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Trying to use Skymiles for flights to Europe for Best of the Adriatic

We have a ton of Delta Skymiles but I'm having a frustrating time trying to figure out how we might be able to use them for flights next fall, when we are taking the RS Best of the Adriatic tour. We're signed up for the tour that starts 10/1 and ends 10/14. We always fly out of O'Hare. We want to fly in to Venice and spend a couple days there prior to the tour. A flight to Venice isn't the problem, but the flights home are. The tour ends in Dubrovnik. We like the idea of renting a car after the tour to spend that day exploring the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro, then we'd drive back to Dubrovnik, spend one final night at the tour hotel, and fly home the next day.

Delta's international partners don't have a big presence at the airport in Dubrovnik. I spoke to a Skymiles agent and she said there are no flights on any Delta partner until 3 days after the tour ends, when Air France has a flight to CDG. There we'd have a layover of 18 hours and a direct flight home the next day, or we could reduce the layover at CDG to as low as 11 hours if we were willing to have a 2nd stop in the U.S. before arriving at O'Hare. And then after she told me all that, she said there's no more award availability on the flight from DBV to CDG on 10/17. Even if there were, we don't want that much extra time in Dubrovnik, and those options to get home are too long and cumbersome.

I know we could book a one way flight from Dubrovnik on any airline to get to a city from which we could fly home the next day using Skymiles. I tried seeing how we could get back to Venice from DBV, so that our flights to/from the US are RT, in to and out of Venice, for potentially the lowest number of required Skymiles. However, it's not easy to get from DBV to Venice. An Expedia search showed no direct flights. The fastest option involved a 3+ hour layover in Athens before going to Venice. The shortest total flight duration was over 7 hours. Expedia doesn't show Easy Jet flights, so I searched that option. Easy Jet has no flights to Venice on the day we want to do it. It has a flight on the 13th and one on the 17th, nothing in between.

So, I need to look at other cities. Spending the money on a one-way flight to ???, and having a final one-night hotel stay there, maybe a Delta partner hub city like Amsterdam, seems to be the only way we can use our Skymiles. Easy Jet has a super cheap flight from DBV to AMS on 10/15, but I worry about the risk that the flight might be cancelled. Easy Jet's next flight to AMS from DBV is 3 days later. A cancellation would mean we'd have to pay for an expensive last minute ticket to AMS on another carrier, assuming that option even exists.

I'm starting to conclude that we're not going to be able to make this happen and should just pay for all the flights for this trip in $ and save our Skymiles for next time. I've found a decent open jaw itinerary on Lufthansa for around $1,000 per person.

The frustrating thing is that we came to the same conclusions for our last two trips to Europe. Our Skymiles account keeps on building up because we can never find flights that work for us!

If anyone has used Skymiles to get to and from the US when taking the RS Best of the Adriatic tour, especially if you flew from O'Hare, I'd love to know how you did it.

Posted by
1368 posts

We’ve resigned ourselves to having to go in a few days early and/ or spending additional nights on the back end in order to use our miles. For me, that’s been an additional bonus at times. On occasion, we’ve had luck with nonstops or good layover times. We’ve also found that we were able to use miles a few weeks after being told none were available.
We have a lot of miles to use too! Good luck!

Posted by
470 posts

Try Skyscanner or Google Flights for your DBV to European hub leg. It shows all low cost carriers, not just Easyjet. Another idea is to look into flying back from Split, it has somewhat better connections. You could rent the car in Dubrovnik and drop it off in Split.

Posted by
2914 posts

We have a credit card that gives us miles on BA that we use to get to Heathrow to take Virgin. I don't know if BA goes to Dubrovnik but it has worked for other destinations.

Posted by
2465 posts

Volotea, Croatia Airlines and Easyjet have direct flights from Dubrovnik to Venice, but they are seasonal. Another option could be the ferry across the Adriatic sea to Bari. It might be easier to find flight from Bari, or you could take a train to Rome. A flight from Rome should be far from impossible.

We have a credit card that gives us miles on BA that we use to get to
Heathrow to take Virgin. I don't know if BA goes to Dubrovnik but it
has worked for other destinations.

They do, but not from Heathrow. And they don't accept Delta Skymiles, so that is not the most useful advice.

Posted by
21353 posts

Is your problem not being able to find the flights or schedule that you want? Or, simply not being able to book any flights because all the ff flights are taken? I only familiar with United and not Delta so I don't know if our approach is transferable or not. Our approach also requires nerves of steel. I will wait for your answer.

Posted by
12571 posts

Consider it an opportunity to spend a night or two somewhere; a city that has Delta flights to Chicago.

Maybe London? BA has one-way flights from Dubrovnik to London Gatwick every day; in fact 2 flights a day. And in mid-October (specifically the 15th and 16th) they are as low as 42 euros. You could spend a night or two in London, or Windsor if that interests you more. Or other smaller town nearby. (I am assuming Delta has direct flights to Chicago from London).

Posted by
1498 posts

We have had some situations with British Air Avios, and discovered that we can book hotels using Avios, [both in the USA and in Europe.] For us, we seem to be getting more value using Avios for the hotel option. Perhaps that could work for you?
Safe travels!

Posted by
646 posts

I know using airline miles can feel rather exhausting trying to get an itinerary you can live with. I think the airlines do it on purpose. You often can get a great connection over to Europe but can't get back so easily. I had the same problem this week when I was helping a friend book a ticket to Munich for this summer. I think Delta is somewhat easier to use than AA miles. After much research, I managed to get a decent return connection through London, Boston for Chicago. I then booked a separate ticket (using points) for the connection to our local airport (St. Louis). I managed to get it all for $300.00. (that's because one of the airlines is a BA flight and the additional cost goes up when not using AA). I am not sure if Delta does this with its partners. I would certainly look to book a flight out of Croatia and into a main European hub. London is good as you can stay at the very reasonable priced Premier Inn at T4. Stay the night and figure out your journey back to the U.S. Don't give up you just have to be patient and creative in searching.

Posted by
1871 posts

I can't help you with using your Delta miles, but we also get a large build up of Alaska airline miles and I have never had success using Alaska airline miles for any of the partner airlines to Europe. Oh one year, we did get to Ireland, but that was on American and Delta and now Alaska airlines is no longer partners with Delta. So anywho, I'm a gambler and what I did this past October was used Alaska airline miles from Anchorage to Newark. Then paid for a flight on Emirates from Newark to Athens. Yes, two seperate tickets and I know many would not do it. It worked out fine. We did have a long layover in Newark which was not fun, but I used up some miles and it was much cheaper to get to Europe from the east coast. I say find a city that you can use your miles from, maybe spend the night and just do two seperate tickets.

Posted by
881 posts

I agree with Diveloonie above, buy a one-way to Venice with miles while you can, and keep looking for creative options for the return one-way. I also like the advice to pick a city you're interested in seeing more of, and then find a cheap intra-European flight to get there. Book your one-way home a few days later to give you lots of flexibility to deal with any last-minute flight changes. I've finally burned all my Delta miles, so I can't confirm specifics of their plan, but my Aeroplan (Air Canada) flights are no more expensive, either in miles or in dollars, when I buy one-way at a time. Another option is to take the miles flight to Europe and pay only for the flight home, if it's a reasonable price.

On our trip to Italy in September, we ended up with a ridiculous Aeroplan itinerary that involved an overnight hotel stay each way at O'Hare to get what we wanted. After fussing over flights for months, I just accepted the overnight connections and relaxed. It was actually kinda nice not to push through with same-day changes and too many hours in a row sitting in an aluminum tube at 30,000 feet. And it was still cheaper to pay for the hotel plus fees than to pay for the flights with cash. (oh, and I used my last 20K Delta miles for one of the hotel nights.)

Don't give up, just be willing to be flexible about where you fly into and out of, and something will turn up. (But I did look at options more or less daily for months, it's not easy.)

Posted by
670 posts

I don't think your problem is with Skymiles per se, it is with Dubrovnik which has poor connections. Of course, they (many airlines) are happy to go to Venice or other major hubs for paying customers plus "Miles" passengers but Dubrovnik does not have passenger traffic sufficient to have the extra seats for "Miles" passengers. Pick a good several day stop on the way home.... London, Prague, Amsterdam, etc. Use the miles and ditch the program.

Posted by
332 posts

Thanks to everyone who has replied so far. Let me try to respond to some of your questions and suggestions:

Re the suggestion of driving our rental car to Split's airport (SPU), which may have more flight options than the airport in Dubrovnik (DBV). It's a 3 hour drive. I tried first. We can actually book a ticket from Split all the way to ORD on, with two stops, but there are no such flights on 10/15 (our preferred day to start on our way home) or even on 10/16 This flight itinerary isn't available until 10/17 and there are no Skymiles seats avalable for use on that itinerary.

Then I used Sky Scanner and Google Flights to search for some places in Europe we could inexpensively get to from Split, so I could look for Skymiles seats to ORD from those cities. I'd already done this from DBV but now did it from SPU. AMS seemed like a good city to try, since it's a hub for Delta partner KLM. I found no non-stop flights from Split to AMS on 10/15. I did find one on 10/16. If I booked that, we'd stay overnight in AMS on 10/16 and fly to ORD to 10/17. I did find we could get home from AMS to ORD on 10/17 on Skymiles points. Not non-stop. We'd have a layover in Detroit, Boston, JFK or somewhere else. There are non-stop flights from AMS to ORD on 10/17 but no award seats on them.

So now I've found a way to do my open jaw itinerary (ORD-VCE on 9/28, AMS-ORD on 10/17) using Skymiles, but it involves 2 extra nights in Dubrovnik instead of just the one extra night that I wanted, and a 3 hour drive to Split, and a separate flight to AMS from Split that creates a risk for us if it cancels, also paying a one way fee to drop off the rental car at a different place than where we rented it, and an overnight stay in AMS. Ugh, it's all too much.

I'm not retired yet so don't have the luxury of unlimited flexibility to play with. A 2.5 week vacation is do-able for me but when it slides towards 3 weeks, that gets to be a problem. And paying for extra hotel nights and extra rental car charges and a separate flight just to save money on the transatlantic flight leads me back to the conclusion that I should just save the Skymiles for a future trip. Otherwise we're spending money to save money, reducing the value of the reward seats.

I did find one NS flight to LGW from Split on 10/15, for a really affordable price. HOWEVER, the next day is showing up as having zero available award seats on any Delta or Delta partner flights from LGW to Chicago. We can get to Chicago, not non-stop but with a transfer in Boston, but can't use Skymiles to book it.

Re the suggestion we take the ferry to Bari. It's a 10 hour ferry, and Bari is not an easy city to get home from. I know this because our other trip in 2020 is an April trip to Southern Italy and we'll start in Rome, and end in Bari, and it was so difficult to get back to Chicago from Bari that we booked it as a ORD to FCO round trip, on American Airlines, which has NS flights between Chicago and Rome, and then separately booked an inexpensive Alitalia flight to get from Bari to Rome. We added two nights in Rome to the end of that itinerary just to build in some cushion and protect ourselves against the flight from Bari to Rome getting cancelled. We've spent a lot of time in Rome and returning there is not something I wanted to do as the last part of our South Italy trip but I felt it was necessary. I'm trying to avoid an itinerary for our fall trip to Croatia and Slovenia that again has us ending up in Rome for 2 nights.

Frank asks if my main problem is not finding flights or schedules we want, or if it's that ff seats are taken. The frustrating problem has been finding the flights. I'd be interested in your nerves of steel approach, Frank!

Posted by
21353 posts

I sorry Vicki but given you last posting our approach is not for you. You do need to be flexible. With United, about 11 months out United and other airlines posts their next schedule. At the same time United releases a limited number of frequent flyer seats available on most flights. Those seats, especially the prime flights, go quickly and little is available for the next nine months or so. However, about ten days to a week out, United will begin to release seats especially business class seats and, of course, bigger the hub the more seats available because of the number of flights. We fly out of Denver so our options are pretty good. Most people will not wait until a week before to book a flight.

Here is how this worked for us on our last trip in Sep. We had to be in Amsterdam on Sep 13 to board a Viking river cruise to Budapest getting off on Sep 27. So we started looking for available ff seats on flights between Sep 9 to 12. On the 1st (Monday is generally a good day for seats) United released a number of business class available on a flight out of Chicago on the 9th. We could not get business class on the leg to Chicago but we could live with that. We didn't have a return flight and that got a little more iffy. We got off on Friday and spent the weekend in BPest. Could not find any flights out of BPest for the following Mon or Tues so we shift our look to Vienna for later in the week and to Munich the following week. On Monday tickets became available out of Vienna on Thursday via Austrian Air to London to Chicago to Denver. So on Tuesday morning we caught the train to Vienna -- abut two hours. Spent two nights in Vienna and caught our ride home. Again, could not get business class from Chicago to Denver. The big issue is that we are retired and have no time line that we have to meet. And traveling business class is important to us. Our total cost was about 250,000 points and maybe $120 in cash for fees. Once of these years we may get stuck and have to buy a one way ticket home but we are flexible.

Posted by
10293 posts

Take a look at flights from Paris and Rome to ORD. Croatia Airlines has a nonstop flight from Dubrovnik to both of these cities. And Air France and Alitalia are Delta partners.

Posted by
7872 posts

I manage to use Skymiles at least once a year for overseas. Whereas Frank is flexible concerning days and airports, I allow myself to take inconvenient flights figuring it’s worth saving a thousand and up. I would be the type to fly to Athens with a 3-hour stopover to get to Venice to use the Skymiles.

I’ve done 4 segments each way or 14 extra hours to save the $. The extra time equaled over $100 an hour. If you compare time and expense involved vs. the cash price of your tix, you’ll know if it’s worth the skymiles. You also know what you’ll tolerate, given your time constraints and responsibilities once you get home.

Tip: we are better off with cash-back cards. However, I now put all purchases on a points cc due to the spending flexibility of the points vs miles tied to only one airline group.

Posted by
12571 posts

Did you look for Skymiles flights from London Heathrow on the day you want?

If you fly to Gatwick from Split, you don't have to have a flight from Gatwick; you are going to spend the night and it is easy to make a transfer to Heathrow at some point. Take the train from Gatwick into London, stay at a Premier Inn ( inexpensive if booked well in advance) and then take the Tube or Heathrow Express ( also inexpensive if booked in advance) to LHR for your flight the next day.

As others have pointed out, you may have to compromise a bit to get the award flights you want, but it should be worth it to save thousands of $$$.

Posted by
1217 posts

The down side of a transatlantic London departure is that you're hit with UK Air Passenger Duty (APD) which will add $150+ in cash costs to an award ticket. (Varies based on current exchange rate) IIRC, the departure fees and taxes for Paris and Amsterdam are more modest.

Posted by
332 posts

Well, with encouragement from all of you, I kept plugging away and I've got it figured out. These flights aren't booked yet but I'll do that tomorrow. Someone on here suggested we fly out of Milwaukee instead of Chicago. I don't see that comment any more so I think he took it down for some reason, but I'm glad I spotted it before that. This opened up lots of new options. We'd MUCH rather fly out of Milwaukee, our home airport, but have gotten in the habit of flying out of O'Hare when traveling internationally because of the frequent ability to get to our final destination non-stop, or if we have to do a layover somewhere, it can be in Europe instead of in the U.S. When you fly out of Milwaukee, your layover is somewhere in the U.S. A delay in the first flight may make you miss the overseas flight, so I hadn't even considered looking at MKE. However, for flights out of O'Hare using Skymiles, all the choices seem to route you through one of their US hubs as the first layover city. Given all of that, there's no reason for us to choose O'Hare over Milwaukee. For the trip over, I found we can do flights from Milwaukee to Venice with a 2 or 3.5 hour layover in Atlanta. Then for the way home, we can do flights from Amsterdam to Milwaukee with a 2.25 hour layover in Detroit. All that's 82,000 skymiles per passenger plus $60 in fees. To get from the city where our RS tour ends, Dubrovnik, to Amsterdam, I found an Easy Jet flight that will be about $64 pp when all the seat fees and baggage fees are added in. It's on the day I wanted, the day after the tour ends, and the flight home from Amsterdam is the next day, giving us our cushion in case anything goes wrong with the Easy Jet flight and we have to catch another flight to AMS. (There will be lots of choices, although no other cheap ones.) So we'll have a final overnight in Amsterdam. I'm a happy camper to realize that we've also saved time and money by flying out of Milwaukee . . . no shuttle bus to O'Hare or expensive parking fees. After the long travel day home, one of our kids can pick us up at the airport and get us home in 35 minutes, instead of our being down in Chicago waiting for a bus. So thank you all for your suggestions. The comments helped me to realize I'm not the only person who obsesses over this stuff.

Posted by
897 posts

I realize you already have it worked out but thought I'd post anyway. The above link is very helpful in seeing where Delta flies in Europe. They only have Amsterdam and Paris listed as their true "hubs," but experience has taught me that they also have daily nonstops from Atlanta to London, Madrid, Barcelona, and Zurich.

I will also say that the "happy accidents" I've had, in staying an extra couple of days in a location in order to get the free flight, have been some of my favorite travel times. Flying home from Zurich allowed me to discover the amazingness of Switzerland.

Also, try pricing flights from JFK to Europe for SkyMiles - you get some SCORCHING deals that way. Then you can book a separate domestic ticket to and from NYC, giving yourself adequate time in case of delays, etc.

Posted by
1871 posts

Glad you got it worked out Vicki! I bet you put in some hours at your computer, but thats what it takes sometimes. Persistence and flexibility seem to be key to using FF miles! Oh and I wanted to add that you are lucky you have a choice of airports! Not so for us up here in the far north!

Posted by
26440 posts

I'm so glad that all worked out with your hard work, Vickie. It sounds like a world-class solution. Yee Haa!.

Posted by
3312 posts

I took down the Milwaukee comment but glad it worked out for you. I was kind of going on in my reply about Delta and Chicago not really mixing well and Skymiles not very useful at O’Hare. Then I thought it sounded preachy.

they also have daily nonstops .... to London

There are a lot of Delta nonstops to London from across the US but the problem is Delta won’t ticket with British Airways flights so it’s hard to fly onward. That’s why Amsterdam and Paris are so critical for Delta flyers, single tickets with KLM or Air France.

Posted by
1040 posts

Another way to use Skymiles is with the so-called Pay with Miles option. For our 2019 trip - Village Italy tour - I wanted to use up as many miles as possible, since we had cancelled the Delta Skymiles AMEX credit card. We used Pay with Miles to buy round trip tickets from Boston to Paris, then cobbled together other flights to make it all work.

Pay with Miles only was available on Delta-branded flights.

Posted by
3934 posts

Hi Vickie, I haven’t read through the long replies so apologies this was already covered. I’ve used Delta Skymiles for RT to Milan and a Venice /return from Rome. I just purchased tickets for Italy for next year and paid $. I’m planning to use miles for a US domestic flight where it’s easier sometimes to book them.

I do wish there were better flight connections for the Best of the Adriatic tour.