The Fees of London

I’ve mentioned occasionally in the past that when using frequent flyer miles to travel abroad, you’re often better off avoiding London.  The reason for this?  Crazy-high carrier-imposed fees when using London’s airports (regardless of whether London is your destination or you’re just changing planes).  By crazy-high, I mean $200-300 is common, and $300+ happens a lot.

Pretty lame, especially because we LOVE London.  It’s a fantastic place to get started abroad.  The people speak your language (more or less), it’s easy to get around, there is an incredible amount to see, and TONS of the top museums are free for all, and many that aren’t free are at least free for kids.  We’ll be writing more about London in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled.

But back to those nasty fees.  The thing that makes those fees particularly frustrating is that they apply whether you’re on a paid ticket or an award (frequent flyer) ticket.  So you might find a great round-trip itinerary using 40,000 American AAdvantage miles this winter (that’s American’s wintertime rate, which is quite a steal!), but then you get to the payment page and notice that it’s 40,000 miles PLUS another $196.  Pick a slightly different itinerary on AA’s website, this time using British Airways flights, and YIKES, you’ve just upped your fees to a ridiculous $697.  Not joking.

How can these fees be avoided?  The easiest way is by avoiding London.  I’ve never seen taxes and fees over $250 to other airports in the UK or Europe.  But let’s face it, that’s not really what we want to hear in many cases.  London beckons.

So here are a few tricks—

  • United tends to have slightly lower fees than the others, in my experience.  $200 is normal, but I’ve never seen it much over that.
  • If you fly through Ireland on Aer Lingus, which works well if you’re in Boston or New York, your fees will be very low to non-existent on award tickets (and you can use British Airways frequent flyer miles, called Avios, to do so).
  • Play around with one-way tickets.  Since many airlines allow one-way award tickets, you might be able to save a bit by getting two one-way tickets, either with the same airline or with different ones.  Just know that if you plan to have some award tickets and some paid tickets, mixed airlines can be disastrously expensive.
  • Lastly, while these London high fees may not go away (ever), there was recently some upbeat news on the topic, particularly for family flyers!  The taxes and fees I mentioned above are composed of several chunks, some of which are taxes, some of which are fees.  One of those buckets is the “U.K. Air Passenger Duty,” or APD, and for transatlantic flights from the UK, that duty is about $100 per person.  The good news is that the APD is being eliminated for kids under 12 beginning in May 2015!  And in 2016, that exemption extends to kids up to age 16.  WAHOO!  Good news for family travelers to London!  Read more about this change here and here.

So don’t skip London.  Just be informed and find ways to save, even when using frequent flyer miles to get there.

And mind the gap!

Fly the Family for Free – eBook now available!

Have you ever wondered if your family could travel the world like the Wheelwrights?  Do you want to travel abroad with your family, but the price of airline tickets has you down?

Jump into the world of frequent flyer miles and learn how you can take your family abroad without spending thousands of dollars on airfare!

This detailed eBook will walk you through the world of frequent flyer miles. You’ll learn the basics of frequent flyer programs, a handful of ways for infrequent flyers to earn miles, and tips to guide you through the process of redeeming miles for free flights. Read more

Chase Ink Plus and the beauty of Chase Ultimate Rewards

There are a lot of great credit cards out there—several will earn you and your family flights across the ocean to see far-off places.  Most of the cards I recommend are “consumer” credit cards, but when I see a small business card with an offer that is too good to pass up, I need to share it.  That’s where today’s post comes in.

Chase Ink Plus is a great card.  The sign-up bonus is historically around 50,000 points after spending $5,000 in three months.  Right now that bonus is up at 70,000 if you use the link below.  That’s more than enough to get at least one member of the family to Europe and back! Read more


Finding cheap flights

My friends and family know that I’m into travel.  They also know that I like to save money.  So a question I regularly get is how to find cheap airline tickets.

My first recommendation is to save up points and miles to fly for free, but let’s face it, unless you’ve planned far in advance, that may not be a possibility for an upcoming trip.

So what about when you have to buy airline tickets?  Which website to use?  When to buy?  How to save? Read more

SPG Bonus with Beach

A card to get you going – Starwood Preferred Guest American Express

Note: The limited time offer on the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express ended on 6/30.  The standard offer is still available, and to be honest, it’s a good deal–you’ll just end up with the 25K bonus offer instead of  30K.  Let me know if you’d like a personalized referral link (looks like I may still get a benefit from doing so–plus good karma for you!).

You’re probably starting to see what you can do with responsible credit card usage.  You realize that you actually CAN afford a trip for your family if you play your cards well (yep, pun intended).  It really is true–we’ve taken our kids to Hawaii, Portugal, and France with the points and miles we’ve earned with credit cards and frequent flyer miles.  And we’ve helped friends and extended family plan similar trips abroad.  We want to help you do the same!

Great!  But which card? Read more