Most of the people I talk to about our Europe trip don’t believe how little it cost us. For both of our round-trips, including all taxes and fees, it cost us only $16 grand-total.
How is possible to fly for so cheap?
My wife and I each signed up for the Delta Gold American Express credit cards. These cards offered 60k miles + $50 towards any expense on Delta. (Currently the sign up bonus for this card is only 50k miles)
At the same time we signed up for these cards, Delta was running a sale for award flights to Europe, normally 60k miles round-trip, down to 48k miles. This left us with 12k miles each for another one-way in the states. Woot!
What fees do you pay on top of the miles?
There are customs and duties fees that your destination country charges. This fee is roughly $55-$200 depending on the country you return from. (Remember we each got $50 from Delta to offset most of the fee)
Spain and The Netherlands are on the lower end of the spectrum, only $55-ish dollars in fees. England, on the other-hand, is very expensive costing you $200 in customs fees if you return from London.
I want to visit London, but I don’t want to spend $200 in fees on top of my points…
I can’t blame you if you share that feeling! London is beautiful. This is your best bet:
Fly INTO London then catch a short flight or train ride to Amsterdam, Madrid, or Barcelona for your return to the states. All of these cities have non-stops to major cities in the US.
If you do it this way you will get to see multiple countries, and even after your flight or train ticket, you will be less than $200 by not flying out from London. You can catch a $70 train ride to Amsterdam from London, heck, you can even stop in Brussels and spend a day there!
What is cellphone service like?
You can enable an international plan if you have a major US carrier. The data, in almost all western European countries will be 4G. (fast). Verizon just announced that you can enable an international plan for $10 a day that will allow you to use your existing plan limits. If you have unlimited texting it will carry over while you travel abroad for only $10 a day. This plan works in 65 countries!
Is Uber in Europe?
Yep! Uber is in almost all major cities in Europe. The service works the exact same way and will work with your existing saved credit cards. I ordered an Uber in London and the driver showed up in 75 seconds. Pricing, like the states, is still about half the cost of a taxi. Remember, you have to have data enabled on your phone or be on Wifi to be able to order your Uber.
Are hotels expensive?
Hotels can be pricey, just like any large tourist city in the states. We used our Hyatt credit card to stay at the Andaz in Amsterdam. It is normally $400 a night, we paid ZERO dollars plus got upgraded to a larger room with a view thanks to our Platinum status. (status is included with the Hyatt Chase credit card.) Don’t forget, AirBNB is popular in Europe as well, there are many great places to stay for $50 a night!
What if I don’t speak the language?
I found the language barrier to be a non-issue. Even in Paris and Amsterdam, 90% of the people I interacted with spoke decent, if not great, English. Google is working on some really cool translation software that will allow you to speak in your native language and it will speak the translated phrase!
Did you feel safe?
We were in Paris one week before the attacks took place. It is very upsetting to see what took place in Paris, the people there were so welcoming and friendly. That said, I felt very safe in Paris, London, and Amsterdam. At no point did I feel unsafe or unsettled. Like any large city, be aware of your surroundings. Paris is known for pickpockets, so again, just be aware when in large crowds. There are a lot of great people who are there to enjoy themselves just like you are.
Don’t forget your power outlet converters!
Yea, we have a lot in common with western-Europe, but we still use different currency and power outlets. The United Kingdom has their own socket and the rest of Europe has their own. You can buy a converter set, which covers 150 countries, for about $7 on Amazon. This is a MUST as I did not see a single US plug on the entire trip. Also make sure that anything you plug in the converter can accept 220 volts. US voltage runs around 110-120 volts, Europe runs around 220-240 volts. Most modern electronic devices will have no issue, just double check the input voltage range to be safe.
Is it easier to fly or take a train between countries?
If I had to do it again, I would take the train when possible. We flew between countries because I had points that I could use to cover the airfare. That said, I think it would have been easier to catch the train from the city center rather than coordinating transportation outside the city to the airport. It ended up taking more time and costing more than I’d like to get to and from the airport. For example, Paris CDG airport to downtown Paris was $19 per person, one-way! This was a 45 minute bus ride, but would not be necessary if you took a train directly to the heart of the city.
How can I fly to Europe by signing up for a credit card?
Check out my post here about the Citi American Airlines credit card. For flights to Europe before Mid May, 2016, it requires only 40k points round-trip (plus your $58 customs fees if you return from Amsterdam). This is a great opportunity to get to Europe for next to free!
Continued thoughts and prayers to the good people of Paris.