To Do Before 12/31/19!
Taking Advantage of Deals & Free Opportunities Before the End of the Year: A. Best Widespread Mileage Options to Europe & Israel this Year B. A Few Hotel Options in Europe to Take Advantage of the Cheap Points Plane Options C. Airline Incidental & Other Credits D. Extended free BoA Museums
A. Flying Blue Promo Awards
The best option available this month (for travel Jan 31- Mar 30) is 50% off points options from Boston, Washington DC, Chicago, NYC, Mexico City, & Edmonton to anywhere in Europe (or Israel) with Flying Blue for under 22,000 miles (& even less credit card points w transfer promos if you did them in advance like I did for moments just like this one). While not as lucrative as the 5 day promo rewards specials that had options from NYC or Toronto for 22k miles RT, the options this month give significantly wider variety.
For many, now will be the best time of the year to use this option since most smaller cities don't ever have promo rewards usage available ever, such as nowhere in VA that's not a DC area airport. With them you can get to Europe & back for under 22k miles & <$200 in fees (transfer partners of Citi, Amex, and Capital One).
Options to Ireland can be had for under 22k miles + $ fees
And Options to Paris can be had for <28k miles + $ fees.
Flying Blue's definition of Europe is pretty nice as well, including Israel, Turkey, and Russia. That said, Moscow is apparently not showing up in the searches I ran as having the promo available.
While the best way to acquire the miles is with credit cards (free consultation) like how I got my miles during promo periods (see below), Flying Blue sometimes offer buy miles promos, like the current one going for up to 75% off miles purchases, bringing the cost per mile down to 1.75 cents per mile when purchasing at least 30k miles:
Flying Blue run recurring promo transfer bonuses from Citi, Amex, and Capital One of up to 30% with their last recent one ending just a few weeks ago on 11/30. I acquired miles myself during one of these promos with the expectation of deals like this one coming out.
All that said, it's still best to run the numbers before scheduling a flight due to some decent alternatives. Google flights
For instance, Aer Lingus off peak (best booked by searching on Avios.com then calling British Airways, not by using Avios.com where fees tend to be higher than by calling despite reduced availability) can get you to Dublin, Ireland and back from Boston, Chicago, Hartford, Minneapolis, Montreal, Newark, New York, Philadelphia, Toronto, & Washington DC for 26000 Avios + fees & there are bonuses from Amex for 40%. Flights to many other cities in Europe from Dublin via Aer Lingus aren't much more, like an additional 8k RT to Aberdeen, Amsterdam, Birmingham, Bordeaux, Bristol, Brussels, Paris, Donegal, Cardiff,
Doncaster, Dusseldorf, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Isle of Man, Jersey, Kerry,
Leeds Bradford, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Nantes, Newcastle, Newquay, & Rennes.
The amount you pay in fees on Air France can be around $200 at times, whereas on certain dates, itineraries, and airlines, the $ cost without even using miles can hover close to the amount of Air France fees you'd pay.
That said, it's important to factor in the cost of bags as well as the quality of the flight, whether one of the top 20 economy carriers in the world, Premium Economy, Business Class, or a carrier ranked in flights overall that isn't ranked in the top 20. Everyone's time is valuable, and middle seats on a cramped low quality aircraft can reduce sleep & work efficiency during transit.
B. While points options abound in Europe, whether IHG, Hyatt, Marriott, Choice, Best Western, Wyndham, Radisson, Le Club Accor or many more, If you're looking to take advantage of that deal, you might want to first check the IHG Pointbreaks in Europe if you have some IHG points or want to buy some for as little as .5 cents each through Dec 30. That said, "each member may only book two PointBreaks Reward Nights reservations per hotel during the special offer time period. Offer and participating hotels are subject to change at any time, valid for booking through January 31st, 2020." To better your chances of having it available, book a city with lots of IHG hotels to boost your chances of the next round of Points Breaks but have alternative hotel options on the back-burner.
If you have a good source of Radisson Rewards, there are a lot more high end options in Europe than there are in the US, as you can see on this map (though keep in mind that, like the name of it, the map hasn't been updated in a while). If you want some skiing/snowboarding ideas, here are some, & here are some possibilities for ice sculpting festivals.
If you want a high value per point option with Hyatt & have a relatively high $ travel budget to spare (I've seen higher than 10 cents per point in value in Europe this way), a paid stay with a points upgrade to standard or premium suites at a high end hotel is an excellent option since the points for those have a flat rate regardless of hotel category.
There are plenty of category 5-8 Hyatt hotels to choose from in Europe:
C. Be sure to take advantage of your credits that can sometimes expire on Dec 31st, such as Amex airline incidental fee credits. Those are a lot harder to take advantage of this year vs last year, since they cracked down on the ability to purchase gift cards where it's not possible anymore. Here are some of the basics on how to use them, and here is an article with some additional data points on how to work around the system with the example of AA.
D. If you have a Bank of America credit card or debit card, December 26-31 you can take advantage of the same Museums on Us program that occurs the first weekend of every month. Options in my area include the Children's Museum of Virginia in Portsmouth & the Children's Museum of Richmond. The bigger the city, the higher the likelihood of many options. One lesser known unpublished way to take advantage of this option is by setting up a Merrill Edge account, then using that (even if you put in less than 20k) to get a free checking account (rather than a minimum balance or minimum direct deposit for a free account) and acquiring a debit card with that checking account. Another way is by getting a Bank of America Cash Rewards card. By having even a basic checking account, you can still get 10% extra (so instead of 3% back on online shopping, I'm getting 3.3% back), another lesser known benefit for those with <$20k in their BoA/Merrill Edge accounts.
I'd love to hear from you:
While there are tons of additional opportunities this month, what do you feel should be added to this list of some of the top options? Post your opinion on the link to this article on the Facebook group.