Get Started

Learn more about Credit Cards, Travel Programs, Deals, and more.

Canceled Flights & Incredible Memories: Taking Our Family of 6 to Scandinavia on Points & Miles: A Full Breakdown & How We Recovered

This post may contain affiliate links; please read our advertiser disclosure for more information.
SAS - Scandinavia on Miles & Points
Flying SAS from CPH to TOS

Scandinavia on Miles & Points

When our youngest decided to take a study abroad course in Denmark, the first question I asked was “Can we go?” It had less to do with the destination and more to do with the timing. The course was a short one-week deep dive into environmental studies that fell squarely on the week of Thanksgiving. Now – I know Scandinavians don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. But, it is one of the few holidays that we are able to see all three of our children at the same time. And, even though the university said “No!” – we managed to find a way to tag along.

A brief polling of the remaining family revealed that Thanksgiving in Scandinavia was on!  It was the first week of August and I had three months to pull this off. My husband and I were available to travel before and after the designated week so we kept our itinerary flexible. My oldest son and his wife wanted to add extra travel at their expense. Our other son was only able to take the week of Thanksgiving off from his job. And our daughter was interested in going to Denmark a day early and would participate in whatever family travel we scheduled beyond her university course. Somehow it all came together and we pulled off this family adventure to Scandinavia on miles & points.

Nailing Down Lodging For Our Family Adventure

Swanky bathroom in our Tromso apartment

Very briefly, I looked at flights first. But with six people traveling from four different cities, I picked lodging as an easier task to accomplish.  We would start with four nights in Copenhagen. Points options were limited and I really wanted the five of us together rather than having us in three different hotel rooms. I chose an apartment located a few blocks from the metro and very close to the hotel where our daughter would be staying. The flat had two bedrooms, two full baths, a sleeper sofa , full kitchen and a washer and dryer. The total cost was $1415 for four nights. This compared with a total cost of $1795 for three comparable hotel rooms but no kitchen and no laundry. And although I searched across several different platforms to find the apartment, I reserved the flat through booking.com when there was a cash back rate of 10%.

Next on the family agenda would be Tromso, Norway. Bob & I had seen the northern lights before on previous trips to Norway and Finland, but the kids had never seen them.  If we were already so close, I wanted to get us a bit further north to Tromso. I found a four bedroom apartment there for $850 for 2 nights. Again, this part of Norway is not prolific in points properties so I went straight for the apartment route. I did, however, use Choice points for our hotel bookings in our last stop Oslo. Choice has some great options in Norway and throughout Scandinavia. I got four rooms at the Clarion Oslo Airport for 16K per room.This was the last night of the trip and everyone was ready for a bit of separation.

Scandinavia on Miles & Points – Finding and Booking Flights with Multiple Currencies

Our scheduled apartments and hotel stays made up our core agenda. Then I set my sights on flights. This is when things got a bit crazy. I had stashes of miles with Delta, United, AA, Avios, and Life Miles. I had points with Amex, Chase, Citi, and Bilt. Looking back, I was fortunate to have so many options at my disposal.

I followed a recipe for my searches. First I checked google flights, then point.me, then individual airline websites. I used LifeMiles whenever possible as I had been sitting on a stash of those for quite some time. Even after securing tickets for everyone, itineraries for each traveller changed often. I started out with just a folder in my email but eventually constructed a spreadsheet to keep up with everything.

Amex Platinum - Scandinavia on Miles & Points
Our Amex Platinum cards gave the family access to airport lounges like this one in Oslo.

Salvaging Flights with less than 12 Hours Notice

The first victims of airlines shenanigans were my oldest son and his wife. They were scheduled to fly from New Orleans to Helsinki on Nov 12th.  They were going to Finland first and taking the train to eventually meet us in Copenhagen. My son called the night before saying that he couldn’t check in.

Now let me interject that, throughout this entire process, I had forwarded each person’s ever-changing flight schedule to them. I reminded them to download the airline’s app and set notifications. So, when he couldn’t check in, I assumed that he had missed something. But, no – their flights had been cancelled and none of us had received notification. I quickly turned to point.me to find them a new flight.

Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen is one of the most beautiful amusement parks I’ve visited.

It was good that I had a trial run for last minute travel resuscitation because a couple of days later the same thing happened to my husband and me – although we were notified 24 hours out that one of our itinerary legs was canceled. What was left couldn’t get us to Stockholm without overnight layovers. We ended up with a longer, more complicated flight schedule – but we got to fly Polaris over the Atlantic.

Getting to Scandinavia – The Stats

Here are the stats for our flights to Scandinavia:

Passenger

Route

Currency Amount

Carrier/Class

P1 from US

BHM-IAH-MUC-CPH

30K LifeMiles + $67

UA & LH economy

P2 from US

CVG-JFK-LHR-CPH

22.5K AA miles + $25

AA economy

P3 from US

MSY-YUL-FRA-HEL

30K LifeMiles + $83

AC & LH economy

P4 from US

MSY-YUL-FRA-HEL

30K LifeMiles + $83

AC & LH economy

P5 from US

HSV-DEN-LHR

62.8K United + $5.60

UA XN & I Polaris

P6 from US

HSV-DEN-LHR

62.8K United + $5.60

UA XN & I Polaris

 

My husband and I also flew SAS from LHR to ARN for 15K AC miles + $94. Once in Stockholm, we picked up a camper van and had a separate adventure before arriving in Copenhagen. The other flights we took during the trip were SAS flights for the six of us from CPH to TOS for 75K LifeMiles + $312 taxes & fees. We also took SAS flights from TOS to OSL for 120K LM + $180 in taxes and fees.

Return Flights from Scandinavia – The Stats

Since we’re looking at flights I’ll go ahead and share our return flights:

Passenger

Route

Currency Amount

Carrier/Class

P1 from Oslo

OSL-ZRH-ORD-BHM

70K United + $72

LX & UA economy

P2 from Oslo

OSL-BRU-IAD-CVG

70K United + $72

SK & UA economy

P3 from Oslo

OSL-FRA-YYZ-IAH-MSY

72.2K AC + $141

LH & AC economy

P4 from Oslo

OSL-FRA-YYZ-IAH-MSY

72.2K AC + $141

LH & AC economy

P5 from Oslo

OSL-LHR-ORD-HSV

63K LM +$348/26K UA

SAS & UA XN & I

P6 from Oslo

OSL-LHR-ORD-HSV

63K LM +$348/26K UA

SAS & UA XN & I

 

All of the return flights were more expensive. I believe this is because we each started the journey home on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. My son & his wife had extra connections, in part due to the fact that their return itinerary had been scrapped when their outgoing roundtrip ticket was cancelled. My husband & I are P5 & P6 and we had kind of a wacky return. We were originally returning from Tromso on Flyr airlines to Brussels. From Brussels we had a sweet itinerary BRU-IAH-HSV on United Polaris. Alas, I received an email from Flyr on Halloween. As it was written completely in Norwegian, I kind of ignored it for a few days. When I eventually copied and pasted it into google translate, I found out that Flyr had canceled our flight. 

Trying to re-book from Oslo to Huntsville, AL proved to be something of a challenge. We knew from the trip out that we wanted to be in business class for the long flight. I found seats.aero to be a great tool for finding last minute business class. But no single tool could connect all the dots. I settled with a 20 hour layover in London and a separate ticket from ORD to HSV.

Bob and I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn LHR Terminals 2 & 3 during our long layover. The room was 40K HH points and the hotel was literally connected to the terminal we were flying out of. This was much more convenient than the Clarion Oslo Airport. Even though the Clarion is less than a mile from the Oslo airport, it ended up being a 10 minute cab ride at about $30 per cab. There is something to be said for an airport hotel that is actually connected to the terminal. Our room was ready for check in at 11 am so we dropped our bags and spent the rest of the day visiting London.

Scandinavia on Miles & Points
The Midwestern Diner in Copenhagen is a hearty cure for homesickness!

Scandinavia on Miles & Points – Life Lessons Learned

When I scan the paragraphs above – I see a slew of numbers. That tells you what I SPENT. But what did I LEARN? One tiny pearl is that you can buy CityPass through a shopping portal IF you purchase it at least one calendar day ahead. Other items I purchased through shopping portals were tours through Viator or Get Your Guide. Another nugget is that tickets for metro and regional trains do NOT code as travel with credit cards – they code as transportation. I should have used the Amex Blue Cash Preferred for 3% back. The washer and dryer at the Copenhagen apartment was a lifesaver. P1 & P2 had carry on only.

We each learned lessons in flexibility. I was happy that each travel tsunami had a reasonable outcome. As the trip planner, I was responsible for triaging a lot. But as a member of the MTM community, I had the home team advantage! I have learned so much from fellow travelers who take the time to share their experience and wisdom. My kids were able to bear witness that sometimes travel doesn’t work out (the many flight issues). But sometimes – travel is magical – like getting to see the northern lights as a family.

Watching the Northern Lights dance from the top of Tromso – best family activity ever!

Scandinavia on Miles & Points – Bottom Line

Would I do it again? Apparently – yes. My daughter is looking at some study abroad programs over the summer. Once again, I’m looking to see if we can follow her. If not, the family is setting aside time at Thanksgiving to make this family trip an annual tradition. 

Disclosure: Miles to Memories has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Miles to Memories and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

New Card - Capital One Venture X Business 150K!

Capital One Venture X Business earns 2X miles on everyday purchases plus up to 10X in bonus categories. You also get access to Capital One lounges plus an annual travel credit & anniversary bonus. Right now you earn bonus_miles_full.

Learn more about this card and its features!


Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Mary amazing story! I miss your wisdom from work but am appreciative of it in this forum. We love international travel and are huge users of points travel and you have given me new ideas. Love reading about your adventures.

  2. This is inspiring! You give very helpful advice for people pursuing travel. I love reading the stories and learning about your travel experiences!

  3. This is an awesome story – I love reading stories about family get-togethers using miles and points (especially larger families!). As a fellow Cincinnati, glad one of your kids was able to take advantage of the new direct CVG-LHR flight!

    • Yes Dan – he’s the easy one! There’s always a direct flight available for him while the rest of us take the scenic route!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related

7,703FansLike
9,903FollowersFollow
16,412FollowersFollow