I love out-of-the-country weddings, not because they cost me at least $2,000 instead of $400 to a domestic destination, but because it makes me, the tourist, be part of a local celebration for a couple days. This summer, my friend’s wedding in Gothenburg, Sweden marks my third destination party and the second one completed on frequent flier miles.
That’s right, twice now I have flown to these weddings on frequent flier for what ended up costing less than if they were married in Chicago or Florida and if I paid regular domestic fares. Between Jon and me, we’ve amassed 120,000 miles on American Airlines and are trading them in for two tickets to London, since American does not fly to Stockholm. We’re spending four days in London visiting with my British friends and checking out the town (Jon’s first visit) before jetting up on our favorite discount European airline, Ryanair, to Stockholm to check out that city and visit another friend of mine, and then taking a train to Gothenburg in time for a day-before-wedding luncheon. The cost of our Ryanair tickets are currently quoted at $180 for the two of us, to fly from London Stansted-Stockholm and Gothenburg-London. Throw in a train ticket and our actual travel will cost us less than $300, total, to journey through two countries in 10 days. The last time I did this was to a wedding outside Florence (see picture – there’s Tuscany in the background); I flew into London for 60,000 miles and then took EasyJet (my British friend calls it “QueasyJet”) for $50 USD to Napoli to meet my traveling companion. The third European wedding was in Paris, and prices had dropped by then, so I paid about $500 for a round-trip ticket, but the next year I returned to Paris for my fellowship on a frequent flier ticket.
The drawback to taking frequent flier flights to Europe is you have to snag the seats early. So it’s the end of January and we are not expected in Gothenburg until August, but already the frequent flier seats on several flights returning from London to the Washington area are booked. If I’m not completely committed to the dates yet, sometimes I will hold the seats over and over as long as possible. That takes a calendar alert and a lot of coordination, boredom and persistence, but it is worth saving a couple thousand dollars.