Our London Holiday, March 31-through-April 9, 2013:
1. British Airways LAX-LHR (TODAY’S POST)
2. The Waldorf Hilton, London
3. Covent Garden Neighborhood
4. London Transport Museum
5. Day Out in London – Traditional Landmarks
6. Princess Diana Playground, Kensington Park, and Green Park/ Buckingham Palace
7. Harry Potter Connections
8. Family Remembrance and Celebration: Brookwood Cemetery and The Lion King at The Lyceum Theatre
9. Day Trip: Isle of Wight and Portsmouth, UK
10. Day Out: Greenwich, UK
11. Tower of London
12. London’s Shopping Meccas: Hamleys Toys and Harrods
Earlier this month (the last day of March actually, Easter Sunday), C, T, and I left for our annual family vacation together. We chose this year to go to London, Dublin, and Germany (the latter due to an overnight layover on the way home from Dublin). We started planning this trip sometime in late 2011 (no, I am not kidding), and we reserved our airline tickets and hotel accommodations sometime in spring 2012.
Most of our airline and hotel reservations were free of charge (aside from some fees and international taxes), all thanks to a large accrual of airline miles, hotel points, and other credit card rewards. Rather than even try to get into exactly how we earned enough airline and hotel points to enjoy the premium accommodations we did during our entire trip (because I can’t and don’t know where to begin to explain really; this is C’s hobby, though I definitely enjoy all the results that come with his airline and hotel point game-playing), I will simply refer you to this blog page for a beginners’ guide on how you, too, can potentially enjoy the same level of travel excellence (that blog is also a brilliant resource for the latest travel-based point programs and offers as well).
Upon arriving at LAX, we zoomed through the BA First check-in line being the only ones there for that desk. We then got to the back of a massive TSA security queue (or line as we here in the States call it, but I am becoming partial to queue!), but were quickly hand-picked out of that craziness (thank goodness) and personally escorted to the front by a BA staffer. I have to imagine that the first-class ticket covers such a service (she was escorting a few others along with us). While I’m not exactly sure, I don’t care; what I do know is we were extremely relieved to see that BA employee who saved us tons of time standing around with an impatient 5-year-old (not to mention we were impatiently anticipating our first-class lounge experience awaiting us upstairs!).
After passing through security within minutes, we finally headed upstairs and into the first-class side of the oneworld international lounge at Tom Bradley Terminal in LAX. While not a true BA first lounge as compared to that of Terminal 5 at London’s Heath Row airport (LHR) (oft-referred to as one of the top lounge experiences worldwide), it was just fine for our needs. Behind the frosted glass we discovered a level-up in atmosphere, food, and drink from that of our previous international business-class or domestic first-class lounge experiences. There were many ethnically diverse varieties of hot and cold appetizers, an instant espresso machine, a tea station, cheese-and-cracker platter, and full bar, the latter which offered a full range of wines and top-shelf alcohol, and a small fridge stocked with premium domestic and international beers. T also had his choice of juices, milk, or bottled waters (sodas and mixers also available).
We were the only folks in the lounge once we arrived, so we got our choice of corners to set up. Since we were traveling with T, we did our best to sequester ourselves away from what would be a busier area for both traffic or other guests should the lounge have become more crowded. We went in front of the TV since that was the loudest area we could find in the place; overall we found this lounge to be quite serene, which is somewhat challenging with an active boy in tow (thank goodness for the iPad!). The room’s longer layout also afforded us to camp ourselves more on the opposite end from the entrance and behind a partition but close enough to the food and drink areas. It worked very well for us and was an area that would easily accommodate a group of about 6-8 comfortably should you need the space.
After enjoying that elite experience, we headed down to our flight. Since we were traveling first-class, and because we had a young child in tow, we essentially were some of if not the first people to board the plane (again cutting ahead of others, sorry others!). Our aircraft was a Boeing 747-400; the First cabin on this craft is located in the nose of the plane on the bottom level (pilots are upstairs, also where some of the business class seating is located), and there are 14 First seats total arranged in a 1-2-1 staggered layout for optimal privacy.
T immediately befriended our flight attendant, which helped C and I (and all of our first-class neighbors) enjoy the next 11 hours or so that we were aboard. She was attentive, responsive, and strikingly in tune with how to best handle a young child’s needs, wants, and interests. We were never asking for much; she even joked that C and I should take the night off and let her take care of him (which in all honesty during the times he was awake, she helped tremendously). I just wish I remembered her name; whoever you were, thank you so much again!
Speaking of never asking for much, I think aside from the five or so hours we slept (and we did sleep as the BA First seat folds flat and makes into an almost single-size bed, complete with linens) we ate and drank constantly, or at least it seemed that way. The complimentary bar menu was exceptional; the three-course meals were plentiful and believe it or not damn delicious. I had duck confit for my dinner, while C had a steak. For breakfast, we had some of the freshest melon and fruit I’ve seen for this time of year (it was March remember), and the hot egg dishes were a light but filling way to kick off our day yet wrap up our flight. BA’s child’s menu in First consisted of “kiddie food” choices but with a UK twist (think sandwiches cut tea-style but with ingredients kids of all ages and most cultures would welcome). He also had a seemingly endless run of snacks, ranging from grapes to goldfish-type crackers, any time he desired.
Anyway, rather than continue to blather on about how amazing and lush the BA First experience was, I’ll just share a few more photos. Please enjoy.
If you ever find yourselves with enough BA airline miles to enjoy their First experience yourself, please do it. It’s a bucket list item that I never would have thought to put on my own bucket list, considering that international business class is pretty divine, but I am glad C afforded me the chance to experience it, even if just for this one time in my life. Though (and this still takes me aback) C said we might have enough miles accrued soon to enjoy another first-class international airline experience in as little as 1-to-2 years’ time. I don’t know how C does it, but I hope he just keeps doing it… whatever it is! Miles Magic (or Mania), I guess?!
RMT’ers, what’s a travel luxury that you or your family has experienced that you never dreamed would actually happen? How did you do it?