How Tovah and Drew Travel Hacked Their Way Through Europe

Vienna | image credit

How did you spend your holidays last year? While some of us were sitting around in our parent's homes nibbling on fruit cake, my friends Tovah and Drew were traveling around Europe courtesy of their points and miles. 

The best part about this is both Tovah and Drew are everyday people, just like you and me.  Tovah works in commercial real estate, and her husband, Drew, is a middle school teacher.  Of the two, Tovah is an experienced travel hacker and makes sure her husband doesn't ever have to squeeze his 6'4" frame into economy class across the Atlantic ocean ever again. 

Tovah told me, "On our most recent Christmas trip, we were able to purchase miles from the Avianca/TACA Lifemiles at about 1.5 cents." 

I know what you're thinking - Avianca tacos what?! 

Turns out that Avianca/TACA is a South American carrier well known among award travel enthusiasts for selling their miles at insanely low rates. At the time, they offered business class flights to Europe for 62,500 miles each way, so the two of them were able fly from Switzerland in business class for $1,562. While that isn't free, it's about the cost of what they would have paid for two economy class tickets, or half of a single business class ticket.

Photo by Tovah and Drew

They found great seats to fly Swiss airlines business class from Geneva, via Zurich, but that was from Miami, FL and they're based in Denver, CO. But as luck would have it, they also hold a Southwest Companion pass (which I wrote about before), largely through having the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card from Chase.  So, Tovah was able to fly from Denver to Fort Lauderdale for just 15,000 points, and add her husband to her ticket for just another $5.60 in taxes.

RELATED: How I Saved $3,200 Last Year By Totally Optimizing the Free Southwest Companion Pass

Staying in Switzerland

After arriving in Geneva, they stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel for 4 nights by taking advantage of a sweet promotion that the IHG Rewards program was running. All they had to do was stay three nights at any IHG hotel, and they would receive two free nights at any other hotel.  Simple, right?  And totally worth it.  

So after taking an inexpensive summer vacation in Colorado, and booking a few cheap nights at a local Holiday Inn, they earned the four free nights they spent at the Intercontinental Geneva, where rooms are usually over $400 per night!

From Geneva, they took the train to Montreux to see some of the amazing Christmas markets that Europe is famous for. They also visited the Red Cross museum and enjoyed plenty of fondue.

RELATED: How I Traveled To Maui For Just $11.20

Vienna and Prague

Their next stop was Vienna in Austria, where they paid about $70 cash for tickets on the European discount carrier Easyjet. Once there, they stayed at an Airbnb they split with their cousin (which was the only time they paid for accommodations on their trip). 

Photo by Tovah and Drew

From there, they took a bus to Prague in the Czech Republic, where they spent four nights in a Radisson Blue property, courtesy of their Club Carlson credit card.

 

When it was time to go home, they flew on British Airways in First Class, by transferring points from the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. This is especially awesome because flying in international first class is a step way above first class on domestic flights. An international first class seat essentially transforms into a bed and comes with top notch service - and who wouldn't want that?

Photo by Tovah and Drew

Like most of us, Tovah and Drew are only able to enjoy a few weeks of paid time off from their jobs each year, so they really wanted to make the most of it.

They returned home just in time to get back to work and their everyday lives, happy to have used everything in their travel hacking bag of tricks to be able to enjoy a trip that easily could have cost over $30,000 for just pennies on the dollar.

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