The Cheapest Way to Fly to Europe
Everyone loves a quick holiday in Europe. Okay, probably not everyone, but find me a person who would turn down a free flight to Europe, and I'll stand corrected. Many of my friends, family, and colleagues, who know my obsession with travel and miles, will ask what are the best deals for flying to Europe. There are several options available to you, the traveler, that I'm happy to detail below!
(Wise Bread's pick for best travel rewards credit card is the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card - 40,000 mile signup bonus, 2x miles on every purchase, and more. Click here for details.)
A member of the OneWorld Alliance, American Airlines isn't the most exciting airline to fly to Europe, but there is a reason why I am recommending it first on this list. While normal award flights can cost 60,000 miles on American, during their "off-peak" times, roundtrip flights will only cost you 40,000 miles. This is a great deal. And, on top of that, American allows you to build in a stopover in the North American gateway city, so you could possibly spend a week in New York during a stopover before jetting off to Europe. (See also: Secrets From Frugal Frequent Travelers)
The best way to earn miles in this program (short of actually flying them) is to pick up an CitiBusiness®/AAdvantage® World MasterCard®. There are three card products you can choose from, which all give you 30,000 AAdvantage miles for signing up and making $1,000 in purchases in three months.
It seems a little weird to recommend an Asian carrier for flights to Europe, but when that airline is in the Star Alliance, one of the three major air alliances, it makes it easy to redeem points through partners. (See also: 10 Ways to Get Free Airline Tickets)
ANA's Mileage Club uses distance-based awards, so this recommendation is for our East Coast readers. Using Mileage Club points, you can fly East Coast to London for 38,000 miles. Taxes vary depending on the airline that you end up flying on, but you can check the ANA website for costs.
To receive ANA mileage, you'll want to know that they are a transfer partner of Starwood's SPG program, which has an American Express SPG card product. Furthermore, ANA is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, so if you have points saved up from your American Express Platinum or Gold credit cards, you can use them with this airline. (See also: Beginner’s Guide to Miles and Points)
Flying Blue, the program of Air France and KLM, offers a special award called Promo Awards, which allows you to fly much more cheaply than you would have otherwise. This all comes with the caveat that you must be located close to one of their gateway cities in order to capitalize on this deal. For example, this month, the Promo Awards offered from North America include Boston-Europe on Air France or Houston-Europe on KLM for the low roundtrip price of 37,500 miles. These offers change every month, and are valid for two months out from when you book.
US Airways offers off-peak awards as well, at least for the time being before it moves forward with its eventual merger with American Airlines. Though a smaller window than the American Airlines example mentioned above, for only 35,000 miles, you can fly between North America and Europe between January 15th and February 28th. This is a very, very low rate, and with so many cities that US Airways flies to from the States (Phoenix, Charlotte, Philadelphia, and DC are all hubs), you are sure to find a flight during this off-peak time.
The best way to receive US Airways miles are using its credit card products. The US Airways Premier World MasterCard offers 40,000 miles after your first purchase, so there is a trip right there!
This all may seem a bit overwhelming for the newbie award flyer, but in time, it will all begin to make sense. There are many types of award miles out there; it's best to familiarize yourself with the major ones so that you make better decisions with your hard earned miles. I know that it took me months of pouring over award charts to discover the "hidden pockets" of travel goodness that I shared with you above. (See also: Frequent Flyer Rules to Go Farther on Fewer Miles)
And, as I mentioned a few times above, credit cards are a fast, quick and easy way to earn travel miles for whichever program you are looking to utilize. With so many credit cards now offering free foreign transaction fees, essentially eliminating one major annoyance from travel in the past, it makes monetary sense to carry at least one card in your wallet. Always know your spending habits, though. For some people, it may be dangerous to carry a credit card with a high limit!
There are many options between Europe and North America, in terms of award flights. Which ones above interested you? Did I miss any that you have found in your research? I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below!