The view of St. Paul’s with the Millennium Bridge – London is free stopover on BA awards
There are a few questions that people seem to always ask me when it comes to travel. The first one is “How much did it cost?” and the second question is “How can you afford to travel so much?”
How much do my trips cost? Well this to me is the mine field of questions almost like asking “How much do you earn” or ‘How much do you weigh” (the answers – “I used points/miles to save costs so within my budget”, “not enough” and “a bit too much currently”). Seriously, no matter how I answer someone will think I’ve paid too much. If I stayed 5 star, someone else will say “you could have stayed in a hostel, a tent or slept in your car instead” or “Wow, I’d never spend that much”. It’s all subjective and there really is no right answer – if you are comfortable with it then it’s all good. Although I have a tendency to get a bit crazy as evidenced by the $45 bottle of shampoo in London. I try my best to list in my posts what I’ve paid at the time so hopefully that gives you a general sense when planning your trip.
How can I afford to travel so much? This question is a bit easier to answer although a few find it hard to apply in their own lives. My niece said to me at dinner one night “you’re rich since you travel so much” – I replied “I’m not rich, I use points” but how do you explain miles/points to an eleven year old? I tried but then all was lost when I took her to Paris/London in business class on British Airways. I don’t earn any money from this blog (no ads, no sponsored trips) so my savings strategies aren’t new – they are just ways that have worked for me over the years.
This week’s theme as the summer comes to a close is Play. As an adult, I rarely get to play and have fun without a care in the world unless I am traveling. When traveling, the rules seem to fall away (or at least give me an excuse to ignore them). Much of my fun falls into the “wheeee” category even if I just silently say it in my head. Traveling solo, the outlets for fun differ in my opinion as I need to seek out play a bit more than others. Often times, I get so serious in my agenda, I have to remind myself that I have permission to play – to have fun – to see the world like a child with playful wonder. How awesome is that?!
The bird chirping love? Street Art in Paris, create your own story
Playing in Queenstown on the South Island of New Zealand, this alpine go kart luge on the side of the mountain overlooking the Remarkables was incredible fun! I felt free to fly (ok, my version of speeding down a mountain) in my little plastic car. Play doesn’t get better than this……
The luge track in Queenstown
Unless you are playing with all the gadgets in business class on the A380! Hidden in the last row of business class in the back sub-section of three rows, I had a secluded purple pod with windows on my Thai A380 flight from Bangkok to Paris. The seat reclined to a full flat bed meeting the cubby for my feet. Under the window, I had a storage area all to myself. I had buttons, levers, a remote and touchscreen. When all of that play was done, I pressed my inquisitive face to the window looking out like in the movies at the stars. I wanted to play with the stars! I wanted to count them and reach out to touch them as they burned bright in the sky while the land/sea below was black. Seeing the big dipper and the little dipper and so many other shapes was fun for me – I really was a little kid in awe of this amazing double decker plane in the sky.
Thai A380 business class seat – I love purple!
Thai A380 Business Class neighbor
View of the London Eye from the Thames cruise
In the year 2000, the Millennium Wheel was unveiled along the Thames. The enclosed Ferris Wheel welcomed the new century by adding a modern structure to the landscape of this old city. For more than ten years, the cab would drive along the Thames on the way to the office in The City and I would look across the river and say “I need to ride that sometime soon”. In 2011, I finally found time to experience The London Eye, the new name of the Millennium Wheel, a much better name in my opinion. The London Eye is located across from Big Ben & Parliament on the South Bank of the River Thames and its 32 capsules can carry up to 800 passengers per rotation. The views were just magical (and pretty cool) on my first ride – a nice change from the inside of a conference room I was accustomed.
When my niece listed the London Eye on her must do London list, I was all good to ride it again. As it was summer and specifically Wimbledon week in June, the crowds swelled with school groups, tour groups and tourists like us. This area of the Thames is teeming with people enjoying the restaurants, boarding river cruises, on the bridge taking selfies with Big Ben, etc. With this in mind and not wanting to commit to a specific day online (where tickets are cheaper if you buy in advance), I opted to do the “Fast Track ticket” when it was a nice, sunny day. The hotel concierge arranged the tickets but did not book online as I thought he would for £26.55 each (online discount), he instead used a tour company (for which he gets a commission) for £29.50 each and gave me a paper voucher that I would need to exchange at the ticket office fast track desk. This disappointed me and I did mention this to the hotel manager when we had our long chat about my hotel experience (this is another story for another day).
When I was asked for my room number in Seattle, I had no idea, I looked in my purse for the room key and pulled out key cards from Portland, London, Paris and Philly (an indication that I need to clean out my purse!). I was at the end of my six weeks of travel staying at eight hotels during this time. It was understandable that I was confused, it had been a busy travel schedule. My purse was full of three currencies, boarding passes and key cards.
Similar to my crazy two months of travel last October/November (see “Two Months – three trips, 16 flights, 43,000 miles and I’m exhausted), I would fly over the pond twice in a month. This big trip would not involve a round the world trip after London but rather just a West Coast trip, a bit more manageable. This all sounds fun in theory and it was until I came home to the bills (an 11 yo is expensive to feed!), my work emails and had to re-enter my normal life, one without room service and housekeeping. Immediately all of the travel goodwill and relaxation quickly faded and I immediately wanted to get back on a plane and fly away but I need to work to support my travel life so back to the real world I go albeit reluctantly.
For the past few weeks, I’ve posted a lot about the trips and still have more pending. So here is the itinerary that kept me and my TripIt Pro busy for June and July:
London Tower Bridge with temporary South Bank Art installation
Categories: London, Paris, Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Travel, Travel with Niece(s)
Tags: 6 week itinerary, business trip, london, Oregon, Paris, Portland, Oregon, Seattle
Hotel housekeeping feeds my addiction – they know it’s not possible to use three bottles of shampoo a day but continue to restock the bathroom without question or judgement. I’d like to think that my daily tip is a bit of “hush” money to ignore my addiction. The addition is so bad, that I need to check my luggage. While my bag certainly qualifies as carry-on only, the many ziploc bags of hotel toiletries in my luggage are over the 3-1-1 limit. Thankfully, my credit cards and/or business class ticket waive the checked baggage fees. Yes, I’m addicted to the hotel toiletries, preferring the luxury items! When I asked Jacob Tomsky, hotel expert and author of “Heads in Beds” (a must read! it had me laughing the entire flight from Seoul to Singapore), via Twitter if there was a hotel term for my addiction, he said there wasn’t a term, but if there were he’d call me a “hotel chipmunk”. This made me laugh – I am a (luxury) hotel chipmunk – sounds much cuter than toiletry thief or shampoo addict. It’s much easier admitting the cookie addiction as people understand chocolate chips moreso than shampoo.
You can’t take these home…being environmentally friendly
It all started on that first Club World British Airways flight when the business class toiletry bag included Molton Brown (airline chipmunk). Molton Brown was the first luxury toiletry company that I had encountered and quickly became a fan. With one or two flights a year to London, I thought that was enough to satisfy me but I quickly became addicted (years before the U.S. stores opened) and began visiting the shop on Regent Street. I would shop for the full size versions and ignore the cost (you have to ignore the exchange rate otherwise you will agree with people who label you “crazy” for paying more than $50 for shampoo – actually you may now judge me insane for spending that, I’m starting to wonder myself now too!).
Molton Brown started me down this luxury toiletry addiction