I Found My New Best Friend Traveling to London: Part 1 – Introduction and Planning

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Emily:   I love to travel, and my mom does, too!

When I was growing up in Ohio, we could only afford road trips to local amusement parks.  But collecting miles and points has opened a world of travel neither of us thought possible!

She and I decided to go to London and Paris for a mother-daughter getaway.  We flew Business Class and stayed in 5-star hotels.  I paid for this trip for a fraction of the retail cost by using airline miles and hotel points.

I’ve never traveled so long with my mom before, and at the end of the trip, I felt like I had a new best friend!  Without the miles & points hobby, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience the joy of traveling with my mom.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 1 Introduction And Planning

New Best Friends!

In this series, I’ll show you how you can get to Europe, too!

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling to London Trip Report Index:

Cost Breakdown

 One Round-Trip Business Class Ticket from Austin to LondonOne round trip ticket from Traverse City, MI to Austin, Texas for MomIntercontinental London Park Lane
Retail Cost~$3,700~$360$370 per night
Our Cash Cost~$900$11.20 in taxes & fees$70 per night
Miles & Points Used125,000 British Airways Avios points20,000 Delta miles50,000 IHG Points per night
- Chase IHG anniversary free night
Source of Miles & Points- Chase British Airways Card
Current sign-up bonus of 50,000 British Airways Avios points
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
- Current sign-up bonus of 30,000 Delta miles
Chase IHG Card
- Current sign-up bonus of 60,000 points
Alternatives- American Airlines
- 45,000 miles round-trip between November 1 and December 14, and January 10 and March 14) + ~$5 in taxes
- United Airlines
- 30,000 miles one-way + ~$5 in taxes
- American Airlines
- 25,000 miles round-trip + ~$5 in taxes
- Stay at Hyatt on points or free night certificates!
- Chase Hyatt
Current sign-up bonus of 2 free nights at any Hyatt
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
Current sign-up bonus of 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
Current sign-up bonus of 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
Additional Information- You can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways at a ratio of 1:1
- You can transfer Starwood points to American Airlines at a ratio of 1:1
- You can transfer Starwood points to American Airlines at a ratio of 1:1- You can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt and IHG at a ratio of 1:1

Flights to London

My mom loves adventures, and was excited to escape the cold and snow of Michigan!  She flew to Austin, Texas, to stay with me a few days before our flight.

We then flew from Austin to London on British Airways in Business Class for 250,000 British Airways Avios points and ~$1,800 in fuel surcharges.  I used the Travel Together ticket from the Chase British Airways card to add my mom as my companion.  However, we had to pay the taxes and fees for her ticket, so it wasn’t a spectacular value.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 1 Introduction And Planning

The Adventure Begins!!!

On this trip, we continued our journey to India, where we stayed 1 week.  On our return flight back to the US, we had a free stopover in London for 10 days!  This gave us plenty of time to see both London and Paris.

The British Airways flight was a real treat!  The seats were roomy, and the service and food were great.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 1 Introduction And Planning

We Had Seats Next to Each Other So We Could Share the Journey Together

British Airways Business Class Lounge in London Heathrow

On our way to India, we had a layover in London Heathrow Airport’s Business Class loungeThe First Class lounge called the Concorde Room is much nicer, so keep that in mind if you have a long layover in Heathrow and can snag First Class tickets!

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 1 Introduction And Planning

I Made up for British Airways Fuel Surcharges at the Business Class Open Bar

After our stay in India, we flew back to London on British Airways.  I always love visiting India.  It was just as charming as I remembered!

Intercontinental London Park Lane

It cost 50,000 IHG points and $70 per night to stay at the Intercontinental London Park Lane hotel.  I also used my Chase IHG anniversary free night!

The regular non-refundable rate is $370 US dollars, or ~300 British pounds per night.  The refundable rate is $470 per night.

You can earn 60,000 IHG points by signing-up for the Chase IHG card and spending $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account.  And you’ll also get a free night at any IHG hotel each anniversary of opening your account.

It’s easy to redeem the points, too!  Just go to the IHG website and select “Reward Night” in the Rate Preference box.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 1 Introduction And Planning

A Decent-Sized Room for the Notoriously Cramped London Area

We visited London as part of my mom’s birthday celebration.  I emailed the hotel ahead of time to let them know, and we had a delicious treat waiting in our room!

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 1 Introduction And Planning

Tasteful and Tasty

What to Do in London

London is filled with so much to see and do.  We loved exploring the city!

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 1 Introduction And Planning

I Was Born in the Wrong Era!

It does rain a lot in London though, and this trip was no exception.  But we didn’t let the drizzle get us down!  We took a Big Bus tour and still got to see a lot of the city.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 1 Introduction And Planning

This Was Mom’s First Time to England and She Was So Excited!

The bus was nearly empty, so we had the tour guide to ourselves!  And we got some awesome pictures from the bus.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 1 Introduction And Planning

I Think the Rainy Streets Add to the London Charm

Included with the bus tour was a cruise on the river in the evening.

No stay in London is complete without seeing a show, so my mom and I saw The Phantom of the Opera.  This was by far my new favorite show…and I’ve seen a few of them, including Wicked, The Lion King, and My Fair Lady.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 1 Introduction And Planning

Being in London Enhanced the Experience

The singers were amazing, and the stage was breathtaking.  I would love to see this show again and again, and compare it to the show in New York City!  If only I had more time to travel… 🙂

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 1 Introduction And Planning

The Costumes and Sets Were SO Detailed

Where to Eat in London

My mom and I had some delicious food in London.  You can find everything from Thai to Indian to Italian!  Our favorite treats were homemade scones with tea.

If you have time, High Tea is a unique experience in London!  This is on my list every time I visit.

Note:   If you’re in the Tampa area, be sure to stop by the Empress Tea Room.  The pastries, scones, and sandwiches were amazing!

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 1 Introduction And Planning

My Mom and I Had a Great Time Trying New Restaurants and Exploring the City!

Connie:  It has always been my heart’s desire to visit Europe, especially the United Kingdom. I am thankful that the Miles and Points have allowed the opportunity for me and Emily to experience the travel to London together. For which I will ever be grateful and thankful for!

You Can Do It, Too!

We used British Airways Avios points to fly to London.  But we ended up paying a lot in fuel surcharges.  And we stayed at the Intercontinental London Park Lane.

But there are cheaper ways to get to London on miles & points!  And plenty of options for hotel award stays.

Here are my top recommendations for booking award flights to London.  And some ideas for where to stay!

Flights

1.   American Airlines

Using American Airlines miles to get from the US to Europe costs:

  • 30,000 miles one-way in coach (22,500 miles between November 1 and December 14, and January 10 and March 14) + taxes & fees
  • 57,500 miles one-way in Business Class + taxes & fees
  • 85,000 miles one-way in First Class + taxes & fees

Note:   Make sure you don’t fly on British Airways planes, because American Airlines will pass along the fuel surcharges!  Try to cross the ocean on an American Airlines or Air Berlin plane.

It’s easier to earn American Airlines miles than you might think!  Right now, Citi American Airlines credit cards are offering:

Redeeming American Airlines miles is simple, too.  Look for flights on your desired dates by logging into either your American Airlines account.  Make sure you click on “Redeem Miles” and then Show Full Calendar” for the fewest number of miles needed if your dates are flexible.

Check out my guide on how to book American Airlines miles!

2.   United Airlines

You can fly from the US to Europe on United Airlines for:

  • 30,000 miles one-way in coach + taxes & fees
  • 57,500 miles one-way in Business Class + taxes & fees (70,000 miles if you fly on a United Airlines partner)
  • 80,000 miles one-way in First Class + taxes & fees (110,000 miles if you fly on a United Airlines partner)

You can earn United Airlines miles quickly by signing-up for these cards:

You can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United at a 1:1 ratio with:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve – 100,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred – 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Chase Ink Business Preferred – 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

Check out my ultimate guide to booking United Airlines miles!

Note:   Remember, Chase has changed their application rules for airline and hotel cards.  So if you’ve opened 5+ credit cards in the past 24 months, it’s unlikely you’ll be approved for any of these cards.

Hotels

1.   IHG

You can book IHG hotels for between 10,000 and 60,000 IHG points per night (or just 5,000 IHG points per night during IHG PointBreaks!).

I stayed at the 5-star Intercontinental London Park Lane, which costs 60,000 IHG points per night.  But you can stay at cheaper options, like the Holiday Inn Stevenage, 30 minutes north of London, for just 10,000 IHG points per night.

2.   Hyatt

Hyatt charges between 5,000 and 30,000 Hyatt points per night.  I’ve previously stayed at the Hyatt Regency London – Churchill and loved it!  The hotel costs 25,000 Hyatt points per night.  But you can also stay in cheaper hotels, like the Hyatt Place London Heathrow, which costs 12,000 Hyatt points per night.

3.   Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, & Starwood

Marriott and Starwood have merged!  You can link your accounts, and transfer points between your Marriott and Starwood accounts at a 3:1 ratio.  And Marriott and Ritz-Carlton essentially have the same rewards program, just with different branding .  So if you collect Marriott or Starwood points, you’ll have lots of options in London!

It costs between 7,500 and 70,000 Marriott points to stay at a Marriott or Ritz-Carlton hotel.  And Starwood hotels charge between 3,000 Starwood points (2,000 points on weekends) and 35,000 Starwood points for a free night.

You could stay at The London EDITION, a 5-star Ritz-Carlton hotel, for 50,000 Marriott points (or convert 17,000 Starwood points into Marriott points).  Or you could stay at the Aloft London Excel for 10,000 Starwood points (or convert 30,000 Marriott points to Starwood points).

4.   Hilton

Hilton has lots of hotels to choose from in London!  You can stay at the incredible Waldorf Hilton, London for 60,000 Hilton points per night.  Or you can stay at the more affordable Hampton by Hilton London Croydon for 20,000 Hilton points per night.

Bottom Line

My mom and I had an amazing vacation together thanks to miles & points!  I’m so thankful that I could treat my mom to such a nice vacation to London – a place she has never been before!  I paid for this trip for a fraction of the cost simply by using credit card rewards.

I’ve never traveled so long with my mom before, and at the end of the trip, I felt much closer to her.  Without the miles & points hobby, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to share the joy of travel with my wonderful mom.

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6 responses to “I Found My New Best Friend Traveling to London: Part 1 – Introduction and Planning

  1. Beautiful story. Love it!

  2. Greetings from a hot humid Cairns!

    Congratulations on finding an ideal travel companion! That’s inspiring having split with my own partner last year (ironically having learned much from this website’s for our travels together to places like Hawaii and the Molina Stuckey Hilton)!

    Anyway, it may be useful to know that there’s a cool sandwich shop / deli two blocks from the Intercontinental Mayfair – Piccolo in Shepherd Street; plus a couple of good pubs for an English pint of beer and various restaurants in that area.

    Another favourite is El Pirata Tapas Restaurant in Down Street, just one block from the hotel!

    I’m booked into the Intercontinental Mayfair for a week in late August on my way to blowing my SPG points for 5 nights at the Gritti Palace, Venice! I’m hanging out for one Piccolo’s chicken schnitzel sandwiches!

    • Hi platy- Thanks for the comment and restaurant recommendations! I loved the Gritti Palace–you will have an amazing time!! 🙂

  3. Would love to see a trip report for the Paris portion of the trip with your mom too. I know you reviewed Paris in the past but a mother daughter trip report would offer a different perspective of Paris.