Yesterday, I realized that any savings I would get from lower ticket prices to complete my 30,000 EQM American Airlines AAdvantage ticket challenge was being negated by lost productivity and income. Hours spent studying airfares, routes, and hotel options resulted in low writing output this past week as I planned September travel for miles. Sightseeing is the secondary objective of my trips, but I wanted to schedule flights that allowed plenty of time to visit places. Mileage running without leaving the airport is something I tired of years ago. The real challenge was setting up the dates for three trips that would allow me enough time to get to places around Europe.
American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum Challenge for 30,000 EQM flown by October 9, 2015.
Last month I was sent an email offer to fast-track to American Airlines elite status. It is a targeted offer for me. No link to share.
A quick look at routes showed I could ticket 30,000 miles for around $1,500 with as few as two trips, if I flew to Jakarta, Indonesia and Sao Paulo, Brazil. I could also nest tickets with two round trips to Brazil for $1,200, leaving out of Monterey Airport MRY. Brazil also had the additional cost factor for a $160 Brazil tourist visa. Anchorage, Alaska was another potential ticket at $268 round trip from Los Angeles.
Scandinavia keeps pulling me back
Europe is my true love, so I opted for Copenhagen, Denmark and Bergen, Norway as my gateway travel airports. I spent a week in Bergen last September and loved the hiking views in the mountains around the city.
More low fares appeared yesterday for US Airways flights in September that had me looking at Dublin instead of Copenhagen, and even Madrid came into the mix. In the end, the abundance of low fares across Europe from Copenhagen, compared to Dublin and Madrid, along with proximity to Bergen, where incredible flight deals are available to San Francisco for under $400 round trip on American Airlines, was the deciding factor on Copenhagen as my initial destination in Europe.
Ticket #1: American Airlines $672.70
Orange County SNA – CPH Copenhagen, Denmark – Los Angeles LAX
Orange County, SNA – Chicago ORD – Dusseldorf DUS – Copenhagen CPH (Air Berlin codeshare) – London LHR – Los Angeles LAX (British Airways A380-800).
Flight Miles: 12,022 EQM
The fast-track offer does not include Air Berlin in my EQM challenge eligible airlines, so I did not count the 385 mile segment from Dusseldorf to Copenhagen in the flight miles listed above for the American Airlines Air Berlin codeshare. 385 extra miles, if it counts.
Ticket #2: American Airlines $376.00
Bergen, Norway BGO – San Francisco SFO
Bergen BGO – London LHR – Dallas DFW – San Francisco SFO
San Francisco – London LHR – Bergen BGO
Flight Miles: 12,878 miles
This flight is American Airlines London to San Francisco and British Airways operated flights on the return San Francisco to London. I scheduled a 19-hour transit layover, when I can be in London city centre by 4pm for an evening in the city.
After countless checks of mileage on Great Circle Mapper, I learned Dallas offers the most miles to San Francisco given a choice of New York, Philadelphia and Chicago.
Ticket #3: American Airlines $397.50
Bergen BGO – London LHR – Chicago ORD – San Francisco SFO
San Francisco – Chicago ORD – London LHR – Bergen BGO
The flights between London and Chicago are British Airways.
Flight Miles: 12,894
The third ticket is another Bergen originating trip. I played around with different returns. I could have started or ended in Oslo for the same price. The main reason I skipped Oslo is hotels are more expensive with the lowest priced Choice Hotel at 16,000 points and Bergen available for 12,000 points. That is a $33 price difference per night at the rate I am paying $7.70 per 1,000 points at today’s discount rate for purchases of Choice Privileges points.
I also could have set the return to Stockholm, Sweden for about $30 more. Stockholm has several low priced reward night hotels with Choice Privileges. The cost to travel to Stockholm is around $70 round trip from Bergen. I have 10,000 SAS miles I might burn to travel north of the Arctic Circle in Norway. Too bad Radisson Blu Polar Hotel Spitsbergen Longyearbyen is now 70,000 Club Carlson points per night. The two Best Western hotels on the Lofoten Islands of Norway, north of the Arctic Circle were available for 20,000 points per night when I checked over the weekend.
I might just end up in Helsinki at the Holiday Inn for an extended stay.
Ticket #4: $136.20 Los Angeles LAX – Las Vegas LAS – Phoenix PHX – Monterey MRY
Flight Miles: 1,500
My last ticket for this AAdvantage Executive Platinum Challenge trip is a crazy itinerary that will place me in Las Vegas for seven hours at 11:30pm upon my return to Los Angeles from Copenhagen. My sisters and I celebrated Disneyland’s 60th in June 2015 and I am scheduled to arrive in Las Vegas for the beginning of my sister’s 60th birthday celebration at midnight before jetting back home to Monterey in the early morning, via Phoenix.
Total American Airlines AAdvantage EQM = 39,294 EQM.
Total ticket cost = $1,582.40
(+$63 Southwest Airlines SJC-SNA to start) = $1,645.40
My primary task is completed by fixing the dates for the three long-haul international trips with checks of airfares into and out of Copenhagen and Bergen around the dates I need to fly.
Norwegian Airlines, SAS and Swiss Airlines all have tickets under $50 one way to a variety of places I have looked into for my hotel stays. Geneva, Switzerland and Milan, Italy are two places I have studied for hotel deals and a week in the Alps. I favor doing this excursion on my first trip over to Europe to get some mountain hiking exercise before a quick six-day round trip from Bergen, Norway back to California after ten days of travel.
Loyalty Traveler – Staying in the Alps with Best Western, Choice, IHG and Wyndham points.
Flights Secured, Now I need Hotels for 19 nights
IHG PointBreaks will help offset the cost of travel to places in Europe. I need to make those plans soon before the hotels are booked out. Holiday Inn London Heathrow T5 is already booked out for the date I will be in the city and most dates I checked for that hotel as I was planning my ticket were already gone.
Hamburg and Zwickau, Germany are train ride possibilities from Copenhagen. Berlin is a cheap $35 flight from Copenhagen.
Prague, Czech Republic is about a $60 flight and Brno, Czech Republic has a Holiday Inn on PointBreaks, about 200 km from Prague. I loved Prague and I can drown myself in Czech pilsner for days in Brno.
Over the next week I will plan out itineraries for my three periods in Europe with 19 hotel nights needed. Pointbreaks need to be a major part of that trip planning since I have over 100,000 IHG Rewards Club points and those 5,000 points hotel nights will save my bank and hotel points balances from going into the red.
I’ll need most of my Choice Privileges points for Norway and perhaps hotels in Italy and/or France. With 50,000 Choice Privileges points for $385 purchased today, I have sufficient points for 6 to 10 hotel nights on points.
Loyalty Traveler – Choice Privileges points at 30% discount sale ends July 28.
Loyalty Traveler – My fantastic American AAdvantage elite fast-track offer (June 22)
Loyalty Traveler – Cost of flying 30,000 AAdvantage flight miles (June 22)
Loyalty Traveler – Thoughts on my AAdvantage Executive Platinum challenge (July 23)
Loyalty Traveler – Nested tickets for more AAdvantage EQM California to Scandinavia (July 23)
Loyalty Traveler – Full list IHG PointBreaks July 27 – Oct 31, 2015 has me honing in on Hamburg HIX (July 24)
Loyalty Traveler – High Value Wyndham Rewards in Anchorage, Alaska compared to other chains (July 24)