A while back, I shared how I bought two round trip tickets to Israel for $280 using a credit card churn and fee airline miles. Yes, that’s right. $140 per person round trip including all taxes and fees. Well, I just got back and want to share how we had an amazing trip on a budget.
Flights to Israel
About two months ago, I sat down and planned out my flights. Combined J and I had enough United miles and Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to get two one-way tickets to Israel.
We used partner airlines to find available reward seats on the day we wanted to leave. Because it was so cheap, we had to be flexible on the routing. Here is what we ended up with.
- Denver (DEN) >New York (LGA) – United 310
- New York (JFK) > Frankfurt (FRA) – Singapore Airlines 25 (on an A380!)
- Frankfurt (FRA) > Tel Aviv (TLV) – Lufthansa 690
As you can see, that was not so simple to put together. However, it was possible and only took about 30 minutes to work out once we decided on United miles for the first direction. We had to make the reservation by phone because we were too complex for the online system. We also had to make a small change due to a phantom award seat.
To change airports in New York, J’s cousin picked us up at Laguardia and dropped us off at JFK. We had enough time to have dinner on the way, but if we didn’t have friends there we could have taken the shuttle.
In Frankfurt, we had a full day to go into town and explore. We enjoyed German beer and got stamps on the passport. For the long-haul flight to Frankfurt, we totally enjoyed our experience on the luxury airline Singapore Air on a giant A380. Their coach seats are almost as nice as first class on United!
To fly home, I took advantage of partner airlines yet again. This time, I used British Airway Avios miles for one ticket and American Airlines miles for the other. There is a great deal for American miles right now via the AAdvantage® Visa Signature® Card. If you want to double up, also check out the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard®.
Because British Airways and American Airlines are both members of the OneWorld alliance, we were able to book partner flights there as well. Here’s how it all worked out.
- Tel Aviv (TLV) > Berlin (TXL) – Air Berlin 8903
- Berlin (TXL) > Chicago (ORD) – Air Berlin 7420
- Chicago (ORD) > Denver (DEN) – American Airlines 3629
We ended up with a full afternoon in Chicago which we spent touring with a friend. It felt like a long trip home, but then I remembered it only cost us about $70 each and I felt better.
Hotels and Lodging
We looked at using our Starwood points for hotels, but didn’t find any deals good enough, so we just decided to pay for our hotels the nights we used them. We stayed with cousins for part of the trip, and could have longer, but wanted a bit more freedom so we opted for hotels a couple of extra nights.
All in all, we had 1 night in a hotel in Tiberias and 4 nights in hotels in Jerusalem. We found the best deals at Hotels.com and booked them there. The total cost of hotels, which we split, averaged $150 per night. The total was about $750 or $375 each.
If we had wanted to save more, we could have found hostels or looking into other options to save money on hotels when traveling.
Food, Entertainment, and Souvenirs
For spending money, we each bought some stuff on our own and shared meals and visits to the local pubs.
For my part, I took out less than $300 from ATMs. I always suggest using ATMs while abroad to get the best exchange rates and avoid fees (make sure you have the best ATM card to get foreign ATM fees refunded automatically).
For most places I was able, I used a credit card that charged no foreign exchange or foreign use fees. Most small shops and restaurants in Israel are not credit card friendly, so I only spent about $100 the entire trip on cards.
In total, the trip cost less than $900 each. If we had used points/miles for hotels, stayed in hostels, or stayed with family longer, we could have easily made it less than $500 each for 10 days abroad.
Traveling doesn’t have to be cost prohibitive. It doesn’t have to be incredibly expensive. It just takes budgeting, planning, and a little extra effort to make a $5,000 trip cost $500.
How to you budget for travel and big trips? Please share your best tips in the comments below.
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