I decided to go to Amsterdam this fall to attend a conference for the organization of the type of psychotherapy that I do. Since the entire trip could be written off as a business expense, I decided not to use points and miles but use it as an opportunity to collect them.
The flight was of course very expensive, even in off season. Why is getting to Europe so damn expensive? Grrr… Well since I had to bite the bullet and pay for it I wanted to make sure I got the most bang for my buck, miles-wise. Here is an example of how far in advance it helps to plan accruing points and miles for a trip. I want to take my family to Costa Rica, but decided we probably won’t go until Jan 2019. We want to wait until the kids are old enough to do some of the eco-adventure activities like zip-lining and whitewater rafting. I did some research and found that United offers a direct flight to CR out of Newark, which is generally an easy airport for us to get to. So that means I need to rack up a bunch of United miles for 4 tickets. Fortunately I have a couple years to do so (although remember when booking award flights you should do so as soon as the schedule comes out, which means I’ll have to have enough miles to book the flights in February 2018). So I picked a United flight to get to Amsterdam, which will give me United miles for the trip.
I decided to just go through the conference travel booking site for my hotel, since they offered a good price for a hipster boutique hotel near the conference. So no points awarded there but the hotel was really nice and only 109 Euros a night plus hot breakfast. For the last night I decided to moved closer to the city center and booked at Hilton Doubletree through rocketmiles.com. This is a site that will award you airline miles of your choice for booking your hotel through them. For booking this stay I received 7,000 more United miles, bringing the total for this trip to around 19,000.
Some other perks I got to use from my various credit card reward programs: 1) Amex platinum gives you a $200 credit for airline incidentals. I used this to upgrade to economy plus seating in the bulkhead so that I had more room to stretch out on my flights. 2) I have free PriorityPass lounge access with my Amex platinum so I could use this lounge (free food and drinks) before and after my flights. 3) I have Hilton HHonors gold status which I used at the Hilton where I stayed the last night. Since I booked the room through rocketmiles and not through Hilton I didn’t get any points (which is fine because right now I’d rather have the United miles), but I let them know at check in and he put me on the Hilton HHonors floor. That got me free wifi and maybe a better view (I was on the 9th floor)?
So between the included breakfast at the Hilton (which was a huge spread), and my two visits to airport lounges, the day I flew home I ate and drank a ton of food and booze and paid NOTHING all day (and it was a long day due to time zone changes). I also could have gotten a refund for the global entry pass thing they are doing to get you through immigration faster, however I would have had to drive 3 hours to Buffalo for the interview so I never did it.