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Today is the day that the months of playing the US Airways Grand Slam last fall paid off. Well, at least one of the days, I suppose the days we are on are trip are really when they will pay off, but securing the award availability you want is pretty exciting by itself. I played the Grand Slam with a specific goal in mind – two tickets in US Airways Envoy Suites for my husband and I to go to Europe during the off-peak award time when tickets are only 60,000 miles each. Actually, they are only 55,000 miles each if you have the US Airways MasterCard like we do. That is just an insane value when you think about it. I spent about $398 out of pocket to earn 120,000 US Airways miles in the Grand Slam last year, and now that will be more than enough miles for us to go to Europe at the front of the plane. Why does everyone not do this??!!
As I posted earlier today, after obsessively checking the US Airways site for availability during the off-peak time frame to Europe in 2013 (Jan 15th – Feb 28th) for the last several weeks, there was significant improvement today in reward flight availability for many different European cities. London (Gatwick), Paris, and Rome are three cities that I saw lots of Envoy Suite availability from the US. I’m sure there are other cities as well, but those are the ones that I specifically noticed with Business Class availability. Additional cities had economy availability. Off-peak economy awards are only 35,000 miles round trip, or 30,000 with the US Airways Mastercard. The award chart lists these mileage rates valid for North America (includes the continental U.S., Canada, Bermuda, the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico)/Hawaii to Europe. To qualify for the off-peak reduced mileage rate, all of your flights do have to be on US Airways metal.
My husband and I want to go to London and Dublin on this trip. Ideally we would be flying into Dublin as the fees are much lower than London, but that availability just isn’t there right now. An open jaw, where we fly into one city and out of another, would have also been ideal given our plans, but with no Dublin availability, that isn’t currently an option either. Many sane people would just wait and see if Dublin availability opened up, but the earlier I can plan the better. To pull this trip off we are going to have to use both sets of grandparents to watch Little C for that many days. That means also finding award availability on American (using British Airways Avios) for her Kansas grandparents. Considering we are now impacting the schedules of six adults, we need all the advance notice we can get, so I would rather lock in London with the higher taxes and fees, than gamble on Dublin down the line. I can buy a cheap ticket on BMI to get us from the short London to Dublin distance.
Currently our plan is to fly into London (Gatwick) from Houston via Charlotte and then spend a day/night in London to get acclimated and go to Windsor and/or Stonehenge that day. We will then fly out early the next morning to Dublin and spend a few days there. The Guinness Factory is on my husband’s “must do” list in Dublin. We then return to London for a couple nights, and fly home on the same route we came in on. Our trip will never be long enough to see and do everything there is to do in those two cities, but we really want to spend a little time in both, so that is what we are going to do. We’ll be returning with our daughter in a couple years, and will do a longer trip at that time. I’m sure I will miss her like crazy while we are gone since this will be the longest we will have been away from her. Three to four days is about my normal limit before I start going crazy missing her. A full week will be brutal, but worth it.
Our next big decision will be hotels. I have set aside my two 50,000 point hauls from the Radisson promo last year for our Europe trip. We also have enough Hyatt points to cover two nights in either of the Hyatt London properties. I’m leaning toward an SPG stay at Heathrow the first night before our flight to Dublin. So, my initial plan (with limited research) is a relatively inexpensive SPG night at Heathrow the first night, three nights at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel in Dublin (with at least two nights using Club Carlson points), and then two nights at either the Andaz Liverpool Street (which is currently cheap enough to just use dollars), or the Hyatt Regency London Churchill (where we would absolutely use points). I have a lot of research still to do in that department, but would love any recommendations that anyone has!
If you have any interest in getting in on the US Airways off-peak awards to Europe in 2013, now is a great time to check availability. You can call in and have US Airways hold award tickets for three days free of charge. I have read repeatedly that you do not have to have enough miles in your account for the ticket to hold it, but I was told on the phone today that I did have to have enough miles for the tickets in order to hold them. Probably just a confused agent, but it was worth mentioning, especially if you are considering buying US Airways miles for this deal or transferring them in using the Membership Rewards to SPG to US Airways route (though that may take even longer than three days). If you were to purchase US Airways miles with their current 50% bonus, then the 55,000 miles would cost you $1,392 to fly in International Business class to Europe during the off-peak time. That is actually not bad. If you don’t have the US Airways MasterCard, then the 60,000 miles needed would cost you $1505.
Of course, playing the US Airways Grand Slam is an ever more fun and less expensive way to obtain those miles, so I hope to see everyone playing along with me this year! It will have certainly paid off for my family.