We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.
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
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!
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.
Purchasing tickets is simple enough, too. The instructions on the automated screen are logical and clear.
Harrods is one of London’s most famous shopping malls. My mom and I stopped by to have a look around.
It’s in a gorgeous old building.
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).
And here’s me in my new (very affordable) pleather coat from Topshop!
After the mall, we explored the streets. No trip to London is complete without some pictures in the iconic photo booths!
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. 🙂
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.
The museum is packed with interesting exhibits. There are paintings, jewelry, photographs, and textiles. Visiting the museum can easily be a half-day trip.
We skipped the paid exhibits. There were plenty of interesting displays that cost nothing.
The gift shop has some cool stuff too, so check it out!
Buckingham Palace was only a 10-minute walk from our hotel, so we decided to spend an evening there.
The palace only hosts indoor tours certain times of the year. They were closed during our trip.
I liked seeing all of the beautifully detailed sculptures.
My mom really enjoyed them.
We couldn’t go inside the palace, but it was still pretty to see in the evening from the outside.
The palace itself is surrounded by a large park with lots of trees.
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!
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!
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.
There is so much to see and do in London! There’s plenty of great shopping, excellent museums, and historical monuments!