Planning a Trip to Central Europe (aka Burning My Club Carlson Points)

I’m headed to Central Europe in a couple of weeks, and I’m super excited because 1) I love Central Europe (Hungary in particular) and 2) it gives me the perfect opportunity to burn the rest of my Club Carlson points before the devaluation takes place.

I’m currently sitting on more AA miles than I’m normally comfortable holding, so at first, I looked at using miles for this trip. Even though I prefer to travel in premium cabins (obvi), AA has off-peak awards to Europe that are a great value: 20k miles each way in economy class. And the off-peak season is quite generous and goes until May 15th, so it’s not like you have to go in the middle of winter (which I have done before to take advantage of US Airways’ off-peak wards).

But trying to get to Europe from the West Coast on miles during summer months can be a very challenging award, particularly when you want to avoid British Airways fuel surcharges. Given that I live in SF, that would mean at least one domestic flight to position to the transatlantic flight, and then another connecting flight within Europe to get to Central Europe. And since my dates were somewhat constrained given that I’ll be traveling with other people, I wasn’t finding anything worthwhile (there was some availability for the dates that I wanted, but it would have involved 4-5 segments, which didn’t seem worth it), so I decided to pay cash for the ticket flying AA and attempt to use some SWUs to upgrade.

As for hotels, I had already planned to use Club Carlson points in Bratislava and Budapest given that they have pretty cheap redemptions in both cities. But once the devaluation was announced, I wanted to get rid of my remaining points. I had about 44k points remaining when the devaluation was announced and had hotel nights in Vienna I could book, but the options were either 38k for two nights or 50k for two nights, so I manufactured $1200 of spend on a Club Carlson credit card for the remaining 6k points I needed (gotta love that 5x earn on all spend). Of course, my credit card was declined when I tried to spend $1200 at once, and I had to call US Bank and deal with a very not nice fraud specialist. I’m looking forward to canceling these cards when my annual fees hit.

I’m also planning food, and I haven’t really splurged on any fancy restaurants this year, so I’m contemplating meals at Steirereck, Tian (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Michelin-starred vegetarain restaurant before), and Onyx. Any other food things I shouldn’t miss? And of course, I welcome any other suggestions on activities or sights to see.

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