I'm leaving my husband and kids in economy and flying business class to Italy - here's why

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  • One-way economy flights to Europe run 30,000 miles with the American AAdvantage program during peak travel times.
  • One-way economy flights to Europe with the Air France/Flying Blue program can cost as little as 21,500 miles one-way, while one-way business class flights could cost as little as 53,000 miles.
  • It's possible to book different passengers in your party in different cabins if you break up your plans with separate bookings and itineraries.
  • Splurging for a premium cabin can be a lot of fun, but it's up to you to decide whether to splurge or save some miles for another trip.

Earlier this year, I decided to plan a trip that's been on my travel bucket list for a while.

I opted to finagle a trip with my family and my parents to Italy, mostly because I grew up on stories of my mother's visits to Florence and Rome after she graduated college. While my family of four has spent a few months in Italy in total, my father has never been and my mother hasn't been for nearly 50 years.

My parents aren't getting any younger, so I figured there was no reason to put this trip off any longer. And since my kids have two weeks off for fall break during October when weather is comfortable all over Europe, I decided autumn was the ideal time to go.

We have a total of 16 days to do whatever we want, so I ultimately opted to book a week of land-based vacationing in Italy along with a seven-night Mediterranean cruise on the MSC Divina with my favorite cruise line, MSC Cruises. The cruise has stops in France and Spain, and it will be a nice way to relax after spending a week on land.

How we're using rewards to fly to Italy

Of course, I didn't want to pay for the entire trip out-of-pocket, especially since Europe is so easy to cover with credit card rewards. Since the biggest expense of this trip is airfare by far, I started the planning phase by figuring out how to cover all our flights with airline miles.

My husband and I have a lot of American AAdvantage miles from credit card sign-up bonuses (from cards like the Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, which Insider Picks has deemed the best credit card for frequent American Airlines flyers) and actual flying, so we opted to redeem 180,000 miles for six one-way flights home from Rome to Chicago. For our flights into Florence at the beginning of our trip, however, I faced an interesting proposition.

My favorite frequent flyer program for flights to Europe is Air France/Flying Blue. Flying Blue no longer offers an award chart, but there are usually plenty of award seats and I frequently find economy flights to and from Italy and other European destinations for as little as 21,500 miles one-way. The thing is, for the dates I wanted, I also found business class seats on the Air France A330 for 53,000 miles one-way.

That's a little over half the cost of a one-way economy seat on the same flight, but I ultimately decided the splurge would be worth it. My parents are in their 70s and haven't flown a long- haul international flight for decades, for starters. Them having the ability to lay flat or almost flat and more room to spread out would be a huge benefit considering the overnight leg of our flight lasts over eight hours.

Plus, Air France/Flying Blue is an easy program to accrue miles with. Not only is Flying Blue a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and American Express Membership Rewards, but you can transfer points to this program from the Venture Rewards from Capital One starting in December 2018.

You can also transfer the sign-up bonus you'll earn from the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which is both Insider Picks' choice for the best rewards credit card this year, and The Points Guy's for the best premium card.

My mom even signed up for her own Citi Premier Card earlier this year, and she accrued 68,000 points through a sign-up bonus and regular spending. So, why not move us up to business class?

Read more: 11 lucrative credit card deals you can get when opening a new card in December - including a 200,000-mile bonus

Air FranceMy favorite frequent flyer program for flights to Europe is Air France/Flying Blue.

Unfortunately, when I went to book our flights, I found that only three business class seats were offered at that rate. After the third person, the cost surged to 82,500 miles per person, one-way.

So, I made a call that I will probably be judged for. I booked myself and my parents in business class for that leg and booked my husband and kids in economy for 21,500 miles one-way.

There are a few reasons I don't really feel bad about this:

First, I would love to give my parents an international business class experience. They will be considerably more comfortable with more room to spread out, and I won't have to feel bad watching them try to sleep in the crowded economy cabin all night. Of course, the food is better, too.

Second, my kids will be ages 8 and 10 when this trip takes place. They are tiny kids who have flown on many international flights that last 8 or 10 hours, and they sleep just fine. When you weigh less than 60 pounds, basically every airplane seat is business class.

Finally, my husband gets to travel pretty luxuriously due to the fact I'm a travel writer. I love the guy, but he is taking one for the team this time. We need someone to sit with our kids in economy, after all. While I am usually happy to fly economy, I would like to be nearby to assist my parents on this one.

The bottom line

When it comes to travel rewards, there's a time to conserve and there's a time to splurge.

For a single flight to Italy, I'm going to do the opposite of what I normally do (fly economy to conserve miles) and book more comfortable seats for my parents and myself.

I actually feel extremely fortunate that this type of trip is even possible - and it's all thanks to airline miles and other credit card rewards programs. It might be hard to justify paying $10,000 or more for round-trip airfare to make this trip happen, but our use of Flying Blue miles means we were able to book flights for less than $1,100 total in airline taxes and fees. That's not bad for six people, especially considering some of the flights are in a premium cabin.

At the end of the day, we're getting excellent value for each point we've redeemed and getting to our destination on the dates we wanted. Overall, I'm thrilled and excited to take my parents on a trip to Europe like we've talked about for years.

Leaving my family in economy to fly in business class may sound selfish, and maybe it is, but I'm just #notsorry about this one.

Click here to learn about the Chase Sapphire Reserve from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy.

Click here to learn about the Citi Premier from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy.

Click here to learn about the Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy.

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