Reader Success Story: Three European Cities on Points and Miles


Our latest reader success story comes from Cheryl and is all about three European cities on points and miles. Cheryl just started in 2023 and has had some amazing success! Here is her story:


Cheryl’s Story with Credit Card Points and Miles

First of all, I wanted to say Thanks!   I started my travel points journey in August of 2023, and I enjoyed some valuable time with my family in Venice, Barcelona, and London.


Canal city with gondolas

Cheryl’s first visit was to Venice.


I’ve gone to a few more places on points and miles, but without your award travel information, I wouldn’t have made these 2 BIG trips in three European cities happen so inexpensively. I’m in a bit of a different age bracket from the three of you, and I’m located in the suburbs of Chicago, so I thought I could give some different perspectives. 

I started listening to your podcast last summer, and the wheels started turning.  I planted the seed and asked the hubby to listen to the podcasts as well, and within a few months of him completing them, we decided to take the leap.

We have always been a pay-off-your-credit-card monthly family and racked up points on our American Airlines card. Like Pam ( I call it the SLOW EARN), we got a few trips every few years and thought that was great!    Since we always seemed to get credit cards under my name in the past, he had plenty of 5/24 spots to fill up with personal cards, and we started the journey.


More About Cheryl’s Family

My husband and I recently turned 50. We have two girls in college (at Indiana University) and live in the suburbs of Chicago, so our hub is O’Hare. Our oldest daughter, a Junior, decided to study abroad this semester in London, so last summer, I knew there was a potential to get overseas one or two times while she was there. I needed a plan for that. Little did I know, we were going to visit three European cities on points and miles!


Large tower with clock on it

A study abroad program in London for Cheryl’s daughter prompted a lot of travel abroad.


My first suggestion to anyone who knows their children will study overseas is to build up a small nest egg of points so that you can get them there and back with points. The study abroad programs change their arrival dates occasionally, and if you buy a ticket, you will always need to pay change fees. With points, I was able to change her flights pretty darn easily.

Then, before she left for London, she had to show proof of her flight home, and at that time, we weren’t sure if she was going to travel a bit more at the end of her program, so we booked a points flight home on the day her program ended.  Since then, we have canceled and rebooked that “flight home” a few times as she is taking the opportunity to travel to other European cities after her classes end to visit some fellow study-abroad friends in Italy. Without points and miles, we would constantly pay all sorts of change fees to amend her flight home.  WIN!

As soon as my daughter found out that she would be in London, my call to action was for the family to visit her in March! It was late October 2023, and I had my first small stash of points since we started out with our Chase Sapphire cards for my husband and me. My side gig is a real estate broker (for the past 25 years), so I could also apply for some business cards


Flights to Europe with Credit Card Points and Miles

I listened to your podcasts, finished the first Award Travel Academy course, and was ready for my first major redemption (outside of past American Airlines ones).  So this is October, and I’m looking for flights to London (or thereabouts) for the typical college spring break week (mid-March).  

Our other daughter is a Freshman at Indiana University, so that is the only time she could go with us to see her sister.   After a few days of looking at and navigating Air France’s website, I found three business-class flights to Barcelona. I hear Pam’s voice saying just get over to Europe and then take a cheap flight around Europe. So that’s what we did. We had never been to Spain, so it was a great start.   

At the time, Air France was offering a promotion of 25% more points with a transfer from Ultimate Rewards.  The three- business class one-way flights to Barcelona were 50,000 points a piece, but with the promotion, I only had to transfer 37,500 points for each ticket. 112,500 points for three business-class one-way tickets to Barcelona via Paris and about $600 in taxes.  Yes, that tax bill is a little high, but it is worth it for business class



person with purple pants stretched out on plane

Cheryl rapidly accustomed herself to the joy of business class flights!

For the flight back, I could secure three Premium Economy seats for around 30K per flight. (I have Platinum Pro status on American Airlines, so I can upgrade to Premium for free.) And you better believe I got the bulkhead seats—one of the benefits of using my AA card for everything previously. 


Let’s Squeeze in an Early Trip to Venice on Points and Miles

My oldest daughter left for London on a tearful Monday afternoon, but we knew she would have many great experiences ahead of her. About a month or so into her program (late January), she mentioned that she would love to see me before we come for Spring break. 

When your 20-year-old says she misses you and would love to see you, you figure out how to see her!  I searched for a few days but couldn’t get over to London anytime in February for a good price. 


Flights to Venice

However, my daughter was getting good at flying to different places on the weekend.  I found a 50,000-point business class flight, again with Air France, and they still had the promotion going, so 37,500 points to fly to Venice, Italy, the Sunday before President’s Day.  I grabbed it.  And again, I found an economy seat on an AA flight the next Saturday to fly back to O’Hare, which I upgraded to premium economy (first-row bulkhead). 

Hotel in Venice

The next was securing a hotel. I couldn’t find any in Venice proper, but the Hyatt Centric on the island of Murano was available for 60,000 points for five nights. I did my research and saw that taking the water taxi to Venice might always be inconvenient, but I booked it.  

My daughter booked $80 flights from London to Venice from Wednesday to Saturday. I was going to see my girl! And it was last minute – so sometimes it does work out.  

I started off with the Delta Sky Lounge at Ohare (Air France and KLM use this lounge). As I entered the lounge, a huge smile came on my face. This is living. We have been to the American Lounge at O’Hare, but the Delta Sky Lounge is huge, more recently built, and beautiful. There is lots of food, choices to drink, snacks, and even a Chicago hot dog cart. They have Starbucks on tap as well.

I made my way to the flight, and as I got on, my smile grew. I had never experienced business class and lay-flat seats. 

Thoughts on Venice

Venice was wonderful. I can talk a lot about the Hyatt Centric Murano.  We did a food tour (awesome) and made pasta and tiramisu at a local home. 

We had lots of gelato and saw cathedrals, palaces, and so much more.  Venice truly is breathtaking.  (Money-saving note:  Take the public boat (Vaporetto) up and down the Grand Canal on your first day to get your bearings). 


Colorful buildings on canal

The beauty of Murano.


Barcelona on Credit Card Points and Miles

We start out with those 3 business-class Air France flights to Barcelona with a stop in Paris. We experienced the same Delta lounge but now with my daughter and husband. Smiles all around.  I tell them this is one time you are going to TURN LEFT when you get on the plane.  (I missed my chance to turn left on the last flight) so I made sure I booked it correctly this time.  

In October of 2023, I continually searched for hotels and landed on Hyatt Regency Barcelona – it’s a bit far from the city center. Still, it’s a short walk to a metro station, and the free breakfast buffet was phenomenal. We had three in a huge suite (bedroom and living room with two bathrooms.) We travel by going into a city and don’t return to our hotel until the evening. So, if we are a bit farther out and have a 20 –25 minute metro ride on the way in and way out, we don’t mind too much.   (63k points for 3 nights). 

In Barcelona, we took a food tour, visited La Sagrada Familia Cathedral (a must-see, but you must get your tickets in advance), took a bike tour, walked around Park Guell, and saw so much in three days. 


Family of four in front of large church.

The whole family visiting Barcelona.


Finally, London!

We then took a flight to London via British Airways.  I knew that Pam always hops over on cheap flights, and that’s why she’s a carry-on girl. If you pack more than a carry-on, those checked baggage fees on these short European flights might get you.    We paid outright for those flights based on your recommendations. 

In London, we stayed at Hyatt Blackfriars, which has a phenomenal location right outside a huge tube station. If you ask me, there is really nowhere convenient to stay in London where you are close to EVERYTHING—everything is 20 minutes away. So this place was great.  

We saw Mama Mia, shopped in Notting Hill, and went to bougie places to eat (when your college-age daughter has her parents in town, she picks every spot she wants to go but can’t afford on her dime!). 


Two girls enjoying tea

Cheryl’s daughters enjoyed the custom of experience of tea in London.


Thanks for the education. We got my daughter there and back (and changed it multiple times). I had my first Italy visit, and we could turn LEFT and visit Barcelona. The ability to see three European cities on points and miles amazes me still! It’s summer now, so we will just bank some points and get ready for daughter number 2 to study abroad in a few years. I have no idea where that journey will take us!


Bottom Line

Thanks, Cheryl, for your amazing reader success story about three European cities on credit card points and miles! If you have trouble figuring out points, miles, and redemptions, do what Cheryl did – take our courses!  Obviously, she is an A+ student because she has now booked multiple trips, including business-class flights!


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