We just landed back in Denver after an incredible 8 days in Europe. Many, many hours of planning and lots of miles went in to this trip to help my husband, his parents, and brother and sister-in-law visit Europe for the first time, but it was absolutely worth it! We had such a great trip that I was really sad to see the them all leave a day before us and even more bummed to have to go home at all. We ate better than I probably ever have before for eight consecutive days, we saw beautiful old cities and historic sites and famous landmarks and did it all for a fraction of the cost of what we should have paid out of pocket if it weren’t for points and miles. With the exception of some jewelry disappearing from a hotel room, leaving my coat in the closet of our B&B, and one lost piece of luggage (that showed up a few hours later), we had a really smooth trip.
Planning an overseas adventure on award tickets for six adults to visit four different countries in eight days wasn’t a walk in the park, but totally doable. Over the next week I plan to post several different posts with specific reviews and advice for visiting Europe on points and miles, including info on our flight awards. But for now, here’s a brief overview and some pictures to share.
For hotels we primarily focused on Club Carlson properties, since five out of the six of us signed up for the Club Carlson Visa from US Bank because of their strong European presence. Caleb and I each earned 85,000 points from signing up and spending at least $2,500, and the rest of the family earned 50,000 points each simply for signing up for the card and using it at least once. In hindsight I should have had them all work to hit the spend on the card, since we forfeited 112,500 points, but I was nervous asking them to worry about it since it was their first ever churns and award bookings and I wanted it to be as smooth and simple as possible.
Caleb’s family is German so we intentionally built the trip around a visit to Germany and decided to go during the last weekend of Oktoberfest. We flew into Munich, where we spent two nights at the Park Inn Radisson Munich. Club Carlson allows you to book hotels over a year in advance, and originally this property was booked so we secured rooms for the same rate of 38,000 points a night at the Park Inn Radisson Munich East. This hotel was a littler farther from the action, so I continually checked the website and eventually rooms at our first choice hotel opened up. I jumped on it by booking all the rooms under our accounts, and then calling Club Carlson and asking them to cancel the other reservations and switch to the appropriate accounts. Hands down the best benefit of the Club Carlson Visa cards is the bonus award night, which effectively makes your second award night free.
The Park Inn Radisson ended up being only 38,000 points total for each room for two nights. It was on the north side of the city, but was conveniently located right near a subway stop and we could get to the city center or to the Oktoberfest site in 15 to 20 minutes. The rooms were pretty basic and fairly small, but the free breakfast buffet was a huge plus for our crew. We loved experiencing Munich’s Oktoberfest, even though with six people we had trouble securing seats together in the tents. It was still plenty exciting to sit on the patio and drink our steins of beer and observe the chaos from afar.
Originally we planned to spend the bulk of the trip in Germany, but thanks to the Club Carlson card, I started looking at other potential cities nearby where we could make the best use of our points and bonus award nights. The closest property to Munich was Salzburg, Austria, which I thought would be cool since it was only a two hour drive and would add another country to our itinerary. Little did I know that Salzburg would be almost everyone’s favorite country of the entire trip! For 44,000 Club Carlson points each we stayed at a historic hotel in the heart of the old town, and adored the scenery, the majestic castle, and the quaint little alleys.
We booked a rental car to drive from Munich to Salzburg to Venice, Italy, which ended up being quite an adventure. It was the aspect of the trip I was most nervous about and though we got the vehicle just fine and returned it in one piece, it was way smaller than expected and we had to squish four in the backseat for almost seven hours.
In college I studied abroad just north of Venice, Italy, which other than Canada or Mexico was my first international designation and the first city I truly fell in love with. I was pumped to go back, even if only for a night, and Venice was as charming as I remembered it. This was the only night we paid out-of-pocket for, and rented an apartment I found on hotels.com for $284. Seems steep but was the best bargain I could find that would sleep all of us. The owners were very helpful, quick to respond to my emails, let us check in early and provided lots of local recommendations. There were plenty of beds–one downstairs in the living area, and two bedrooms upstairs, but only one bathroom.
Finally, we flew from Venice to Paris to hit our fourth country in six days. For the four of us booked on United tickets, we were able to include a stopover, so our tickets from Paris to Venice were free. For our parents on the US Airways tickets, we just bought additional tickets for them on a different flight that departed and arrived around the same time.
Paris was the other city I had been to before, and while Venice was neat to see again, I really fell in love with Paris on this trip. We stayed at the Club Carlson property, Le Dokhan’s Paris Hotel Trocadero, just a five to ten minute walk to the Eiffel Tower. By far our nicest hotel, it was Club Carlson’s highest tier, at 50,000 points a night (or two nights in our case with the credit card!) It was an old residence and contained the oldest champagne bar in the city, a tiny, tiny elevator made from an authentic Louis Vuitton trunk and the most helpful concierge I’ve ever encountered. Our rooms were barely big enough for two people to navigate around (let alone when we crammed all six of us in the last night to polish off the wine bottles and laugh about our favorite moments of the trip), but they were beautifully decorated.
I’m pretty blessed to have married in to such a wonderful family and I think we all genuinely enjoyed being around each other for a week straight. No meltdowns and no arguing, just lots of laughs and lots of wine and four new people hooked on traveling on miles and points. More details and specifics to come throughout the week!