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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
British Airways Galleries Club Lounge
British Airways has a HUGE Business Class lounge in Terminal 5 of London Heathrow Airport called the Galleries Club. It’s a busy airport, though, so there were tons of people in this lounge.
Wherever I travel, if I can get access to a lounge, I try to spend at least an hour there. It’s fun to see the different qualities and amenities each lounge has to offer, and to just relax between flights. That said, it can be difficult to properly estimate how long it might take to deplane, traverse security (if needed), and find your next terminal.
I give myself at least 2 hours for international flights, for unexpected delays. When I book my flights, I look for layovers of 3 to 4 hours. Giving yourself plenty of time is especially important at busy airports like London Heathrow!
Because mom and I were Business Class passengers, we had access to the British Airways Galleries lounges. We made our way to the lounge, and presented our Business Class tickets.
Inside the lounge were ample choices of water, soda, liquor, and food. They even had “top shelf” liquor, including Grey Goose!
There were also lots of mixers and beer.
Despite the crowds, there were still plenty of available seats.
There was a lot of food in this lounge, including a salad bar and a soup bar.
For your entree, there was a buffet with jacket potatoes, baked beans, white bean and mushroom stroganoff, penne pasta pepperonata, rice, coq au vin, or Moroccan spicy beef.
After a while I finally located the champagne! The perfect celebratory beverage for the beginning of our London excursion. 🙂
The Elemis Travel Spa was a highlight for us. The services are complimentary with the lounge access. My mom got a massage and I got a manicure. It was so nice to have someone else do my nails!
The service attendants were very friendly and professional.
I would happily visit the spa again.
For more details on the BA Galleries Club lounge, as well as other Heathrow lounges, visit Loungebuddy’s post, “British Airways Lounges at London Heathrow: The Ultimate Guide.”
Connie: Flying First Class is truly a luxurious experience. The Galleries Lounge was very spacious and accommodating.
There were plenty of sofas and chairs to relax, and many places to power electronics. There was a wonderful lunch buffet with several meats, cheeses, breads, soups, and a variety of drinks, snacks and fruits. The lounge (along with whole trip!) exceeded my expectations.
Emily: We actually flew Business Class, but my mom was so impressed that she thought it was First Class! 🙂
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 $3,000 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 Airlines 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 Credit Card – 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.
The British Airways Galleries Club lounge was a great place to relax between flights. It’s a huge lounge, and was filled with travelers. If you’re in the neighborhood, I recommend spending at least 1 hour in this lounge to get the full experience.
I allow at least 3 hours for my international layovers, and I recommend others do the same! This helps avoid possible delays. And should give you enough time to visit a lounge.