Every year I bring my family on several trips, and often most of the trips happen during summer. Since my brother is moving to London later this year, my family and I decided to go on a 14-day trip around England. This proved quite a bit of a challenge for me as I have to plan a 14-days itinerary for 5 people.
- Trip Planning – The English Family Trip
- Hainan Airline B737-800 Economy Class Shenzhen to Chongqing Review
- JW Mariott Chongqing Review
- Chongqing Airport International First/Business Class Lounge Review
- Finnair A330-300 Business Class Chongqing to Helsinki Review
- Finnair International Business Class Lounge (gate 50) Helsinki Vantaa Review
- British Airways A320 Economy Class (Eurotraveller) Helsinki to London Heathrow Review
- The Westbury Mayfair Review
- Townhall Hotel & Apartments Review
- British Airways E190 Economy Class (BA Cityflyer) London City to Manchester Review
- AC Hotel by Mariott Manchester Salford Quays Review
- Aloft Liverpool Review
- British Airways Business Class (Club World) London Heathrow to Shanghai Pudong Review
- China United Airlines B737-800 Economy Class Shanghai Pudong to Beijing Nanyuan Review
- Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Beijing Capital to Hong Kong Review
Building an itinerary
The largest cost in this trip will be the transcontinental flights to England. Finnair was running a fare campaign for flights From China to celebrate their 30th year flying to China. The best business class fares are those departing from Chongqing. So I booked the following itinerary for 13300CNY (1900USD) per adult departing Chongqing to London via Helsinki.
Chongqing to Helsinki and return Finnair A330-300 Business class
Helsinki to London Heathrow and return British Airways A320 Economy Class
It is not the best fare we have seen before, but nonetheless much cheaper than departing Hong Kong, where Cathay Business class costs easily triple the money I paid for Finnair. For these flights, I credited them to Alaska and earning about 23000 redeemable miles (25% class of service bonus for business class leg and 100% elite bonus miles). According to mileage valuation from The Points Guy, these miles are worth about 414USD (2800CNY). My mother chose to credit the flights to Asia Miles, which yielded 13000 redeemable miles and 140 club points. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan has great redemption value on Cathay Pacific flights, as explained by Chris T (hktravelblog) in this article.
Since our Finnair flights are departing from Chongqing, we have to position ourselves for the flights. We decided to depart from Shenzhen instead of Hong Kong since it is much cheaper. We selected a Hainan Airlines flight departing in the evening, which cost us 1400CNY (210USD) for a one-way business class ticket and 850CNY (130USD) for an economy class ticket. I booked my family in business while myself in economy, as I wanted to review Hainan’s 737 economy class.
We decided to visit London, Manchester, Liverpool and Bristol during this trip. From London to Manchester, there is a once-weekly flight from London City Airport every Thursday evening served by an Embraer ERJ-190. I quickly did some research and found this flight is to position the E-190 to Manchester in order to operate British Airways’ weekend flights out of Manchester to leisure destinations. I have not flown an E-190 before, so I quickly booked these seats for 65GBP (fare including checked bags) per adult for our one-way London City to Manchester flight.
We took the trains for the rest of our time in England since no flights are available between Manchester, Liverpool and Bristol.
On the return journey, I have to go to Beijing for a meeting, so I booked a morning flight in Business class from Chongqing to Beijing on Hainan’s 787. I was hoping to get on one of their new 787s with reverse herringbone seats. However, I never get on this flight as had to reroute my return flights due to a delay in Heathrow.
I flew Cathay Dragon’s A330-300 Business Class on my flight to Hong Kong. I booked a Beijing to Singapore itinerary with a stopover in Hong Kong. Since my journey to Singapore and beyond is for a separate trip, this flight is where I end this trip.
Unexpected flight delays
On my return flights to Chongqing, the first flight from London to Helsinki was delayed by over an hour. We were forced to reroute as we will miss our connection in Helsinki. The rerouting experience will be covered in a separate instalment. The rerouting resulted in me taking a direct British Airways flight to Shanghai Pudong and finding my own connection to Beijing. I refunded my Chongqing to Beijing flight for a small fee as well.
Looking at the options out of Shanghai Pudong to Beijing, I booked a cheap basic economy ticket with China United Airlines two hours after my arrival time in Shanghai. China United Airlines is a budget airline that serves Beijing Nanyuan airport instead of Beijing Capital. Nanyuan Airport is the secondary airport of Beijing and only served by China United Airlines. The airport is not convenient to travel to although its closer to the city, due to the lack of public transport. I prebooked a taxi to pick me up at Nanyuan after my flight.
My family had a significant upgrade due to the rerouting, as BA was able to place them on Cathay Pacific Business Class directly back to Hong Kong. They arrived in Hong Kong even earlier than their initial arrival time if transferring via Helsinki and Chongqing.
Despite the initial delay, we were able to save more than 1000USD in total from the rerouting as we were able to refund our flights from Chongqing to Hong Kong/Beijing. That is a rare occasion where flight delays can have benefits.
For the hotels, I booked several Starwood and Marriot properties. Travelling in groups booking multiple rooms are a great way to rack up elite nights in the SPG programme as they award elite night credits on top of points for up to three rooms. This trip is my last chance to utilize this unique benefit of the SPG programme as this perk will be gone when SPG and Marriott Rewards merge after August 18th.
First up is our quick overnight in Chongqing in order to position for the Finnair flights. We stayed in the JW Marriott hotel Chongqing in Jiefangbei district in the city centre. I redeemed my free night certificate from last year’s Marriott Q4 Megabonus promotion for the one night stay.
I decided to stay at The Westbury Mayfair and the Townhall Hotel and Suites in London. The Westbury Mayfair is a Luxury Collection Hotel, which is one of the highest end brands under Starwood. The hotel is offering luxury privilege rate of 294GBP per night per room. This is excellent value considering the benefits of luxury privilege rate as well as the prime location of this hotel. Luxury privilege rate offers the following perks:
- Complimentary 4th or 3rd night, depending on each hotel, blackout dates may apply.
- USD 100 Food & Beverage credit per room per stay
- Daily Breakfast for two guests
- Complimentary standard in-room internet access
- Upgrade on arrival, early check-in, and late check-out, which are all subject to availability
Luxury privilege bookings have to be made with a travel agent and can’t be made online. If you would like to inquire about luxury privileges bookings, you may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Townhall Hotel and Suites offered substantial more space in their rooms as all of their rooms are suites. It costs a modest 197GBP per night per room during my three-night stay.
In Manchester, there are no Starwood hotels. Instead, we went to stay at the AC Hotel Manchester Salford Quays for two nights. The nightly rate is very good at 70GBP per night per room. I was keen to try out the AC brand so this is a perfect opportunity.
In Liverpool, we went back for Starwood and stayed three nights in the Aloft Liverpool. The rates are fair at 120GBP per room per night with breakfast included for all. Aloft is designed to be a brand resembling the W hotels but not as luxurious, so I was keen to see the differences and what it has to offer.
In Bristol, we stayed at the Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel for two nights. The price was at an excruciatingly high rate of 150GBP per room per night (the price a week before our dates are 80GBP). I had a horrible experience at this hotel, and I did not manage to get enough photos so I will not be reviewing them this time.
The most difficult part of planning a family trip is how little flexibility you get. Everything has to be planned a long way and most changes are not welcomed as you have a group that is travelling with you.
That being said, my family and I had a wonderful time in the UK and tried out many different hotels and airline products along the way. I enjoyed the rare family time I was able to get and I would like to share more about the trip in the upcoming instalments.