Saturday, 22 December 2018

Cheap London breaks

Brexit or no Brexit - London is a great place to visit. With my newly acquired Avios (Qatar airways flights credited to my BA accounts) I thought it would be nice to book a summer weekend trip to London. Now I don't fancy 2 star hotels in Earl's Court anymore. But as the more upmarket places can be outrageously expensive, I started looking for a less touristy area, and found it in Canary Wharf.

The Marriott West India Quay (to be called Marriott Canary Wharf from 2019) seems to be an excellent hotel. During weekdays, it is priced at business rates. But weekend rates are bargains for a 5 star London property. Off-peak (January) rates start at just over a hundred pounds. But my 2 nights stay in August including breakfast would only cost 254 GBP, and when booking a generous 12% cashback rate was offered at Topcashback.

Now Canary Wharf is very conveniently located near London City Airport. Most people searching low cost flights will end up in Stansted, Luton and the likes, but these airports from hell need not always be the cheapest option. Factor in considerable cost (and time) for public transport, both in your home country and especially in London. From the Netherlands, there are a few airlines offering flights to London City Airport, notably British Airways and Flybe.

I tend to combine singles if it's convenient, so in case of my January London trip one leg is with BA from Rotterdam and the other is with Flybe from London City to Amsterdam. For my summer trip, I decided to use my Avios, but only for one leg: the more expensive one from London City to Rotterdam. The cash rate for the Rotterdam - London City leg made using Avios a waste of points.

What is more, if you fancy planning last minute trips, cash fares on business routes such as Rotterdam - London City will probably be prohibitively expensive. You might stand a chance getting an award flight for 4,000 or 4,500 Avios plus 22 euros in taxes instead. If you make the comparison, you can imagine that it might be worthwhile stacking up a few Avios in some Groupon deal just in case.

The good folks at regularly notify their readers of such deals, especially in Spain. You need to make preparations such as timely opening an Iberia Avios account and a BA one too, and do quite some administration to get it sorted out - don't expect to do this and fly a week after. It might take some months to prepare. The faster way would be to buy Avios directly from BA, but wait until they are on offer, otherwise you'll pay an offensively high amount for them.

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