I Found My New Best Friend Traveling to London: Part 8 – Big Bus Tour

Disclosure: We get a commission for links on the blog. You don’t have to use our links, but we’re very grateful when you do. American Express, Barclaycard, Capital One, Chase, and US Bank are Million Mile Secrets advertising partners. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or endorsed by our partners. Here’s our Advertiser Disclosure.

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 up a whole new 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 8 Big Bus Tour

A London “Big Bus” Tour Is a UK Must!

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:

What to Do in London – Big Bus Tour

My mom and I visited London in January, so it was a little cold, rainy, and windy.  We thought taking a Big Bus tour would be the best way to see the city.

Connie:  Truly, there is so much to see and experience in London. We walked across the street from the Hotel to Hyde Park to board the Red Bus tour. The tour guide explained the various landmarks and you could get off at any time to stay and view the landmarks. Some of the stops included Piccadilty Circus, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, London Tower Bridge, London Eye, House of Parliament and of course Big Ben to name a few.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 8 Big Bus Tour

In Front of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel

I purchased the tickets online, and it cost us around ~$75.  Each ticket included:

  • Extra 24 hours free
  • All routes
  • River Thames Cruise
  • 3 walking tours
  • All the top landmarks

This was a great way to see the city!  We hopped off the bus stop near St. Paul’s Cathedral.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 8 Big Bus Tour

A Rainy Day Made the Cathedral Gleam

I love seeing old architecture and the detailed carvings.  This was no exception!

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 8 Big Bus Tour

Big Bus Tours Are Beneficial Because You’ll Have a Tour Guide Giving You History to Help You Appreciate What You’re Looking At

In London, the streets wind through the city.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 8 Big Bus Tour

Austin Streets Are Organized Like a Grid. Easier to Navigate, but Much Less Charming Than London!

Even though it was dreary, I was still having a fantastic time with my mom!

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 8 Big Bus Tour

We Ran Around When There Was a Pause in the Rain

It started raining again, so we got back on the bus.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 8 Big Bus Tour

We Wouldn’t Have Explored the City in This Weather Without Big Bus

We sat upstairs and had front row seats!

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 8 Big Bus Tour

A Fantastic Way to See the Most Famous Sights of the City

The tour guide had a small audience—just me and my mom—so it was a good chance to ask questions.  And take lots of pictures, of course! 🙂

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 8 Big Bus Tour

Tourist Season Must Not Be in January, Because We Had the Bus to Ourselves!

I was loving all the photo opportunities.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 8 Big Bus Tour

Give Me Some Sultry Jazz With This Rainy Scene

In London, old architecture sits next to the newer buildings.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 8 Big Bus Tour

Past and Future Complement Each Other

We passed by Tower Bridge, and it looked beautiful in the evening light!

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 8 Big Bus Tour

One of the Greatest Suspension Bridges in the World! It was Operating ~45 Years Before the Golden Gate

A “River Thames Cruise” was included in our ticket price.  Traffic started jamming up because it was rush hour, and the bus driver encouraged us to take the cruise back home instead.  So, we got off the bus and walked to the boat stop, and took the boat back towards our starting location.  This gave us a great chance to see London from the river view!

Walking tours were also included with the Big Bus ticket price, but we didn’t go on any tours.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 8 Big Bus Tour

A Boat Cruise Was Included in Our Big Bus Tour

We passed Tower Bridge again…

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 8 Big Bus Tour

Extra Beautiful from Afar

…and also passed Big Ben and the Parliament.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 8 Big Bus Tour

Elizabeth Tower at Night

The London Eye also looked really neat!

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 8 Big Bus Tour

This Giant Ferris Wheel Is One of the Biggest Attractions in London

I really enjoyed taking this bus tour.  It was a great way to see the city and be protected from the cold, rainy weather.

To really get your money’s worth, start early, do a loop around, then get off at your favorite sights.  Or plan where you want to get off ahead of time.  We ran out of time and then got caught in rush hour…which was not a good idea!  But, it worked out because we got to go on the cruise tour down the river.

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:

  • Chase United Explorer – 30,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Chase United small business card – 50,000 United Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in purchases within the 1st 3 months of opening your account

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

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve – 50,000 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 Stevenage30 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 only had a few days in London, so booking a Big Bus tour was perfect for us.  If you have limited time in London, or if you’re facing unpleasant weather, I’d recommend booking a tour!

You can get on and off where you want to.  Try not to rush the experience!

Also, don’t forget during rush hour or construction, it can take a long time to get where you want to go.  So be sure to factor that in and go with the flow.

* If you liked this post, why don’t you join the 25,000+ readers who have signed-up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 email per day!) or in an RSS reader …because then you’ll never miss another update!

Editorial Disclaimer: Neither the responses below nor the editorial content on this page are provided or commissioned by the bank advertisers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertisers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers’ responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

4 responses to “I Found My New Best Friend Traveling to London: Part 8 – Big Bus Tour

  1. Emily, thank you for sharing your experience on the Big Bus Tour. Last spring, my husband and I had a 1 week stay in the UK. Originally, we were going to stay in London, but decided to visit some smaller cities that we had never been to. So, we are still wanting to visit London since it has been 35 years since our last visit. Since we’re getting “older”, I think the Big Bus Tour would be perfect for us. So glad that you and your mom got to share this wonderful adventure!

    • Hi Rene, Glad you like the post! You’ll love another trip to London. There was so much to see and do! But, I can understand the draw of the smaller cities, too. The Big Bus was really nice. The announcer was knowledgable and friendly (though sometimes it was hard to hear him). I’d suggest making a loop around and then going back to your favorite places to explore in depth.

  2. Thanks to your website… my wife and I traveled to London and Paris 4 years ago using points. Now 4 years later we are going back again this May to London. I can not imagine how many trips it would take to do justice to even a small portion of the many sites of London. Days and days to do the British Museum of ‘donated’ treasures alone. We traveled in September and DID get to tour the inside of Buckingham Palace. Impressive. This trip we will be doing Windsor Castle. I see you completed a day trip out of London as well. We found a day trip with one of the mini bus tour providers (we used International Friends) to be a great way to relax and enjoy an area outside of London. Leaving the driving to them was a huge relief. We visited the COTSWOLDS and would highly recommend it as a break from London. Again “thank you” to you and ‘whatshisname’ for inspiring us to travel big on small money.

    • Hi Phil, I agree–London deserves years for exploring, there is so much! 🙂 That’s interesting to hear you had a great time seeing Buckingham Palace. I bet it is grand inside. And Cotswolds seems like an excellent getaway trip from London! Thanks for sharing, and thank you for the kind words. Daraius and I are so happy we can bring the joy of traveling to others!