Welcome back! It's me, Ben Schlappig, the full-time traveler behind One Mile at a Time, and the guy who introduced you to my uber-luxury travel lifestyle all made possible by using miles and points. In our series with Jet Set, we're going around the world in 21 days... all in five-star luxury, and booked at the very last minute.
In my last post, I was telling you about our wonderful hotel suite upgrade in Paris... far from your typical teeny crash pad!
As I hinted at in the last installment, I’m not the biggest fan of Paris. I realize that’s sacrilege to most, given that Paris is probably the most popular European vacation destination.
An American traveler with an unpopular opinion on Paris
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Paris is a bad city. Quite to the contrary, I actually find it charming. However, I don’t think it quite lives up to the hype. Yes, the food in Paris is great. Yes, it has lots of great museums, stunning architecture, and a great vibe.
However, when it comes to city trips, I prefer traveling slightly off the beaten track. (Hong Kong is one of the few exceptions.)
I find Paris to be overpriced, I think it’s overrun by tourists in peak season, and for the most part I don’t find the service to be great. So that’s not to say it isn’t worth visiting, but I’ve been plenty of places in Europe that I personally enjoyed more — Berchtesgaden, Germany, Edinburgh, Scotland, and Prague, Czech Republic, just to name a few.
However, the friends I was traveling with were determined to show me a side of Paris I hadn’t seen before, and one that they were convinced I would like. Rather than spending all days in museums, or at tourist-hotspot restaurants, we sought to see a different part of Paris.
Part of that was going on a cappuccino crawl. I love a good cappuccino, so we went around to try various cafes that were on lists for their cappuccinos. They were all reasonably good, though I think we found the one place that actually has the best cappuccino I’ve ever tasted. It was smoother than any other cappuccino I’ve had in my life.
We eventually also went to an American brunch restaurant. That might sound like the most touristy thing to do, but the story of the restaurant is interesting — it was started by an American lady who moved to Paris decades ago, and is popular with locals. Other than us, there weren’t any Americans there. While Paris is all about food, the concept of an American bunch seems pretty foreign. The place was great.
I may have complex feelings about Paris... but I sure didn't go hungry!
I do have to say that I came away from Paris with a more favorable impression than I’ve had in the past. It probably didn’t hurt that the weather was perfect during our stay. Ford always tells me how much he’d like to go to Paris, so I’d gladly return with him. Still, when it comes to my own travel goals, there are many places I’d like to visit ahead of Paris.
One of the things I love about Europe in general is how many different cultures and countries you have just hundreds of miles apart. As much as the U.S. has many subcultures, it can’t really compete with Europe. It makes me want to move there for a year and explore a different city every weekend.
In Europe you can take a one- or two-hour flight and be in dozens of different countries. Fortunately these can be pretty easy to explore on the cheap, or with miles and points. When it comes to traveling cheap, there aren’t many markets that are more developed than Europe.
In Europe you have a bunch of low-cost airlines, like Easyjet and Ryanair, that make travel cost only marginally more than a bus ticket. But if you’re looking to travel in a bit more comfort, there are also some airlines in the region with distance-based award charts. This means that the number of miles you need for an award ticket is based on how far you fly.
For example, British Airways Executive Club has a distance based award chart, and charges just 4,500 Avios (their name for “miles”), for a one-way ticket that covers a distance of up to 650 miles. So you can take a trip somewhere and back for just 9,000 Avios, which is a phenomenal deal.
Lots and lots of locks
While airfare is cheap and there are plenty of great short-haul opportunities, otherwise frequent-flyer programs in Europe aren’t especially lucrative. That’s because the value in many frequent-flyer programs is driven by their co-branded credit cards. In the U.S., credit cards are a huge profit center for the airlines, and the credit card industry in the U.S. is huge.
Meanwhile in Europe the credit card industry isn’t quite as lucrative, in terms of the number of people using credit cards — and paying the fees.
Stick around for the very last leg of my global journey!
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Going on a short trip? Here's how your awards could take you far:
Ben Schlappig, the blogger behind One Mile at a Time, experiences about $1 million worth of travel every year using miles and points — and covers about 400,000 miles annually this way. Ben has teamed up with Bravo’s Jet Set for a series called The Upgrade, in which he shows you how you — yes, you! — can score real-world-ready strategies for upping your travel game. Come along for the adventure!
Jet Set is Bravo's launch pad for the most extravagant, luxurious, and unforgettable travel experiences. Ready for takeoff? Then Like us on Facebook to stay connected to our daily updates.