At the end of 2009, I was shocked to realize that for the first time since our marriage, we went an entire year without once boarding an airplane.
That's about to change. Last week, during my OSCAR frenzy, my husband received an official looking letter from the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, informing him that he won the Wimbledon Lottery.
This does not mean that we've come into some money. No, winning this lottery allows us the privilege of being able to purchase tickets that will allow us on one court during one day of the tournament.
We had been talking about returning to the United Kingdom this year to visit my husband's family. It has been three years since Megan and I have been there, and it's been EIGHT years since we've enjoyed the country in the summer. I love England and Wales and after about a dozen trips, there is still much I haven't seen. I want to go.
I just don't want to spend the money. Not now. Not while we're still trying to regroup after last year's annus horribilis. Not when traveling in the summer (when the days are long and tourist attractions are actually open and you have a chance of enjoying nice weather) costs up to three times what it does in the winter (when the sun starts setting at 3 PM and the weather is pretty darned miserable).
"We don't have to go," my husband said... but we both knew he didn't mean it. He "won" this lottery once before and had the once in a lifetime experience of watching Rafael Nadal win his fourth round set (see the rest of my husband's 2008 Wimbledon photos on Flickr here).
But for my husband (the tennis nut), once in a lifetime is not enough. The minute I saw the envelope, I knew we were Britain bound. The good news was that for once, I would not have to fight him to spend more than a day in London.
We belong to the American Express rewards program and in the past, have successfully exchanged points for free round trips on Virgin Atlantic (our favorite overseas airline), and after three years, we've accrued enough points to pay for all three of us. Unfortunately, the dates we need to go appear to be blacked out. This is a bummer, because the cost of a round trip ticket in the summer is $1300 (instead of under $500, as it is in December). So the airfare alone is costing us $4,000. To fly economy.
We've run into this problem before and while it hurts to pay that much for airfare, we do the next best thing and use the points to pay for a nice hotel room in London, which has to be one of the most expensive cities on the planet. In fact, we've gotten used to some really nice hotels; establishments we have no business staying in because the paying clientele is so posh.
So imagine my disappointment when I tried to book our rooms yesterday and discovered that there is NO availability in the nicer hotels that we can afford, points or no points. My search was complicated by the fact that my husband has invited his mum to be his guest at Wimbledon. So we were now looking for two rooms instead of one, and three nights instead of two.
"Do you want me to tell my mum not to come?" my husband grumbled after I complained about the tough time I was having in our hotel search.
The truth is, I'm happy to have my mother-in-law there. Otherwise, I would have to spend an entire day watching tennis. With his mum beside him, Megan and I can come to the stadium and check out the scene... before we mosey back off to Knightsbridge or Regent Street to do some (window) shopping.
After four hours of Internet searching, I eventually found a budget hotel in Kensington that had two rooms available on our dates. Best of all, I was able to use American Express points - and we even have some left.
The reviews on TripAdvisor are all over the place, which tells me that the experience of staying there depends upon (1) the travelers' expectations (and mine will be low) and (2) the location of your room (some folks gushed that the rooms were spacious while others complained that they were tiny and stuffy. And everyone complained about the noise from the street below). At the very least, I'll get a good blog post out of our stay there.
And you can't really complain when it's free. Well, maybe YOU can't. I may.
DISCLOSURE: I am not affiliated with American Express or any of the entities mentioned in this post and have received no monetary compensation.