How I Used Points to Plan a Nerdtastic Trip to London and Wales

by joeheg

Using points to pay for travel has the potential to broaden travel options that may have otherwise been out of reach. In other words, it allows you to consider activities and experiences you might not have looked into if you had to pay for the trip yourself.

Case in point…in July of 2023, I saw a story about the stage show based on Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro and that it would be returning to London. I didn’t know about the first run, but I was going to try everything I could to make a trip to London to see it this time. My vacation time for last year was already committed, so I started to look at early 2024. The only space we had open in the calendar was in March, so I started investigating how to make the trip happen.

Since we had a cruise planned just a few weeks earlier, and our dog doesn’t like staying at camp since she’s getting older, we decided it might be best if I made this trip alone. I decided to make the trip as compact as possible and considered flying to London for a long weekend.

Then I saw news that a Stranger Things prequel stage show was opening in London. I changed my travel plans so that I could attend both shows. As I would now be on a solo trip in London for several days, I began to think of things that interest me more than Sharon. While I was making a list of things to do, a thought suddenly came to mind.

I could visit Portmeirion in Wales. For those who are not up to date on their 1960s British television shows (and why aren’t you?!?!?!), this was the location where they filmed scenes for “The Prisoner.” Ever since seeing the show and learning this was a real place, I’ve been fascinated with managing a visit. That’s when I discovered the location is on the western coast of Wales. But if you’re going to do something a bit crazy, you have to take a breath and do it.

Here’s how I planned a trip that catered to three different areas of my nerdy interests. As I was traveling alone, I made some unconventional travel choices. At times, I splurged because I only had to buy one ticket instead of the usual two, while other times, I saved money by opting for more budget-friendly options I’d typically avoid.

Flight to London on Virgin Atlantic Upper Class

I found an award seat on Virgin Atlantic from Orlando to London in Upper Class for 94,000 Air France Flying Blue points and $230. I transferred points from Capital One to make the reservation.

a plane parked at an airport

Taking the Elizabeth Line to London

I’ve written previously about how the Heathrow Express is the most expensive option to the airport and how taking the Underground on the Piccadilly line is a reasonable alternative. The downside of that is the time required to make the trip.

I used another option, which was less expensive than the Heathrow Express and quicker than the tube. The Elizabeth Line train makes the trip into central London in less than 45 minutes and only costs £12.80 (approx. $16.40).

Hotel Indigo Leicester Square

a bed with a tv and a table

On my first night in London, I decided to stay close to the theatre, so I booked a room at Hotel Indigo Leicester Square using my free night certificate from the IHG Premier card and 9,000 points. I had heard mostly positive reviews about this property and was excited to experience it.

R/T Avanti West Coast Train to Wales

a train in a station

To visit Portmeirion, I needed to get from London to Wales. I booked my train ticket with Avanti West Coast for $146 using our Citi Prestige card to use the travel credit. The closest train station was a 45-minute drive from Portmeirion, so I needed to take a taxi the rest of the way.

Portmeirion Village

a body of water with houses and trees

My room in the Portmeirion Village was the one part of the trip for which I was not able to use points to defray the cost. My two nights, including dinner and breakfasts, came to $672. I did pay with my Sapphire Reserve, so it would have been possible to use Ultimate Rewards points to cover the charge at 1 cent per point, but I’d rather save my points for more lucrative redemptions.

Kimpton Fitzroy London

a sign on a stone wall

For my last night in London, I booked a room at the Kimpton Fitzroy for $321. I matched that with a 10% back Chase Offer for IHG, which saved me $32.

Norse Atlantic Premium Class to Orlando

a plane parked at an airport

I flew with Virgin Atlantic to London and decided to try a different carrier on my way back home. Norse Atlantic is one of the newer airlines that flies to Orlando. Since there aren’t many reviews available, I took a chance and booked a Premium class ticket for $452. Additionally, I paid $155 for a seating assignment and baggage fees, which were reimbursed by our Ritz Carlton Card’s Air Travel Credit.

Final Thought

Over the course of four nights, I successfully fulfilled the requirements of three different fandoms. It was quite an adventure, as I booked stays in three different hotels and flew on two different airlines. It was an exciting and fulfilling journey (that, don’t worry, I’ll revisit here in more detail soon!), and I’m grateful for the opportunity to explore new places. I also covered a large portion of the trip costs using points, which made this trip possible.

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