Apr132016

Voguish Vilnius Vacation trip report overview

Vilnius, Lithuania was not a place I long desired to vacation in or see. In fact, I don’t think I’d ever looked at travel to Vilnius before January when I booked four nights at Crowne Plaza Vilnius on IHG PointBreaks for our April 2016 vacation.

Vilnius was my backup plan. Our primary plan was travel to Ghent, Belgium, another town I planned to visit solely due to the availability of a hotel on IHG PointBreaks for 5,000 points per night. That is like a $30 hotel night in points and the kind of rates I can afford when traveling frequently to Europe.

Kelley was reluctant to travel to Lithuania. She preferred taking a train from Amsterdam to Belgium and hanging out there. The Brussels airport and metro bombings in March 2016 put her firmly into the Lithuania vacation back-up plan.

Cheap Flights set Parameters of Our April 2016 Vacation

Due to Kelley’s set work vacation schedule for one week vacations in February and April 2016, I had flown her from Monterey, California to Amsterdam one-way on a 20,000 miles AAdvantage economy award in February. I flew in February on the return portion of my first of two American Airlines Amsterdam to Las Vegas round trip tickets I purchased in January for $422 each.

My February flights were upgraded to business class and when Kelley and I hooked up at Philadelphia Airport, we flew to Amsterdam together on the same flight for our February trip to Amsterdam. She took my business class upgrade seat and I flew to Amsterdam in her economy class award seat.

In January 2016, I purchased three American Airlines tickets for Amsterdam to Las Vegas at $422 round trip each. I flew my first round trip ticket leaving Amsterdam in January and returned in February. Then, Kelley and I returned from Amsterdam to Las Vegas on American Airlines at the end of the February vacation, both upgraded to Business Class. We departed for our April trip from Las Vegas to Amsterdam via Chicago and London to complete the return flights of the American Airlines AMS-LAS $422 economy class tickets.

This meant we were ticketed to Amsterdam in April with no ticket back to California when I originally booked dates for the American Airlines tickets in January.

Norwegian Airlines makes cheaper Europe to USA ticketing viable

Norwegian Airlines came on the scene a couple years ago with low cost one way ticket prices between Los Angeles LAX or Oakland OAK to Europe. Prior to Norwegian’s one way ticket pricing, Europe to USA round trip ticketing for cheaper tickets than one-way ticketing would have likely meant throwing away the final return ticket portion back to Europe. Throwaway ticketing eliminated much of the potential for big ticket savings on multiple trips to Europe.

I flew Norwegian Airlines to Amsterdam from Oakland in January for $210 one way. We flew back from Stockholm to Oakland this week for $211 one way including payment for one checked bag and assigned seats. This made my total ticket price for three round trip tickets to Europe around $1,266 all-in with OAK-AMS/ARN-OAK on Norwegian and AMS-LAS two times on an American Airlines ticket.

Of the last eight American Airlines tickets I purchased for trips to Europe, only one ticket in Sep 2015 originated for travel starting in California. The other tickets were all round trip travel starting from Europe in Amsterdam, Bergen Norway and Stockholm. American Airlines ticket prices have ranged from $360 to $500 round trip for these Europe to USA tickets compared to far higher ticket prices when starting travel in California.

Voguish Vilnius April Trip Itinerary

  1. Fly Oakland to Las Vegas, Southwest Airlines $71 one-way ticket
  2. Fly Las Vegas to Amsterdam via Chicago and London, $422 round trip American Airlines AMS-LAS tickets, upgraded to Business Class.
  3. Stay at Andaz Amsterdam on Points + Cash rate using Diamond member suite upgrade ($150 + 12,500 points for room with ridiculousluy high published rate at 906 EUR per night or $1,024 USD).
  4. Stay at Ramada Apollo Amsterdam Centre on Wyndham Rewards GoFast rate for 54 EUR ($60) + 3,000 points in King Executive Room. Published room rate 223 EUR ($252 USD).
  5. Fly Amsterdam to Vilnius on Air Baltic $134 one-way ticket.
  6. Stay four nights Crowne Plaza Vilnius on IHG PointBreaks reward nights for 20,000 points. Normal reward rate = 25,000 points per night. Base rate = 97 EUR per night. We were upgraded to a suite with 162 EUR ($183 per night room rate). 20,000 IHG Rewards Club points ($120 to buy) had a redemption value of $732 for this hotel stay.
  7. Stay one night at Holiday Inn Vilnius for 67 EUR. This stay completed my IHG Rewards Club Accelerate task with only three hotel nights at Holiday Inn Leiden, Netherlands (38.50 EUR = $43 USD) in January; The Venetian Las Vegas (Points + Cash 40,000 points + $70) in February for my mother’s 80th birthday family gathering; and 67 EUR ($75.70 USD) for Holiday Inn Vilnius. Upgraded to top floor 7th floor room on level with fitness room and free breakfast. 43,000 total bonus points earned from three hotel nights with IHG Accelerate promotion (Jan 1-April 30, 2016).
  8. Fly Vilnius to Stockholm, Sweden on Norwegian Airlines Low Fare+ $71.20 one-way ticket with checked bag and assigned seat.
  9. Stay one night Quality Inn Arlanda Airport for 6,000 Choice Privileges points + $30. Published room rate for Superior Room was 1,320 Swedish Krone ($163 USD). Given complimentary upgrade to one bedroom suite with room rate 1,660 SEK ($204 USD). That is another example of why I purchased points during Daily Getaways paying average $4.13 per 1,000 points. My room cost was about $75 USD based on points I purchased for $7.50 USD in March.
  10. Fly Stockholm ARN to Oakland on Norwegian Airlines for $210.70 one-way tickets including checked bag and seat assignments.

Voguish Vilnius Vacation Trip Cost:

  • $698 each for flights OAK-LAS-ORD-LHR-AMS-VNO-ARN-OAK.
  • $481 total for 9 hotel nights, with seven nights in hotel suites using 12,500 Hyatt points; 3,000 Wyndham Rewards points; 20,000 IHG Rewards Club points; 6,000 Choice Privileges points. I earned around 30,000 IHG Rewards Club points for the one paid 67 EUR night at Holiday Inn Vilnius.
  • Published room rates for the hotel rooms we stayed in for nine nights was $2,288 USD. Our cost was less than $500.
  • Eleven day trip to Europe total cost for two of us was about $1,900 for flights and hotels;
  • Travel expenses on ground were about 110 EUR ($125 USD) for expenses in Amsterdam for three days; 165 EUR ($187 USD) for expenses in Vilnius for six days; and about $60 for food in Stockholm in one day for a total $375 in travel expenses, excluding flights and nights. The different daily food amounts of $42 in Amsterdam, $31 in Vilnius and $60 in Stockholm shows the relative cost of travel in each location. We purchased the most food and beer by far during our stay in Vilnius and ate out in a restaurant every day.
  • Total Voguish Vilnius Vacation price $2,275 for an 11-day trip for 2 persons.

This is an overview of how I travel using hotel loyalty points from several different programs and low cost flights on many airlines to travel around Europe on a budget.

Vilnius Cathedral

Vilnius Cathedral

Trip Report pieces to Come

Over the next couple of weeks I will publish reviews on hotels and some of the flights from our trip.

Kelley would likely be happy with repeated trips to only London and Amsterdam. She was reluctant to travel to Lithuania. Now that she has been, the Baltic countries are an addition to her European travel comfort zone. The good experience of spending a week in voguish Vilnius has persuaded her that a trip to Poland is our travel preference on our summer trip when we will fly British Airways to Stockholm.

Our Stockholm flights this summer are the return portion of a $500 round trip ticket Stockholm to San Francisco we flew in November 2015 at the end of Thanksgiving vacation.

I’ll be flying British Airways home from Norway at the end of our summer trip.

Shhh! Don’t tell my wife that at this point in time she has no return flight ticketed from Europe this summer.

I am still seeking the next deal to get her home to California.

After two decades of this stuff, Kelley knows uncertainty is part of the travel planning when your travel agent is a points and miles dealer.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

More articles by Ric Garrido »

Comments

  1. I really enjoyed this trip report—you make a great case for having “currencies” in a number of different programs. I know it must be a huge puzzle to figure out the various options you have for each particular leg, but I like how it all came together and—bonus—you and your wife enjoyed a new place and she got to a new comfort level. Who knows what you two will be up for next!? 🙂

  2. You and I travel very similarily. I loved Vilnius. Definitely check out the rest of the baltics. There’s an awesome coach bus service that hops between the three.

  3. Would you consider including the names of the Vilnius restaurants you liked in your trip report? Headed there soon. Thank you.

  4. Everywhere I’ve been, people have spoken more English than I expected (or had read in advance to expect). Even in some smaller towns. Hopefully, you can keep pushing Kelley’s boundaries a bit at a time until she’s willing to do all of Europe.

  5. Agree with Lisa that we have encountered a lot of English speakers in our travels throughout Europe, although we are headed to Sicily where I have been told English is not commonly spoken outside of major tourist areas.

    We were in Warsaw and Krakow back in 2005. Poland was interesting, the people were lovely and we would love to see more of the country. I hope Kelley will enjoy Poland and continue to expand her horizons. You might try Malta – fascinating history, and no problems with English there. Croatia is also beautiful and we had no problems with language or transportation options. We visited these latter 2 on separate trips in 2006.

  6. Great report and some serious savings :). I am trying to do that myself on my travels. But as am in Polish, and we don’t have any CC loyalty programs and collecting points is a little bit harder.

    I see you liked Baltic countries, so i hope i’ll like Poland. If you will get to the Warsaw on your summer trip i can help a little bit :).

    Regards.

  7. @Mathias – I don’t use credit cards to collect points. My points and miles from credit cards are perhaps 2% to 3% of points and miles I earn.

    I fly and stay at hotels to earn points and miles.
    Sometimes I buy points when there are sales.

    Most of my travel budget strategies can be done by anyone around the world without need for credit cards except to pay for hotels and airline tickets.

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