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Venting, transportation/England, France

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I didn't think I was really up to planning an independent family vacation, and I'm beginning to realize my doubts were spot-on, and I probably should have just booked a tour, added a couple days to travel on our own, and been done with it.

We are a family of 4, planning a September/October trip (12-14 days) to London, Yorkshire and Paris. We have passports, airfare and hotel accommodations -- which in itself has been an immense and exhausting frustration.

Now I'm down to rail transportation, which I *cannot* seem to figure out (why can't they be as organized as the Germans?). Yes, I realize it's now quite late in the game, but when your job unexpectedly turns into 12-hour days, 6-day work weeks for two months straight -- and likely to continue up until the day of departure -- and no one else in the family has ever planned a vacation or traveled outside the U.S., there are very few options.

$600 to go round-trip on the Chunnel from London to Paris? Yikes!

And England travel ... I can't even begin to decipher it. National rail, regional rail, Tube, bus, travel cards, what makes sense, what doesn't. Egad. There seem to be hundreds of opinions and suggestions.

I've plowed through threads here. I've trudged through all the websites. Half the time, the websites don't even work. One thread said to go through SGNF instead of Eurostar to save money ... except that it's in French, so no dice there, back to square one.

Does anyone know of an independent tour that might be able to get negotiated train travel rates or fill in the holes of our now-tattered vacation plans? In desperation I contacted a local tour agent who pretty much refused to do anything other than arrange a textbook full-service tour at roughly double the costs I'd already gotten for airfare. I hunted for "independent tour expert" for my area and the Google search sent me right back to that very travel agency as being the top-notch local authority.

***frustrated***

So now I feel like we're really stuck, with some arrangements we can't back out of, but these arrangements make it impossible to hook up with a tour that might solve our dilemma.

Help! And thanking you in advance for putting up with such a snarky post!

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