My First Trip to Europe Using Miles & Points (Denver, Houston, Manchester, Dublin, Paris & Frankfurt)

I started this post while I was in Dublin on a ten day trip around Europe, but I never found the time to finish it. Probably due to the fact that I was walking 7-10 miles a day checking out the sites! I primarily used miles/points to book the majority of the travel and lodging, which is detailed below.

My first flight was from DEN (Denver) – HOU (William P. Hobby/Houston) on SW (Southwest) as a positioning flight, which I paid 7.6k miles for, and $5.60. The retail price was $127, so I averaged 1.6 Cents Per Point (CPP), which is pretty average for SW. I Uber’d to IAH (George Bush Intercontinental/Houston) for around $40.

Southwest Plane

Southwest flight from Denver (DEN) to Houston (HOU)

I then flew IAH-MAN (Manchester) on Singapore (SQ) Business for 65k miles that I transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR), and $24 in fees. The retail price for the flight was $3,000. I averaged 4.6 CPP on the redemption. Singapore business was amazing by the way.

SQ and Passport

Singapore Airlines flight from Houston (IAH) to Manchester, England (MAN)

Then I flew MAN-DUB (Dublin) on Ryanair (FR), which is truly a low cost carrier. If the seats were much thinner, cardboard would have been more comfortable. I paid $52 for the FR flight.

I stayed at the Dublin Westin for three days, which I booked for 70k US Bank FlexPoints (FP). The retail price was approximately $1,050, so I averaged around 1.5 CPP on my booking, but since I earned the majority of my FPs at grocery stores, which earn 2x, I estimate my CPP to be 3 on this booking.

Dublin - Christ Church

Christ Church in Dublin, Ireland

Next was DUB-CDG (Charles de Gaulle/Paris) on AF (Air France), which cost $117. I stayed in Paris at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme, which I booked by transferring 90k URs. The retail price was around $800 per night. I received a €50 breakfast everyday, because I had a friend who is a Globalist book me under Guest of Honor (GOH). CPP was 2.8.

Eiffel Tower at Night

Eiffel Tower at night in Paris, France

Then I took the train (TGV high speed train, 200mph) from Paris to Frankfurt, which cost me $95. I stayed in Frankfurt at the Jumeirah Frankfurt (same chain that owns the Burj al Arab in Dubai), which was the exact same points and cost as the Westin Dublin.


TGV high speed train from Paris, France to Frankfurt, Germany

I intended to fly home nonstop from FRA-DEN on Lufthansa (LH) Business, which I transferred 70k URs to United MileagePlus (MP) to book, and $108 in fees. The retail price for the flight was a $7,000. I averaged 10 CPP on the redemption.

Lufthansa First Class Lounge in Frankfurt, Germany

Lufthansa First Class Lounge in Frankfurt, Germany

Lufthansa First Class Lounge rubber duck

Lufthansa First Class Lounge rubber duck

The night before my flight home, my friend Nigel noticed that LH had an equipment change for my flight, from a 747-4 to a 747-8, and there were First Class seats available for my flight, which is not normal, since LH does not have First Class available on the DEN-FRA route. United was showing availability in First Class on the flight, so I transferred another 40k points to United MP from UR to book.

United was nice enough to waive the close in booking fee and charged me $.07 in additional taxes to upgrade to First (I was unable to make the change online). Cha-Ching!!! I was showing as the only passenger in First right up to approximately 10 minutes before my flight, when my First Class Lounge attendant came and told me that I had to be moved back to Business. They did not have a crew for the First Class cabin…because you guessed it…they don’t normally have First Class on the flight. DOH!!!

The attendant advised they would reimburse my points, but did not offer me any type of compensation for my troubles, or offer to book me on another connecting flight that had First Class. It really didn’t matter, because I wanted to fly direct to Denver and get home, since I needed to be back to work the next day, but I thought they would offer some type of compensation. Anyways, I waited for a week and my points were never reimbursed, probably due to the fact that LH would not have the ability to reimburse MP miles.

I have since sent an email to LH Customer Service and inquired about compensation for my downgrade, and when/how my points will be reimbursed. As of this writing, it has been six days and I still haven’t received a response from LH. I reached out to their Twitter team, and they responded requesting I give the Customer Service team more time to look into my situation. Anybody else have any experiences dealing with LH Customer Service? I am considering filing an EU 261 claim once I hear back from Lufthansa and find out what they are going to offer me for compensation, if anything.

I don’t have the exact numbers yet, but my out of pocket was under $500, and the overall cost would have been around $15,000. Not too shabby! I don’t know exactly how much I expended on Manufactured Spending (MS) to acquire the points for the trip, since there were several sign-up bonuses, and the majority of my MS has been fee free, or I’ve been making money on it. Another thing to consider is $300 of the $500 was on my Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR), which I received the travel reimbursement on.

CM Europe 2017 Trip

Great Circle Mapper Routing: DEN-HOU / IAH-MAN-DUB-CDG / FRA-DEN

Accruing points and miles can seem tedious and time consuming at times, but I can tell you it is very much worth it in the long run! I had the trip of a lifetime, and sometimes it seemed like I was in a dream or a movie (“Paris is always a good idea.” -Sabrina Fairchild). One thing for sure, I will return to Europe as soon as possible to continue my explorations.

Stay tuned for more posts about the flights, hotels, and places that I visited on my trip.

Ironically according to Denver International Airport’s Twitter feed this is the first time a 747-800 has ever landed at DIA and they caught it on video! Check out the tweet and video of the landing here.


7 thoughts on “My First Trip to Europe Using Miles & Points (Denver, Houston, Manchester, Dublin, Paris & Frankfurt)

  1. Mike H

    LOVE real life use recaps like this. Too many bloggers out there with bottomless accounts jetsetting to Dubai without any ground in reality on how someone without Infinity points can travel. This is perfect. Thank you! Not knocking jetsetters. I’m just jealous. You and Mommy P and Grant are a select few that I see give everyman uses.

    1. Will the Tactical Traveler Post author

      Hi Mike…thanks for the kind words.

      It was an awesome trip, and I can’t wait to do it again. Since, this was my first time booking a trip like this, I think I was most surprised at how much time I put into finding the different airlines/routes that I could book with the points I had available. I utilized Grant, Stefan (Rapid Travel Chai), Greg (Frequent Miler), and a good friend, Nigel, to bounce my ideas off of. I wanted to fly Business or First for my first Transatlantic trip and that certainly made it more difficult, since there was plenty of Coach availability on every routing I looked at.

      The other part that was tough was figuring out where in each city I wanted to stay, which was also difficult since I had never been to any of the cities. I settled on staying in the City Centre (Downtown) area of each location. Then I had to research each hotel and figure out which ones I could book with the points I had/wanted to use for hotel bookings.

      All in all I bet I put 12-15 hours into researching the bookings for the entire trip. Also, the prices for the hotels and my rental car in Frankfurt kept going up while I was researching! Which was very frustrating, but it probably didn’t help that I started planning the whole thing 3 weeks before departure! LOL

  2. DaninMCI

    Nice review. I’m not crazy about the airport change in Houston but I’ve done way worse when putting together a trip to Europe.
    I find Manchester to be a confusing airport to arrive at but it’s not bad beyond that.

    1. Will the Tactical Traveler Post author

      Thanks…I agree about the change in Houston. Singapore was willing to add a connection on for me at the front end of the flight, but there was no award availability that got me there on time for my flight. It probably didn’t help that I started my bookings three weeks prior to departure, which also affected cash prices just flying direct from DEN-IAH.

      Totally agree about Manchester!!! When I first arrived there was a female before customs that told me I could just take a transfer bus over to the other terminal. I explained that my connection was not through Singapore, and that I had booked my connecting flight on Ryanair on my own. She and her partner were unsure at that point if I could use the bus, and told me it was probably best if I went through customs and then walked to the other terminal.

      Customs was smooth, but the walk to the other terminal was probably around a mile (no exaggeration). Then the security lines were out of control at the other terminal, might not have helped that it was Easter Sunday. I bet more than 50% of the bags were selected for secondary screening, which of course included both of mine.

      There process for secondary screening SUCKED!!! Basically you stood at the end of your security section with around 50+ people waiting for a representative to hold up your bag and go through your bags with you. The whole process took around 30 minutes, which made it very stressful since I had less than two hours for my connection.

  3. chitownflyer

    Since you were ticketed on a United ticket via a Mileage Plus award, I would contact United to get the credits back for the 40K miles you spent that did were not applied due to there being no F on the 747-8.

    1. Will the Tactical Traveler Post author

      I thought about the same thing, but wondered what they could do, since it was LH that downgraded me. It probably wouldn’t hurt to just shoot an email off to them, and see that happens. Thanks for the advice!

  4. Mike

    Nice write up Will. As indicated above, a great explanation of using hard earned (relatively speaking) points. Better yet, making the most of them. We all need our experts so I have decided that next time I want some exotic travel advice, you are my expert!


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