Feb082015

Honeymoon redux London and Ireland Trip Report November 2014

This post contains a series of 28 articles related to our trip to London and my week in Ireland in November 2014. My ticket was SFO-London-Dublin with British Airways and included RyanAir from Dublin back to London Gatwick. My wife Kelley flew American Airlines from SFO to London Heathrow. I stayed two nights in Athlone, Ireland before flying to London for seven nights and then back to Dublin for four nights.

Planning Phase

These articles relate to buying an airline ticket in October during a low fare sale from San Francisco to Dublin, Ireland when tickets were around $500. Once a great airfare is detected, the clock ticks with little knowledge of how long the deal will last. Deciding to spend $2,000 for a trip to Europe is one of the thrills and headaches of travel. And $2,000 is an economy budget week for London.

Kelley had an $800 American Airlines voucher and her ticket was $835 for San Francisco to London. I took advantage of the low Ireland airfare to stay in Ireland a couple of nights before Kelley arrived in London during Thanksgiving week and I stayed four nights in Dublin after a week in London.

The articles below cover the planning period of our trip from the day the low airfares to Dublin were published to my ticket purchase and hotel planning. I bought tickets about five weeks before travel.

One of my primary objectives with hotels in London and Ireland was earning two free nights from IHG Into the Nights promotion by staying in an IHG brand in two different countries outside the USA. The other main objective was taking advantage of the Club Carlson Visa card member benefit of one free night on stays of two nights or more in London. I booked three 2-night stays in London at The Mayfair, Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury Street and Radisson Edwardian Mercer Street. I also used Club Carlson’s 2-for-1 weekend rate for two Radisson Blu hotels in Ireland.

SFO-DUB under $500, SFO-Europe under $750 (Oct 14, 2014)

Finding Dublin Deep in the Heart of Taxes (Oct 16, 2014)

London hotel rates and competitive set hotel pricing (Oct 19, 2014)

Comparing hotel reward value in London among different hotel programs (Oct 20, 2014)

London with Club Carlson points and Club Carlson credit card (Oct 20, 2014)

Geography for 18 Club Carlson hotels in London (Oct 21, 2014)

Club Carlson London hotels TripAdvisor rankings (Oct 22, 2014)

Club Carlson Gold elite 2-for-1 rates scarce availability in London and Dublin (Nov 3, 2014)

Where the hell is Athlone, Ireland and why am I planning to go there? (Nov 12, 2014)

Trip Report

Ireland

British Airways LAX-LHR A380-800 in World Traveller Class (Nov 21, 2014)

A day in Athlone, Ireland (Nov 22, 2014)

Irish dancers at Radisson Blu Athlone, Ireland (Nov 23, 2014). Hotel review and this article includes a visit to Sean’s Pub, Ireland’s oldest pub according to Guinness World Records.

Estate Life at Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Dublin (Dec 13, 2014) Hotel Review.

Dublin footsteps of Bono, Michael Collins and Oliver Hardy (Dec 1, 2014) A day hike from Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Hotel in south Dublin along the coast to Dalkey, Ireland.

James Joyce slept here and Ulysses begins here in Sandycove, County Dublin (Dec 2, 2014) Part 2 of coast walk.

Bray to Greystones Cliff Walk in County Wicklow Ireland (Dec 2, 2014) One of Ireland’s most popular coast walks.

Bono and Enya’s neighborhood Killiney, County Dublin (Dec 14, 2014) Photos of the coastal village of Killiney, the so-called Beverly Hills of Ireland.

 

London

Holiday Inn London Gatwick for IHG Into the Nights (Nov 24, 2014)

Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer Street London convenient for LHR arrival and departure (Nov 25, 2014). Hotel review.

Live Well for Less at The May Fair London (Nov 26, 2014) Grocery shopping in London.

Ritzy enough for The May Fair London (Dec 4, 2014) Hotel review.

Radisson Blu Bloomsbury Street London location by British Museum (Dec 6, 2014) Hotel review.

My Square Foot London Edition (Nov 27, 2014) Descriptions of small rooms in London hotels with focus on Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury Street.

Gatwick to Heathrow in 3 hours for £8.10 with Oyster card (Nov 30, 2014)

London Gatwick Airport ATM Bad Exchange Rates (Dec 12, 2014)

London touring

Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain for the public Hyde Park London (Dec 7, 2014)

St. Paul’s Cathedral London on Paddington Trail (Dec 11, 2014)

Can London teach America art tourism? (Dec 16, 2014) Piece about public art displays in London with London buses and Paddington Bear temproary exhibits.

Honeymoon Redux London: Our 25th Anniversary Reunion in London 1989-2014

Can it be a reunion when there are only two attendees? I think that is what marriage is about in the long run. You and me.

Kelley and I honeymooned in London in 1989. Watching National Lampoon’s European Vacation movie a few days ago reminded me of the big VCR camera bag I lugged to London with seven other pieces of luggage.

Unlike Clark Griswold’s (Chevy Chase) videography of Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) in a pre-trip bathroom scene that ends up on video sales racks in Italy, the  “Penguin Parade of Edinburgh Zoo’ is our European Vacation footage seen by thousands of children over the last 25 years. Animal behavior, like music, is something of universal interest.

Our introduction to London in 1989 was arriving by bus from London Gatwick Airport at Victoria Station to step outside and have the taxi in line refuse to drive us from Victoria Station to our St. James’ Court hotel about three blocks away. He pointed us in the direction and said ‘walk this way’. He might have learned some of his English from Aerosmith songs.

London was having an Easter weekend record heat wave in 1989. We walked that way through central London with Kelley and I carrying luggage and pulling large and heavy 32” suitcases on tiny metallic wheels clicking along hundreds of meters of sidewalk. Jetlagged on our first trip to Europe together, her first time ever to London and my first time back in London since I was a young teenager in 1974, we quickly overheated as we walked wearing our winter coats in a city approaching 70F on the last weekend in March 1989.

Taj 51

Taj 51 London is a luxury hotel near Buckingham Palace and the place we stayed in 1989 when hotel was St. James’ Court.

Remember – Look right before crossing the street in London. Yeah, we almost ended up in hospital one or two times on our honeymoon.

St. James’ Court on Buckingham Gate Road a few hundred meters from Buckingham Palace was not a Taj Hotel in 1989. I booked a 2-for-1 rate using the Entertainment Book London 50% off coupon. We had a good deal around $80 per night and we stayed in both the regular hotel and a residential unit with kitchen during our week in London. The initial plan for our honeymoon was to spend a week in Torquay, but the London heat wave drove us north to Edinburgh where there was rain and snow and the kind of weather we had packed clothing for in our several suitcases each of luggage.

We bought San Francisco to London tickets on Pan Am about six weeks after the bombing that downed flight Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 1988 enroute from London Heathrow to New York JFK, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members on board.

The deal was fly Pan Am from the USA to London and get a free ticket for anywhere in North America and Caribbean. We honeymooned again in the US Virgin Islands later that year with our free Pan Am flights.

We did not go to Europe together again for another eight years as we went back to university for teacher credentials and worked on our careers. Then in 1999 we started working on earning miles and hotel points and went from infrequent flyers to high elite flyers zipping around the globe.

Our 25th anniversary reunion in London was fantastic. We each had only two carry-on bags. The hotel stays we paid for earned an equivalent amount of points and free nights credit to cover their cost in Ireland and London. Six nights in London at Club Carlson hotels had published room rates over $2,000. We paid 170,000 Club Carlson points instead. Those points probably took about $400 in hotel spend to earn back in 2011 and 2012 when Club Carlson was giving 44,000 and 50,000 bonus points for one-night stays at their different hotel brands.

The main difference between our trips in 1989 and 2014 was my ability to spend relatively little time planning London and Dublin details. Loyalty programs provide a rebate on hotel spend that ultimately exceeds the value of most other bargain rates available for one week of lodging in London. Past stays at Club Carlson hotels earning points paid for six nights in London.

And a digital camera certainly reduced the expense of hundreds of dollars in film purchase and development to find mostly out of focus prints from our 1989 honeymoon. The technology of the digital social media age is this traveler’s beloved tool.

Tower of London

Tower of London on the final day disassembling the Remembrance Day poppy exhibit from the moat.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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