Ramon is the creator of Travelling Companion. He focuses on flight review, hotel reviews, and helping stretch your travel dollars, miles, and points further.
Trip Overview: European Adventures 2018
Flight Review: American Airlines A330-300 Economy CLT-LHR
Hotel Review: London Marriott Regent's Park
Food in London
Flight Review: British Airways A319 Economy LGW-BCN
Hotel Review: AC Hotel Irla Barcelona
Train Review: Renfe Clase Turista Barcelona-Valencia
Exploring Life in Valencia
Exploring Life in Barcelona
Flight Review: American Airlines 777-200 Economy BCN-JFK
Flight Review: American Airlines A321T Business Class Seats JFK-DCA
Christina and I headed to Europe for our longest and furthest trip together yet, a 9 day vacation in February. This was my first trip ever to Europe and Christina's first trip to the United Kingdom and Spain. Our plan was to spend three days and two nights in London which would give us a chance to see some of the tourist sights and visit friends in the city. We then planned to spend five days and five nights in Barcelona with a day trip to Valencia to see Christina's cousin. We booked this trip back in July so our excitement was building for months. I was especially looking forward to checking out La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona which I remember studying as a child, but it was even more stunning than I imagined and I would recommend anyone visiting Barcelona to get a ticket in advance for a tour.
Booking Flights and Train
I was able to find a deal for two tickets departing out of Washington National (DCA) to London Heathrow (LHR) through Charlotte (CLT) and returning from Barcelona (BCN) to DCA through New York John F. Kennedy (JFK). These tickets cost about $616 each a great fare for a full-service carrier to Europe and it even allowed us to begin an international trip at our home airport DCA. This fare was part of a trend of fare sales to Europe in 2017.
Full service carriers such as American Airlines lowered their transatlantic fares in order to compete with low-cost carriers such as WOW, Norweigan, Icelandair, and AerLingus. The competition is making transatlantic travel accessible to more people. The down side is that the unbundling of airfare form ancillary charges such as baggage fees, meals, and seat selection can result in higher overall prices. American Airlines announced this month that they will be introducing their own version of a "basic economy" fare on some flights to Europe starting in April. When booking your ticket on any airline, take into account these additional fees because the airfare is only one aspect of the cost. American Airlines did not offer basic economy on this route so we did not have to worry about any of these fees.
After booking our tickets to London and our return from Barcelona we looked at our options to get from London to Barcelona. The route had a choice of Ryan Air, Norwegian, EasyJet, Vueling and "full-service" carrier British Airways. Because British Airways and American Airlines are both part of the One World Alliance, we chose British Airways so that we could get free seat selection in advance and earn miles. We paid 52 pounds each (about $66 at the time) for the one-way tickets which included one piece of checked luggage each. British Airways also offers cheaper tickets which include carry-on luggage only. We needed to check luggage, so the more expensive fare made the most sense. In total we earned 9168 Elite Qualify Miles, 570 Elite Qualifying Dollars, and 3,984 Award Miles for all of the flights. Below is a map of our final routing.
Finally, we booked our train tickets on Renfe from Barcelona to Valencia using Loco2. I tried to book the fare directly on Renfe's site and found the website difficult to navigate . After spending a long time navigating and numerous unsuccessful attempts to pay, I booked the tickets via Loco2. I recommend that you save yourself the hassle and use Loco2. Renfe offered two classes on our train to Valencia Clase Turista (Economy Class) and Clase Prefente (First Class) which cost nearly double Clase Turista. We booked two tickets in Clase Turista for 33 euros each (about $38 at the time).
In total we needed seven nights rooms, two in London and five in Barcelona. We only looked at Marriott hotels since Christina needed nine more nights for the fast track to Marriott Gold status promotion. London has numerous Marriott hotels but the city is also notorious for high hotel prices. The prices were high during our stay even though it was the off season. In order to save money, we ended up booking a pre-paid hotel reservation at the London Marriott Regent's Park at a cost of 228 pounds (about $302 at booking) for two nights.
We planned to stay at an AC Hotel in Barcelona, as I mentioned during my review of the AC Hotel New Orleans. Originally, we planned to stay at the AC Hotel Barcelona Forum but we ended up changing our reservation to the AC Hotel Irla. I will detail why it was a decision we would later regret.
During this trip report I plan to review four flights, two hotels, and for the first time a train.This trip report will also include my first time ever in a lie-flat seat (though it was for only about one hour). Christina will also be joining Travelling Companion and blogging about our experience with food in our destinations. We plan to post reviews over the next two month so please subscribe by clicking the subscribe button at the top of the blog so that you can see our latest post. Hope you enjoy coming along on our adventures!