African Spurred Tortoise Edited

How To Get To Prague With Miles And Five Great Things To Do Once There

How to get to Prague with miles and five things to do when there!
How To Get To Prague–It’s Actually Pretty Easy

 

Disclaimer: This site contains affiliate and referral links. Should you choose to sign up with these links, I may be compensated. I appreciate any support you choose to give.  Late last year, I discussed how I’d snagged some great (and cheap) tickets to Europe for this summer thanks to frequent flyer miles.  My main goal was to take my wife to Prague, Czech Republic. I’m now going to discuss how to get to Prague and then give five recommendations for sites to visit once there.

Prague is one of my all-time favorite cities, and there was quite a bit of availability on United Airlines for this summer when I booked the flight in October. The link above gives the general process I used to book the flight (and a trip to Lisbon with lengthy layovers in Munich and Geneva).

How To Get To Prague With Miles

To make a long story short, I used the 100,000 point signup bonus from my wife’s Chase Sapphire Reserve card along with some Ultimate Rewards points that I already had to book two one-way tickets from Cleveland to Prague and then two one-way tickets from Lisbon to Cleveland. I purchased a flight for cash on CSA Czech Airlines to get from Prague to Lisbon.

In addition to the two main cities, we had an 11-hour daytime layover scheduled for Munich, and a 15-hour overnight layover scheduled for Geneva, Switzerland. The layover in Munich actually turned into an overnight stay after Lufthansa canceled our flight.

Credit Card Signup Options

The big 100,000 signup bonus for the Sapphire Reserve is no longer available. You can still get 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points for signing up and meeting the minimum spending requirement. This minimum spend is currently $4,000 over three months, but there’s a hefty $450 annual fee.

If you’re looking for other options, the Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with less bells and whistles. It does, however, come with the same signup bonus for the same minimum spend. The $95 annual fee is actually waived the first year, so this might be a bit more palatable for those who want to avoid the fee. You can sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred here.

The signup bonus for each of these cards will come close to allowing you to snag a round trip ticket on United. It will totally get a low-level round trip ticket via Flying Blue. This program is a venture of Air France and KLM. Using Flying Blue, you’d only need 50,000 miles. This latter program is a partner of Delta. Both United’s Mileage Plus Program and Air France/KLM Flying Blue are transfer partners for Chase. You’ll get one point per mile that you transfer to these frequent flyer programs.

These are just a couple of the options that are available when thinking about how to get to Prague on miles. You might also look at co-branded cards for the airline you’d like to fly, as well as American Express cards that offer Membership Rewards.

Five Things To Do Once In Prague

Now that  you’ve figured out how to get to Prague, you might wonder about the great sites and activities the city has to offer. If you’re into traditional European architecture, you’re in for a treat. If you’re into history, Prague has you covered. I cannot stress that I really enjoy spending time in Prague. Here are five things you might want to check out on a visit.

1. The Astronomical Clock/Old Town Square

Prague has the oldest astronomical clock that’s still in operation. It’s located on the facade of the Old Town Hall building. Unfortunately, on my most recent trip, this was about the only part of the facade that was visible. The city had the rest of it covered up while they performed renovations.

The Astronomical Clock chimes every hour, and there are doors that open while the Twelve Apostles (or at least an artist’s rendition of them) rotate through the open doors for visitors to see. There is also a skeleton, representing Death, who rings a bell while this presentation goes on.

Additionally, there are museums and art galleries to visit in the Old Town Square, as well as a monument to Jan Hus, one of the biggest heroes in the history of the Czech Republic. The Church of Our Lady before Tyn is also a prominent feature of the Old Town Square.

The astronomical clock on the facade of the Old Town Hall in Prague

 

The Church of Our Lady before Tyn

 

2. Take a Walk Over the Charles Bridge

The Charles Bridge is one of the more iconic sites in Prague. There can be hundreds of people walking it at any given time. The Bridge is the site for many street vendors and artists. It provides great views of the Prague Castle, as well as of the Vlatava River.

On the Old Town side of the Bridge, there is a Museum of Medieval Torture that is quite interesting.  This museum has lots of instruments of torture, as well as woodcuts that depict exactly how they were used, sometimes in graphic detail. Those bringing kids along should be forewarned.

 An old gate on the Charles Bridge

3. Visit The Prague Castle

A visit to Prague would not be complete without a trip to the castle. There are several sites within the walls of the castle that are worth viewing. The first image in this article at the top of the page depicts the front of St. Vitus Cathedral, which dominates the hill that sits opposite Old Town.

In addition to visiting St. Vitus, there is another church that’s open for viewing. This is the Basilica of St. George. One of the more interesting parts of this church is a reliquary that holds actual bones.

The Basilica of St. George in Prague

 

 A reliquary with human remains at the Basilica of St. George, Prague

 

In addition to these churches, one of the more interesting things to visit within the Prague Castle is the Golden Lane. I had not visited this on my previous trip to Prague, but I’m glad I got to this time. There’s a hall with quite a bit of medieval armor and some weaponry. I was even able to try my hand at shooting a medieval crossbow and hit the bullseye on two of three shots. This was a well-spent $2 or so.

If you’ve not already visited the Museum of Medieval Torture at the Charles Bridge, you can check out some instruments of torture on the Golden Lane. There’s a torture chamber set up, as well as a dungeon. One of the more interesting parts of the Golden Lane was the apartments and businesses that are set up for viewing as they were in the nineteenth century. They are really, really small. Some of the rooms on the Golden Lane are pretty hard to access from spiral staircases made of stone. Some of the steps are really narrow.

Medieval weapons from the Golden Lane in Prague

 

 A tavern on the Golden Lane–All of it!

 

4. The Jewish Quarter

There was, as there was in many European cities, a Jewish Ghetto in Prague. This is definitely a spot most will want to visit. There are multiple synagogues that are open to the public. One has the name of each of those lost during the Holocaust painted onto the wall. One of the buildings has an interesting display that describes Jewish funeral practices.

These funeral practices would likely end with a burial in the Jewish cemetery. This portion of the ghetto was the only place that Jews could bury their dead for centuries, and the oldest grave goes back to the 15th century. This portion of Prague gives some understanding of how European Jews lived.

 

5. The Museum Of Communism

This particular attraction was a bit difficult to find. What I’d read before arriving said that this museum was above the McDonald’s just a few meters from the Mustek Metro station off of Wenceslas Square. It turns out that there were two McDonald’s within a few meters of the Mustek station.

We went to the wrong one first.

Then we found the right McDonald’s and promptly learned that the museum had moved that very day. It was a 10-minute walk from the old site to the new address at Republiky Square , but it was worth the trek. 

One of the darkest periods in Czech history was the Communist era. The Museum of Communism seeks to commemorate this chapter in the history of the Czech people. There are displays in both Czech and English, as well as subtitled videos of those who went through the Communist period, that describe the horrors that people endured.

Vaclav Havel, the playwright turned dissident turned first democratically elected Czech president is given a prominent place toward the end of this exhibition. For those interested in history, it is definitely well worth the visit.

Vaclav Havel commemorated at the Museum of Communism, Prague

 

There you have it: tips on how to get to Prague using frequent flyer miles and some spots that you might want to visit once you’ve arrived. The city is amazing, so much so that this was my second trip. If you have any questions, be sure to let me know in the comments. I’d love to answer any that I can.

If you’d like to follow my progress each month, be sure to go to the top of the page and sign up for updates. You can also follow me on Twitter.  I’m now above 300 followers, and I’d like to get more than 400 by the end of summer. You can help!

Also, if you could share this latest update below via Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media platform, it would be much appreciated. I want to inspire others to improve their finances and show them some easy ways that they can do so. Just click on the “Share This” link at the bottom of this post!

Disclaimer: This site has affiliate links. If you decide to sign up with one of these affiliate links, I may be compensated. I appreciate any support you might provide.

 

African Spurred Tortoise Edited

Offsetting the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s Annual Fee

Earlier this year, I wrote about getting rejected for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and its bonus that I’ve since started calling the “Mother of All Credit Card Bonuses” because of having too many recent accounts opened in my name.  Luckily, however, my wife was able to get this card because she had not run afoul of the infamous 5/24 rule that Chase has instituted.

This led to our getting enough bonus points to book a round-trip flight with stops in four European cities on United Airlines for only $165–and most of the points came from this one signup bonus of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points. The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the top five travel credit cards for 2017, but the Chase Sapphire Reserve annual fee is quite high.

The big downer for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, however, is the massive $450 annual fee. This would cause many people to take pause. If you time your application and travel purchases right, you can also do much to alleviate this annual fee. You can actually get a $300 credit for travel each calendar year (defined by the statement end date). This means that you could possibly actually earn $150 in free travel for the first year you have the card, in addition to the huge sign-up bonus. I was running down to the wire, but as the article linked above regarding booking our tour of Europe noted, I still had to book a flight from Prague to Lisbon.

How I Offset The Chase Sapphire Reserve Annual Fee

I searched on Expedia.com for flights and the date that I wanted because the aggregator shows just about any flight that you can take on any airline. For a bit, the best price on this trip was a $127 direct flight on TAM Airlines, a Portuguese carrier. Just a couple of weeks ago I ran the search again, and a $95.50 flight on Czech Airlines came up. I snagged it and dutifully used both my wife’s and my Delta  Skymiles frequent flyer numbers in the process. I’m not a huge Delta loyalist, but I try to get every single mile or point

I can and I figure that I’ll be flying Delta at some point in the future for one of the trips that I have planned after 2017. It took awhile for the charge to go through, but when it did, it automatically refunded.  Furthermore, while doing a bit of traveling to visit family for Christmas, I had to stop at a hotel. Thanks to the remainder of the $300 credit, I paid a whopping $6 for the night, all while earning some Marriott Rewards points in the process.  Here’s a graph that shows we completed the credit for 2016.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Travel Credit of $300

I’ll have to stop at a hotel on the way back. Marriott will be the chain of choice, because one more stay before January 15 will result in the regular points for the stay, a credit for the night since the $300 calendar year rebate clock will start over again, and 5,000 bonus points that are a part of Marriott’s Fall MegaBonus. That’s what I call stacking rewards that are beneficial to my both my bank account and my rewards account. How have you been able stack rewards like this? Let me know in the comments.

African Spurred Tortoise Edited

Visiting Multiple Cities On One Award Flight

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.

Jan Hus Memorial
A memorial to Czech hero Jan Hus, photo taken by me on a previous visit to Prague.

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:

United Multi-City Search: Chicago to Prague

 

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).

One-way flight: Chicago to Prague

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.

 

African Spurred Tortoise Edited

A Trip to Europe on the Cheap

This is a blog about earning money without putting in time in an office, a fast food joint, or on a construction site. I aim to earn money from home so that I don’t have to spend more time away from the house. I definitely believe that there is more to life than money, but that more money can make life easier and open up options that are not available without it. I believe that a personal finance blog can be a great opportunity to show people hacks that can make their lives better. While earning money in pajamas can improve life, it’s also possible to get some great experiences without spending much. Last year, I wrote a post on how to save massive amounts of money on great trips with frequent flyer miles and hotel points.

Last month, I was able to cash in a load of these points and miles to get a deeply discounted trip to Europe. I cashed in 240,000 American Airlines Aadvantage miles to get six (count ’em, six) off-season tickets to Europe. These came from a couple of American Airlines sign-up bonuses and a couple of bonuses from the old US Airways card. I had long had Paris on my bucket list, and chose to visit the French capital on my vacation. One of the coolest things about the American Airlines award tickets is the ability to purchase one-way awards. Therefore, I decided that it would be a great opportunity to visit another European city in the process. I had to make sure that the tickets were on American Airlines flights (not with a partner like British Airways) because of fuel surcharges that are pretty massive on partner flights. I checked out tickets for my available dates to see if Rome, Barcelona, or Dublin would work. I struck out on each of these, but was able to land a flight to Madrid. Four of the tickets would leave from one city and two would leave from another airport substantially to the east of where I would be flying out of.  The total cost of each of these flights was less than $90–the cost of taxes that are required even with an award flight.

Eiffel TowerObligatory picture of the Eiffel Tour, or Le Tour Eiffel as the French call it, taken from my personal phone. 

Because my flights to and from Europe had what is called in the industry an open jaw, I had to get from Madrid to Paris. I did not have enough points to get the flight for taxes. Therefore, I checked on Expedia, and I was able to land flights for less than $70 each on Iberia Airlines. I could have gotten a slightly cheaper flight on a budget carrier, but these flights nickel and dime passengers with fees for just about anything, including carry-on bags. The total cost of six tickets from the US to Madrid, Madrid to Paris, and Paris to the US was right around $1,000 total. That’s the power of points and miles.

The Royal Palace in MadridThe Royal Palace in Madrid, again, taken by me

I then had to deal with getting lodging while in Europe. I only had a night to spend in Spain before a trip to Paris. I was able to get two rooms at a Holiday Inn Express in the Madrid area for free with IHG points. I then needed five nights in Paris. I was just short of the 280,000 points that I needed to get two rooms at the Marriott Charles de Gualle Airport hotel. I wound up spending $87.50 for the points I needed to put me over the top. Two rooms, one of which was upgraded to a family room upon arrival, for five nights cost a total of $87.50. Altogether, lodging and airfare for six people was slightly more than $1,000. That’s hard to beat. Of course, there were other expenses that added up over the trip, including food, tickets to Disneyland Paris, Versailles, the Louvre, ground transportation, and a day trip to Madrid and Toledo. Overall, it was a great trip, and it cost a fraction of what it might have had I attempted to pay the rack rate. While this was not a result of earning money in pajamas, it was an instance where taking advantage of opportunities that were available got me some great memories at a great discount.

A few credit card applications, meeting some spending bonuses buying stuff that I would be buying anyway, and cashing in the points I earned were all it took to take a dream vacation to Europe. Please note that I only recommend this for people who are able to pay off their cards on a monthly basis, as interest payments can quickly take away any benefit that the points provide and lead to massive amounts of debt. Proceed with caution if you have a spending problem. Also, remember that it’s important to actually have a good credit score to qualify for the bonuses.

If you’ve found this post useful, be sure to follow the blog to get the latest updates.