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I’ve written a few times about my mom and her sister taking their “teacher retirement” trip to Europe in 2014. They are going to London, Paris, Rome, and a couple other spots on miles and points, and I couldn’t be more excited for them! In fact, Little C and I are so excited for them that we are meeting them for part of their journey in Paris. I’ve never been to Paris, so next year seems like the perfect time for the four-year-old and I to pay the city a visit. Three generations of girls in Paris, woohoo!
Deciding How to Get There:
I’ve toyed around with every way conceivable to get there and back with the sole requirement being that we are guaranteed to fly there and back in a lie flat seat. Of course we wouldn’t spontaneously combust if we had to fly coach, but I don’t play this game so that I fly on vacation with my daughter to Europe in coach. I play this game so that we can get some real sleep on the plane (hopefully) and have a bunch of fun in the process.
I had hoped to redeem miles for her, and purchase a revenue ticket for myself (so that I earn premier qualifying miles), but availability didn’t line up for that to work. In fact, business class reward availability in general for our dates wasn’t what I wanted. Since my mom and aunt’s trip is already booked, our dates weren’t really flexible, so I couldn’t plan the trip around award availability the way I usually like to. I had to look for reward availability on our specific dates in April. I could have potentially made it work with some reward flights, but it wouldn’t have been the best itinerary, or the best use of miles.
Buy Coach Tickets and Apply Business Class Upgrade Using GPU:
Ultimately, I decided that it made more sense to simply buy mileage earning coach tickets on United for both of us, and apply United Global Premier Upgrades that you earn by being 1K, than to redeem miles that really wouldn’t give me a good rate of return for such a straight-forward round trip. To do this on United you have to buy a W class or higher fare, which means you aren’t getting bargain basement prices, but the prices weren’t terrible either. Remember that you can often get a kid’s fare when flying internationally with a little one, so that resulted in a slight discount for C’s ticket without changing her fare class. Buying the tickets isn’t cheap, but it would have been around 100,000 miles per ticket if we redeemed for business class, assuming found good availability. In other words, it was a ton of miles or money either way. I made what I think is the best call in our situation.
Since I wanted to be sure to have confirmed business class seats, I wasn’t willing to be wait-listed for an upgrade using a Global Premier Upgrade. I wanted to buy a ticket that had upgrade (R) space available at the time of purchase. You can look for R Space by clicking on the Fare Class after you have searched for flights on your dates, as shown below. You need to have opted into “Expert Mode” for this option to display. One Mile at a Time has a good post that explains more about that process. It’s easier than it sounds, so don’t let the “expert” word scare you off.
Finding R space months in advance to Europe can be pretty hard, but I was able to find it into London and back home out of Paris. In a perfect world, I would have found it both in and out of Paris, but London was close enough. We will just tack on a cheap flight or British Airways Avios redemption from London to Paris.
We purchased the tickets and had the upgrades applied immediately after, so there is no wondering or waiting to see if our upgrades will clear later. I would not want to pay more for an upgrade eligible W fare only to not have the upgrades clear!
Using Points for Hotels Takes the Sting Out of Buying Tickets:
With that we are booked and are looking forward to our time in Paris. We have had our hotel reward nights secured at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome and the Radisson Blu Champs Elysees for a while now, so that makes the sting of buying the airline tickets a bit easier. Of course as the trip gets a little closer I’ll be turning to you all for any of your “can’t miss” family friendly Paris recommendations!