One day in Europe: How (and why) I spent 345,000 points for 36 hours in Rome with two friends

Being a college swimmer, my schedule is pretty rigid.

For six months out of the year, my teammates and I do not get more than 36 hours out of the pool. While that does mean that my travel is extremely limited, it also means I get to accrue a ton of points through welcome bonuses and everyday spending and redeem them in the spring and summer months before swim season starts again.

Related: How I earned 21,672 points buying a new computer

Because of my limited travel schedule, I try and go all-out when I can get on the road. In this spirit, I recently used 345,000 points and miles to fly myself and two friends to Rome for a long weekend. It was a lot of points for a short weekend away, but the memories were priceless. Better yet, it helped me redeem points I had sitting in accounts from canceled trips during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Let’s take a closer look at our trip, how I booked it and what I’d do differently the next time.

In This Post

Planning the trip


I was putting off homework on a Sunday night and had 165,000 Air France-KLM Flying Blue miles burning a hole in my travel piggy bank from a canceled trip.

For those of you that travel frequently, you know how dangerous it can be for a stash of points to be sitting idle without any trips booked. They’re open to devaluation at any moment — and some currencies are subject to expiration if you don’t earn and redeem miles often enough.

Related: How to keep your points and miles from expiring

I also had a few parameters in mind for booking a trip.

First, I needed award availability for three business-class tickets that included lie-flat seats that departed after my last class on Friday afternoon. Additionally, I needed the flights to price out to 55,000 Flying Blue miles (or less) each on the flight out and wanted to fly to a city I’d never been to before. The return flight could be in economy, giving us a bit of flexibility.

With this strategy, I could explore a new city and arrive in Europe fully rested for a full day of exploring before the flight home Sunday. Plus, it’d put my dormant Flying Blue miles to good use.

I priced out a few destinations for an hour or so and eventually stumbled across award tickets to Rome that cost exactly 55,000 Flying Blue miles per person. It fit all of my other parameters perfectly and, to add a cherry on top, there was a direct flight home with award space for three. Not bad for booking just a few days in advance.

Related: Planning a trip to Italy? Here’s how to get there on points and miles

Booking flights and hotels


I ended up booking the last three award tickets available on the flight for 55,000 Flying Blue Miles each plus moderate taxes and fees.

Then, I found United economy award space on a direct flight home to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) and booked my friends in economy for 30,000 Avianca LifeMiles each. I transferred the 60,000 miles from American Express Membership Rewards and they were all set. While it was not the most luxurious experience, it got them home quickly and in time for class the following day.

I would’ve joined them on that flight too, but I’m an aviation geek. And right around the time of our trip, Lufthansa reactivated part of its A340-600 fleet after the plane had been temporarily retired during the pandemic. I knew I had to fly it, especially since it’s an aging plane that could be pulled from service once newer planes enter the fleet.

So, I ditched my friends and spent 63,000 LifeMiles for a business-class flight on the A340. My itinerary took me from Rome to Boston via Munich, then I booked a last-minute Southwest flight for 16,500 Rapid Rewards points back to the Washington D.C. area.

Related: Here’s why you need a healthy stash of Avianca LifeMiles

Booking a hotel in Rome


Being a Marriott Titanium Elite member during the stay, it made the most sense to stay at Marriott for free breakfast, a room upgrade and other perks.

Wanting to splurge a little bit with my friends, I chose the St. Regis Rome.

I did this for a few reasons. It was within walking distance to all the iconic Rome sites, I knew I could take advantage of breakfast benefits (three swimmers eat their weight in food), and it was reasonably priced during the nights I booked.

I spent 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for the one night we stayed, but your pricing may vary given Marriott has since removed award charts. Later this year, the lowest price I see at this property is 74,500 points per night when booking during Marriott’s Week of Wonders sale.


I already had the points in my account, so there was no need to transfer in from Amex Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards

I looked at cash rates, too, but I wasn’t too interested in what they offered as I knew I couldn’t afford it on a student budget. For reference, a night at the property costs a whopping $740 on a random November date.

If you’re interested in boosting your Marriott Bonvoy balance, consider applying for the Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express® Card which offers 125,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. Plus, you’ll enjoy Gold Elite status as long as your card is open and in good standing.

Related: 7 ways to maximize Marriott Bonvoy award night redemptions

The trip

The trip could not have gone smoother.

We boarded our beautiful KLM A330 bound for Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport (AMS), had a great meal, and got some much-needed sleep before arriving in Europe. With a surprisingly easy connection in Amsterdam, we made it to Rome just before lunch.

Our one collective regret is we did not plan anything ahead of time. Unfortunately, all of the prime attractions were long sold out, so we did not get to go inside the Colosseum or tour the Pantheon.

Instead, we settled for multiple refueling stops at gelato stalls as we made our way around the city on foot. Next time, we’ll make plans further out from departure to be able to tour the city properly, but the gelato helped ease our disappointment. 

The way home was just as easy as getting there. I got to enjoy the Lufthansa A340-600 and catch up on sleep while my friends traveled home on an earlier flight. Not even as much as a delay had us all home in our beds and ready for morning swim practice on Monday.

Related: Watch us fly KLM 2 different ways: Business class versus economy

Was it worth it?  


So was burning 345,000 points in 36 hours worth it? Absolutely.

I got to treat my friends to an incredible weekend in a city that none of us had ever visited before. They got to experience business class for the first time, and we have some amazing memories to show for it. And while I can’t recommend burning that many points every weekend, I would do it again in a heartbeat.