Author Topic: Travel Hacking to London? What's best?  (Read 8030 times)

miss blueberry

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Travel Hacking to London? What's best?
« on: June 07, 2014, 03:52:50 PM »
I'm not sure if my terminology is correct, but I'm looking for the cheapest way to get to England for our family of four next summer.  I want to try getting mega points with a new credit card that we can then use on airline tickets from Denver to London.  Was reading about this type of credit card shenanigans and was intrigued on the Mad Fientist site, but it was an older post.  Dates are flexible but would be in the summer of 2015.  It would be pretty easy for us to get any type of credit card as we are 50-ish in age and very financially stable.  It just makes me choke to think of spending $1800+ each on four roundtrip tickets...  Any suggestions or thoughts would be most appreciated!  Thanks a bunch!

Argyle

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Re: Travel Hacking to London? What's best?
« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2014, 04:06:48 PM »
First off, you shouldn't be spending $1800 each.  $1200 is the maximum I'd shoot for, and you should be able to get that easy.  If you're going any time of year other than summer, even cheaper.

There's a lot (a LOT) of talk of credit cards and miles over at Flyertalk.com.  They're not frugal, but they know all the tricks.

Once you've picked your credit card, put everything you can on it (and pay it off every month, natch).  Mortgage payments, bills, the works.  Anything you're going to buy anyway, put on the credit card and go through the site to get extra miles.  For instance if you have a United card and you go through the United site, you get extra miles on various categories if you buy from various stores, e.g. Sears, L L Bean, or whoever's having the deal at the moment.  I don't need to tell you not to buy anything you wouldn't already be buying.

If you're traveling by air any time before then, travel at peak times, when the plane is more likely to be overbooked, and volunteer to be bumped, which will get you discount coupons. 


Mrs. Frugalwoods

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Re: Travel Hacking to London? What's best?
« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2014, 07:05:49 PM »
Are you limited to traveling in the summer? We've always traveled internationally on dirt cheap flights during Thanksgiving week. No one else is flying from the US to destinations abroad. If your dates are at all flexible, I'd recommend avoiding the summer months--that's when every tourist descends! In terms of credit card points, we use the Starwood Hotels American Express card (paid off in full every month of course :) ) for free hotel stays. This is ideal for international travel since the points convert one-to-one no matter where you go, so you don't lose in less-than-favorable currency exchanges.

miss blueberry

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Re: Travel Hacking to London? What's best?
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2014, 07:44:59 PM »
Dear Argyle, Thanks for the info on the flyertalk website.  I will check it out.  We are already putting everything on our current cc and paying it off every Friday, but it's a basic Capital One rewards card.  I'm hoping to find one of the ones with the huge initial signup bonus to get us our tickets.  Thanks again for your advice!

miss blueberry

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Re: Travel Hacking to London? What's best?
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2014, 07:47:53 PM »
Thanks, Ms. Frugalwoods!  Yes, we are limited to summer travel with college/high school/work scheduling and we're hoping to be gone for about two weeks.  What hotels are in the Starwood chain?  I'm assuming they are international?

SDREMNGR

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Re: Travel Hacking to London? What's best?
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2014, 08:43:26 PM »
I am still buying stocks at Loyal3 with credit card without problems.  They limit you to $50 per stock per day but they have 50 stocks so barring a bad stock day, you can charge up $2500 per day and then sell off in about 3 days.

Mrs. Frugalwoods

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Re: Travel Hacking to London? What's best?
« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2014, 09:11:06 PM »
Thanks, Ms. Frugalwoods!  Yes, we are limited to summer travel with college/high school/work scheduling and we're hoping to be gone for about two weeks.  What hotels are in the Starwood chain?  I'm assuming they are international?
Starwood includes Sheraton, Westin, Le Meridien, St. Regis, Four Points, Aloft, The W, and a few others I believe. They have locations worldwide and you can use points anywhere. We've been accruing points for years and have stayed (for free) in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Krakow, Bratislava, Zagreb, Brussels as well as plenty of US cities. We are dedicated frugal travelers, so we just go wherever we're able to find cheap flights. Many Starwoods also offer a free breakfast, which we frugally abscond with to create free lunches :). Have fun on your trip!!

climber1

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Re: Travel Hacking to London? What's best?
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2014, 12:33:21 AM »
Hi Miss Blueberry,

You need a lot of frequent flyer miles to get 4 people to Europe. The exact number depends on the airline program, but you are looking at approximately 240,000 needed. Luckily, you are planning well ahead of time so there is plenty of time to get credit cards for signup bonuses. I am going to suggest a two credit cards you might want to consider getting. Given that Denver is a United hub and American Airlines/US Airways awards to London typically have large fuel surcharges because you are on British Airways flights, I am going to suggest cards which can be used on United and other Star Alliance airlines. (If the last sentence sounded like gibberish to you, just ignore it).

1) Chase Sapphire Preferred
This card has a signup bonus of 40,000 miles plus an extra 5,000 if you add someone (ex. spouse) as an authorized user. For someone who was only getting one card, I would suggest this as you can use the points in a variety of different ways (on multiple airlines including United, hotel chains). This card has the annual fee waived for the first year.

2) Barclays Lufthansa Mastercard
This card has a signup bonus of 50,000 miles. Given that roundtrips from the US to Europe are 50,000 miles on Lufthansa's award chart, this is great. Note that you don't just use this on Lufthansa flights. You can use it on any Star Alliance airline (United, Brussels, Polish, Swiss, Air Canada). This card does have an annual fee of $79 that is not waived for the first year, but it is well worth it.

If you and your spouse each got both of these cards, then you would have two round trips from the Lufthansa cards and 1.5 roundtrips from the Chase cards (these points can be combined between spouses).  You could definitely get another card to cover the last oneway, but I don't want to overload you with a bunch of cards.

Also, if you have a business (or any kind of sidegig that you can reasonable claim to want to keep expenses separate for), then you may also want to consider getting business credit cards. I can suggest some of these as well, so message me if you are interested.

Ayanka

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Re: Travel Hacking to London? What's best?
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2014, 04:40:28 AM »
depending on your company when travelling you might want to check out the YHA or youth hostel association. It is a big group off youth hostels aka cheap stay, with a variance in accomodation and price.

daverobev

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Re: Travel Hacking to London? What's best?
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2014, 08:32:58 AM »
Not sure about Denver, but Air Transat does Ottawa to London for $900.

*Edit* meaning it is 'possible' to get flights that cheaply, from one side of the atlantic to the other.

Villanelle

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Re: Travel Hacking to London? What's best?
« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2014, 08:37:41 AM »
If your dates are flexible, consider Priceline bidding.  Also, consider flying to anywhere in Europe that Ryan Air or German Wings fly.  You can book that ticket from your area to that city, then look for the super cheap flights to Heathrow or Stanstead (though with the latter, your expenses and times to get into London will be greater, so keep that in mind). 

Gerard

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Re: Travel Hacking to London? What's best?
« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2014, 10:28:37 AM »
Keep in mind that airlines only have to offer a certain number of seats at the lowest point levels, and summertime transatlantic flights are usually not them. That said, I'm stunned to see that Air Canada/Aeroplan has a ton of US-UK flights still available for *this* summer at 60K points each, so you might be in luck.

Still, 240K points is a *lot* to earn in the time available, unless your credit score can afford a ton of card sign-ups, or you spend a hell of a lot of money. You'll probably end up getting one or two tickets on points and paying for the others, which will involve booking everything very carefully at the same time to make sure you can fly together or almost-together.

If you are paying cash for some tickets, you might want to consider flying back from France or Belgium, to avoid the UK's very high departure taxes. You can get there on a bus (Eurolines, maybe, or Megabus UK) for fairly cheap.

Also, if you can handle the longer trip, check out flying via Canada on Air Canada. It's often a fair bit cheaper, as they have to compete with US direct flights by compensating you for the extra trouble.

I second the flyertalk suggestion. Check out The Points Guy, too.

rujancified

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Re: Travel Hacking to London? What's best?
« Reply #12 on: June 09, 2014, 11:52:26 AM »
Do you have an option to get an airline card or a higher level Amex (gold+ or platinum)? You'll normally have to pay an annual fee (boo!) but they often will send vouchers for companion tickets.  My husband has the USAir one and got maybe 40k miles for signing up, at least 1 mile per $1 spent, and two companion vouchers per year.

Check out flying into Gatwick, rather than Heathrow. It's not much more difficult to get into central London than from Heathrow (if I remember correctly from 15+ years ago) and it *could* be cheaper.

Check out 4th of July week flights. Those might be cheaper?

Ages ago, I got a flight from Boston - Heathrow for under $300. Air Canada with two stops in Canada. I don't really recommend that, but check out if you can fly through Eastern Canada or Iceland (with 24h stopover) for cheaper.


katiecolorado

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Re: Travel Hacking to London? What's best?
« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2014, 09:56:23 AM »
I don't know much about credit card points, but I can offer some suggestions for getting there cheaply.

How do you feel about visiting Ireland as well? A few years ago a friend and I were looking at taking a trip to the UK and found some amazing packages to Ireland. We extended our flights and added on a trip to London. The flights, hotel, and car in Ireland plus travel to London cost us around $1200/each from Denver.

Here's how I did it.

I got a Living Social voucher for a trip to Ireland. The voucher I bought didn't have DIA as an option, so I bought one from JFK and bought a separate flight from DIA to JFK. When I called to make the booking with the travel agency, I just asked them to extend the return flight out a week or so (check that they can do this before buying the voucher because some won't). I also later found out that I could have added the DIA-JFK flight when I was booking.

The voucher was similar to this Groupon, however, Living Social has a policy that if 3 people buy through your link, yours is free. If you have 4 people going you can get one free. I see these deals regularly, I'd recommend tracking the options for a short while to see what would work best for you.
 
$800 http://www.groupon.com/deals/ga-great-value-vacations-ireland-10

$600 ish - flights to JFK from DIA (you could probably get this cheaper)

To get from Dublin to London you could fly on a budget airline OR you could take a fabulous ferry voyage followed by a train.
http://www.arrivatrainswales.co.uk/SailRail/

We took the fabulous ferry voyage. The ferry was nice and spacious. A lot nicer than I was expecting. I normally have issues with motion sickness, but was fine on this trip. Since there is next to no public transportation in Colorado, it was something a little different for me. I liked it.

Party it up in London

You can either fly or take the train/ferry back to Dublin and catch the plane back to the states.

There's still the cost of gas/food/activities in Ireland, and you might be able to find an amazing deal on flights to London that would make going direct cheaper. For us, it was definitely worth it.

Brian Fellows

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Re: Travel Hacking to London? What's best?
« Reply #14 on: June 12, 2014, 10:10:49 AM »
Be careful when you're looking at what airlines to accrue miles on.  London is notorious in the frequent flyer community for charging insane taxes and fuel surcharges, so even if you book a "free" flight with miles on British Airways it will still cost you far more out of pocket than if you were flying anywhere else.

Also I believe London itself will charge you a tax just to fly somewhere if you're departing out of Heathrow.  What I've heard a lot of people recommend is that you end your trip in a different European city (that you've found a cheap way to get to) instead of by leaving from Heathrow.

EricL

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Re: Travel Hacking to London? What's best?
« Reply #15 on: June 12, 2014, 01:17:43 PM »
Hotels near the airport are generally cheaper.  And you can get a connecting bus to the Tube (the Subway - Mind the Gap) into London.  It's great fun but be warned: London is heinously expensive.  Probably to defer the costs repairing Big Ben after the accident in the first season of Dr. Who.

Mrs. Frugalwoods

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Re: Travel Hacking to London? What's best?
« Reply #16 on: June 13, 2014, 07:17:29 AM »
Hotels near the airport are generally cheaper.  And you can get a connecting bus to the Tube (the Subway - Mind the Gap) into London.  It's great fun but be warned: London is heinously expensive.  Probably to defer the costs repairing Big Ben after the accident in the first season of Dr. Who.
HAH! Always wondered who was going to pay to repair that... :) And, I agree, London is the most expensive place we've ever traveled to (except maybe for Japan...)

Red Beard

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Re: Travel Hacking to London? What's best?
« Reply #17 on: June 13, 2014, 08:35:58 AM »
If you REALLY want to use points the whole way, and have credit good enough to swing it, the 240k needed for economy saver tickets is relatively doable in a years time. If you have two people working at it you could do the following:

2 x 50k United Mileage Plus
2 x 40k Chase Sapphire Preferred
2 x 50k Chase Ink/Bold

This would give you 280k and could be done in 6-ish months depending on how creative you get with manufactured spend (as mentioned above, FlyerTalk can walk you through that). I am NOT necessarily saying you should do this, just showing it can be, and has been, done before.

MikePolo4

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Re: Travel Hacking to London? What's best?
« Reply #18 on: June 13, 2014, 09:05:19 AM »
I am still buying stocks at Loyal3 with credit card without problems.  They limit you to $50 per stock per day but they have 50 stocks so barring a bad stock day, you can charge up $2500 per day and then sell off in about 3 days.

How long have you been doing this for and how much have you profited? If you were to buy $2500 in stocks per day, selling them ASAP, using a 2% cash back CC for a month (30 days), this would make you 2,500 x .02 x 30 = $1,500 /month. I always assume that if it's too good to be true, it probably is. What's the catch besides having to take the time to make 50 x 2 x 30 = 3000 transactions per month and the risk of stocks dropping in value?
« Last Edit: June 13, 2014, 09:11:18 AM by MikePolo4 »