I recently had an epic fail when it came to getting the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. I obviously wanted to earn the 100,000 point bonus in the Ultimate Rewards program. I was fortunate, however, in that my spouse was not over the 5/24 limit. After she secured the bonus, I started checking on some options for a vacation next year. I found that there was pretty wide open availability on a number of United Airlines flights to Europe, Australia, and Asia. The availability included the summer months, to my surprise. I finally decided, with the wife’s approval, to take a trip to Europe, specifically Prague, Czech Republic, and another to-be-determined city (which turned out to be Lisbon).
How is it possible to visit more than one city on one trip, you might ask. I’ve already written about my recent trip to Madrid and Paris last spring. I utilized a routing option that’s called an open jaw on this trip. This means that you can fly into one city and then fly out of another back to the city you originated from. Think of it this way. A normal trip would be City A to City B, with a return to City A to complete the round trip. An open jaw flies from City A to City B. Then there’s a trip by another airline, train, or rental car to City C. Then there’s a return to City A from City C. The only question that comes up is how to get from City B to City C. There is some pretty impressive public transportation within Europe, but I’ve found that commuter flights are really cheap between cities. My flight from Madrid to Paris earlier this year was a whopping $69 on Iberia Airlines. I’ve also seen flights from London to Paris from as low as $53 in recent searches. This is on Air France, not on a low-cost carrier that charges for breathing, either.
For my upcoming trip next year, I decided to again utilize the open jaw. I found availability for both of the main cities that I wanted to visit on a multi-city itinerary. Prague was my main goal. I was there a few years ago, and I loved it. My wife did not make this particular trip, so I want to share my love of the Czech capital with her.
I first tried to book a multi-city itinerary, and the results were not as robust as they were when I looked at each individual leg. Here’s a dummy multi-city search originating from Chicago and going to Prague with the outbound flight:
Note that there is only one page in the search results with 18 flights returned, starting at 30,000 Mileage Plus miles for this leg of the trip. I then decided to make the trip two one-way award flights. Note what happens when I go to a one-way search for the same dates (I plugged in June 13-20 for this dummy booking).
We’ve gone from one page with 18 possible flights to seven pages with 152 possible flights, again starting at 30,000 Mileage Plus miles for this leg of the trip. This means more options. There is the greater possibility of adding more than just the two main cities with an itinerary like this.
If you start looking for flights at your desired level of seating (coach, business, or first class) and low-level mileage requirements, you can actually look for flights that will take longer to visit an additional city or two during layovers. I went to page 4 of my actual search (not the dummy search shown here) to find an 11-hour layover in Munich on the way to Prague. This should be plenty of time to hit the local public transportation network and see a couple of sites within the city, extending my trip to three actual cities visited in a single one-week trip.
I did the same process for my return trip, and found a lengthy flight that allowed for an overnight layover of 15 hours in yet another European city, bringing the total number of cities that we should visit to four in one single trip. All I have to figure out is what flight I want to take from Prague to Lisbon. My two one-way flights to and from my main destinations in the Czech Republic and Portugal came to 60,000 United Airlines Mileage Plus miles per person or 120,000 total (most of which came from the wife’s Sapphire Reserve bonus) and around $165, which I put on my Chase Sapphire Preferred to earn 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar for the purchase. These points will go to a later trip that is not yet determined.
By taking the time to play around with the United Airlines booking site, I was able to set up a trip that visits four major European cities. Most people would only look for a round-trip that visited one. Most of my recent trips have been a result of my philosophy of earning money in pajamas. I’ve looked at ways to maximize credit card rewards to save money on things that I’d prefer to spend money on anyway. Have you had any success with similar bookings? If so, feel free to share in the comments.