How We Make Our Miles Go Further

As any of you long time readers are aware, we’re a family of four who loves to travel together. There have been a couple of times that my husband and I have taken an adult only trip, but for the most part, we spend our vacation time together as a family. As many of you may also know, neither my husband nor I travel for work. So, 100% of our miles are garnered through signing up for credit cards. We are able to accumulate around 500,000 miles and points a year through this process, but when trying to secure award tickets for four people, that balance dwindles pretty quickly, especially when we fly business class.


Coach Isn’t So Bad…


For years we have chosen to fly in coach whenever we fly within the continental US, to Europe, or to Central America. Given that we’re on the east coast, that generally means that all flights under 7 hours are in coach. While we’d certainly prefer to fly in business class, we’d rather save those miles for the really long flights to Asia, the Middle East, Africa, the South Pacific, and Hawaii. Although if it is a really good deal, we’d be willing to consider coach for some of those trips too.


But Business Class Is Better!

We’re currently in the early stages of planning our next summer’s vacation to Europe. At the top of our European bucket list is Iceland. While I have read how magical it can be in the fall, winter, or spring, truth is, we would like to spend the bulk of our time outdoors and even though we’re from Maine, we get really cold really easily. So, summer it is!

One of the low cost international airlines new to the US is WowAir which offers service to/from Iceland. It has been hailed by the travel community as a great way to get to Iceland and given that Boston is our international airport of choice, it would be a great way for us to get there quickly and inexpensively. But WowAir isn’t so wowful (I don’t think that’s a word) in the summer. In fact, their fares for dates we are considering are higher than IcelandAir which does not charge you for toilet paper on the flight (I kid… I think?).

But WowAir does have sales quite frequently so our current thought process is to hold out to see what, if any, sales come up that bring their price down. Getting to Iceland without spending any miles would be a great way to start a European vacation. And it’s only 5 hours from Boston! After about 5 days in Iceland, we wanted to spend 4 or 5 days in Greece. Greece also has been very high on our bucket list. But, there is no real expeditious way to get from Iceland to Athens or Santorini with miles or on a paid ticket. But there is an option via Rome that may just be perfect for us.

Ken and I got engaged in Rome. And we LOVED the sites and of course the food. We have a couple of IHG free night certificates burning holes in our pockets and I’ve heard that the Hotel Indigo St. George is a pretty awesome hotel, right near where we’d want to be. So, we could fly from Iceland to Rome direct for $162 per person (a 4.5 hour flight). We’d spend a day in Rome, then we’d fly the next day to Santorini direct from Rome for $54 per person (just over 2 hour flight).


Another Visit to the Coliseum? Yes Please!

Then, we’d return to Boston from Athens using 30,000 United miles per person plus $68.20 in taxes (we’ve never had an issue with getting four seats from Europe to Boston or vice versa using our United miles – an FYI if you’re a traveling family). Assuming that we could get our flight from Boston to Iceland for about $250 per passenger (they are $297 right now so I don’t think that’s a stretch) that would total up to $534.20 in airfare per person plus the 30,000 United miles for a three country summer visit.

Is this mind blowing? Definitely not. But it’s certainly an efficient way to travel and maximize our time, miles stash, and cash budget. And if we were to book a roundtrip to Greece using United miles? It would be 60,000 miles per passenger and $173 in taxes. From our perspective, seeing two additional countries and saving 30,000 miles per person for an additional $361.20 each makes a lot more sense.

This is one example of part of the process we go through when planning a trip. This one in particular happens to coincide with peak travel season in Europe so the numbers are not out of this world. But they are pretty good if you ask me. If you were to do something similar during shoulder or off season, my guess is that the numbers would be amazing. As low as $99 to Iceland from Boston in the winter (excluding baggage)? Couple that with similar hops that I’ve explained above and you’ve got yourself pretty inexpensive airfare.

Iceland, Rome, or Greece not on your bucket list? The idea of using some miles and some cash for your airfare can be extrapolated to just about all destinations out there. It always pays to research whether or not it makes sense to use miles for certain sectors of your trip before shelling them out blindly. It may make a lot more sense to use cash for some or all of it. And if you can’t figure it out, feel free to reach out to my award booking service for help.


Iceland Not On Your Bucket List? Ireland Works Too!

In short, our pockets aren’t very deep when it comes to miles or cash, but combining the two means that we can stretch both budgets further without stretching either one too far. And when we add in the fact that almost every hotel night on this vacation would be covered by points, the overall cost would be quite a steal for a nearly two week European summer vacation for a family of four.

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Our Frugal Life


  1. I almost used our free IHG nights at the Hotel Indigo in Rome. The only reason I didnt is because we spent three nights in Rome and I only had two free ones. I didn’t want to switch hotels or pay for a night there, which was like 300 euros at the time! Still need to decide where I’m spending those free nights!

    • That’s true… We’ve used them all over and they are such a great value. $49 annual fee for a hotel that goes for about $400 a night? Awesome! But we’ve had that card for so many years… I’m thinking of canceling and reapplying when the 80,000 point offer comes back and start the process over again!

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