,000 + $112|
|Total||$6,500||140,000 Points + 2 sign-up nights + $268.60|
|Approximate total savings||$6,231|
Now that’s how you get it done!
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more posts on how I earned the points via credit card sign ups, and how I determined which points would be best to use, over others, for this trip.