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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 See Around London – Day Trip to Olney
Connie: I always wanted to visit one of many hymn writers and poets from the United Kingdom. The town of Olney is about 60 miles north of London. Olney is where John Newton, the writer of “Amazing Grace”, lived and wrote the hymn.
We wanted to visit the museum and landmark dedicated to him but it was closed for renovation. However, we took many pictures. Olney it truly a town worth visiting.
There was an open market in the center of town with fresh flowers, merchandise and local fruits and veggies for sale. We really enjoyed the tea, quiche and crumpets from The Olney Delicatessen & Tea Room. The whole meal was made from scratch as we waited. The building looked to be over a hundred years old.
Near the town of Olney is Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s Birthplace and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. I would love to visit there on my next visit. It was a wonderful day trip and also to see the beautiful countryside of England was a real treat.
Emily: My mom loves old hymn music, and really wanted to visit Olney, a small town in England, to visit the Cowper and Newton Museum. The author of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” John Newton, was buried in Olney.
We took the train to get there, and it was about a 90-minute trip. The town is very small and has only ~7,000 people.
William Cowper was kind of a big deal! He wrote poetry and hymns, and anti-slavery poems. He was even part of the Abolitionist campaign with John Newton.
One of his songs, ‘The Negro’s Complaint,’ made several appearances in the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the 20th century civil rights movement.
John Newton was once heavily involved with slave trading. He made 3 voyages as captain of the slave ships. But, 34 years later, he began to speak out against its institution.
He apologized for “a confession, which…comes too late…It will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.”
The museum heightens awareness to the work that Newton and Cowper did during their lives and that is still so important today.
The Best Scones Ever!
It’s a very small restaurant with just a few tables. But they also have a deli where you can get a decent selection of food to go.
We ordered scones with clotted cream and jam. We had to wait about 15-20 minutes for them, but that’s the trade-off for FRESH! The scones were super warm and delicious! Literally the best I’ve ever had.
If you want to make scones similar to those I found in Olney, check out this recipe for Cream Scones. They are my favorite scones to make and trust me, they are addictive! They’re very easy to make! Plus, you can freeze them.
After lunch, we walked around the small town. There was a farmer’s market along the street, and we stopped by to check out the products!
Olney is also known for their annual pancake race! According to the official website, nobody knows for sure how the tradition was started. But every year, folks dress up with bandanas over their heads and aprons around their waists and run the race with a skillet in hand.
They also compete with a small town in Kansas to see who’s faster!
Stanky Leg & The Ride Home
At first, my mom and I planned on spending the night in Olney. We thought it would be a nice experience to spend the evening relaxing instead of rushing back to busy London.
However…we could not find any rooms to rent! We asked 3 or 4 guesthouses, and they were all full. I couldn’t understand why it was so busy in a small town during the week, and there was nothing available.
So, we had to make the trek back to London before the last bus.
The bus showed up right on time. We were very surprised to see that the city bus also served as the town’s school bus! It was filled with kids from between 5 and 13 years old.
Soon after we started driving, I heard the sounds of a boy being picked on. It was extremely upsetting, and I wasn’t quite sure how to handle the situation.
So, I turned around and gave the bully a gentle look of disappointment. It was enough to help make him realize that what he was doing wasn’t right without embarrassing him.
After that, I wanted to lighten up the situation. I thought about how to best relate to the kids. I thought of pop music and what the kids might listen to nowadays.
So, I put on Stanky Leg by GS Boyz, and my mom and I started dancing to it in the bus! We didn’t get up for safety reasons, but we put our legs out and shook them around like in the dance, and used our arms to sway with the music. I forgot how much rhythm mom has!
The kids on the bus began roaring with laughter. Some began taking pictures and video with their phones. It was so fun to hang out and show the kids it’s okay to be silly and do your own thing! And that “old people” can be cool!
Soon, we arrived at the main train station.
My mom and I went to the teller and asked for our tickets.
The trains were clean and comfortable. We found our seats and relaxed for the journey home.
Finally, we arrived back in London. We had a great day exploring Olney! It was fun to see a smaller town in England.
My mom was very happy to have visited Olney. She was happy to learn more about two of her favorite writers, Cowper and Newton, and grateful to visit a city with such significance to them!
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 (except these business cards), 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.
I’m happy mom and I decided to make a day trip to Olney from London. It was a good way to spend our limited time in the UK.
Make sure to reserve your accommodations ahead of time if you plan to spend the night. And do NOT forget to visit the Olney Delicatessen for some amazing scones!