Our European Honeymoon & How We Got it 85% OFF: Part II
Let's start with a quick summary of Part I: I wanted a big vacation. I learned about "travel hacks". I used credit card sign up bonuses to earn lots of travel points. Derek and I got married. I miraculously convinced Derek to go to Europe for our honeymoon.
Part II is about our actual expenses, how we paid for them, and how much we saved.
So what did the trip actually cost us?
While the actual savings were amazing, the trip didn't go quite as perfectly as I planned it.
Our first hiccup came in Rome. The Barclay Card wasn't always accepted. Merchants would swipe the card and about half the time it would say denied. I called Barclay customer service and they confirmed that everything on their end was okay. They said it must be a technical error. It seems strange considering that the other credit cards always worked... Either way, we still paid no foreign fees and we were still able to use our points at the Hyatt in Paris. Thankfully this hiccup was minor and worked itself out.
Lesson Learned: Take more than one credit card while traveling, particularly if you plan on using a Barclay Card in Italy (we had no issues in Paris).
Our only other hiccup was not so minor... and actually had nothing to do with our planning. But we did learn a significant lesson that I am happy to share with you. When I first made our flight reservations, we were actually planning on going to Europe in January, when my name was still Micayla Gray. When we postponed our trip and my name changed to Micayla Giffin, I had to call United Airlines to change my name on my reservations. United Airlines was happy to help me and we all thought the issue was resolved. That is until we tried to fly from Rome to Paris. United Airlines works with other airlines when flying customers through Europe. In our case, we were supposed to fly Lufthansa, a German airline. For whatever reason, Lufthansa had not and would not change the name on my original reservation (even when I showed them a copy of my marriage license!). As a result, my passport didn't match and they would not let us board the plane. To get to Paris, we had to purchase new tickets through AirFrance. Our new tickets cost us nearly $1,200. Thankfully, United Airlines has been very understanding and apologetic and will try to offer us compensation... we'll see how that goes.
Lesson Learned: If you have to change your reservation when flying internationally, cancel the old one and make a brand new one. And if you ask us, don't fly Lufthansa.
Thankfully, the rest of the trip was without financial surprises! But there were plenty of old fashioned other-side-of-the-world surprises though, to name a few...
- Europe doesn't believe in air conditioning?! Europeans don't eat outside because it's romantic... they eat outside because that's where they might catch a breeze! We couldn't believe it. And we nearly couldn't stand it in Rome where the temperature was over 100 every day. Another tip: go to Europe when it's cool.
- The. Orange. Juice. Everywhere we went in Italy, the orange juice was fresh squeezed before my eyes from the most flavorful oranges I had ever tasted! Even at McDonalds. Yes, we are guilty of going to McDonalds in Europe.
- Public bathrooms aren't a thing, or at least aren't a thing to be trusted. The only reasonable public bathrooms cost between 1-2 Euros. Plan accordingly.
- The public metro was our preferred choice of transportation. It was surprisingly easy to navigate the public metro and get to nearly any corner of the city. I was glad I packed hand sanitizer, but I was also thankful for a relatively cheap and easy way to walk less.
All in all, we decided it was about 20 degrees too hot and we walked about 30 miles too far to classify our trip as relaxing vacation, but wow... what an experience! To walk the same streets and see the same sights that people did centuries before us was truly amazing. The icing on the cake was that we got to see the world, and then come home to the United States of America. We may be poor enough to depend on "travel hacking" but we'll never be able to comprehend how rich we really are, just because of where we were born.
Derek and I still charge every expense we can to a credit card first, then pay it off one day before our statement is created. We get our statement with a zero balance, and our credit score goes up. And our points are piling up again. You better believe when our rewards (and my work leave) adds back up, I'll be vacay planning again!
For us, credit cards have been a super powerful tool! They can be for you too if you are determined to be the master over them, and not let the roles reverse.
Not interested in travel? Surely you like cash! You can follow the same principles of charging and paying off to earn cash back. Just don't be fooled into paying interest to gain cash rewards!
Disclaimer: This content has not been commissioned, endorsed, or guaranteed by any of the entities involved. The sign up bonuses and reward systems discussed in this article are subject to change. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone. This article is meant only to inform, not to recommend. All readers are responsible for their own decisions. The author cannot be held liable for any decisions made as a result of reading this article.