As I write this blog post, I should really be packing for the next family trip — a much-anticipated journey to Italy for nine days. I haven’t been to Italy since last summer when we spent a week in Padua, Bologna, Venice, and the Amalfi Coast. It’s also been almost two years since I’ve spent time in my favorite Italian cities of Rome and Florence. We’re mostly hitting the “highlights” of Italy on this trip even though we’ve visited many times. The friends we’re traveling with have never been to Europe much less Italy, so we’re taking them to some of our favorite spots.
Fortunately, we paid for a ton of our trip with rewards. Here are all the different ways I cashed in points for this trip:
We paid for our flights with airline miles.
We paid for our round-trip flights to Italy with frequent flyer miles from two different programs. We opted to fly Business class for our overnight flights to Rome, which meant cashing in 57,500 American AAdvantage miles each to fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, then from Charlotte to the eternal city.
For our flights home, we cashed in 25,000 Air France/Flying Blue miles per person after transferring them from my Chase Sapphire Reserve account.
I booked excursions with rewards points.
I paid for several of our day trips and guided tours with Chase Ultimate Rewards points, including:
- Guided tour of Colosseum in Rome: 3,975 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per person
- Guided day trip to Sienna, San Gimignano, and Monteriggioni from Florence: 7,022 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per person
- Tuscany Electric Bike Ride Tour: 5,200 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per person
- Amalfi Coast Boat trip from Rome: 13,300 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per person
I covered our hotel in Venice with points.
While we booked Airbnbs with two bedrooms for most of our trip, I cashed in 11,900 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per room for two rooms at Hotel Arlecchino in Venice, Italy. We’ve actually stayed here before, and it’s pretty close to the train station. We’re also only spending one night in Venice, so we don’t need a kitchen or the extra living space rental condos offer.
I even booked an airport pickup with rewards.
Finally, I cashed in 5,184 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for private airport pickup in a luxury van upon our arrival at FCO. You can take trains from Fiumicino Airport if you want, but I prefer to avoid public transportation when I am hauling my suitcase around.
I learned that lesson the hard way during a very treacherous journey with two kids and six suitcases from the airport in Madrid, Spain to our rental condo. It was a nightmare lugging our bags up and down stairs through the train stations after a night with almost no sleep, and I vowed to never do that to myself again.
With that being said, I would prefer not to pay for a pricey taxi from the airport when I can use rewards and get it for free instead!
The bottom line
While I use rewards to pay for a lot of our trips, I never travel for free. There are always things I pay for — even if I cash in a ton of points and miles.
Personally, I think it works best to use rewards to stretch your travel budget and book “extras” you wouldn’t necessarily want to pay for. Thanks to points and miles, we can all travel further from home and see the world at prices we can afford.
How have you cashed in your rewards lately? Have any big trips coming up?
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