We spent almost two weeks in Europe over the summer and had a great time. On our trip we visited London, Prague, and Barcelona. I booked the tickets almost a year out to ensure we got the dates and flights we wanted. It was our second time visiting London, but we went to new places outside of London such as Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath. It was our first visit to Prague and Barcelona. This trip report will be simplified into 3 posts focusing on highlights from each city. Here are the highlights from our Summer European Trip – London.
We took Virgin Atlantic’s Premium Economy class from LAX-LHR for 35,000 Virgin Atlantic miles and about $230 in taxes. You can get VX miles by transferring from Ultimate Rewards, AMEX Membership Rewards, or Citi TY points. I would think the best way is Citi Thank You points from the Citi TY Premier or Prestige credit card because AMEX MR and Chase UR are more valuable and flexible. The flight was surprisingly quite comfortable and nicer than US domestic first class flights. We had free wine and the meals were decent as well. The hard product is slightly nicer than a US domestic first class flight and the entertainment system had a great variety of movies. I watched Ex Machina on the plane, ate a meal, slept, and was there sooner than I expected. Virgin Atlantic currently flies the new 787-9 Dreamliner from LAX-LHR, which I really liked because of the high ceilings, mood lighting, and spaciousness of the plane.
We spent four nights at the Radisson Blu Mercer Street, which was an excellent location for shops and restaurants. The main attractions we visited in London were the British Museum, Tower of London, Globe Theater, Borough Market, and most of the parks.
The British Museum is humongous and could take a whole day going through. The most popular exhibition was probably the Rosetta Stone. If you are a museum goer, I would recommend the British Museum. It’s also free, so that’s a big incentive if you aren’t as big of a museum fan. We spent about 2-3 hours there and that was enough.
One of the main highlights of our trip was a day trip to Stonehenge and Bath with Day Tours London. I did some extensive research and decided to pay a little bit more for this company. The cheapest tour was by Premium Tours for 47 pounds, but Days Tours was 53 pounds after a 10% discount. Days Tours stood out because the meeting point was at a convenient tube stop where we could easily locate. The group was also quite small and we had adequate time at Stonehenge and Bath. There are other tours that include Windsor Castle, but I thought 3 sites in one day would be too much. I highly recommend Day Tours London, it was a great deal and the tour ran smoothly.
The Tower of London is quite picturesque and has lots of British history. We joined a free walking tour to learn more about the history and walked around on our own to see the most well-known site, the Crown Jewels. Tip: You can buy a London TravelCard paper ticket day pass for about 10 pounds and then get a BOGO coupon for the Tower of London. The Tower of London costs 27 pounds for admission, so you are saving some money and getting a free tube/bus pass for the whole day. Definitely recommended if you are going to visit the Tower of London. For more info visit LondonToolKit.
After you visit Tower of London, Borough Market is a farmers market nearby that has delicious food. Also, we watched a Shakespeare play at the Globe Theatre afterwards. To save a lot of money, you can buy standing tickets for 5 pounds in advance.
One fun thing to do is bike London’s public parks on their hire a cycle scheme. You only pay 2 pounds for a 24 hour pass. With this pass, you can rent bikes and ride around for free up to 30 minutes. Once you pass 30 minutes, they will start charging more money. The trick is to limit your bike ride to 30 minutes and park and rent another cycle. I was able to download an app showing all the hire a cycle lots nearby.
London can be expensive, but with some of the tricks above, it can be quite affordable. We mostly ate ethnic food with the exception of fish and chips. If you are planning to visit London, I think Virgin Atlantic’s premium economy class is a great compromise between mileage and comfort. Although you can’t get Club Carlson’s buy one get one free promotion with its credit card now, I still recommend the Radisson Blu Mercer Street on points. A second option would be accumulating Hilton points because there are plenty of Hilton hotels all over London. Finally, a third option would be staying at an AirBnB, especially if you are traveling with more than 2 people. We did a few more things, but those were the highlights from our summer European trip in London. Ask me if you need any advice on other attractions in London or doing it cheap.