Once In a Lifetime trip? Now I am planning my next once in a Lifetime trip!

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I asked my friend Steve, who I just last week skied with out in Utah, to share his trip report to Europe. He started learning about points not too long ago and I wanted you, my readers, to see what can be done. Enjoy! – René

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About 18 months ago, my wife Roxie and I flew to Paris on paid fares in coach to enjoy a vacation with her parents. We were truly blown away with everything we saw and experienced on that trip. But flying transatlantic in coach is not a comfortable experience! Shortly after that trip I decided to not only travel more, but to travel smarter. Needless to say, I am fairly new to the points and miles “game,” but in a year I have been able to fly myself and others to Hawaii, New York City, Cancun, and several other smaller trips. But this post is not about that, but rather my recent 17-day trip to Italy! Through Delta we had the wonderful opportunity to fly to Italy in business class. This trip had been 9 months in planning. We departed on Christmas day for what most non-milers would consider a “trip of a lifetime.”

Using my knowledge from Delta Points (thanks Rene), I was able to find low-level award seats in biz class using the Air France website. My wife and I flew for low-level 100K miles each from SLC to Florence, visited much of Italy, and then flew home from Rome. We paid $230 in fees and taxes, but this is gravy compared to the $12,000 total we would have paid for the same royal treatment. My in-laws also flew the same itineraries, but they still paid over $2,500 total to fly coach. One thing I should point out is that we would have had more flexibility in considering stopovers had we not had our parents’ paid fares to consider as well.

Our trip kicked off with 5 days in history-rich Florence including a day trip to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. From Florence we spent $40/each to travel via high speed train to Venice. We spent 3 days in Venice including New Year’s Eve! Next, we flew one hour on EasyJet from Venice to Naples for $68/each before taking a commuter train to Salerno where we stayed another 3 days. Salerno was probably the gem of the trip…it’s a hub city for visiting Roman ruins of Pompeii, Greek ruins of Paestum, and postcard villages along the cliff-hanging Amalfi coastline. Finally we took a $60/each high speed train to Rome for our final week-long stay, where we visited the Vatican, Colosseum, and Ostia Antica.

Flying into Florence and out of Rome enabled us to be flexible in planning the logistics of our travels. For lodging we stayed in rentals we found on homeaway.com. Our cost for lodging was $50/person per day. Rentals by owners has many advantages. Our rentals offered more living space than hotel rooms and except for Salerno, each had two bathrooms with showers. Also, full kitchen amenities and washing machines were big conveniences.

Around day 15, we were actually not disappointed that our journey was nearing the end. Once we arrived at the Rome airport, I asked our Delta gate agent where the Sky Club was located. She pointed me to the Alitalia lounge and said I would have no problems getting access. However, the Alitilia front desk agent did deny my initial request for access. A little annoyed, I went back to the Delta agent and she immediately made a call and fixed the problem. Then she discreetly told me to check back later for a possible upgrade for the in-laws. Ultimately, this resulted in Economy Comfort for two ecstatic parents…(Its always nice to score brownie points!)

About 10 hours later, our flight arrived early in Atlanta. Traveling was taking its toll on the folks, so once we arrived at the Sky Club, I noticed another SLC bound flight departing in about 45 minutes rather than our scheduled 3+ hours connection. I asked the Sky Club agent about possibly changing to the earlier flight. For $50 each (except my wife due to her GM status) we sacrificed our premium seats to get home earlier. Roxie and I still scored EC seating, but the parents were downgraded from EC to coach seats. Only wish I had an AMEX platinum card to cover this incidental cost.

I am not sure I would have changed much about this trip. An extra day in Florence instead of Rome would have been nice for seeing more of the Tuscany region. Overall, the weather was superb for a winter vacation. Light rain for a day and cold for two other days…otherwise great. Lines to museums were small or even non-existent. Having the points and opportunity to travel with family has been rewarding…now to scheme up the next trip of a lifetime! – Steve

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Thanks again Steve and for sharing so much information on how and what you did along the way; all of this is very helpful. I can’t wait to see where your next adventure takes you! – René

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12 comments

  1. Can you explain incidental coverage using amex plat card? Even tho he changed the flight himself, it will be covered?

  2. We also just got back from a trip of a lifetime like this. We did it through US air grandslam miles in envoy and F plus we added a cruise in the med to cover lodging and travel there. I’m just wondering how me gathers that many Delta miles in such a short period. I read your blog often but even with flying as a normal traveler and credit cards 200k seems like a lot. I guess I need to look harder into this.

  3. @DaninSTL – not too hard. Think about this, from AMEX DELTA cards to AMEX SPG card to AMEX MR cards, all can be credited to Delta. Also points from MR’s or issues in flight that give you bonus points to Retention calls when you have cards. It is simple to build a bunch of Delta points per year! – Rene

  4. “Lines to museums were small or even non-existent.”
    My wife and myself flew to Florence and Rome during the same time and waiting time to museums and monuments was very long. My third trip to that region and crowds were huge like never before. Never the less we enjoyed every minute being there.

  5. @Anon – We bought multi-day “attraction” passes (eg, Firenze card), which perhaps made the difference?

  6. Awesome! It sounds like a wonderful trip. I am glad you were able to have your in-laws go with you and get some perks too. Now you just need to get them in the game so they can really live it up next time. 🙂

  7. You sound like you and the family enjoyed every moment of your Roman holiday. So those mileage points really do work huh? Someday, we’ll get to visit that old city, at least my wife and I will.

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