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(IMPORTANT NOTE: This post is written by Sam, one of the PWaC staff writers, not Dan (the one with all the kids) )

In the last installment of this series, I laid out the plans for my upcoming honeymoon, with plans to see Naples (for a few hours, thanks to a long layover), Santorini, and London. This post will detail what we used in cash, points, and miles to make our European honeymoon happen.

(READ MORE: Can you leave the airport during a layover?)

Santorini

Santorini. Image courtesy of Mstyslav Chernov via Wikimedia Commons.

As I said in the previous, we were booking under not ideal time circumstances, so that’s why you’ll see cash purchases. I tried really hard to make this an all-points/miles adventure, but I wasn’t going to waste a day of our trip chasing the only points redemption possible (more on that below). Like I said, there’s always another trip to take! 😉

Part One: Getting from New York City to Santorini

Once we decided where we wanted to go, I started cruising all the American airline websites to find what a points redemption would be. American? Delta? United? Air Canada? Air France/KLM? Big fat goose egg from all of them. Womp womp. Then I remembered Ian’s post on why Google Flights is so great, and it really came in handy here. I plugged in our date of travel, and voila, there it was:

Getting from NYC to Santorini, via Naples, Italy. European Honeymoon

Getting from NYC to Santorini, via Naples, Italy.

Additionally, because there is a roughly eight hour layover in Naples, we’re hoping to take a quick taxi trip into the city to see some sights and grab lunch. Happy to take recommendations for must-sees!

After the layover, we’ll get on another plane for the ~2 hour flight to Santorini. Booked via Priceline.com, the tickets came to $357.30 each, or $714.60 total. I have no experience with Meridiana (or its subsidiary Air Italy), so other than the reviews online (50% love, 50% hate), I don’t know what to expect. I’m calling out to you, internet denizens, what should I expect on this flight?

Details:

  • Cost: $714.60
  • Paid with: The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • Points earned: 3,573 American Express Membership Rewards points

Part Two: Santorini

Once we get to Santorini, we’ll likely rent a car, but I haven’t gotten to that stage of the project yet 😉 . We’re staying at an Airbnb on the east side (beach side) of the island. Here’s our rational, courtesy of Nick:

We chose the east side of Santorini because the Airbnbs on that side of the island were much nicer for much less money, and we found one that’s 90 feet from the ocean. We knew we’d want to be spending much of our time there on the beach, and the other side of the island is all cliffs, so all of our beach days would start and end with a long car ride. Also, the Airbnb we found has a pool, so we can swim in the ocean and then dunk in the pool! We know we’ll be spending some time on the cliff side of the island to get those amazing sunset views, but for us and what we wanted to do, it made sense to stay on the east side.

Santorini AirB&B European Honeymoon

The exterior of our AirB&B. Only ~90 feet from the beach!

We’re staying at this AirB&B, and for six nights, which will cost us $666.00. I knew we wouldn’t be able to use points for this part of the trip, as there are only two chain hotels on the island (both Starwood, and currently we have 34 Starwood points 🙂 ). I also enjoy AirB&Bs, as I think they let you have more of an “experience” when you’re somewhere, rather than what you might get from a chain hotel.

Details:

  • Cost: $666.00
  • Paid with: The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • Points earned: 666 American Express Membership Rewards points

Part Three: Getting from Santorini to London

Once our week in Santorini is up, we’re off to London for another week of adventure! For those who might not know, Santorini is a definite leisure destination, which means that most airlines only fly there once or twice per week. I was really hoping that we could use points to get to London, but the only option was a set of Iberia flights (JTR-MAD and MAD-LHR) that would have had us leave Santorini at 5:50am. I am all about savings points to save money and maximize redemptions, but I am not wasting a day of my vacation flying all the way to Spain, and especially not at 5:50 in the morning. Call me crazy (like Sharon did), but I wasn’t budging from that.

That left us two options, both low cost carriers, with a nonstop Santorini – London (Gatwick) option: easyJet and Thomas Cook. Both were similarly priced, but Thomas Cook was leaving later in the day, so we opted for that one.

JTR-LGW European Honeymoon

A knee-crunching 28″ pitch, yippee!

I’m happy we’re getting a nonstop flight, but just like Spirit here in the United States, you’ll be nickled-and-dimed for everything. We each checked a bag and selected our seats, which set us back even more. All in, the tickets cost us $320.24 per person, or $640.48 total. Again, this is what you get when you don’t plan in advance, and I’m fully aware of that!

Details:

  • Cost: $640.48
  • Paid with: The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • Points earned: 3,202 American Express Membership Rewards points

Part Four: London

Once we get to London, we’ll take the Gatwick Express into London, and then head to our hotel. This time, given the plethora of chain hotels, and the desire to save some money, we decided to stay at a Hilton property. Specifically, we’ll be staying at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London – West End. While we had a good amount of Hilton Honors points, we didn’t have enough to cover the entire stay, so we did a Points + Cash redemption. That’ll set us back 260,000 points and $371.26 for six nights (43,333 points and $61.88 a night). As per the norm with Hilton, we’ll be redeeming our points for roughly half a penny per point.

A photo from my last trip to London--looking forward to going back!

A photo from my last trip to London–looking forward to going back!

Details:

  • Cost: $371.26 and 260,000 Hilton Honors points
  • Paid with: Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express
  • Points earned: 4,455 Hilton Honors points

Part Five: Getting from London to New York City

At the end of our two week vacation, it’ll be back to reality, which means flying back to New York. This time, we’ll be flying from London Heathrow on American Airlines. People complain that it’s hard to find sAAver level awards, but this came up right away, much to my happiness:

Lots and lots of sAAver-level award space! Wahoo! European Honeymoon

Lots and lots of sAAver-level award space! Wahoo!

The flight we decided on isn’t part of that image above, but for two people in economy, we we’re able to snag our tickets for 54,000 points and $331.32 in taxes. I was really happy with that price and redemption, as the cheapest cash price for flights that day on American were over $1,600!

Details

  • Cost: $331.32 and 54,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles
  • Paid with: The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • Points earned: 1,657 American Express Membership Rewards points

European honeymoon — what’s the damage?

Given all that above, the actual out-of-pocket costs for our European honeymoon is $2,723.66 and 314,000 points/miles. That means we’re spending roughly $194.55 and ~22,500 points a day in travel costs. Remember, the first rule of this hobby is find redemptions that make you happy, and this redemption makes ME happy. Of course the second rule is get the best bang for your buck, but we’ll forget about that one for a moment. Is it the cheapest trip? Absolutely not. Could it have been cheaper? Absolutely–Don’t make my mistake of waiting (if you can help it)!

We also earned 9,098 American Express Membership Rewards points (~$173) and 4,455 Hilton Honors points (~$18), which we can use for future trips. I have to say, the five points per dollar on airfare was an awesome perk of The Platinum Card® from American Express — even priceline.com coded as an airline!

And there you have it–how the European honeymoon sausage gets made!

If you have any recommendations for Naples, Santorini, and/or London, I’d love to hear them!

Header image courtesy of Mstyslav Chernov via Wikimedia Commons

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