When someone offers you a free week-long stay at their vacation house on the French Riviera complete with skipper and private chef, how can you say no?
The only catch was that I had to get there. And I had two days to figure out how.
It seemed impossible, but a quick Google search revealed that Port Grimaud, where pop psychologist Graham Price holds the summer workshops I’d been invited to attend, was worth the trip.
Situated on the Bay of St. Tropez, Port Grimaud is a town of modern villas, each with its own boat mooring, on canals that feed into the azure bay. This place was Venice with soft sand beaches and no crowds.
Booking with Traditional Points
A last minute plane ticket to Nice in the middle of August (prime European vacation time) is unreasonably expensive, so I looked at what airline points my husband and I had.
Most domestic airlines require at least 30,000 miles for a one-way from the U.S. to Europe in the lowest fare class. My husband had nearly 50,000 on United, and I had more than 30,000 miles on Delta, so we started booking.
The first leg was booked on United with no problem, but when I tried to book the Delta flight online, even though it was in the lowest points category, the total kept coming to 60,000 miles.
When I called customer service, they informed me that you need 60,000 to fly to Europe and the awards mileage chart I was referencing must be old.
Booking Through Chase Sapphire Preferred
Now I had a ticket to France and no way back, so we were scrambling. I transferred my United miles to my husbands account. But since that would still leave us needing a few hundred more miles, he called Chase to buy more.
Two thousand miles is the least you can purchase. But when the Chase representative heard what we were trying to do, she said she could just deposit a few hundred points in our account. Score!
In the meantime, I transferred over my points. However, the confirmation message said the transfer could take up to two weeks. We quickly called United, and they were able to make the transfer immediately. One day before departure, my return flight was booked.
The Overall Expenses
For my flight to Europe, I ended up paying just $34.10 in fees, $30.60 of which was due to my layover in Frankfurt. So you could actually even get to Nice for less than what I paid.
The return flight was a bit more, $82.90 total in taxes, with $33.80 due to my layover in Brussels–around the same as my previous layover. The major differences in the fees were $17.50 for U.S. immigration, which you can’t really avoid, and $31.60 in French airport taxes, which I strangely didn’t have to pay on arrival.
In the end, through the combination of 60,000 points (let’s call that a $600 value at $0.01 to the mile) and $117 (for a total of $717), I saved around $800 off the lowest available fare.