Introduction: A Birthday Adventure to the Tuscan Countryside

Greetings from 30,000 feet above rural Mississippi! Mrs. ATX Jetsetter and I are off today to celebrate my birthday with some friends in Tuscany! The pieces of this trip started coming together over two years ago when Mrs. ATX Jetsetter won a week at a villa in Tuscany in a charity auction. Due to the timing of other trips and our upcoming wedding, we decided to use that as the centerpiece for my round number birthday trip.

Booking Flights

It’s no secret that Summer 2023 has been one of the most in demand travel periods, and the weeks surrounding the 4th of July holiday were no different. Once we set the week for our villa stay I got to work on the flights.

It was much more difficult to find TATL business class award availability for two than I have ever had before. After searching like crazy, I finally found an Air France flight for our outbound from New York-JFK to Brussels with a connection in Paris for 55k Flying Blue points and $300 in taxes and fees per person.

Brussels Jubilee Park

For the return, we wanted to try and spend some time in Rome before our departure but I couldn’t make anything work schedule wise. I ended up using some extra Marriott Bonvoy miles to top off my American AAdvantage account and booked British Airways from Rome to Houston with an overnight at London-Heathrow for 57.5k AAdvantage miles and $400 in taxes and fees each.

To get from Brussels to Rome, ITA was the best option timing and price wise. $300 per person one way for an Economy flight with checked bags was the best I was able to do on our travel dates.

For the positioning flights, I booked a cheap, sub $200 one way first class fare on Delta from Dallas to New York-JFK, with a 9 hour layover in NYC. With the flight only running 3x daily, I was worried any delays on the midday flight would cause us to misconnect. To get back to Dallas I booked a one way United fare in Economy from Houston to Dallas for $180 one way per person.

Booking Lodging

The auction company put us in touch with Hill Town Tours to plan the details of our villa stay in Tuscany. After some discussions with them, we settled on Villa Ronzano which is located in Cortona, near the town of Montepulciano. They handled the rest of the items related to our accommodations including any pre-arrival shopping we wanted done as well as booking tours.

Tuscan Vineyard

For our stays outside of Italy, we had two nights in Brussels and one night in London that we needed to account for. For our night in London, since we didn’t have much time to go sightsee, I booked the Renaissance London Heathrow for only $120 for the night.

In Brussels, we wanted to maximize our short time in the city so being centrally located was important to us. I used my annual $200 hotel credit from my American Express Platinum card at the NH Grand Sablon. In addition to the $200 credit, we also received complimentary breakfast, early check in, a credit to use at the property, and an upgrade on a space available basis.

With the trip all planned out, we drove up to Dallas to drop Gumbo off at my in-laws and hopped on a flight to head for Belgium.

In this Trip Report

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