Looking for cheap flights to Europe? I’ve got one better: how about a nearly free flight to Europe for a family of four? And without pulling your hair out! I’ll show you how we did it with just ONE travel hack!
I like to keep my travel hacking simple (ie the Keep It Simple Stupid or KISS method) and that’s what I try to show you here on Go to Travel Gal. Collecting miles and points and booking free flights can get complicated fast, but I focus on how to do it quickly and with minimal effort.
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Brad over at TravelMiles101.com tipped me off to an amazing way to fly to Ireland for just 26,000 round-trip per person on Aer Lingus. I never dreamed we’d be traveling to Europe as soon as we did, as we had largely focused on traveling free around the USA on Southwest.
This deal “sounded” pretty easy to me 🙂 — and guess what? It is!
I’m going to show you step by step how you can fly your family (up to four) to Europe for between ~$105 and ~$155 per person and 104,000 miles (26,000 x 4 people) with one of the best deals for flying to Europe! This is also a fab deal for a student.
Fly from one of six U.S. cities, including Chicago, New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Hartford, Newark, Minneapolis or Washington D.C., to Dublin, Ireland (and in a few cases Shannon, Ireland) on Aer Lingus for 26,000 Avios points round-trip per person.
Avios are the currency for both Aer Lingus, British Airways and Iberia, and you can transfer your points between all of these programs.
We live in Indianapolis, so Chicago works well for us, because it’s less than a three-hour drive. You could drive to the closest major airport to you or use your Southwest points to fly to any of these departure cities.
We chose to drive to Chicago the night before our flight and stay at the awesome Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport Hotel that offers runway views and an underground tunnel to the airport!
Taxes, Fees & Surcharges on Cheap Flights to Europe
With these flights, there is a hefty fuel surcharge, which I did not expect and which you need to know about. It ranges from between $90-$150 per person PER WAY, depending on which USA airport you are departing from. Generally, the closer the airport to Ireland, the less costly the fuel charges.
Chicago O’Hare is a $110 fuel surcharge per person per way. Additionally, there is a small surcharge of less than $10 each. Our extra taxes, fees and surcharges totaled $112.50 each per way. Here is the complete list of Aer Lingus taxes, charges and fees you can expect from various cities.
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2019 Off Peak Dates on Aer Lingus
- Jan. 7-April 11
- April 29-June 14
- Sept. 9-Dec. 17
Forget Cheap Flights to Europe: How to Fly a Family of Four to Europe Nearly FREE Step by Step
Step 1: Accrue 104,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
I know that sounds like a lot, but you actually can accomplish this by simply applying for one or two Chase credit cards with 50,000-100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards bonuses or the opportunity to earn up to 4 miles/Avois per $1 spent.
Chase Ultimate Rewards can be transferred to several airline programs, including Southwest, British Airways and Aer Lingus. You will transfer your points to Aer Lingus Avios, which is their frequent flyer currency, to book your trip to Ireland (and then fly on to whereever you want in Europe).
You’re going to want to be careful applying for card, however, because Chase will not approve you for any new cards if you’ve opened five or more credit cards in the last 24 months. Note: Chase, Citi and American Express business cards DO NOT count as part of the five.
So FIRST, get your Southwest cards — IF you want to earn the Southwest Companion Pass for this year and next year — and THEN look at what other cards you want to apply for.
Your best Chase credit card options include:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve – Currently 50,000-point bonus after $4,000 minimum spend
- Chase Sapphire Preferred – Currently 60,000-point bonus after $4,000 minimum spend (my favorite travel credit card!)
- Chase Ink Business Preferred – Currently 80,000-point bonus after $5,000 minimum spend
- British Airways Visa Signature Card – Earn 50,000 Avios after a $3,000 minimum spend in 3 months; earn an additional 50,000 Avios after a $20,000 spend in the first year. You can easily transfer these Avios to Aer Lingus on Avios.com
- Aer Lingus Visa Signature Card – Earn 4 Avios per $1 on up to a $30,000 spend in the first year
- Iberia Visa Signature Card – Earn 4 Avios per $1 on up to a $30,000 spend in the first year; you can easily transfer these Avios to Aer Lingus on Avios.com
First method: You can apply for one card and continue to spend on it until you reach the points you need. The Sapphire cards offer 2X and 3X points on dining and other expenses, so points accrue more quickly. Use Plastiq to pay bills that ordinarily do not accept credit cards, though you can no longer use Plastiq to pay a mortgage with a Visa card (you can use Plastiq to pay other bills like rent, car payments, etc.).
Second method: You could also apply for two cards to quickly hit your 100,000 points (plus your minimum spend will get you the additional 4,000 required points, earning 1 to 3 points per dollar spent). Ideally, you would need to space your applications by at least 30 days. Otherwise, you may be declined. Here’s what to do if you are declined by Chase and what to expect when you call the Chase Reconsideration Line.
Third method (the quickest): You could apply for one Chase Preferred credit card and your spouse could apply for another and you could transfer points in 1,000-point increments to one person’s Chase Ultimate Rewards account (see note under Step Three below to be sure you are OK with the requirements to do this). To do so, you will need to be authorized users on each other’s credit card accounts. Note: This does not work on the Avios-earning cards.
How we did it: My husband applied for Chase Sapphire Reserve when it was at a 100,000-point sign-up bonus and we prepaid some large payments on it to quickly meet the minimum spend.
Step 2: Check Flights
Before you transfer any points, you will want to take a minute to see if there is a flight open that can be booked with points that works for your family.
You can search Avios.com to check flight availability. First, you will need to sign up for AerClub (Aer Lingus’ frequent flyer program) in order to search fares. Log in via your AerClub account information and then click on Spend. Enter your flight details with dates in the “off peak” period along with your home airport and DUB for Dublin as your arriving airport and then select Search Flights. It will only show you flights available for booking with your Avios points.
Select the flights you are interested in, and once you have made your selections, you will see the total Avios required at the bottom of the screen along with any taxes, fees and fuel surcharges. You can also pay partially with Avios and partially with cash!
So once you have a flight that works for you, you’ll need to get all your points in order to book the flight.
To book your tickets, you will be using Aer Lingus Avios. Log into your Chase credit card account and then click on Chase Ultimate Rewards. Select Use Points and then Transfer to Travel Partners. Look for Aer Lingus AerClub and then select Transfer Points. Transfer the number of points you will need to book your flight.
To confirm your points transferred properly (it typically happens instantly or at maximum within one business day), log into your Aer Lingus AerClub account to verify.
If you secured the 100,000 points using cards from two different people, you will need to transfer points to one person’s account. Chase lets you transfer points to ONE other person and that person MUST BE LISTED AS AN AUTHORIZED USER on your account. If that is not OK, then don’t choose the multi-person method.
Step 4: Book your Flight
To book your flight, you will follow the above process on Avios.com to find a flight and then choose Continue With Booking, which will take you to the payment screen.
When booking on Avios.com, you will not be able to pre-select your seats, which is a free option. To do this, you will need to contact Aer Lingus at 1-800-IRISH-AIR. During busy times, it can be very difficult to get through and there is no call-back option. Use the IRISH AIR phone number, as it is the most likely to get through, and ignore the phone numbers on their Contact Us page. I also suggest calling as early as you possibly can in the morning for shorter hold times.
If you’re having no luck by phone (this happened to me), try them on Twitter, as early as possible on Irish time (5 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time), at @AerLingus. They were the most responsive to me on Twitter, though did not handle everything I needed.
When you call Aer Lingus to preselect your seats (a family of four can ask to sit in the four seats together in the middle of the plane), you can also ask for kid-friendly meals for your flight. There is no extra charge for these, but you will need to book them in advance.
Finally, you can check one 20-kilogram (44-pound) bag, as well as bring one carry-on and one personal item. Plan accordingly!
We travel so much that I developed my own personal packing list that I check off before every trip. I’ve put together a version that you can use, too! Download it below.
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Getting to the Rest of Europe
Once you arrive in Dublin, you can continue on to other major cities in Europe like London and Paris on one of Europe’s discount airlines, such as Ryanair.
Alternately, you could sign up for the British Airways Chase credit card to earn up to 123,000 Avios after earning a $20,000 spend in the first year to use on flights once you are in Europe (4,000 points/Avios one-way per person off peak from Dublin to London, for example).
You can transfer British Airways Avios to Aer Lingus Avios (Aer Lingus flights tend to cost fewer points) on Avios.com. Alternately, you can continue to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
These points will allow you to continue to fly Aer Lingus or British Airways for intra-Europe flights.
Aer Lingus flights are as cheap as 8,000 points round-trip depending on the distance between cities. Dublin to London or Dublin to Paris flights on Aer Lingus are just 8,000 points round-trip.
Lastly, if you hold a Marriott Bonvoy credit card or hold Marriott Rewards points, you can transfer these points to British Airways. For every 60,000 Marriott points you transfer to an airline miles program, they throw in a bonus 5,000 miles — a great perk!
We had the equivalent of 60,000 Marriott points, so we transferred these — including our bonus 5,000 miles — to British Airways for two of our intra-Europe flights and then flew Ryanair for the third.
Once you cross the water, you can usually then find a train to take you where you want to go across the continent, rent a car through a company like Hertz or continue to take cheap flights on Ryanair (we found flights were cheaper — even paying extra for bags — than taking a train for some longer distances between countries).
Want more inspiration on how to fly nearly free? Read how this blogger booked a $28,000 family trip to four countries for ~$500!
Read About Our Journey to Europe on Aer Lingus:
- European Vacation on Miles Part 1: Dublin
- European Vacation on Miles Part 2: Paris Days 1, 2 & 3
- European Vacation on Miles Part 3: Paris Days 4, 5 and 6
- European Vacation on Miles Part 4: Bologna
- European Vacation on Miles Part 5: Tuscany
- Travel Through Europe: Moving to the Rhythm of an Ancient Heartbeat
Read More About Travel to Europe:
- Hacks for Getting the Most Out of European Train Travel
- Vacation Rental or Hotel? Which Is Right For Your European Vacation
- A Family Guide to Exploring Dublin