The Cheapest Way to Go? Sorry, You Can’t Get There From Here.

I’m working out the details of another European trip and determining the most cost efficient way to get there and back is very frustrating difficult and maybe even impossible.

Obviously, along with hundreds of thousands of other folks, I’m trying to get there with a minimum of layovers and I want to pay for it with a combination of miles from Hawaiian or American Airlines and dollars as few of each as possible.

My plan is to go directly to London from here on Maui, then take the Eurostar high-speed train through the “Chunnel” to France. My return will be from Paris to New York, from there to Chicago and on to Los Angeles by Amtrak, and flying back home from there.

But it’s complicated. First of all, you don’t fly “free” anymore when you use miles for air travel. For example, flying from Los Angeles to London would use up 30,000 miles and cost an additional $253. Coming back from Paris to New York is yet another 30,000 miles, plus $300 more!

And there are many more options. For instance, I could take Hawaiian Airlines non-stop from Maui to Seattle for 17,500 Hawaiian miles. From there to London on Icelandair would cost $465 in cash through a web site peddling airline tickets at drastically reduced prices. (By comparison, that flight is almost $1500 on British Airways.)

Another web site came up with United Airlines from Maui to San Francisco connecting with Lufthansa non-stop to London, all for something like $765. Ah, but that connection in San Francisco? Thirteen hours!

Another thing: you get your itinerary all worked out, then go on the American Airlines web site and discover that on the day I want to travel from Paris to JFK, it’ll cost me 60,000 miles. Two days earlier or two days later, I can fly for 30,000 miles. (Hmmm. What if I took Eurostar back to London and flew from there? Maybe that would be better.)

And so it goes. On and on. I’ve already put several hours into this over the past few weeks, and have narrowed it down to four options. But I can’t get over the feeling that if I juggled the itinerary a bit –coming back through Chicago instead of New York, perhaps – I would find an even lower fare.

The one thing I know for an absolute certainty is that whoever is sitting next to me on that flight will have scored a better deal than I did. That you can take to the bank!