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Highlights from London

raising tower bridge

In continuing our tour of Europe, today we’ll be visiting London, one of the most expensive cities on the planet. Even if you don’t normally try to collect points and miles, I would consider them if a trip to England is on your bucket list. The exchange rate is not on the side of the US dollar! Here are some highlights from London. Getting Around London After taking the train from Edinburgh, we arrived at St. Pancras, which is right beside King’s Cross station where you catch the underground or “tube” as the locals call it. The tube is one of the few cheap things in London. If you’ll be using the underground more than once, the easiest way to pay is with an Oyster card that you scan before and after each ride. We ordered cards ahead of our trip, but they would have been easy to buy at the station. I put £15 on cards for Jim and myself, which covered us for four days in London. Kids under 11 ride free, making the tube tons cheaper than taking a taxi. Plaza on the River Up to this point, our hotels had been functional but very cramped and without ...

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Book Amtrak With Points Before It’s Too Late!

redeem points for train trips

  Even though we just took a vacation, that doesn’t mean it’s too soon to begin planning the next trip. We have a couple of things already booked later in the year, including an all inclusive stay in Mexico, but when I heard that the Amtrak reward chart was about to be upended, I decided to book a train trip with points before it’s too late. Why Take the Train? For years, Jim has wanted to travel across the US on a train. I have not been as enthusiastic. While Amtrak travel is relatively cheap, and I thoroughly enjoyed our rail trip from Seattle to Portland a few years ago, spending 30+ hours on a train is a different story. I agreed but only if we could book a sleeper car. This was before we knew about points and miles, and I soon discovered that sleeper cars are not cheap. Our plans went on hold. After getting really into credit card churning and learning about all the various ways to use travel loyalty programs for trips, I discovered a way to make the train dream happen. You see, the Amtrak reward chart currently divides the US into three zones. That ...

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Edinburgh, St. Andrews, and the British Open

Edinburgh castle

Last Friday, I wrote about getting to Europe and visiting Dublin. Today, we’ll be visiting Edinburgh, St. Andrews, and the British Open; especially special this year because it was held at the the birthplace of golf, of which I was reminded multiple times by my golf loving husband. Getting to the Royal Mile After a quick 24 hours in Ireland, we hopped on a plane to Scotland. I wasn’t excited about flying again so soon, but it was the quickest and most cost effective way to get over the Irish Sea. Buying three tickets well in advance was only $184. The flight was uneventful and we were at the Edinburgh airport before noon. The airport is about 30 minutes from the city, but there is excellent bus service. The Airlink 100 stop is right outside of domestic arrivals and offers express service to Waverely Bridge, which is the train station for Edinburgh. At £4.50 per adult and £2.00 per child, the cost is much cheaper than taking a taxi. From Waverely, the Royal Mile is a short, although uphill, walk of about 10 minutes. We booked the Holiday Inn Express Royal Mile for two nights, spending 70,000 IHG points. For having the ...

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Family Trip to Europe: Visiting Dublin and Kicking Jet Lag

Christ Church Cathedral

For the next several Friday’s I’ll be sharing stories and reviews from our family trip to Europe. Hopefully, if you’ve ever wanted to go, you can learn what to do and not to do from some of our wins and mistakes. Today, I’ll talk about getting to Europe, visiting Dublin, and how to help kids (and parents) overcome jet lag.  Before this trip, the only time I’ve ever been to Europe was a week long trip to Italy years ago. In fact, after booking that trip, we found out I was pregnant. I got to do Italy at six months along and no, I did not sample any wine! It was a great trip, but I swore that if we ever went somewhere far away again, I would take more time to acclimate. Back then, we always booked the cheapest flights, regardless of connections or time of day. That meant going from my parents house near Nashville to Atlanta, then across the pond to Paris and on to Rome. We missed our connection in Paris and had to spend four hours in the airport. By the time we arrived, we didn’t know if we were coming or going. It was ...

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Back in the US!

Big Ben tower in London

  If all goes well, by the end of the day, my family will be back at home in Colorado. After 21 days, seven countries, and eight times of having to pay to use the bathroom, I’m really glad to be back in the US. I wrote this mini-post early yesterday in the dark from our hotel room in New York. It seems like I should have been up hours ago, although it’s still very early. Gotta love jet lag! Because I can’t yet hold a coherent thought, I’ll share a few pictures from our trip and hopefully be back to normal next week. Most Exciting Moment I would love to say the most exciting moment during our vacation was watching Tom Watson play his last British open or seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night, but honestly, it was finding out the night before we were supposed to leave Europe that our early morning flight had been cancelled. After almost four hours of phone calls and speaking to agents at the airport, we did make it home. It ended up working in our favor because the original flight left Amsterdam, connecting through Vienna, before going to NYC. Instead, we ...

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