Guest post by FBZ Elite and Travel Points
My wife and I are well-versed in traveling for cheap – in fact, it’s kind of our thing. Using points and miles, we’ve been fortunate enough to visit over 57 countries without forking over a lot of cash.
Now, we’re on our way to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia using points and miles and couldn’t be happier! Seeing this part of the world has been on our bucket list for a while and we’re excited to explore it.
As for total costs, we’re planning to spend less than $900 in total.
Now I know what you might be thinking, and you’re right! Attending the World Cup usually costs a small fortune (somewhere in the ballpark of $5,000 or more) but since we travel almost exclusively on credit card rewards, we never spend that type of money.
Plus, it helps that we like to explore off the beaten path.
It’s takes time to learn how to travel around the world on points and miles, but for us, the time invested is completely worth it.
I want to share some of the details of our trip with you, but before I jump in, I think it’s important to mention – if we can do this, anyone can do this. Traveling on points and miles isn’t rocket science, but having the right resources to learn what you’re doing can go a long way.
Here’s what I estimate we’re saving:
Airport Parking – $96 (friends will drop us off/pick us up)
Flights – $3,2000
Entry Visas - $320
Transportation - $200
Hotels - $400
Total savings = $4,216
Our flights could have cost $3,200 altogether, but after redeeming a stash of American Airlines Miles, we paid around $225 out of pocket (taxes and fees).
We always fly economy to keep costs low. And, since American Airlines offers economy Award Saver tickets (tickets purchased with points) from the West Coast to Europe, I focused my search on finding airfare to Europe to start.
After narrowing down our dates, we booked our tickets to Poland because it offers two easy layovers and helped us avoid some large fuel surcharges.
Here’s my valuation of the flights we booked – I was happy to be able to book them for over 2.5 cents/point.
$1,400 (flights value) - $23.76 (10% instantly credit back to my rewards credit card) = $1,376.24/54,000 miles = $.025xx/point
In case you’re curious, here’s a step-by-step walkthrough of how we found the flight deal, along with some other details.
My wife and I each earned 60,000 miles from signing up for the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard and earning the signup bonuses (we both signed up).
Poland to Russia On Points
After booking our flights from the U.S. to Poland, I worked on finding airfare from Poland to Russia.
One of my favorite resources to use is Momondo because it features a +/- 3 day search feature, which in this case, scored us flights to St. Petersburg from Krakow for under $200 one-way.
Since we had already decided to take a train from Gdansk to Krakow to explore along the way, this option was perfect for us.
For round-trip, these flights came out to just over $600, which we paid for using points from my Capital One Venture card. It’s not a credit card that’s often top of mind for a lot of travelers, but in my opinion, it’s a solid card to have around. You can easily redeem points by making any travel-related purchase with the card and then “erase” the expense on your account.
World Cup Visas (For Free)
Our visas could have cost $320 ($160 each), but since we have FAN IDs for the World Cup, our visa fees were waived! We put the savings towards buying our soccer match tickets.
Usually, the visa process for Americans entering into Russia can be difficult and expensive, so we really lucked out on this one. We learned from a Russian couple we met in India that people heading to the World Cup would receive waived visa requirements by the Russian Federation.
Buying World Cup Tickets
World Cup match tickets start at $105 and using the money saved from the visas, we purchased tickets to watch England vs. Tunisia for $105 each. The cost was further justified since transportation is included in the cost (more on this in a bit).
After our tickets were issued and sent via email, which took a few hours, we registered our FAN IDs which entitles us to a Russian Visa upon arrival, plus free public transportation between the cities hosting World Cup matches.
We’re planning to use the free public transit a lot, and already have plans to visit and explore Moscow during our trip!
Where We’re Staying
Going along with our philosophy of traveling for less, we don’t typically spend a lot of money on high-end hotels. Since it’s our first time in Russia, however, I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as hotel rates go – especially during peak season.
Reading through reviews on Tripadvisor led us to the Original Sokos Hotel Olympia Garden at $51 per night. It’s in a good, walkable location, close to the airport and railway stations, and offers free Wi-Fi.
We booked the hotel using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points directly through the Chase Travel Portal.
Getting Around Russia
Since free public transportation is included with the match tickets we bought, getting around should be a breeze.
Our T-Mobile ONE plan offers unlimited text and data (yes, even abroad) and we’ll use Google Maps to help us navigate to wherever we want to go.
Getting Home on Points
We haven’t fully booked our flights home yet, but purposely chose a longer, windy route to stretch our trip across a few more place we’ve wanted to visit. Thankfully, booking one-way tickets using points typically costs the same as booking a round-trip ticket, so it’s easy to plan out each step of your route without paying more.
So far, we’ll be flying from St. Petersburg to Estonia and then make our way up to Prague for a few days.
From there, we’ll fly American Airlines from Prague to Washington D.C. using my wife’s stash of 60,000 miles earned with her AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard.
These flights cost us 54,000 miles plus about $186 in taxes and fees. Taxes and fees are higher since we couldn’t flight flights avoiding the U.K., which usually has higher fees.
From Washington D.C., we’ll travel around the East Coast for two weeks, then jump on a Southwest flight home to Portland for $5.60, thanks to the Southwest Companion Pass I earned earlier this year.
Is Russia Safe For American Tourists?
People have asked us if we’re crazy for traveling to Russia. Our answer? We’re super excited! The ease of booking the trip helps as well. The fact is, we’ll probably spend less than $900 on this one in a lifetime event and that makes the minimal risk worth it to us.
If you’d like to follow along on our trip, we’ll be posting a lot of pictures in the FBZ Elite - Travel and Points Community. Hope to see you there!