Dad’s Bucket List Trip – The Flights
My family and I recently completed a “bucket list trip” with my 76 year old dad to the United Kingdom and France. I wrote a post giving the complete background of the trip and why it was such a challenge and highly recommend giving that a read! In this post I’ll detail how I used miles to book his business class flights along with flights for my son and internal flights as well. Using miles saved a ton of money, but the current surge in travel demand caused some complications. Let’s get into it.
Meeting My Dad in Europe
While I have utterly failed to write enough about it on the site, my wife Jasmine, daughter Ellie and I have been traveling pretty much full time since the beginning of February. I do talk about it all of the time on the Miles to Memories podcast, but hope to document it more on the site. That said, we took a “free” Transatlantic cruise utilizing the Carnival Fun Match offer and were traveling around Europe before meeting my dad and son in England for the trip.
Airfare Goals for Dad’s Bucket List Trip
One of the areas where I made a mistake was nailing down dates too late and not getting everything booked. I am a notorious lover of last minute travel and bookings which has served me well in the past, but has somewhat backfired a bit during this current surge in travel demand. Considering we were traveling full time this year (it takes A LOT of time and work to book travel), I simply put off getting flights and exact dates for the bucket list trip until too late. That made it tricky to get everything done, but I still managed.
My main goal was to minimize travel time as much as possible while ensuring my dad was able to fly business class both ways. Ideally I wanted my son on the same flights as my dad as well, but he would be flying coach since I was paying for his flights 🙂 . In the end I was able to accomplish most of my goals, but not all. It did all work out in the end though.
Getting to England Using AAdvantage Miles
No doubt the easiest flight to book was the one getting them to London. I was able to book them both on the same flights using AA miles. They flew from LAS-DFW and DFW-LHR with a short 80 minute connection in Dallas. I was a little nervous about that tight connection, but had little choice given the options and booked it. I did arrange for a wheelchair for my dad which was super helpful considering they had to change terminals in the massive DFW airport.
AA charges 57,500 AAdvantage miles for a Saver award to Europe, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any saver awards. There were some other options, but I decided to settle on AA even though I paid a bit of a premium for his ticket. Ultimately the streamlined schedule, my abundance of AA miles and the ability to get my son on a saver economy ticket on the same flights were the reasons I made that decision.
- Dad’s flight: LAS-DFW-LHR in AA Business Class: 82K AAdvantage miles + $5.60
- Son’s flight: LAS-DFW-LHR in AA Economy Class : 30K AAdvantage miles + $5.60
Getting Back From France Using Alaska & AA Miles
Getting my dad and son back was a bit more complicated. While economy flights were really no issue, getting business class was another story. I quickly realized I could get my dad over the pond, but getting awards to Vegas was complicated. In the end I wanted him on one ticket/itinerary to avoid complications so I came to the realization that he was going to have to split up from my son.
I searched quite a lot and found a British Airways itinerary using Alaska miles that I felt was best for my dad even with fuel surcharges. I booked it about two months out but continued to search a variety of programs and airlines and never found something that I felt worked better. For my son I was able to use 30K of the 35K AAdvantage miles in his account (from flights I paid for over the years) to book him more direct to Las Vegas. There was no option for business class on his flights nor an option for economy class on my dad’s flights so they had to split up.
- Dad’s flights: CDG-LHR-LAX-LAS in BA/AS Business Class: 60K Alaska MileagePlan Miles +$392.47
- Son’s flights: CDG-PHL-LAS in AA Economy Class: 30K AAdvantage miles + $85.47
I really did not want to force my dad into two connections, but was left with little choice given his destination of Las Vegas. I chose the BA itinerary because it gave him the most time in the air in a lie flat seat plus was a good deal at only 60K Alaska miles. Yes he had to pay fuel surcharges, but again I never found anything better without having to split him up into separate tickets.
The only other thing I could have potentially done is find an award where I could have flown both of them on the same flights to somewhere in the U.S. and then on separate tickets to Las Vegas, but that added complexity and expense (domestic tickets aren’t cheap these days). Despite having to split them up my dad made it alright while flying BA’s new business class seat. My dad and son departed within 30 minutes of each other and arrived within an hour of each other.
Internal Flights on Dad’s Bucket List Trip
In addition to getting them to/from Europe, we also needed to get around. On this trip the five of us took two internal flights within Europe.
London to Scotland Flight on British Airways
For London to Scotland I flirted with doing a road trip, taking the train or flying. I decided to choose flying since I was able to find a decent award from London City Airport to Edinburgh. I utilized the 40% transfer bonus from American Express to British Airways Avios. As an added bonus I was able to experience my fifth London Airport having previously flown through Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton!
- LCY-EDI flight cost: 46,250 Avios (~33,036 Membership Rewards) + $5 USD total for 5 tickets
The cost of about 6,600 Membership Rewards each was a decent deal considering the cash cost of the flights. Flying from London City was also super convenient so I am glad I chose this option.
Scotland to Paris Flight on Vueling
After going through all of our options, I settled on a budget carrier for our flight from Glasgow to Paris. Vueling flies from Glasgow to Paris Orly and the timing worked out well. This was my second Vueling experience and both have been really good. My dad didn’t love the “prereclined” seat and 29″ pitch, but the flight was short and it was our best option, avoiding any connections.
GLA-ORY flight cost: 404.38 EUR (~$421 USD) total for 5 tickets
We had to pay cash for these tickets, but the price was far less than I could find with miles and had the timing and route we needed without connections. The fare booked for this price included our carry-on and checked baggage needed so it was all-inclusive. The flight was on-time, fast and went according to plan.
I can’t help but think about how much easier it would have been to book these tickets a year ago. That said, I think with the exception of the extra connection for my dad on the way home everything turned out well. I was able to use my stockpile of AA and Alaska miles even though I was willing to use other currencies as well. Additionally our internal flights were cheap, direct and smooth. With all of these flights now in the past, I can honestly say there is not much I regret other than not booking sooner. Award availability is tight and I was able to accomplish our goals, get the dates we needed and not pay too much.