Trip Two: Abu Dhabi – Vienna – Salzburg – Innsbruck – Munich – Abu Dhabi December 18 – 31
With a nice, long two week winter break at the end of the first school term we have decided to head to Austria and Germany for the holiday season to check out the Christmas markets. We booked this trip as soon as we arrived in Abu Dhabi as flights and hotels tend to book up fast for much of Europe during the festive season and rates can get quite expensive with so many traveling over the holidays corresponding with school breaks. Because airfare is relatively expensive during the holiday season, and we chose Vienna (one of the most expensive cities in Europe), we decided to make full use of banked miles and points for this trip.
We had a stash of American Airlines miles earned last year when we both received sign up bonus’s for American Airlines and old US Airways credit cards (now they are the same miles since the merger). American miles are a great way to get to Europe from the Middle East as they require only 40,000 round trip in economy. We booked this award trip by purchasing two, one-way tickets since we wanted to fly into Vienna and then out of Munich at the end of our trip. By mid-September there was not a lot of award availability and round trip flights listed us to flying to Vienna direct from Dubai at 1:40 am. This would have meant we would have to leave our apartment in Abu Dhabi around 9:30 pm and drive to the Dubai airport and basically be up all night. We chose instead to fly via Air Berlin flight — a One World Partner and bookable via American Airlines website. We found a flight departing from Abu Dhabi at a much more reasonable 9:30 am and arriving in Vienna via Düsseldorf. This leg of the trip cost us 60K miles (20K x 3 people) and $120 in fees ($40 x 3 people). For the return leg, we found a flight back to Abu Dhabi from Munich on December 31, again on Air Berlin, with a 10 hour layover in Düsseldorf — long enough to allow us to pop into Düsseldorf for the afternoon to grab lunch and have a walk about the city. This flight again cost us 60K miles (20k x 3 people) and $120 in fees ($40 x 3 people). This is a great value for us as it is difficult to find award space during the Christmas season when booking so late in the year for a family of three.
Once in Vienna the expenses are just beginning — Vienna is one of the more expensive European cities, especially during the peak of the holiday season. We have booked three nights at the Park Hyatt Vienna, currently running at $584 per night for its base Park Hyatt King Studio room. We booked our first two nights there using two free nights that are valid at any Hyatt in the world after signing up for the Hyatt Visa. Our third night was booked using Hyatt’s “points+cash” program which allows gold passport members to use a combination of a fixed amount of cash and points no matter what the rack rate of the hotel may be during the stay. The third night cost us 12,500 points + $150, the going rate for all Category 7 Hyatt properties. This gives us a great redemption value, as we would gladly spend 12,500 points in place of an additional $434. We get to stay at one of Hyatt’s premier European properties, which would have cost us $1,752 for three nights, for a total of only $150 plus 12,500 Hyatt Gold Passport points. On top of this value, because we have earned Diamond status, we are also eligible for a free room upgrade (based on availability), will have a free breakfast each morning, a 4:00 pm check out, and have access to the premium lounge throughout our stay (free snacks all day!).
After a few days in Vienna we will train to Salzburg, then to Innsbruck, before finally reaching Munich. The hotel stays at each of these cities are much more reasonable than the super expensive capital Vienna. Visiting a major European capital over the holiday can potentially break the bank. Thankfully, with a lot of planning, flexibility, patience, and travelhacking it is possible to travel in comfort and style (and on a budget) even during peak seasons.
As if this trip wasn’t exciting enough, we recently found out that the rest of the Galietti clan will be joining us from the US and it will be a great holiday celebration in Vienna and Salzburg with Brian and Angie, and Mom and Dad! We are looking forward to a wonderful Christmas vacation with family — as well as Matteo’s first experience with real winter weather!