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Trip Report yk's London/Oxford Trip Report - 6 days of art, music, historic houses - a journey through English history

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Hi everybody -

I came back 2 nights ago (election night) after a 6-day trip to London, with a day trip to Oxford. As usual, I had a great time, though the weather was rather dreadful most of my stay.

The 6 days flew by very quickly. Just as I was getting comfortable of looking RIGHT when I stepped out on the curb, it was time to leave. :(

Before I begin, I want to thank so many people here... it is the collective knowledge and information provided by Fodorites which help shape my trip and my itinerary. So many of you have either directly or indirectly helped me plan this. Here's a list of Fodorites (in no particular order) whom I specifically want to thank:
janisj, flanneruk, PatrickLondon, Cholmondley_Warner, PalenQ, crckwc1, MademoiselleFifi, Apres_Londee, carolyn, rickmav, Mimar, wombat7, kenderina, noe847, texasbookworm, PWAbbott. I'm sure I'm forgetting some...

To start, I want to mention a few housekeeping issues.

Who?
Me, a mid-30s married woman who likes London a lot. I traveled solo this time because my husband can't take time off. This is my 3rd trip to London in just a little over a year (Sept 07, May 08). I have visited London more than a dozen times in the last 15 years.

When?
6 days during end of October & beginning of November

Why London and Why this time period?
1) Tempted by American Airline's Winter fare sale. The earliest travel date of the winter sale was October 28 (I think). I wanted to go as early as the sale allows for longer daylight and milder weather.
2) Despite multiple trips to London, I still find plenty of sights and activities which I haven't done before.
3) I found out that Juan Diego Florez, one of the best bel canto tenor these days, will be singing at the Royal Opera House.

My Itinerary
Instead of trying to group the attractions geographically, I was forced to group them mostly by opening times and opening days. Several historic houses I visited had very limited opening hours, which make scheduling my itin a bit challenging. As a result, I ended up going to the South Bank on four separate days.

I jam-packed my itin as much as possible, as I tend to move at a faster speed when I travel by myself. I also am very flexible when it comes to meal times: sometimes it's lunch at 3:30pm, or dinner at 5pm or at 10:30pm, depending on the day.

Preparation
Since my schedule is tight, I spent an enormous amount of time checking the opening days and times of every single attraction. I also wrote down times of guided tour.

I spent an enormous amount of time on tfl website mapping out my transportation routes, as several places I visited are far out.

Things I had pre-booked in advance include:
Hotel x 5 nights
2 opera tickets
Megabus ticket to Oxford r/t
Red House guided tour

Budget
I don't usually have a set budget, but I am normally a budget traveler. Although the pound is cheaper than it was, I didn't want to spend too much money due to the economy. The only ways I could see myself saving money was by eating cheaper than I'm used to. I set a goal of keeping food expenses to £20 a day (including all meals, coffee and snacks). At first I wasn't sure if I could stick to it, but in the end, I think I came under budget! Moreover, majority of my meals were taken at proper sit-down restaurants with table service. I think I actually ate very well with my budget.

Oyster... PAYG or Travelcard?
I ended up just using Oyster PAYG. I should have done some more research before I left, because I think I would have saved a few pounds if I had gotten the 7-day Zones 1-3 Travelcard (£28.40). I spent £32 on the PAYG.

Weather
It was dreadful. The first 2 days there was some periods of sun, but very cold (low 40s) with strong winds from the North sea. Day 3 was pouring rain the entire day. Days 4-6 were just damp, grey and dull. As the UK already turned its clock back, sunset was 5pm.

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