Hacking Our Way Back to Europe

Hacking Our Way Back to Europe

When this summer rolled around, pretty much everyone who suffers from wanderlust was chomping at the bit to get on a long-haul flight – self included. Some girlfriends and I had this idea that we were going to meet up in Paris someday, and this seemed as good a time as any in the foreseeable future.

So in early June I jumped on my British Airways account where I had close to 500k Avios and not one but THREE Travel Together Tickets languishing in Travel Rewards Purgatory. It didn’t take long to find and book some Fancy Class tickets for late July – from our home airport of Phoenix, Arizona to Paris, France.

Why we Booked a Trip to France During Covid-19

Don’t take this post or our trip to France as any kind of political statement. We have a good friend in France who is not able to travel long distances right now, and that’s the main reason we chose Paris as our destination.

Honestly, we had no idea if we would actually be allowed to take the trip (or return as planned) when we booked our tickets. We are rule-followers regarding covid-era travel, just like we are for all travel. And France was barely re-opening to tourists when we booked.

If our plan collapsed, which seemed likely at the time, this would make 3 major trips in the past year that had been cancelled. But at that point, after 15 months of not being able to do something we love and value, we were ready to roll the dice on some trans-Atlantic travel.

A Note on the British Airways Travel Together Ticket

British Airways Travel Together Tickets, while potentially worth thousands of dollars each, have a lot of nuance to how they must be used. So don’t make the effort to get your hands on them without reading up on the terms and conditions.

The fact that we ended up on any American Airlines planes and with a Paris to Dallas homebound flight using the Travel Together ticket is unusual; typically you have to fly on BA metal to or through Heathrow both directions.

In this particular case, BA cancelled our original Avois/Travel Together out-bound flight about 3 weeks before the trip. When we called to see what our options were, BA rebooked us on AA planes at no additional charge. As a bonus, we got the same amount of miles credited to our AA account as if we had paid for the flights in cash.

Terminal 4 at PHX.

The Current Pandemic Travel Experience

I know some of you are wondering about the specifics of the covid-related travel requirements we had to deal with, but those are literally changing by the day so I’m not sure how useful this information will be by the time you read it.

In fact, I just heard that France is now on the CDC’s blacklist, which is actually a number list, which has nothing to do with the UK’s list (which involves the color amber?) or France’s rules, which pretty much just state that French police can ask for your papers if you want to get a cappuccino. And as icing on the cake, Iceland – the darling of the Pandemic Management Competition – is now on everyone’s “don’t travel, they suck” list. So probably best to just keep over-booking those campsites at the National Park nearest you.

We did get asked for our CDC vaccination cards in customs, twice. We had been tested at our local Walgreens drive-through before we left and at a clinic in Paris before we came home, but never got asked for proof of either test. We never got asked to show anything via the VeriFly app either, which we were assured time and time again would be useful.

If you’re traveling anytime soon, do your own due diligence about your destination and return country, and be prepared for a whole lot of inconsistency and annoyance about it while you’re in transit. Covid is the new 4oz of liquid in your carryon.

We were definitely given enough antibacterial wipes by airline staff on this trip to make up for most of the out of pocket cost.

But back to the main point of this article:

Our Travel Hacks for a Trip to Paris

Below is the cost breakdown of the trip, rounded up to the nearest dollar because adding up cents on every transaction is too hard.

-Two round-trip tickets on British Air/American Air* Phoenix to Paris: $2,306, 64,772 Avios, and 1 Travel Together ticket.

These were First Class outbound PHX – ORD – LHR – CDG (with lay-flat beds on our overnight flight) and Premium Economy homebound CDG – DFW – PHX (daytime flights): My friend and I each contributed $1,153.00 out of pocket. Comparable cost would have been well over $5,000 each, and well over $10,000 for two tickets.

*Both of our long-haul flights were on Dreamliners (may they fly forever), and our Amex Platinum and Priority Pass cards gave us decent lounge access (more on the lounges in my next post). It was pretty cushy travel, as travel goes.

The view from the Galleries Lounge in Terminal 5 at LHR.

-Premium airport parking at PHX (reserved covered parking right by the terminal): $0, 13,700 Capitol One points. Comparable cost would have been around $140.00.

Lodging in France: $0. We stayed at our friends’ gorgeous apartment in Fontenay-sous-Bois, a suburb of Paris. I highly recommend having good friends who live in nice places.

Local transportation and dining: $230. Our Uber rides to and from the airport were courtesy of our Amex Platinum Benefits. Since we had all been to Paris several times before, we skipped the usual tourist stuff and didn’t do any museums or tours. This trip was all about good food, good company, and lots of walking around the City of Light.

Covid tests in Paris: $64.00 each. The two covid tests we took Stateside before leaving were free at Walgreens. Yes, we’re fully vaccinated.

And that was it. All in all I paid $1,447.00 for an absolutely fabulous and fancy girls’ trip across the pond.

La Vie en Rose!
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