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Portugal on Points: How to Maximize Your Travel Rewards

Posted by on Jul 12, 2018 | 2 comments

Portugal on Points: How to Maximize Your Travel Rewards

Our recent summer trip to Portugal was indeed pretty incredible, but it almost didn’t happen at all.

You see, we recently bought a rather large boat to use as a second home in the Seattle area (my husband’s home town). Due to this new expense, the budget for our annual summer European holiday took a nose dive.

Uh, to pretty much nothing.

Never one to let a lack of adequate funding spoil a great trip to Europe, it was time for me to get creative. I was determined to make the most of my travel rewards – including airline miles, hotel points and credit card rewards – to spend 10 days traveling around Portugal on as tight a budget as possible, while still making it a fabulous vacation for both me and my husband, Dave.

My goal? To do the whole 10-day trip for $1,000 or less. I got pretty close. Here’s how I did it…

My Travel Rewards Arsenal

To make this trip work, I was armed with the following:

483,000 Delta miles (90% business accrued. Ridiculous, I know. I have no life.)

43,000 Starwood SPG points

60,000 Marriott Rewards Points

80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (from my Chase Sapphire card)

Astoria Oregon

Our new boat! (Also known as the travel-budget-killer)

Since Dave would already be in Germany working, his flight to Europe was easy, it was paid for by his client (that was a lucky break). For my ticket, 60,000 Delta miles did the trick (if Dave’s ticket hadn’t been paid for, we would have burned another 60,000 miles for his flight).

From Germany, we planned to make four stops in Portugal over the next 10 days – Porto, the Azores, the Algarve and Lisbon. We also needed one night near the Munich airport on either end of the trip.

Porto Portugal Architecture

The beautiful architecture of Porto, Portugal

It made the most sense to start in Porto and work our way down, so I began looking into flights from Munich to Porto.

The Munich airport hotel turned out to be ridiculously easy, the Moxy Munich Airport (part of the Marriott family) was just 15,000 Marriott points for a free night. I booked us there for the night before we left for Portugal and the night before our flight home to Atlanta at the end of the trip (it was a great little hotel).

First stop, Porto!

Coming from Munich, we’d have to connect somewhere regardless, so I checked with Delta to see about using miles on either Air France (via Paris) or KLM (via Amsterdam). Air France was available (yay!) but only in business class (uh-oh).

When I asked how many miles that would be, the agent said 25,000 per ticket…for business class. Since you can’t even get a domestic coach seat for that anymore, that was a steal for business class (yay again!).

Next up, where to stay in Porto. I could have used my Starwood (SPG) points for the highly-rated Sheraton Porto Hotel & Spa  but I had other plans later in the trip for my SPG points. This would be the one stop where we would pay for the hotel, so I needed a good deal on something in town and walking distance from everything we wanted to see.

Enter Booking.com (my favorite hotel booking site). After a little research, I found the Oporto Stories Apartments and it turned out to be fabulous! We booked the top floor terrace apartment and the view was spectacular. And more importantly, it was close to everything (meaning no taxis required), an easy train ride from the airport and only $118 a night.

Next stop, the Azores

With Porto figured out, it was time to move on to the Azores. The flight was easy (and one of the reasons I chose to do the itinerary in this particular order), a non-stop flight on Ryan Air for $105 per person, including the added fees for 2 carry-on bags and premium boarding. With flights that cheap, I didn’t even worry about looking into options with points.

Ponta Delgada Marina Azores

The view from our room at the Azor Hotel

Our hotel in the Azores was also a no brainer, the new AZOR Hotel in Ponta Delgada. This was where I’d spend most of my SPG points but at 7,000 points for a free night, it was a real steal. We stayed 3 nights for a total of 21,000 points.

We did need a rental car in the Azores but luckily that was pretty affordable as well, about $70 for three days.

Up next, the Algarve

From the Azores, we needed to get back to Lisbon to rent a car and make the three-hour drive to the Algarve.

Algarve Portugal Airbnb Apartment

Terrace views from our Airbnb apartment in the Algarve

Since only a few airlines fly to the islands, my points options were limited (I tried with Chase points but no luck). Fortunately, the Azores airline, SATA, was incredibly inexpensive, just $178 for both flights! Again, no points needed with fares that good.

Once again, we would need a car and though you can redeem Chase points for car rentals, I didn’t find them to be a great deal on the Ultimate Rewards site. So, we paid for that out of pocket, too. About $100 for the entire three days, not too bad really.

For our accommodations in the Algarve, I’d chosen a fabulous Airbnb.com apartment situated on a cliff overlooking gorgeous Vale Centeanes beach. For this one, I got creative. You can’t use points for an Airbnb rental but it turns out you can purchase an Airbnb gift card with your Chase points. How about that?!?

The apartment wasn’t extravagant, just $122 a night for a total of $366 for our three nights. I redeemed 30,000 Chase points for a $300 gift card bringing the cost of the apartment down to just $66 for a 2-bedroom apartment with a killer view in Portugal’s most exclusive holiday area. Score!

(P.S. If you haven’t tried Airbnb, I highly recommend it. Click here for $40 off your first rental with my discount code).

Last stop, Lisbon

From Algarve, we planned to head back to Lisbon for one night before flying back to Munich. For our hotel, I chose the luxurious Sheraton Lisbon Hotel and Spa and redeemed SPG points for the room using the Cash & Points option – $75 and 5,000 points.

And for the flights back to Munich, my Chase points came in handy again for a nonstop on TAP Portugal for 30,560 points for both of us.

When all was said and done, here’s how the trip costs broke down:

Airfare:

Ryan Air – $210

SATA Air – $178

Hotels:

Porto – $236

Algarve – $66

Lisbon – $75

Rental Cars:

Azores – $61

Algarve – $78

Points used:

Delta Miles – 110,000 + $167 in taxes & fees

SPG Points – 26,000 (3 nights in Azores & 1 in Lisbon)

Marriott Points – 30,000

Chase Points – 60,560

Factoring in all the costs for flights, lodging and rentals cars, we spent a grand total of $1,071 for two people traveling around Portugal for 11 nights (including the 2 nights in Munich).

Of course, there were expenses for gas, food, the occasional Uber ride, etc. But, overall, I’d say we did a pretty excellent job of maximizing our travel rewards for one amazing vacation.

And with the right credit cards and travel reward programs, you can too!

2 Comments

  1. 7-13-2018

    Hi Jenny, thanks for that truly wonderful and instructive report; thoroughly enjoyable. I love your aside comments, such as the one after the Delta miles info. Interesting to see you flying on Ryanair, didn’t quite expect that. Interesting to see how you plan things; I do something similar although I always do budget RTWs and look for the cheapest flights that I can get. On RTW#15 I went Business class with BA to Munich using a few airmiles. (not quite in your league!). I also only use Booking.com. Love the photos and the boat. Best wishes – Keith.

    • Jenny
      7-17-2018

      Thanks, Keith! It had been a while since I really needed to make the points work so I could afford to do a trip. But it was good to know I could still do it! There really are so many different ways to get and use travel rewards these days. Your travels are an inspiration! Thanks for taking the time to read the post.

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