I’m back from a recent weeklong trip to Italy that I did using British Airways (BA) frequent flier miles. Here’s the trick I used this particular trip: I actually had zero BA frequent flier miles, but I have an American Express (AmEx) card with membership miles. From time to time, AmEx will have bonus offers. So I brought over my AmEX miles and got 30% bonus miles because BA is one of AmEx’s partner airlines.
That means I started planning the trip by going to BA’s website and checking to see if frequent flier seats were available for the dates we were traveling. Fortunately I found seats both going and returning. I did an instant transfer from AmEx to BA, got the bonus miles and redeemed them for seats.
On top of that, BA had a special where they were offering an automatic upgrade from economy seats to premium economy. So for what turned out to be 46,000 points, we got 3 tickets for myself, my wife and our 11 year old daughter to Italy using AmEX points.
The neat thing about AmEx membership miles is that you leave your points sitting with AmEX and then you’re a free agent. You can shop around and see which partner airline has the best deal and if they have free seats for your travel dates.
While in Italy, we rented a car and went to a mountain villa in Tuscany. It was wonderful, but very cold as went from town to town.
Italy is no longer the true bargain destination it once was. But in my mind, the real redeeming quality is how good the food is and how inexpensive it is. Even a stand in the airport where you order pizza is likely to have fare that’s just about better than anything in the United States.
The trip was great…until we had to gas up. We paid just under $8/gallon (equivalent) to buy gasoline. My wife’s parents were there too, so we had to rent what was like a giant station wagon for their roads, though it wouldn’t even be a compact over here. (The way people drive in Italy is a game of bumper cars, so you don’t want big cars careening into each other on the roads!)
My 11 year old’s favorite moments were when we left Tuscany for Pisa, and also when we went to Rome to see Vatican City and the Colosseum. The one thing my daughter didn’t understand was why wifi wasn’t available everywhere you go. She just didn’t get it!
When you fly BA, you’re usually allowed a free stop in London on most fares, either going or returning. So on the way back to the states, we did an overnight at an airport hotel at Heathrow for 35 pounds (a little more than $50.) It was a decent hotel, not an outstanding one. But it did make the trip easier by breaking it there before we returned.