I Found My New Best Friend Traveling to London: Part 9 – Mall, Museum, and Buckingham Palace

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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.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 9 Mall Museum And Buckingham Palace

Red Telephone Boxes Are as British as the Union Jack or a Cup of Tea

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:

Mom and I didn’t spend as much time as we’d have liked in London.  So we filled every moment with fun activities!

We went to see famous places like the Victoria & Albert Museum and Buckingham Palace.  And we spent our time shopping in between!

London Tube

My mom was a little nervous to ride her first subway.  However, navigating London is easy with the tube (nickname for the London Underground, London’s metro system).  Use Google Maps to help you understand which routes to take from your hotel to your destination!

Be sure to check the names with your phone to what you find in the tube.  It’s very easy if you can match up the words–my mom quickly turned into a pro!  The tube has several maps with the stops listed for both directions.  And there are stops listed on the subway cars themselves so you know exactly how many stops until your next exit.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 9 Mall Museum And Buckingham Palace

Two Tickets for Subterranean Transportation

Purchasing tickets is simple enough, too.  The instructions on the automated screen are logical and clear.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 9 Mall Museum And Buckingham Palace

There Is a Route Map Above the Screen to Help You Understand How Much Your Ticket Will Cost

Shopping

Harrods is one of London’s most famous shopping malls.  My mom and I stopped by to have a look around.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 9 Mall Museum And Buckingham Palace

My Hands Won’t Be This Free on the Way Out

It’s in a gorgeous old building.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 9 Mall Museum And Buckingham Palace

It Looked More Like a Palace Than a Mall!

Inside, everything was pretty expensive.  But I liked admiring the architecture.  The mall reminded me of the beauty of the Galeries Lafayette shopping mall in Paris (though still not quite as pretty).

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 9 Mall Museum And Buckingham Palace

If I Weren’t Paying Attention, I Would Have Instinctively Entered the Wrong Side of the Escalator!

I much prefer shopping at affordable stores like Topshop (probably my favorite shop in London!) and Bershka.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 9 Mall Museum And Buckingham Palace

Mom Found a Really Cute Denim Dress

And here’s me in my new (very affordable) pleather coat from Topshop!

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 9 Mall Museum And Buckingham Palace

It Looks Even Fancier With a Business Class Backdrop

After the mall, we explored the streets.  No trip to London is complete without some pictures in the iconic photo booths!

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 9 Mall Museum And Buckingham Palace

Me Posing With My #1 Tool for Big Travel With Small Money

We had so much fun doing our mini photo shoot together!  My mom worked as a customer service representative for 30 years at the local phone company (originally Ohio Bell), so this pic next to the phone booth was extra fitting. 🙂

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 9 Mall Museum And Buckingham Palace

These Telephone Boxes Have Been Around UK Streets for Over 90 Years!

Victoria & Albert Museum

The V&A Museum is the largest “decorative arts and design museum” on earth!  It was founded back in the mid-1850s.  It’s free to enter the museum, but some special exhibits have a charge.

The museum was only about a 15-minute walk from our hotel, the Intercontinental London Park Lane.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 9 Mall Museum And Buckingham Palace

We Saw Loads of History Just Walking the London Streets to the Museum

The museum is packed with interesting exhibits.  There are paintings, jewelry, photographs, and textiles.  Visiting the museum can easily be a half-day trip.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 9 Mall Museum And Buckingham Palace

Mom and I Didn’t Even Have Time for a Third of What We Wanted to See!

We skipped the paid exhibits.  There were plenty of interesting displays that cost nothing.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 9 Mall Museum And Buckingham Palace

We Checked Out Some Fashion Designs Through the Centuries

The museum also features art from an American glassblower, Dale Chihuly.  If you’re planning a trip to Seattle, don’t miss the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum!

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 9 Mall Museum And Buckingham Palace

Chihuly Has Been a World-Famous Glassblower for Decades – I’m a Big Fan of His Work!

The gift shop has some cool stuff too, so check it out!

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace was only a 10-minute walk from our hotel, so we decided to spend an evening there.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 9 Mall Museum And Buckingham Palace

Pictures Cannot Convey the Immense Size of This Structure!

The palace only hosts indoor tours certain times of the year.  They were closed during our trip.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 9 Mall Museum And Buckingham Palace

The Lights Around the Palace Gave the Walls a Golden Shimmer

I liked seeing all of the beautifully detailed sculptures.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 9 Mall Museum And Buckingham Palace

Stone Images Surrounded the Palace – If You Don’t Look Close, You’ll Miss a Lot of Them

My mom really enjoyed them.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 9 Mall Museum And Buckingham Palace

So Many Statues! And Each One Looks So Significant

We couldn’t go inside the palace, but it was still pretty to see in the evening from the outside.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 9 Mall Museum And Buckingham Palace

The Queen Made No Public Appearances. Maybe Next Time!

The palace itself is surrounded by a large park with lots of trees.

I Found My New Best Friend Traveling To London Part 9 Mall Museum And Buckingham Palace

It Was a Very Peaceful Walk Back Towards the Hotel

Connie:   We walked to the Buckingham Palace, Queen Victoria and Albert Museum, and Harrods department store – all from our hotel.  The food was also excellent in London.  I enjoyed the high tea and many pastries throughout our stay. 

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.  So if you’ve opened 5+ cards from any bank (except these business cards) in the past 24 months, it’s unlikely you’ll be approved.

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

There is so much to see and do in London!  There’s plenty of great shopping, excellent museums, and historical monuments!

When I go back, I’ll leave myself more time to peruse the V&A Museum.  And I’ll make sure I’m there during the time Buckingham Palace is giving indoor tours!

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5 responses to “I Found My New Best Friend Traveling to London: Part 9 – Mall, Museum, and Buckingham Palace

  1. Hello!

    For your travels on the Tube, did you buy Oyster cards? I’ll be visiting London in 2 weeks and am curious about whether I should buy single trip tickets for every trip or Oyster cards for the duration of my trip.

    Thank you for sharing your stories!

    • Certainly if you’re there for more than a few days get an Oyster card. They cost 5 pounds; since you can’t get on a bus without one, and you get a 2.50 pound discount on each tube ride, you’ll make back the cost of the Oyster almost immediately, and it’s much more convenient as well.

  2. Hi Tiffany, I don’t believe we used an Oyster card, but based on Yair’s feedback, it sounds like a good value! Have fun on your trip and tag us on Instagram with your pics! 🙂

  3. The inside tour of Buckingham Palace was the highlight of our first trip to London (usually open August/September). I would urge everyone to try to schedule their trip during that time. We’ve also been lucky to be able to tour Windsor Castle and Holywood Palace in Edinburgh because we timed it right when Queen isn’t in residence. But Buckingham was the best, hands down.

    FYI, read post below on Oyster Cards. You can get your fee back when you’re done if it’s within a certain amount of pounds. If not, then you have to go to a station that is manned. Last time we just ate the cost. Still super convenient. And the Tube is the best transpo system. Efficient, easy to understand. Got a pop-up laminated map of London that had tube map on other side. Best $ I ever spent!

    • Hi Shirley, Thanks for the feedback! Buckingham Palace sounds amazing and worth a return trip for sure! And thanks for the getting around London tips! Always helpful. 🙂