Building a Team
At this point, I’d found a way to reduce the cost of roundtrip airfare from Jacksonville to London for the NFL International Series from $1,077 to just $197.60, discovered how to stay at a 5-star hotel that cost $700+ per night for free, and allayed my fears about the impact of the credit card sign-ups that would make this possible.
With all this information in hand, my goal began to shift. Originally, I was content with traveling alone if necessary to see the Jaguars play in London. Now that I’d learned more about what was possible and how simple it might be, I began to realize that coordinating with others would be even better. Indeed, it would make things easier: hotel rooms can be split, requiring half the award night and points-earning effort per person with two to a room.
I’d been telling my brother and parents about what I’d been learning along the way, and now began to make the case that they needed to join me. None of them had traveled farther from home than Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean before. A trip to Europe seemed perpetually on the “Next Year” list for my parents.
I knew how badly my mom wanted to see France, and even if England hadn’t been high on her list previously, creating a trip that originated in London for the game, explored some of the outlying areas and then crossed over to France prior to heading home would represent the best of all worlds.
Including some of France in the itinerary made sense, too: flights departing from Paris were cheaper, as they didn’t have the departure tax attached to them that the UK government charges for flights leaving the country, and ending in Paris would give us a chance to stay at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome after beginning our trip at the Park Hyatt Churchill!
It took some convincing, but being able to point at the receipt for my award ticket from Jacksonville to Portland for a grand total of $10 and taking the time to walk them through my entire plan helped assuage their fears. Also critical was helping them understand that this plan required we all work together.
Down to Details
In total, we planned for three nights in London at the Churchill, flying in on October 24th, the Thursday prior to the game. We’d bookend this with two nights in Paris at the Vendome before departing on November 3rd.
In between, we would travel through the south of England for several days, eventually taking an overnight ferry across the Channel from Portsmouth to Caen, France. From here, we could see Normandy and Versailles on our way to Paris, where the trip would conclude. Roughly, our path would look like this:
We’d each book the necessary airfare through American, at 40,000 miles a piece, traveling from Orlando – where my parents live – to London, then departing from Paris returning back to Orlando. This kind of “open jaw” itinerary – arriving to and departing from different cities – is allowed by American, and we intended to take advantage of it.
I persuaded them to each take advantage of the two browser trick available at the time, acquiring two Citi AAdvantage cards for a grand total of 80,000 miles in sign-up bonuses and at least an additional 6,000 miles a piece in meeting minimum spend requirements. This would be enough miles for this transatlantic trip and another in the future! Importantly, they would apply for each card separately, rather than as co-signers of one card, allowing them to earn twice the promotional bonuses.
My brother, with less credit history and less regular spending than the rest of us, would only get the Hyatt Visa otherwise, worth 2 free nights, allowing him to take the most conservative approach. I would sign up for 3 cards total – the two Citi AAdvantage cards simultaneously and the one Chase Sapphire Preferred shortly thereafter – because I could afford the minimum spend but still have a shorter credit history than my parents. They would each sign up for all 4 cards, as they had a relatively small number of existing cards but excellent credit history.
|Citi AAdvantage MasterCard: 40,000 Miles After $1,000 in Purchases||Citi AAdvantage MasterCard: 40,000 Miles After $1,000 in Purchases||Citi AAdvantage MasterCard: 40,000 Miles After $1,000 in Purchases||Citi AAdvantage MasterCard: 40,000 Miles After $1,000 in Purchases|
|Citi AAdvantage American Express: 40,000 Miles After $1,000 in Purchases||Citi AAdvantage American Express: 40,000 Miles After $1,000 in Purchases||Citi AAdvantage American Express: 40,000 Miles After $1,000 in Purchases||Citi AAdvantage American Express: 40,000 Miles After $1,000 in Purchases|
|N/A||Chase Hyatt Visa: 2 Free Nights At Any Hyatt After $1,000 in Purchases||Chase Hyatt Visa: 2 Free Nights At Any Hyatt After $1,000 in Purchases||Chase Hyatt Visa: 2 Free Nights At Any Hyatt After $1,000 in Purchases|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred: 40,000 Ultimate Rewards Points After $3,000 in Purchases||Chase Sapphire Preferred: 40,000 Ultimate Rewards Points After $3,000 in Purchases||Chase Sapphire Preferred: 40,000 Ultimate Rewards Points After $3,000 in Purchases||N/A|
|Total Min Spend: $5,000||Total Min Spend: $5,000||Total Min Spend: $5,000||Total Min Spend: $3,000|
The only card with an annual fee in the first year was the Hyatt Visa, at $75, but this was more than offset by a $100 statement credit offer available at the time. So, the start-up costs for this venture came to $0 for me and, for my parents and brother, -$25!
Time for Kickoff
This was a bold plan, but it would allow us to not only grab the miles necessary for the flights, but to pool points and nights in order to secure two rooms each night in London and Paris. My brother and mom’s Hyatt award nights would be used in Paris, where we would spend two nights.
My mom and dad would each secure the rooms in London. My dad would use his 2 award nights and 22,000 of his Ultimate Rewards points for the third night. My mom would use 66,000 Ultimate Rewards points, after receiving a fair portion in transfer from myself and my dad, to book the 3 award nights in London. In total, this would result in 10 award nights at two of Hyatt’s most exclusive properties. An ambitious goal, to say the least!
As for the game tickets – yes, the game is still central to this trip! – we’d been assured by the Jaguars that the opportunity would come when tickets would be made available to season ticket holders. There was nothing more we could do on this front but wait, knowing that in the worst case, Stubhub.co.uk could save us.
At this point, we knew what we wanted and had a workable plan to make it happen. We called Hyatt and checked American’s award booking engine once more to ensure our itinerary was feasible. Sure enough, availability was open on all fronts. There was no guarantee it would remain this way, though, so the race was on: it was time to pull the trigger and begin rapidly amassing the necessary points and miles to make this dream trip reality.
Check back tomorrow for Part 5!