So, I’ve started to plan our summer vacation – for 2014. In the world of Points and Miles, advance planning ensures availability, which means free travel. Which is why we are all here 🙂
Since my brother and his family are moving back to Africa, we want to pay them a visit, and then we’ll continue on to Paris and a few other cities in Europe before we fly home. We probably want to stay six nights in Paris, and I’m not sure yet about the other cities, but we’ll likely need at least another 6-8 nights of lodging. I’ve been researching hotels so I can figure out how to accumulate enough points for free stays, and I learned something new today. I might be late to this party, but I thought I would share anyway in case there is anyone else out there who doesn’t know this basic fact. (Don’t feel bad – you’re in good company!)
I’ve tripped around Europe a few times over the years, staying in a mix of hotels, apartments, hostels, and homes. In fact, I lived in France for a year. So I’ve got some European knowledge. However, I clearly needed an education, because somehow I didn’t know that many European hotel rooms only allow three people per room. And they’re really strict about enforcing this rule. Something about fire codes.
When I tried to book a room for four, this is the message I got:
Since there are four people in our family, this limits our options. As soon as most people hear this, they yowl, “You should just rent an apartment anyway! You’ve got kids!” I agree that renting a Parisian apartment sounds lovely for many reasons, but “free” is not one of them. And I’m shooting for free. Or almost free.
Other, more intrepid friends insist that hosteling is the way to go. Out of curiosity, I did some research and learned that there are a growing number of family-friendly hostels in Europe. For example, the Cite des Sciences in Paris has twenty 4-bed rooms available. Perfect for a family of four. The cost is reasonable: 26 euros a night per person for a total of 104 euros a night. At the current exchange rate this pencils out to be $135/night. So six nights would set us back $810.
But again, I’m shooting for free. And also, I don’t really want to stay in a hostel.
This is where the world of Points and Miles becomes a little surreal, because with a little creativity and advance planning, we can book two rooms for six nights in a hotel for free. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this goal is through credit card sign-up bonuses. The card that leaps first into my mind is – of course – the Club Carlson Visa. I’ve written plenty about this card in the past few weeks. You can read about it here and here. The big play with this card is to get both a business and a personal card, for a total of 175,000 points (including meeting minimum spend).
Free award nights at the Club Carlson European hotels I’m eying cost 50,000 points/night, but with the Club Carlson Visa, the second night of an award stay is free. So all of a sudden those 175,000 points magically transform into 6 free nights. (We would have to move hotels every 2 nights, but that is fine with me)! If both Josh and I decide to get this dynamic card duo, then we’ve got Paris covered: two rooms for six nights for free.
There are several other hotel card sign ups that we could get – such as the Hyatt 2 Free Nights sign-up bonus from Chase, or the variety of Hilton cards available. However, the Club Carlson cards seems to work best for our plans, so we’ll be going for those.
Since I’m still in the early planning stages, I would love to hear about other ways that families have figured this out. Got any good ideas to share? Let us know in the comments section!