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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 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.
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:
- Part 1 – Introduction and Planning
- Part 2 – Flights to London
- Part 3 – British Airways Galleries Club Lounge Review
- Part 4 – Where to Stay in London – Intercontinental London Park Lane Hotel Overview
- Part 5 – Where to Stay in London – Intercontinental London Park Lane Hotel Room Overview
- Part 6 – Where to Eat Around Mayfair
- Part 7 – Where to Eat in London
- Part 8 – What to Do in London Part 1 – Big Bus Tour
- Part 9 – What to Do in London Part 2 – Mall, Museum, and Buckingham Palace
- Part 10 – What to Do in London Part 3 – Phantom of the Opera and London at Night
- Part 11 – What to Do in London Part 4 – Day Trip to Olney
- Part 12 – Return Business Class Flight to US
- Part 13 – Blog Giveaway
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 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 love seeing old architecture and the detailed carvings. This was no exception!
In London, the streets wind through the city.
Even though it was dreary, I was still having a fantastic time with my mom!
It started raining again, so we got back on the bus.
We sat upstairs and had front row seats!
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 was loving all the photo opportunities.
In London, old architecture sits next to the newer buildings.
We passed by Tower Bridge, and it looked beautiful in the evening light!
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.
We passed Tower Bridge again…
…and also passed Big Ben and the Parliament.
The London Eye also looked really neat!
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!
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!
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:
- Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select – 50,000 American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months of opening your account
- Citi AAdvantage Executive – 50,000 American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 within the first 3 months of opening your account
- Citi AAdvantage small business card – 50,000 American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 within the first 3 months of opening your account
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.