Turkey, Croatia, and a little bit in between – Planning a 36 day international trip for under $1.5k

Introduction

Planning

United First Class Portland to Houston

United Club Lounge Houston (International Terminal)

Turkish Airlines Business Class Houston to Istanbul

Turkish Airlines Domestic Terminal Lounge

Turkish Airlines Business Class Istanbul to Denzli

Exploring Pamukkale and the Turquoise Coast

Holiday Inn Sisli – Istanbul

Radisson Blu Bosphorus Istanbul

Radisson Blu Sun Gardens Dubrovnik

Exploring Kotor

Hiking Durmitor National Park

Radisson Blu Resort Split

Lufthansa Economy Class Munich to Portland

At first I was planning a trip that only consisted of Croatia and Montenegro, but soon into the planning process I decided to add Turkey and Bosnia to the itinerary. After deciding where to travel to, the fun part starts when planning the actual flights and looking at the different routing options and ways to use a stopover (I would be using United miles which has great stopover options). I was able to book a very cheap one way flight from Istanbul to Sarajevo for $60 and figured it would be a good idea to see a little bit of Bosnia and Herzegovina on my way to Croatia. Since I still had a stopover to use on my United booking, I looked for a way to take advantage of it in Turkey.

Normally I would try to use a stopover for a completely different destination or country, but because of time constraints and an already crammed itinerary I decided to use it for a round trip flight within Turkey. Essentially I would fly from the US to Istanbul and continue on a flight to Denizli, a small city in southern Turkey famous for Pamukkale. After a week of exploring the Turquoise coast of Turkey, I would return to Istanbul. With this booking I used Denizli as a stopover and Istanbul as my destination even though I pass through Istanbul on the way to my Denizli stopover.

What my route looked like: PDX-IAH-IST-DNZ-IST, ZAG-ORD-PDX

What my route looked like: PDX-IAH-IST-DNZ-IST, ZAG-ORD-PDX

After spending two weeks in Turkey I would fly on the purchased ticket with Pegasus Airlines (which by the way offers service on par with Spirit Airlines) to Bosnia and continue on to Montenegro and Croatia. Eventually I would fly back to Portland from Zagreb, Croatia, thus having a one open-jaw in my ticket as well. Even though the stopover was not in another country I was still able to get a round trip business class flight within Turkey without using any additional miles.

Turkish Airlines Business Class Cabin

Turkish Airlines Business Class Cabin

Since I wanted to fly business class at least in one direction of the long haul and I have been wanting to check out the Turkish Airlines business class, I booked the first leg from PDX to DNZ in Business class. The return leg of the trip from ZAG to PDX had no award availability at the original time of booking, and I was unable to book anything as award availability opened up within the two weeks before the flight. I was really hoping to upgrade this flight to either the new business or first class on a Lufthansa flight since they release more award availability within two weeks of the flight.

My trip itinerary

My trip itinerary

The round trip award booking cost a total of 80,000 miles and $74.20 in taxes a fees. Pretty good considering this ticket would have cost around $8,000 if I was to purchase it, and although I would never pay this much for a ticket it just goes to show the potential redemption value for international business class award redemption using United miles.

In the end I was actually glad that I only booked business class in one direction. Throughout college I traveled on a backpacker’s budget, and although I do enjoy to fly in luxury, I also love to stretch my miles for as many trips as possible. By saving 20,000 miles by flying economy I will have close to a one way ticket to Europe or South America. In the future I may book one way in business and the return in economy again.