On Saturday I outlined how to take advantage of stopovers in Europe using United Airlines miles. Today, I will outline a way for you to reach fairly remote cities in Europe cheaply using Iceland as your launchpad. This trick is not limited to United miles.
WOW Air routinely offers cheap one-way fare to Iceland and major cities in Europe. Thus, this trick is less about getting to London or Oslo or Madrid for cheap and more about either 1.) stopping over in Iceland or 2.) reaching “secondary” cities like Hannover, Lyon, Sofia, or Tbilisi for cheap.
It’s simple. Wait for a WOW Air fare sale (they seem to run every couple months with one-way fares as low as $69), book it, then use United (or American or even British Airways miles) to travel to other cities in Europe.
This is particularly valuable if you wish to spend time in Iceland, since the cheap WOW Air fares do not allow a stopover in Reykjavik.
Here’s what I mean by saving money.
Say you want to travel to Athens next and go business class.
You can use 22.5K AA miles (+$37 in taxes) and even enjoy a full day in Helsinki on the way.
The same ticket is over $2,000 if purchased with cash. Not that you’d ever pay that much, but it does show the value of using miles strategically for one-way travel within Europe.
Or how about going to Tbilisi, Georgia? 15K United miles in economy class 25K in business class all the way from Iceland.
That’s a great value. The long layovers are not necessary, but a nice way to check out two additional cities for no extra miles if you are so inclined. There were more direct routes available as well.
How to Get Home
Okay, great. I’ve got my stopover in Iceland and I got to Europe cheap. How do I get home?
Maybe you’ll get lucky and find a cheap one-way cash ticket home, but it is almost always cheaper to get to Europe on a paid ticket than to return home. That’s the WOW Air bait…we’ll get you here for cheap, but often you’ll pay dearly for coming home.
But it doesn’t take more miles to travel west than it does east…as long as there is space. And with some flexibility you can almost always find enough award seats for the whole family, especially if using United miles (which has several Star Alliance partners based in Europe offering transatlantic service). So instead of 60K miles each for a round-trip economy journey, you might be looking at $100 for the ticket to Iceland with one checked bag, 15K miles to reach your secondary European city, and 30K miles to come home.
This isn’t a hack to get free travel, but it is a viable strategy to save on your overall ticket price if going to Europe, especially if miles are tight. Before booking your next award trip to Europe, especially in economy class, considering checking fares to Iceland first.
top image: Milan Nykodym / Wikimedia Commons