By Casey Ayers | Contributor
Seeing the Jaguars play at Wembley Stadium in London is an experience unlike anything else in football. Global fans of the NFL and a barrage of locals smitten with the novelty of this American form of “football” converge on London from across the globe for a game the NFL treats like a miniature Super Bowl, complete with a massive tailgate and a pre-game musical and pyrotechnic show.
Once the game begins, the experience at Wembley is perfectly familiar to the traveling American fan, but decidedly foreign to most of the London crowd. The grasp of seemingly basic concepts like when to cheer varies greatly from row to row, and the crowd is more liable to turn in favor of whichever team made the last big play than on the closely-protected turf of EverBank Field.
Getting to London, of course, is the real trick, but there are far smarter ways to cross the Atlantic than paying $1,000 or more for a ticket.
At PointsAway.com, I show people how to save thousands on their dream trips by using frequent flier programs. Using airline miles can save you a bundle on travel to London, and you’d be surprised how easy they are to earn without ever setting foot on a plane.
There are a multitude of ways to earn frequent flier miles on the ground. American Airlines, for example, offers a number of credit cards through its partnership with Citigroup Inc. These regularly come with bonuses ranging from 40,000 to a staggering 100,000 miles just for being approved and meeting a minimum level of spending over your first few months with the card.
Many major frequent flier programs offer award tickets to Europe, but American offers one of the best values at just 20,000 miles each way from anywhere in North America to Europe from Oct. 15 to May 15.
This year, the Jaguars play the Dallas Cowboys in early November, comfortably inside this off-peak date range. That means the sign-up bonus alone from one AA-branded card could cover your round-trip, and you can keep earning miles on everyday spending thereafter.
Even if you’re not in the market for a new credit card, there are still plenty of ways to earn miles on the ground. Most airlines, including American, operate online shopping portals that pay out big bonuses when making purchases from merchants such as Kohls, Best Buy, Target, Nike and even Apple.
Programs like AAdvantage Dining pay bonus miles just for eating or drinking at many restaurants and bars. Local favorites like Jaxon Social, O’Brothers and Mossfire Grill participate in the program, as do some national names like Denny’s.
You can earn miles in just a few clicks with these shopping and dining programs without the need for any particular debit or credit card.
If you’d rather pay your way to London, you can still save a bundle by flying out of Fort Lauderdale with Norwegian Air, which offers nonstop service from Fort Lauderdale to London’s Gatwick airport on its new 787 Dreamliners at prices well below what legacy carriers charge.
For as little as $300 each way, these prices make the road trip worth it. Alternatively, you could catch a cheap flight with Southwest or JetBlue from Jacksonville to Fort Lauderdale to start your trip. One word of warning, Norwegian Air charges for bags, seat assignments and meals, but for an extra $60, you can get all three included. Even with the extra charge, Norwegian Air remains far more affordable than other carriers on most given days.
Whether you use miles or pay with cash, a trip to London doesn’t have to be out of reach.
Casey Ayers is the Managing Editor of PointsAway.com and author of PointsAway, the bestselling guide to using miles and points for free travel, available on Amazon and iTunes.