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Reykjavik Marathon: Trip Planning

Marathon Challenge
Written by Charlie

In the middle of July, I decided to run the Reykjavik Marathon (Iceland) to check out a race that I have heard a bit about. I thought it would be a great race to review for many different reasons – one of which is how close it is to the US. It is only 5 hours from the East Coast! In distance, it is about the same as it is to some cities on the California coast.

Here are the cards that will give you the miles and points that I used for this trip:

Application Link – Citi AAdvantage 50,000 American Airline miles after spending $3,000 in 3 months (I do not receive a commission for this card)

Application Link – Club Carlson Visa 85,000 Club Carlson points after spending $2,500 in 3 months (I do not receive a commission for this card)

Application Link – Barclay World Arrival Mastercard 40,000 points after spending $1,000 in 3 months (I receive a commission for this card)

As with (almost) all the marathons I run now, I try to get there for free on points (or at least for a lot less than the actual ticket to purchase). This was the plan for Reykjavik and I wanted to show you the process I went through with the trip planning.

Reykjavik Marathon: Trip Planning

There are a few different options to get to Reykjavik.

  • Icelandair obviously runs flights to Reykjavik from major cities in the US as well as cities throughout Europe. The problem with them is the only way you can get an award ticket for Icelandair is to book using Saga miles (Icelandair’s frequent flyer program). They currently have no partner that you can book through. The other way to get it for free is to use something like the Barclary World Arrival Mastercard points to pay for the trip but that would not be advised given the cost of these tickets (if traveling from the US).
  • Lufthansa
  • Air Berlin
  • Austrian Airlines
  • Scandinavian Airlines
  • Easyjet
  • WOW Airlines
  • Delta (seasonal service from JFK)

The best method of getting there from the US would be on Delta via JFK. It takes 60,000 miles for coach and 100,000 miles for business. Since it is only a 5 hour flight, I personally would not pay the extra in miles for business class. If you plan on paying for a ticket, Icelandair is a nice option since you get a free stopover in Reykjavik from the US to any city they serve in Europe.

My Flight Plan

Due to my schedule, I needed to go with Air Berlin. The beautiful part about Air Berlin is that these flights can be booked with American Airline miles – and that can be done online (so no having to call in to book it). Another great part about the relationship is that you do not have to pay high surcharges when booking Air Berlin flights. United requires 12,500 miles for one-way European flights (if I had gone with Lufthansa) while American Airlines only requires 10,000 miles.

  • Departed 4:25PM for Hamburg, Germany (Air Berlin)
  • Departed 10:40PM for Reykjavik, Iceland (Air Berlin)
  • Total cost: 10,000 AA miles and $27 in taxes and fees

Since this ticket was well over $400, I was very happy with my redemption!

The return ticket was going to be a little more difficult since my schedule demanded that I leave Reykjavik right after the race on Saturday. Most of the flight options were not going to work on Saturday since they had early morning departures. When I punched the flight requirements into Kayak (see my post on using OTAs for identifying award travel options). The only option was a flight that was costing over $2,100! The reason for that high flight cost was it was a flight packaged by Kayak involving airlines that did not have an alliance. Specifically, Icelandair to London and then Aegean Airlines from London to Athens and then Thessaloniki. When searching for those options separately, it gave a price of $220 for the first flight and $200 for the second set of flights. Using Barclay Arrival points, I was able to get that for free as well. Note, there is a risk involved with booking flights like this – I had a two hour layover. If one of the flights arrived late and I missed the second flight, I would be responsible for getting another flight. If this was all one itinerary, it would shift to accommodate me in such a situation. With a savings of $1,600, I didn’t mind the risk. 🙂

  • Departed Reykjavik at 4:10PM for London Heathrow (Icelandair)
  • Departed London Heathrow at 10:15PM for Athens (Aegean Airlines)
  • Departed Athens at 8:30AM for Thessaloniki (Aegean Airlines)
  • Total cost: 42,000 Barclay Arrival points

My Hotel Plan

Reykjavik Marathon

Award Redemption at the Park Inn Island

I was really excited about the chance to use some of my Club Carlson points for this stay. There were 3 Club Carlson properties in Reykjavik. Two of them were the more upscale Radisson Blu brand hotels. These hotels required 44,000 points per night (but since I was staying two nights and hold a Club Carlson credit card, the last night of the award stay was free making it 44,000 points for both nights). This would have been a great deal, but only one night was available at either hotel. Since I really wanted two nights for the free one night, I went with the other Club Carlson hotel – the Park Inn Island hotel. This property only cost 13,500 points per night, making it two nights for 13,500 points total. Since this hotel was charging $250 per night, I found this to be a fantastic deal. I knew going in that it was not going to be as nice of a hotel as either the Radisson Blu Saga or the Radisson Blu 1919, but the rate could not be beat.

Trip Summary

I realize that this does not greatly help the US runner (unless you are in Europe or desire to use AA miles for Air Berlin), but these were my flight choices for my travel. When I review the marathon itself, I will highlight the best way to get to Iceland from the US and show you the award options/calendar.

So, to sum it up, it cost me 10,000 miles, 42,000 travel points, and 13,500 hotel points and saved me $1,320! Not a bad use of points in my opinion! I was quite happy with my redemption, especially for such a great marathon as this. Stay tuned for the rest of the Reykjavik Marathon posts!


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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.