Hotel Chicago Downtown is a recent February 2014 addition to Marriott’s Autograph Collection brand. I previously visited the hotel in 2010 when it was Hotel Sax and a Thompson boutique hotel. The location next to House of Blues and near the north bank of the Chicago River is a central downtown location.

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The question came up when I was on a historic tour of Chicago asking, “What is the oldest hotel in Chicago?”

Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel in the Loop is the oldest hotel in Chicago and considered the oldest continuously operating hotel in the USA.

Forget all the news headlines about Chicago city violence. Chicago is a city of entertainment and history. Historic hotels in Chicago tell much of the history in the city.

Chicago Palmer House 1871 800px-Palmer_House,_by_Zimmerman,_Charles_A_,_1844-1909

Stereoscopic View of First Palmer House (1871) – credit: wikipedia image.

The Palmer House was financed by a Chicago millionaire retailer and real estate developer Potter Palmer (1826-1902). His fortune was made in retail beginning with a Chicago store in 1852. In 1865, Palmer partnered with Marshall Field to run his stores in a merger resulting in Palmer selling his interests in the retail company in 1867. The mid-western chain of department stores known as Marshall Field and Company developed out of Palmer’s Chicago retail business.

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Iowa was much, and much more, of what I anticipated to see on a four-day, three-night sponsored Iowa Ag Tour. The tour was geared for people working in agriculture with visits to tractor factories, working farms to see farming equipment, public university research facilities to learn about new agricultural innovations and sufficient aesthetic outings to gardens and restaurants built into the tour to offer a bit of Iowa ‘city culture’ to contrast with the isolated farm culture of the state.

This post is an overview of the Iowa Ag Tour itinerary. I’ll work on additional pieces focusing on some of the specific destinations from the tour including a butterfly garden at Iowa State University in Ames, a restaurant in Waterloo with a spray painted ceiling inspired by the Sistine Chapel from a young Bosnian hip-hop dancing artist refugee, the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque and an ‘Embrace the Tractor’ piece on tractors and interesting people I met who are passionate about historic tractors and tractor culture.

Corn, pigs and what else is there in Iowa?

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This post summarizes dozens of hotel loyalty promotion offers in the major hotel chains currently available in the month of April 2014 for hotel stays this month and beyond.

Last update: April 11, 2014

Please send me an email at ricgarrido@loyaltytraveler.com if you know of a good hotel promotion not listed here.

Accor Hotels - Le Club Accorhotels

Hotel Brands: Sofitel, Pullman, MGallery, Grand Mercure, Novotel, Mercure, Suite Novotel, The Sebel, Ibis, Ibis Styles, Adagio, Thalassa Sea & Spa.

Accor Hotels Brand Profile – Loyalty Traveler Jan 5, 2014

Sofitel Spring 3x Points for stays March 14 to May 20, 2014 and 25% off 3-night and 4-night stays or 30% off 5-night and longer stays. This offer is for Sofitel properties in the northern hemisphere.

Sofitel Autumn 3x Points for stays March 14 to May 20, 2014 and 25% off 3-night and 4-night stays or 30% off 5-night and longer stays. This offer is for Sofitel properties in the southern hemisphere.

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Best Western Hotels – Best Western Rewards

Hotel Brands: Best Western, Best Western Plus, Best Western Premier

$50 Best Western Travel Card after two hotel stays April 7 – May 18, 2014. Global promotion. Limit of one travel card per member during promotion period. Best Western $50 travel card expires September 30, 2014.

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Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group – Club Carlson

Hotel brands: Radisson Blu, Radisson, Radisson Red, Park Plaza, Park Inn, Country Inn & Suites, Quorvus Collection.

Club Carlson Hotel Brands Profile by Loyalty Traveler (Jan 8, 2014).

Club Carlson Hotel Loyalty Program Basics by Loyalty Traveler (Jan 8, 2014)

Analysis of Club Carlson award category increases at 114 hotels on March 15, 2014 (Feb 24, 2014)

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**** Club Carlson38,000 Points after three nights. Jan 6-April 13, 2014..

Note: Three nights do not need to be consecutive.  Loyalty Traveler post Jan 6, 2014.

10,000 bonus points per stay packages at six Radisson Hotels in USA.

MegaPoints 10,000 points per night at six Radisson Hotels in USA (Feb 20, 2014). This offer is a good deal on a rate $20 more than BAR. There is no main promotion page and no dates provided for the duration of this offer at six hotels:

New York City Radisson Martinique on Broadway Radisson JFK Airport

Orlando Radisson Resort Orlando – Celebration Radisson Hotel Orlando – Lake Buena Vista Radisson Hotel Orlando – UCF Area

San Francisco Radisson Hotel Fisherman’s Wharf

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Through April 30, 2014 Earn 1,800 Southwest Rapid Rewards points per Country Inn & Suites stay. Only valid on new reservations.

Terms and Conditions:  The Triple Rapid Rewards Points Offer (“Promotion”) is available on new reservations at participating Country Inns & Suites By Carlson hotels in the United States (“Participating Properties”) for Eligible Stays with a checkin date beginning February 15, 2014 and completed by April 30, 2014 (“Promotional Period”).  An Eligible Stay is defined as a stay at an eligible rate of one or more nights at the same hotel regardless of the number of times you checkin or check out during the stay…Rapid Rewards Members who provide their account number at the time of checkin can earn a total of 1,800 Rapid Rewards Points for each Eligible Stay during the Promotional Period.

Warning/Danger: When you switch to earning airline miles, all your existing Club Carlson points will be converted to miles. You may want to avoid this offer if you have a large points balance.

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Choice Hotels – Choice Privileges

Hotel Brands: Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality, Sleep Inn, Clarion, Cambria Suites, Ascend Hotel Collection, MainStay Suites, Suburban Extended Stay, Econo Lodge and Rodeway Inn.

Earn 8,000 points after two stays Feb 27 to May 14, 2014.

Choice Privileges mainstay promotion returns for 8K after every two stays. Econolodge, Rodeway, Suburban and Mainstay require 2-night stays to count as a stay for this offer. Choice Gold and Platinum members earn an additional 250 points for every stay booked on ChoiceHotels.com.

Loyalty Traveler post: Return of Choice Privileges 8,000 points for 2 stays Feb 27-May 14, 2014

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Choice Hotel BRG free night claim

Choice Hotels free night with approved Best Rate Guarantee. Here is a post on my experience claiming a successful Best Rate Guarantee with one free night(Feb 28, 2014).

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Hilton Worldwide – Hilton HHonors

Hilton hotel brands: Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Waldorf-Astoria Collection, Conrad Hotels, DoubleTree, Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites, Home2 Suites.

Hilton HHonors 2x to 4x bonus miles with 19 airlines. Some promotions end April 30 and several new airline promotions offer bonus miles for stays April 1 to June 30, 2014.

Hilton HHonors – Weekend Rewards Feb 1 – April 30, 2014

The current promotion with Hilton HHonors can earn 7,000 bonus points for a two-night weekend stay from February 1 through April 30, 2014.

HHonors Weekend Rewards offers 1,000 bonus points per night any day of the week, with an additional 5,000 bonus points for a weekend stay including two consecutive nights of Thursday-Friday, Friday-Saturday, or Saturday-Sunday. Only one 5,000 bonus points will be awarded per weekend.

This means a Friday and Saturday night stay at a participating hotel will earn 7,000 bonus points.

Hilton HHonors Weekend Rewards registration is required before the first qualifying stay.

There are more than 300 Hilton brand hotels opting out of this global promotion offer. All but 16 hotels are located in the USA.

There is no limit on points earned during the promotion period.

This is a decent offer for Hilton HHonors loyalists, but I don’t consider the offer competitive for switching hotel stays unless you have a good weekend rate for a Hilton brand hotel.

HHonors Weekend Rewards FAQ.

HHonors Weekends

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Loyalty Traveler post: Hilton HHonors Seasonal Reward Rates clarified (Jan 24, 2014).

Loyalty Traveler post: Tutorial: Finding HHonors Points & Money and Standard Rewards (Jan 28, 2014).

Loyalty Traveler table: Hilton HHonors Points & Money Rewards table (there is no table on the Hilton HHonors site showing the cost of Points & Money Rewards by hotel category. I created this one.)

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Hyatt Hotels – Hyatt Gold Passport

Hotel Brands: Hyatt Regency, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Place, Hyatt House, Park Hyatt, Andaz

Hyatt Gold Passport – Endless Possibilities Jan 15-April 30, 2014

Free night at a category 1-4 hotel after 5 nights. Limit of four free night certificates after 20 nights. This can be a high value promotion if you earn a free night on the cheap or if someone else is paying the bill. Loyalty Traveler post December 17, 2013. The free night certificate expires July 31, 2014, so plan to redeem quickly.  You can also choose bonus points which might be a better value if you stay 15 nights (30,000 points) or 20 nights (50,000 points). That is a big commitment for Hyatt stays.

I earned one free night with this offer after one 5-night paid stay on a best rate guarantee discount rate of $60 per night at Hyatt Regency Minneapolis where I upgraded to a one bedroom suite with a Diamond elite suite upgrade certificate good for up to 7 nights. Hyatt Regency Minneapolis hotel review (Feb 19, 2014).

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Hyatt Gold Passport introduces Points + Cash Rewards Jan 7, 2014.

Loyalty Traveler post Jan 7.

Hyatt Points-Cash Table

The main problem is Points + Cash availability is not an online function. You have to call Hyatt to book Points + Cash reward stays. Anecdotal reports suggest availability is very good.

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InterContinental Hotels Group – IHG Rewards Club

Hotel Brands – InterContinental Hotels, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites, Candlewood Suites, Hualux (China), Even.

Loyalty Traveler overview of IHG Rewards Club (Jan 6, 2014) – IHG Rewards Club in 2014: History, Award Nights and Elite Status

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IHG Rewards ClubNext Big Win Jan 1-April 30, 2014 is another personalized offer. My offer allows me to earn nearly 80,000 bonus points with five nights in the right places and days to maximize the bonus. Loyalty Traveler post Jan 7, 2014.

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IHG PointBreaks Hotels for 5,000 points reward nights for stays by May 31, 2014. 150 IHG PointBreaks hotels now bookable for stays to May 31, 2014

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Holiday Inn Resorts 5th night free and one free night certificate for Holiday Inn Resorts after 2-night stay by May 23, 2014. The free night offer after a 2-night stay looks like a great deal, but you are likely to have better results booking this offer over the phone.

Loyalty Traveler post: Holiday Inn Resorts free night offer after 2-night stay by May 23, but can you find this deal? (March 3, 2014).

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Holiday Inn Club Vacations 5,000 points per night February 5-May 23, 2014 requires a minimum 2-night stay at higher than regular rates.

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Winning Big with IHG Rewards Club bonus points. This Loyalty traveler post Jan 7, 2014 shows how stackable promotion codes earned big bonus points for my hotel stays in 2013 and where to find promotion codes on FlyerTalk thread.

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Marriott International – Marriott Rewards

Marriott hotel brands: Marriott, JW Marriott, Renaissance, Fairfield Inn, SpringHill Suites, TownePlace Suites, Residence Inn, Courtyard by Marriott, Autograph Collection, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott Vacation Clubs

Marriott Rewards MegaBonus February 1–April 30, 2014. Stay twice and get one free night certificate at a category 1-4 or 1-5 hotel. Loyalty Traveler post Dec 18. This is a great deal for one-night stays. Loyalty Traveler post Jan 15, 2014 shares how I called to switch from Category 1-4 to category 1-5 offer. These are targeted offers so login to your Marriott Rewards account or call Marriott Reward to register for MegaBonus or register online here. Registration required by March 31 for this offer.

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Free Night offer for New Members of Marriott Rewards, Earn one free category 1-5 hotel night certificate after two stays within 90 days of enrollment. This offer is reported stackable with MegaBonus free night offer. Loyalty Traveler post: New Marriott Rewards members earn one category 5 free night certificate after two stays in 120 days (Feb 6, 2014). Category 5 hotels include several hotels around the world that will run $300+ per night.

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Loyalty Traveler post – Marriott Rewards Hotel + Air Package Rewards for United and other airlines (Feb 5, 2014)

Loyalty Traveler post – Tutorial: Marriott’s Cash + Points Rewards with 5th Night Free (Jan 28, 2014)

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Marriott Points & Miles Deals - http://www.marriott.com/specials/mesSearchResults.mi

Marriott deals

There are hundreds of discount rates, package deals and points and miles bonus offers at Marriott hotels worldwide. My advice is to check the Marriott specials site and search your destination city for special offers at marriott brand hotels.

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Loyalty Traveler post – Marriott MegaBonus 16 days hiatus and why Category 4 Certificates have less value in 2014 (Jan 15, 2014).

Loyalty Traveler post – Marriott International hotel numbers by brand 12-31-13

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Starwood Hotels – Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG)

Starwood brands: Westin, Sheraton, Four Points, Aloft, Element, Luxury Collection, St. Regis, W Hotels, Le Meridien

Starwood Preferred Guest – Bring on the Nights January 5-April 30, 2014 offers 2,500 bonus points every 5 nights. This is another offer good for SPG loyalists, but not too high on the rebate value compared to other hotel programs’ offers. Loyalty Traveler post Dec 9, 2013.

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SPG Twice as Nice Dining February 1-April 30, 2014 offer for 2x base points when dining at Starwood Hotel restaurants as non-guests. Loyalty Traveler post Feb 11, 2014.

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February 17 to May 17, 2014 Starwood Asia-Pacific Hotels earn 2,000 points every 2-nights (consecutive nights on single stay) at participating hotels in celebration of airline partnership with Virgin Australia Velocity. Maximum 6,000 bonus points may be earned during promotion period. Registration required by March 31, 2014.

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Loyalty Traveler post: Tutorial: SPG Browse Dates and Rates Feature (Jan 30, 2014)

SPG 2014 Hotel Category Reassignment:

Loyalty Traveler post: Analysis of SPG Hotels outside USA rising in award category March 4, 2014

Loyalty Traveler post: 139 hotels down in Starwood Hotels award category reassignment March 4, 2014

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Starwood Preferred Guest And Caesars Total Rewards Partnership

SPG has teamed up with Caesars Entertainment to reward points to each other’s members. This deal allows members to earn SPG points at Caesars properties. Redemption rates are generally poor using SPG points for Caesars Hotels.

Loyalty Traveler posts on SPG and Caesars partnership:

Caesars and Starwood Preferred Guest partner for points earning (Jan 21, 2014)

Redemption Value analysis using SPG points for Caesars award stays in Las Vegas (Jan 21, 2014).

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Wyndham Hotel Group – Wyndham Rewards

Wyndham Hotel Brands: Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Wyndham Grand, Wyndham Garden, Tryp by Wyndham, Wingate by Wyndham, Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham, Microtel Inn & Suites, Dream Hotels, Night Hotels, Planet Hollywood, Ramada Worldwide, Baymont Inn & Suites, Days Inn, Super 8, Howard Johnson, Travelodge, Knights Inn.

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5,000 points for Wyndham brand stays in U.S. Feb 12-May 14, 2014

Earn 5,000 bonus points per stay at 79 Wyndham and Wyndham Garden Hotels in the USA and Canada. Promotion registration is required.

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Wyndham Rewards points-to-miles exchange rate was cut by half for hotel points transfer to frequent flyer program miles on January 31, 2014 without any prior member notice. Loyalty Traveler post: Gone with the Wyndham Rewards: points-to-miles rate cut by half Jan 31, 2014 (Feb 1, 2014).

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Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.

Loyalty Traveler shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests.

Follow Loyalty Traveler on Twitter and Facebook and RSS feed.

Here is another post to show how flying Air Berlin offers great value with American Airlines AAdvantage off-peak MileSAAver awards for 20,000 miles each way from a commuter airport in the USA to Europe.

This post looks at how to sort for Air Berlin and troubles traveling from a feeder airport.

Monterey, California (MRY) is an expensive airport to fly from when traveling to most places. Driving to San Jose (75 miles) or San Francisco (110 miles) generally saves $200 domestic and up to $600 on international tickets.

The other issue in Monterey are weather delays. On a United Express flight in March that should have been 22-minutes from MRY to SFO on a clear sky, gorgeous coastline morning all the way up Santa Cruz to San Francisco. The short flight plan turned into three hours and a missed flight connection to Minneapolis due to fog concentrated directly over the airport on the San Francisco Bay side of the peninsula. I ended up in Sacramento for lunch.

MileSAAver 40,000 miles round-trip USA-Europe in Economy Class.

Fly before May 15 or after October 14 for MileSAAver travel at 20,000 miles each way.

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Within the first hour of check-in to my room at Inn of Chicago, I had a list of six room and hotel complaints. Still, I stayed and slept comfortably for free one night at Choice Hotels Inn of Chicago, Ascend Collection during the U.S. Travel Association IPW convention. The second night’s reservation I canceled without penalty.

Choice Hotels and IHG (Holiday Inn parent) are two hotel brands with a Best Rate Guarantee offer for one free night. First, you have to book the hotel through the Choice (or IHG) website, then file a best rate guarantee claim within 24 hours.

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Hilton HHonors currently has bonus miles offers for 19 airlines. Many of these offers apply to hotel stays globally and some are limited to regional hotels in the Americas, EMEA and Asia Pacific for 2x to 4x miles per hotel stay. 

Choosing to earn Points + Variable Miles favors the big spender in normal circumstances with one mile earned per dollar in hotel spend. The points-to-miles transfer rate is so low with Hilton HHonors, earning miles from hotel stays is the better option, if you need miles as an HHonors member.

Hilton HHonors eliminated the earning choice of Points + Fixed Miles in January 2014. This was a favorable earning mode for low spenders since 500 miles as a Points + Fixed miles earner was a better value than 500 points on a $100 hotel stay for a Points + Points earner.

Currently there are promotional 2x to 4x bonus miles promotions members can earn on Hilton Worldwide hotel brand stays with nearly 20 airlines. Each of these bonus miles offers requires promotion registration.

This post organizes the offers by end date of each promotion. Some end April 30 and new offers were added recently for April 1-June 30 hotel stays.

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Hilton HHonors has decided to establish a presence on FlyerTalk with a corporate representative. That is a good sign of change for hotel loyalty members. And Hilton’s fresh start includes a link to the webpage for hotel reward category changes taking effect next week along with a list of all new Hilton brand hotels in 2014 with their associated reward category.

14 hotels drop in HHonors category.

HHonors 2014 hotels down

Barcelona, Spain sees a double category drop at two category 7 hotels reduced to category 5 effective on Tuesday, April 15. D.C. and Richmond, VA area also see some hotels dropping category.

25 Hotels Increase HHonors Reward Category.

HHonors 2014 hotels up

HHonors 2014 up-2

Conrad Algarve Portugal makes a double category jump from HHOnors category 7 to category 9. That is quite a leap.

List of 2014 New Hotels in HHonors

One of the other useful features added to the website is a list of new hotels and their corresponding reward categories.

HHonnors 2014 new hotels cat

Hilton is growing fast globally. In January 2014 alone, HHonors added 21 new hotels.

  • January 2014 = 21 new hotels.
  • February 2014 = 9 new hotels.
  • March 2014 = 25 new hotels.

This is a pace of more than 200 new hotels for 2014. The list of new hotels is useful information to help members keep aware of new opportunities for hotel stays.

HHonors Points Search Tool

Keep in mind that the Hilton HHonors category only indicates the range of points needed for a hotel reward night. To pin down the actual hotel reward rate, HHonors members must check the http://hhonorspointssearchtool.com/ link to see the reward rate for month of travel.

Related post: Hilton HHonors Seasonal Reward Rates clarified (Jan 24, 2014)

Best Western Rewards Jump Start to Summer promotion runs April 7 –May 18, 2014 for a $50 Best Western travel card after two hotel stays. There is a one card per member limit for this promotion offer. The Best Western travel card must be redeemed by September 30, 2014.

This is a global promotion covering more than 4,000 Best Western hotels worldwide.

Promotion registration is required prior to qualifying hotel stays.

Analysis: This is a basic hotel offer that will provide a $50 gift card after two stays. Assume two 1-night stays at $75 and the $50 gift card value is a 33% rebate on hotel spend. The more expensive the two stays are, the less rebate on hotel spend for earning this promotion.

$50 travel card is not great incentive for changing stays to Best Western, but a decent rebate if you need a couple of 1-night stays over the next month and a Best Western hotel meets your needs.

The short validity of the travel card with a September 30, 2014 expiration essentially means planning two hotel stays with Best Western over the next month and a third stay by the end of summer to take full advantage of this offer.

Best Western 50 promo

Boohoo. While you can’t fly business class roundtrip from the USA to Asia for 90,000 miles anymore, there is no reason to cry if you can stomach economy class and want to get to Europe on 20,000 miles before May 15 or after October 15, including award flights to TBEX 2014 Athens, Greece in October 2014. This post shows several AAdvantage award flight options for off-peak travel to Europe.

You have plenty of options with American AAdvantage frequent flyer miles for flying to many places in Europe with American off-peak awards for 20,000 miles one-way. Off-peak season to Europe is October 15 to May 15. This means an AAdvantage frequent flyer miles award ticket is only 20,000 miles each way. This post shows how award taxes and fees are highly variable, depending on the airlines you fly and places you transit.

Delta and United charge 30,000 miles each way from USA to Europe, so American AAdvantage miles truly have an advantage for awards to Europe during seven months of off-peak season award rates.

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