Travel Hacking a Trip to London

Join the Travel Hacking Cartel

My husband’s best friend has been dating a lovely English woman for several years now, so we were thrilled when they announced their engagement. The wedding is being held in London in October, with an additional reception to be held here in the states.

We have been threatening to come visit in London, where our friend fiance’ lives, but the timing just hasn’t been right. Now with the wedding, and the opening of Leavesden Studios to the public (where the Harry Potter films were created), it seems like the perfect time to go.

England has a special place in my heart since I lived in York for four months during college. I’ve been dying to go back. There’s just one problem – with both of us in on again, off again employment money is tight. Thus I looked into travel hacking.

Travel hacking, for those of you who are uneducated on the subject, refers to people who rely on rewards points and frequent flyer miles to get free flights and hotel stays. I was inspired to do this by travel hacking master Chris Guillebeau. Coincidently, another travel hacker, Matt Kepnes’ recently wrote how he travel hacked his own trip to London.

So I’m hoping to learn as I go. My first stop was this handy beginners guide from The Points Guy.

Any key to earning enough miles to go anywhere is to get a good credit card. I¬†successfully¬†applied and acquired a British Airways Visa from Chase which gave me 25,000 Avios (miles) and another 25,000 when I spent $2,500 on the card within the first 90 days. That’s 50,000 Avios or one round trip ticket to London from Newark right there! With every dollar put on the card we earn 1.25 Avios.

Other ways to earn include online shopping links direct through British Airways website. These include an extensive list of stores that we shop at all the time like Groupon, where we earn 4 Avios for every $1 spent. Using our British Airways card on top of that, we earn a total 5.25 Avios per dollar.

We opened a new Netflix account (something we were planning on anyway) and earned another 1,000 Avios.

There are plenty of travel deals as well. We scored another 500 Avios for booking an inexpensive Hyatt for a night for a trip to visit friends.

You can also take advantage of partner offers. In our case, British Airways is a member of oneworld. The stateside partner is American Airlines. I received a 1,000 miles bonus just for signing up for the American Airlines rewards program. Then I switched our energy provider and received 5,000 more miles, knowing that I can switch away from the energy provider after two billing cycles and keep my miles.

Then I signed up for the American Airlines dining program (free), and received another 1,000 miles when I spent more than $30 within 30 days of activation at participating restaurants.

What is unclear to me at the moment is what the conversion rate of American Airlines miles is to Avios and vice versa, but taken at face value altogether, this adds up to more than 61,000 miles, or roughly one full ticket, and halfway to the next ticket.

It has been so easy to earn points, I feel silly for not joining a program earlier. We shop online for electronics, books and DVDs fairly often, and find ourselves in a hotel three to four times a year. Combining these purchases with bill pay and the occasional reimbursable incidentals from just about any job, I think anyone can at least earn a domestic flight a year.

If you really want to step up your game join Chris’ Travel Hacking Cartel. For $25 a month you get alerts on great points travel deals, as well as opportunities (mostly at no cost) to earn more points. In just one week I’ve earn 3,000 points and upgraded status on two accounts which is good for nice perks. The one thing that is annoying about travel hacking is that it takes a lot of time to find deals, Chris does the work for you, and focuses on non-travel ways of gaining benefits. Try it!

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