A few weeks ago I asked what you’re saving your points and miles for and probably the number one item on my travel list is going back to Calais and staying there for at least a month. In case you missed it, back in July, I traveled briefly to Thessaloniki and Calais in order to volunteer in the refugee camps. I was only in Thessaloniki for a couple of days because things were so unorganized, so I decided to head to Calais instead to volunteer with Help Refugees/L’Auberge des Migrants.
This ended up being a great decision and I spent a week there, having the absolute best time working alongside some of the most kind and generous people I’ve ever met (there were a few bad apples, but that’s a story for another time). I really would have loved to stay longer, but had to get back home in order to maximize the 5% cash back bonus on the Wells Fargo card. That’s life for us manufactured spenders. My card got shut down shortly after, and I’ve been planning on going back to Calais ever since.
The only thing standing in the way of me traveling to Calais for a longer period is how I’m going to fund it. I don’t want to spend money on this trip. My thinking is, if it’s going to cost $1,000+ per month, I might as well just donate that cash to one of the aid organizations that are out there. After all, why waste that money on hotel rooms and flights if it can go directly towards benefiting the people I’m trying to help? So really, the only way I’ll go is if I can cover the trip on points and miles.
I already have enough miles to cover the roundtrip airfare, so all that’s left is lodging. Last time, I stayed at the Ibis Calais (not recommended – stay tuned for a review) and the Holiday Inn Calais. The Holiday Inn has a nice location in the city centre, but the hotel itself isn’t in the best shape and I don’t think it’s prudent to spend $3,000+/285,000 Arrival miles per month on hotel stays. Even if the out of pocket cost is cut in half through manufacturing Arrival Miles, it doesn’t seem like a prudent choice for long-term accommodations.
There’s also Airbnb, but I find the concept of living in someone’s house really uncomfortable. I stayed at an Airbnb rental in Bali and it made me realize staying in a stranger’s house isn’t my cup of tea. I’m not ruling this option out because there are some good, affordable places in Calais that will cost as little as $40 per night without a roommate. I will leave town on the occasional weekend to travel to other cities, so chances are I’ll be able to redeem as few as 76,000 Arrival Miles per month for an apartment and some hotel points for weekend stays in neighboring countries. This would involve just $40,000 worth of manufactured spending on the Barclay Arrival Plus Card, which will be a piece of cake.
The most prudent option is probably staying at the Auberge Jeunesse Calais Youth Hostel, which describes its accommodations as “agreeable” and offers single rooms starting at 32 Euros for the first night, and decreasing to 30.20 Euros thereafter. They even offer reduced rates of 17 Euro per night for long-term volunteers willing to bunk up in a triple room. This option will set me back around $570 per month or around $1,020 for a single room and I may be able to redeem Arrival Miles to cover the cost. The rooms don’t look particularly inviting and it is quite a way from the nearest bus stop, but because other volunteers will be staying here, it will be easier to coordinate rides to the warehouse and camp. My only other concern is the cleanliness of the space, which has some mixed reviews on Tripadvisor.
Now that the Wells Fargo card is out of the picture, I just have the 3% cash back bonus on my Discover It Miles card to worry about….along with funding all those upcoming trips I mentioned before. My manufactured spending routine has become as efficient as ever, so I feel like taking some time off wouldn’t be so bad. I could continue to place gift card orders online and then have my brother or sister liquidate them for me, but I don’t feel entirely comfortable with that option. Once I work out how I’ll keep my manufactured spending activities going while out of the country, I can finalize my plans.
If you’re interested in volunteering in either Calais or Greece, I’ll have a post up soon about where to go, how to get there, where to stay, and who to volunteer with. If you’re interested in donating to one of the many organizations who are on the ground, I recommend the following:
- Help Refugees/L’Auberge des Migrants
- Al Khair Foundation
- Calais Women’s and Children’s Center
- Jungle Books
Have you used points and miles to cover long-term travel expenses? How did you pull it off?
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