Visting England with a Stopover in Helsinki

I’ve officially been back home for a week and I’m already getting some serious wanderlust while I write this post. I think I left my heart in England. This was our third trip over to the U.K. and each time I’m convinced that one day, I will live in one of the tiny villages outside of London. One can dream, right?

Last summer I shared all about my favorite destinations in my London travel guide so today is more of a travel diary. A peek at our travels and a few tips about how we travel so often. But before I jump into the details, I wanted to share the breakdown of the points (since so many of you asked about it on my Instagram story).

Jumping into the airline mile game started a few years ago when Kevin and I realized we were both working like crazy and not taking vacations. So when a career change came up, we decided we were going to make travel a priority for us. We would spend less on little things we don’t need and save for big trips—and play the airline mile game. He started reading tons of blogs about miles and travel and we signed up for a couple credit cards that gave big signup bonuses and put all of our daily purchases on these credit cards, which we paid off each month.

The main card I put all my Sarah Hearts purchases on is my American Express Gold card which now offers 50,000 rewards points when you signup. AmEx points are great because they can be transferred to multiple airlines!

When it comes to hotels, you can also play the points game. The Marriott Rewards Visa card now offers 80,000 bonus when you spend $3,000 on the card in the first three months. So if you’re planning on buying a new computer or some other big home purchases this year, it’s any easy way to earn those points!

LAX -> JFK -> LHR

We took a layover flight from LAX to JFK and spent the day in NYC visiting friends and visiting my two must visit places—Fishs Eddy and Cha Cha Matcha. Then we took an unintended 2-hour Lyft ride back to the airport and jumped on another red eye flight from JFK to London Heathrow.

I almost always get a cold or feel like I’m terribly hungover (even when I don’t have a single drink) after a red eye flight but I overcame the sickness of 2 red eye flights thanks to flying in business class. Hellooooo lay flat seats. Boy are they a game changer!

London -> Market Harborough

We arrived in London in the morning and took the underground and then a train to our friends town of Market Harborough. They live in a little village outside the town called Foxton. It’s full of charming homes of all sizes, rolling green hills dotted with lots of sheep and horse farms. And now you know why I love it so much! We caught up with our friends, played with their adorable kids, and drank gin and tonics. We also got our fix on our two favorite things: for Kevin it’s crumpets and for me it’s Belvoir soda.

Back to London

After spending time with our friends in the country, we went back to London to spend a couple days in the city. This time we stayed at The Hoxton in Holborn (they have a second location in Shoreditch). This hotel felt very Williamburg-ish, which I just noticed they have a hotel opening there soon, and while the rooms were tiny, they had all the creature comforts you’d like including a fridge. We popped into Waitrose (my favorite UK grocery store because they sell pre-bottled Bloom gin and tonics which is my all-time-favorite gin) and picked up some charcuteries and had that for dinner a couple of nights. It’s a traveling tradition of ours because it’s our favorite meal and saves a couple bucks. And after a long day exploring a city it’s nice to just have a lighter dinner in the comfort of your own room—or hotel bed!

We met up with the  lovely Terri and her husband for breakfast at the delicious Farm Girl Cafe, in West London. We stuffed our faces the entire trip but a few standouts are dinner at Dishoom. It was recommended to me by a few readers as the best Indian food in the city and I can’t believe we hadn’t eaten there before. Now it’s going to be a must-go every time we’re in London.

After almost going the past 2 visits, we made it a point to visit Sketch for afternoon tea after seeing all the photos of the iconic egg toilets. I mean, nothing sells a restaurant like a unique bathroom right? But futuristic toilets aside, the tea as delicious and just so fun. It’s a splurge but if tea is your thing, it’s not to be missed. Just make sure you book a reservation in advance and get there early if you want photos before it’s packed.

A Day in Cambridge

One of my favorite things about blogging is that I’ve made so many friends around the world. So many “internet friends” have become some of my closest and dearest friends. So we traveled to Cambridge for the day to meet up with Claire and her Mr. Unfortunately it was a super rainy day so we didn’t go punting or on a bike ride but that just means we will have to visit again.

We had breakfast at the pretty Tamburlaine Hotel in Cambridge. And even the bathrooms are gorgeous! They also serve afternoon tea in a pretty, light filled room with gorgeous details.

Stonehenge -> Bournemouth Beach

After visiting Cambridge we rent a car the next day and drove an hour and half west of London to see Stonehenge. While we usually skip popular tourist attractions when we travel, visiting Stonehenge was on our bucket list. And since this was our third visit to England, we decided to make it happen. After constantly saying, “Keep left, keep left!” we made it to Stonehenge and couldn’t have asked for better weather. The sun was bright and although super crowded, it didn’t detract from the wonder of seeing the ancient statues.

From there we drove an hour or so south to the beach town of Bournemouth. While this detour was mostly because I had a tattoo appointment booked with the lovely and super talented Amy Billing the next day we hadn’t seen the English coast before and it worked perfectly with our schedule.

We stayed at The Green House Hotel in Bournemouth and before my appointment we rented bikes and rode along the beach. I was so happy to see they had the same Electra bike as mine, just with fewer gears, so it made riding along the coast super fun. That night we drove back to London and stayed close to the airport so we could catch our flight the next day.

LHR -> HEL

When you’re traveling on points, you don’t pay for the airfare but you still have to pay for the taxes. And flying out of London Heathrow was going to be around $500/person just in taxes. We decided to take the long route home and save a few hundred dollars while being able to explore a new city. Our “detour” led us to Helsinki for the night. We did have to pay cash for the flight from London to Helsinki (which had a layover in Copenhagen) but then we flew Finnair from Helsinki to NYC and the American Airlines from NYC back home to L.A. all on business class on points.

While our time in Helsinki was super brief, it was lovely. I now want to do a Scandinavian “tour” of sorts and visit all the major Scandinavian cities including spending more time in Helsinki. Oh and I definitely want to fly Finnair again! OMG, that photo above was the appetizer that was served on our flight! Yes, fresh crayfish that you cracked and shelled and ate on toast with fresh dill. Served with a shot of Finnish schnapps. Definitely not peanuts and pretzels—a girl can get used to this!

What travel questions do you have?

Thanks for reading my travel post and I’ll be sharing more details about traveling on points and other travel tips in the near future. In the meantime, please leave a comment with your travel and points related questions below!

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