Venice is a short hop from Milan on the east coast and is one of the most unique cities I’ve ever seen. However interesting you can imagine Venice to be, it’s actually that interesting. Not a let down destination at all. I mean, take a very old Italian city on an island where canals are used like streets. People’s front doors go to boats. And it has the grandeur of other Italian cities, plazas and churches.
And while I’ve written about other favorite destinations; Bali, Sri Lanka, Hallstatt, New Zealand, Vienna, and SE Asia in general… I’ve only mentioned Venice in passing. But truly, Venice is deserving of my time. And a miles and points twist.
Tip 1: You must stay in Venice and not “Mestre”
When you pull up hotels online you’ll see options for both. Mestre is where you park your car and get the bus to the little island of Venice. Even if it’s slightly cheaper to stay in Mestre, trust me, it’s crap and you’ll make back your money by not having to pay for the commute and then walking an hour to get to the east side of Venice, the downtown sites. And if you were paying for a boat taxi, oh my.
Tip 2: You probably want to set “Piazza San Marco” as your downtown center point
That’s one of the biggest prettiest attractions in a beautiful area, and with views of Saint Maria of Salute Basilica. Although, really anywhere is beautiful. But the west side is more of a commuters’ area.
The above screenshot is from Hipmunk’s map, which I talked about in 6 Tips and Tools for Booking Hotels.
Tip 3: The Best Points Hotel is by far Choice
There are few points hotel options for Venice, and of the few, they aren’t that great. The Hilton is on a different island, the Marriott “Autograph” is on another, and SPG hotels are absurdly priced. 20,000 SPG points is a lot considering you earn 2 points per dollar for paid stays and that could be 25,000 AA miles (A domestic roundtrip or a oneway to Europe).
The best option, believe it or not is Choice, and it still provides luxury. So there are two sets of very different price points, first I’ll give the cheap (and best) option.
For 10,000 Choice points (or 3,333 Chase points (I’ll talk about that in a minute)) you can stay at the Comfort Hotel Diana. (The other hotel is in Mestre, btw, so not an option).
A phenomenal location with a positive rating on TA. And in peak season the rates can be really, high. Here it’s $100 in off-peak, although regularly I think it’s $150. Anyways, it’s a great deal.
The other lesser known option for Choice points, is the Preferred Hotel Group (for which I have a map of Preferred Hotel Group properties here). This way, you can book the Hotel Monaco & Grand Canal, which has an awesome location, for 60,000 Choice points. However, I don’t think it’s worth the 6x.
To transfer from Chase to Choice you need to do it via the Amtrak credit card (or Amtrak status) and can do 25,000 Amtrak points to Choice a year. Except the transfer ratio is 1:3, so you get 75,000 Choice points a year from 25,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points. In other words 20,000 Chase points could get you 6 nights at the Comfort Hotel Diana. A great deal!
Getting the Amtrak card doesn’t sound too appealing for most, but it’s a long term play as it has no annual fee.
Tip 4: AirBNB can be a great option
Now I’m not qualified to get into family travel tips, but Airbnb is hard to beat with a group. And the prices can be quite reasonable. There were four of us on our Venice trip and in hindsight, we should have just split an Airbnb. Considering that Airbnb can provide more for four people for much less than the 3 star hotels costing nearly double the price, it would have been a no-brainer. You live you learn. Plus, there are many great spots close to the main plaza.
While this may not seem like a points option, Airbnb expenses can be reimbursed as travel expenses with the Barclay World Arrival Plus card.
Tip 5: Get a good map
If you’re going to be navigating through Venice on foot, trust me, it can get confusing. I have a great sense of direction, but even with a map I ended up down alleys unintentionally.
Using Miles is easy
All the major airline alliances have flights to Venice. Getting there with miles is actually pretty easy despite it being a small place.
See the recent post: Cheapest Miles to Europe
That post has a list of all airline prices in order of price for roundtrips to Europe.
Tip 6: Avios for other nearby destinations
Most people want to do other places in Europe and tack on a trip to Venice, or do Italy and tack on a place to something else. In this case, Avios would allow you to book a super cheap oneway, and then you can open-jaw the rest of the trip. So fly into Venice and out of Madrid… something like that.
So the routes are:
- For 4,500 Avios: Venice to Stuttgart, Dusseldorf, and Berlin
- For 7,500 Avios: Venice to Madrid, and London
Amex MR, Chase UR, and SPG points all transfer 1:1 to Avios.
Tip 7: Lufthansa’s Mileage Bargains
You may also find some Intra Europe. However, I don’t see any flights to Venice in particular for 10,000 miles roundtrip in Europe, but it always changes.
Not sure if you’ve heard of Mileage Bargains before, but Lufthansa does half priced tickets as kind of a last minute sale. However, the fuel surcharges make it unjustifiable from the US. But within Europe, they really aren’t that bad.
1) go to MileageBargain.com (and you may have to select english in the top right)
2) In the top right select “Italy” in the “Flights From” box
3) Right above the results, the first box should say “All Regions”, and change it to “Europe”
Sometimes you’ll have Venice flights, but most of the time there are 10k roundtrips to Florence, Milan, and Rome.
Hop an Avios flight over to Venice for 4,500 points. Get a hotel downtown, possibly for ~3,333 Chase points a night. Then open-jaw so you fly home out of Venice.
Truly, Venice is worth a visit. Italy is a wonderful and interesting country to visit in the first place, and Venice adds a lot to that. It is definitely more touristy feeling than say Vienna or Budapest, but people actually live there… that’s how the fresh Italian food gets made. 😀