Learn how to visit Oktoberfest for less with top tips from LeAnna
The expert travellers amongst you, may be aware that Oktoberfest gets underway this weekend in Munich and if you have ever considered a visit then you definitely need the insider tips from this week’s guest poster. If you have been following the From Miles To Smiles 90 day challenge, then you may already be familiar with LeAnna who is an expert in frugality. She uses hotel points and airmiles to travel the globe in style whilst her and her husband survive on less than $30,000 a year. This girl will walk miles instead of paying for a $1 tuk tuk, turn off the electricity to save on bills (OK I made that up!) and has no TV (I know, shock horror for anyone who is a die-hard Coronation Street or Emmerdale fan!).
Her and Andy are from the US but have been living in Germany for some time now and thus make ideal tour guides for how to visit Oktoberfest using loyalty points.
This trip is definitely on my bucket list, and somehow I have not yet made it but reading their tips has me planning ahead for 2017. So let’s find out how you too can visit Oktoberfest for less.
Planning a visit to Oktoberfest
Living in Germany the past five years, it is safe to say we’ve been to our fair share of fests. Like any good wanna-be Bavarian, that includes multiple stops at the annual Oktoberfest. Our Complete Guide to Oktoberfest will answer all your questions from “Do I need a table reservation?” to “How do I get around” to “What foods should I eat?” (Yes, of COURSE I mention food! What blog post of mine wouldn’t!?)
Living just two hours away from the largest Bier Festival in the World has made going pretty darn easy for us, but we’ve had multiple friends and family members who have wanted to join in on the festivities as well and we’ve come to learn that it isn’t so easy for someone coming from abroad to don their Dirndles and drink their Maß!
Whether you are paying in cash or with points, my biggest tip of all time is to plan ahead of time. With that being said though, there are some things to take note of if you are planning on booking your Oktoberfest trip with points and miles.
Plan Far In Advance…noooo further!
I hate to say this, but if you are reading this in the hope of some tips on how to get to Oktoberfest in 2016 on points and miles, you are probably way too late. Flights and hotels book so far out in advance in Munich during the Oktoberfest that it is hard to find flight availability or rooms for both points OR cash.
Therefore, if you know Oktoberfest is on your bucket list, plan accordingly. Most availability for award flights opens up 9-12 months beforehand, so it’s advisable to just go ahead and book then. It’s not a bad idea to lock in your hotels at the same time, too, or even earlier if you know for sure you are going to be going. We’ve tried booking a Le Meridian in June for October and have missed the boat so it’s not a bad idea to go ahead and book your hotels as soon as you know you are going. If you don’t, you could be looking at hotels that cost you upwards of hundreds of dollars (think along the line of $400+!!!) a night.
OUCH! That is going to hurt even worse than the hangover you’ll have after your day at the fest
Anne: and of course, if you book a refundable room ten months in advance, you can always cancel if your plans change! Better safe than sorry!
As a travel hacker, you already know this to be true in any travel hacking case, but even more so for planning a trip on points to Oktoberfest. For example, the busiest times for the fest are typically at the weekend. By trying to go in the middle of the week, not only will you possibly be able to find a hotel on points easier, but you also will have a more enjoyable experience at the fest itself when it isn’t so packed that you can barely find a meter on a bench to stand and dance on.
By “isn’t so packed” don’t get the impression that it still isn’t crazy busy even during the week. We’ve gone at 10am on a SUNDAY morning and could barely find a spot in a tent for 4. Apparently, they worship the beer Gods on Sundays during Oktoberfest.
You may also need to be flexible on your actual flight destination if you are finding availability tough for getting into Munich. If you have a few extra days, why not fly into Frankfurt and enjoy a beautiful train ride over to Munich with a stop or two along the way? For about the same time that it would take to get from Frankfurt to Munich, you can actually consider flying into a place like beautiful Prague, as well. The point (no pun intended)? is to be creative!
Getting To and Staying At Oktoberfest on Points and Miles
Munich is one of the largest airports in Germany, so getting in is not too difficult (if you can find availability). If you are looking for some direct flights, here are some options:
(Note: All prices are in Economy and are ONE way)
|Airline||Points (Economy unless stated)||Departure airport|
|United||30,000 points||Houston, Chicago O’Hare, Newark and Washington-Dulles|
|American Airlines||30,000 points (Off Peak Starting October 15 = 22,500 points)||Philadelphia|
|Lufthansa (Tip: Fly on Lufthansa but use United Miles)||30,000 points via United||JFK, Los Angeles, San Francisco and a whole slew of other cities|
*This by no means is an all-inclusive list, but it’s a place to start if you are looking for some direct routes. In fact, one of the best places to find direct flights into Munich is on the MUC Wikipedia page.
Use Partners and Alliances to Your Advantage
If you can’t find availability with direct flights and are willing to be flexible, use partners and alliances to find routings that you can still book on points.
For example, using FlyerMiler, we can see that by using United Miles, you have a lot of options (if you are willing to take multiple layovers) for different routes that will eventually land you in Munich. Here’s a short video explaining how you can use FlyerMiler to find out that you can use your United Miles to book (and therefore hopefully find availability) with Aer Lingus and Lufthansa.
Another example is that if you are using British Airways AVIOS you can actually book a direct flight from Philadelphia to Munich on American. NOTE: Be wary of routings that take you through England (ex: London Heathrow). The taxes and fees there may mean not so good a deal after all!
Since British Airways Avios points are distance based, you’ll want to try to find the shortest possible routing to get the best deal. The good news is that there is a flat tax of £35 applied for economy and £50 for business but note there are no free regional transfers available any longer so if you cannot get availability from your local airport, these taxes will be double per person (at which point budget airlines may look better value).
|Airline||Points (Economy unless stated)||Departure airport|
|British Airways||4,500 points (peak)||Heathrow|
If there is no availability for direct flights or maybe you just want to make a stopover, you could consider a route via Dublin but to be completely honest, if you are flying within Europe to get to Munich, I highly suggest looking out for budget airlines first.
Chances are, a cheap flight on something like RyanAir, EasyJet or AirBerlin is quite possibly a better deal and that way you can save your hard earned miles for a longer flight and get more bang for your buck. You can even earn miles on AirBerlin!
I know not everyone agrees with me on this, but we collect points across the board for both hotels and airlines. This gives us WAY more flexibility when searching for availability which is especially useful for Oktoberfest.
Maybe I want to use my Marriott points to stay at the Courtyard Munich City Center hotel, just a few blocks from the fest for 35,000 points, only to find that they are all booked up. However, if I also have points with, say, Hilton, maybe the Hilton Munich City Hotel has availability! Having points with multiple award programs offers you more options when looking for hard to find availability.
I personally use AwardMapper when searching for points hotels and you can see that there is no shortage of points hotels in Munich.
Again, I absolutely cannot stress flexibility enough when it comes to booking award deals during Oktoberfest. For example, many people may want to try to book a hotel that is very close to the Festplatz. These include several Sheratons (SPG points), a few Best Westerns, some very hard to book Marriotts, and more. Guess which hotels are going to be booked out first?
We’ve actually always stayed at the Park Inn Frankfurter Ring when in Munich for only 38,000 SPG points. It is a bit “further” out but the great thing about Munich is that it has an absolutely fantastic public transportation system. Between its U-Bahn, buses and trams, you can pretty much stay anywhere in Munich and get to your hotel within 20 or 30 minutes max.
My only caution to this would be that after a full day of pounding those beers, be very clear on how to get back to your room! (Anne: ha ha who hasn’t got lost trying to find their hotel after a drink fueled evening. Peeps you haven’t lived if the answer is no!)
Travel Hacking Expert Tips
- Take advantage of Starwood. When you book 4 nights, the 5th night is free!
- If you have the Citi Premier card, use this to pay for 3 nights at a hotel and get the 4th free
Oktoberfest can be quite a tourist trap. However, not visiting would be like going to Paris and not going to the Eiffel Tower. It’s just one of those things that you have to try at least once, if you are going to be in Germany! With that being said, I also highly recommend checking out all the different kinds of fests that Germany has to offer and try to catch some of those while you’re here to get an even more authentic and local feel.
At the end of the day, if you are paying with points or cash, Oktoberfest is one of those events that you can look back on for years to come and (hopefully) remember (if you don’t have too many beers!)
What do you suggest to save money during Oktoberfest?
Maybe you have visited Oktoberfest in which case you may have some great tips to save money on your stay. Feel free to share them below after all sharing is caring.