My “travel hacking” hobby as some call it, has definitely provided me with unbelievable memories from trips around the world. One of the best parts of this “hobby” is sharing the travels with my family. Two years ago, my then eleven year old niece, traveled on her first trip to Paris & London (business class) with me. For Mother’s day, I surprised my Mom with a trip to anywhere in Europe as I had a 2-4-1 ticket** on British Airways to use and enough Avios points to make it interesting. Mom originally said “Ireland and London” but then changed to “Paris & London” after comments from the peanut gallery (i.e. – my teenage niece and her mother, my sister, who said “Mom you won’t drink in the pubs and Ireland is a lot of green landscapes”). You can read the funny conversation with Mom as she turned out to be my toughest client yet for her first trip to Paris & London.
British Airways Business & First Avios Awards
Finding two award seats on British Airways (or Open Skies, their New York – Paris subsidiary) proved to be a bit daunting. I needed a flight from Philadelphia (there are only two flights a day) or New York (JFK or Newark where there are close to twenty flights a day to London) to Paris with a return from London to Philadelphia. The online booking system can’t handle that so I looked up each segment to find two seats in business class before calling the reservation center to book it for me. Lucky for me, Jessica answered and was a star to help me put the trip together. By the time I was able to confirm that Mom could go in September, many of the flights I found were gone.
I explained the trip purpose, “mom’s first trip to Europe in advance of her 75th birthday” and Jessica was now invested in helping me (plus I was her last call for the night so she was keen to go home as well). She was able to book us New York (JFK) to London (LHR) in Club World business class with a connection in Club Europe to Paris (CDG). Our return would be London (LHR) to Philadelphia (PHL) in First Class since that was the only award open around our dates. I had enough points and do like First Class so I said “that’s fine” and we were booked for 135,000 Avios and $2,400 in taxes. Business class is normally $5k return with First often near $10k so for me, Mom was worth it. For comparison, two coach tickets to London would price out at 100-120k. We had lie flat beds, lots of champagne, lounge access, spa treatments and special attention for mom. Jessica gave me her direct email address if I needed further assistance or wanted to book additional parts to the trip (hotel, car, tours, transfers, etc.).
Once the tickets were booked, the fun part began – where to stay and what to do? Compounding the decisions was the fact that Mom forgot (?) to disclose her knee surgery scheduled for July. Her arthroscopic surgery would definitely affect the fact that she picked two walking cities (more on that in later posts) and tire her out quicker. She said she wanted to sleep each day to at least 8 a.m. which we did (except for two days) and not get crazy with the itinerary so we did 1-2 things a day and for the most part were back at the hotel/flat by 8 p.m.
So I settled on the following 10 Day Itinerary for Mom’s First Trip to Paris & London, starting in New York City. You will read more about each bullet point in upcoming posts.
New York Weekend Itinerary (2 days)
- Amtrak Acela from Philadelphia 30th Street State to New York Penn Station
- Refinery Hotel, a boutique hotel near Bryant Park (we had our own rooms)
- Visit the Refinery Rooftop Bar for views of the Empire State Building
- Broadway Show: Beautiful (AMAZING!!!)
- Sunday morning walk on The High Line (free)
- The Whitney Museum (at the end of the High Line)
- Quick peek inside Chelsea Market
Paris Itinerary (3 ½ days)
- Hotel Therese, a boutique hotel in the 1st arr equidistant between the Louvre, Tuileries and Paris Opera (separate rooms booked to preserve our mother/daughter relationship)
- Versailles on the unguided ½ day tour. We took a bus and were provided an audio guide
- Guided tour of the Paris Opera (best tour for only $17!)
- Lunch at Galeries Lafayette (my secret lunch spot)
- Eiffel Tower Visit
- Louvre Highlights VIP Evening Tour with Wine Tasting
- A day in Epernay, visiting Moet & Chandon cellar tour and tasting
- Boat Ride on the Seine
- Notre Dame visit
Eurostar – Paris to London
London Itinerary (4 ½ days)
- OneFineStay flat rental in Kensington (a 2 bedroom, 2 bath mews house rental with full kitchen)
- Buckingham Palace State Room Visit (open only August – October)
- Dinner at Hawksmoor (one of my favorite steakhouses in London)
- Quick visit before closing to the Harrods Food Hall
- Shopping at Marks & Spenser and Primark (Mom’s a shopper!)
- River Boat Ride on the Thames
- Day Tour to Stonehenge & Bath
- Tower of London private tour with Context Travel
- GBK Lunch (Mom wanted a milkshake and a burger)
- Sky Garden visit in the Walkie Talkie building (free)
- Flytographer Photo Session in London
- Pub visit with friends
British Airways (Club World and First Class Awards)
- Elemis Spa Treatment (complimentary) in the British Airways JFK Lounge (walk up)
- Club World (business class) flight to London
- Giraffe lunch at LHR T5
- LHR T5 Galleries Lounge
- Club Europe flight from London to Paris
- The Concorde Room at T5
- Elemis Spa Treatment (complimentary) for Mom in the British Airways T5 Lounge (pre-booked)
- First Class flight from London Heathrow to Philadelphia
So this was our itinerary to see the highlights of Paris & London for our Mother/Daughter trip to Europe. It’s much different from the ten day itinerary I planned for my niece in Paris & London, but the common thread for both is that all meltdowns can easily be solved by ice cream, especially Magnum bars!
Have you traveled with a parent? What did you learn about the planning and/or trip that you can share with others?
** A 2-4-1 Travel Together ticket is a bonus for using the Chase British Airways credit card and spending $30k in one year. Thankfully, the award is valid for two years, since I earned that from my former job because I don’t normally spend that much on my credit card in a year. You need to then redeem Avios points for one ticket and you get one free, the only technicality for many is the taxes associated with the award.