Critique my London itinerary

Old May 16th, 2011, 10:13 PM
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Critique my London itinerary

Thanks to all the great suggestions from all you Fodorites (and close scrutiny of my guidebooks,) I have come up with a tentative itinerary for our family trip to London in July. On the trip will be my husband, me, our three kids (15, 14 and 8 and great travelers) and my inlaws (both 69 and great, seasoned travelers.)

We will be staying in a Notting Hill flat. Here is what we propose. Tell us what doesn't work, what we have missed...

Monday: Arrive in London. Take taxi to flat.

Our plane lands before 8 a.m. We think we'll be at the flat between 10 and 11 a.m., according to the landlady. Can't really access it until 4 p.m. So we will head out and go for a walk around maybe Hyde Park, stop at Harrods for food and have a picnic in the park, see Kensington gardens as well. Then we will head to Waterloo, get our Travelcards and walk along the river in the fresh air and do the London Eye. See Parliament and Big Ben.

Tuesday: Husband is presenting at a conference most of the day.
The rest of us tour Kensington Palace, go to Harrod’s, Sherlock Holmes museum.

Evening: War Horse. 7 p.m. National Theater. (already have tix)

Wednesday: Sidetrip to Stonehenge/Salisbury

Thursday:Tower, South Bank

Head to the Tower first thing and go straight to the crown jewels to avoid standing in lines. Then go back to the gate and pick up a beefeater tour (free). Expect to spend 3-4 hours here.

From here head across Tower Bridge to South Bank and walk along the river to London Bridge. Then head to Borough Market (open Thurs – Sat but its very busy Fri-Sat so Thurs is a good day to go). Pick up lunch at the market. Walk along the river again to see the Globe.

Evening: Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London (already have tix)

Friday: London Walks -- changing of the guard/Westminster Abbey tour
Then the Churchill War Rooms, Trafalgar Square
Then St Paul’s and the Museum of London

Saturday: Portobello Road market in the morning

Covent Garden area in afternoon
Evening: London Walks ghost walk

Sunday: Hampton Court

Monday: British Museum

Tuesday: Depart for home...


Whaddaya think? Be honest, please. But gentle...
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Old May 16th, 2011, 10:47 PM
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A littletweaking might be in order:

"Monday: Arrive in London. Take taxi to flat. "

A pre-booked car service like justairports.com would be better (you'd have to get two taxis and they would cost a fortune)

" maybe Hyde Park, stop at Harrods for food and have a picnic in the park, see Kensington gardens as well. Then we will head to Waterloo, get our Travelcards and walk along the river in the fresh air and do the London Eye. See Parliament and Big Ben"

You are trying to cover a LOT of territory that day - basically half of west and central London. I'd stick closer to 'home' - and you can get your travel cards at Paddington or any train station. Plus you'll be on the southbank on Thurs.

"The rest of us tour Kensington Palace, go to Harrod’s, Sherlock Holmes museum."

Harrod's twice in two days? Plus this day is spread all over the place.
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Old May 17th, 2011, 05:06 AM
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I'd second (third, fourth, etc.) the advice about justairports.

I've heard mostly negatives about the Holmes museum. I stayed next street over one time and walked by #221B a couple times and went into souvenir shop and took pics of outside which satisfied my inner-Holmes.

Yes, 2 times to Harrods is at least one too many.

If your kids are like mine (and me) you need to plan a big snack on the Tower day, as you might not get to Borough Market til after 1 or even 2.

Don't know if you kept the Tower Bridge Experience in your plan--as I think I said on another of your threads, with the 2for1 vouchers (if it still participates) you might find it worth it--lots of kid-friendly activities, cool up close views of machinery for engineering-types if you have any, and great views of Thames from the viewing platform. Or just walking across the bridge is cool and will take some photo-taking time, and then wandering around the Market--so that lunch will be very very late probably. Plenty of snacky things inside the Tower as well as outside.

Do you know you can find out if the Tower Bridge will be lifting, which is cool to watch? (I am adjective deprived today--overusing "cool"!) You can google that and find a schedule--which is also updated closer to your travel days, so if you want to see that on a day you are around that area, check that out.

Friday looks way too packed to me. I'd try to move something to Saturday afternoon OR after British Museum (could rearrange a bit and do Covent Garden in that afternoon after the BM, too). You could obviously spend weeks in the BM, but even with great kids a half day might be better and then have change of venue after lunch and a walk/tube trip.

I'm leaving for England 3 weeks from this afternoon! (as a leader on a student tour, so don't get to plan my itinerary, but still, excited!--It's going to be so.....cool!)

You have done good work and I think you are making some good plans, and sounds like you know the importance of flexibility, too! Blessings!
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Old May 17th, 2011, 06:09 AM
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OK. Actually, we're going to book with Addison Lee, per our landlady's suggestion. I just said "taxi" because I was typing that at midnight and was trying to finish it so I could go to bed.

We can add a snack after the Tower.

On the first day, I really want to do the London Eye. I think it would be cool ( ) to give my kids that view of London. Maybe we could go there first. I wasn't thinking of touring Parliament, just getting photos (we love European Vacation and have a running family joke whenever we drive in a roundabout...) Then we could go back to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Our flat is very near there.

Or, looking at my tentative itinerary, is there another good day to tack on Big Ben and Parliament? I've never been to London. I'm trying to look at maps, read guidebooks and figure out how far things are from each other.

Last year we took our kids to Paris and Provence. However, my husband and I had been to Paris before without the kids and knew basically where things were, how the Metro works, etc. I feel a little unprepared for this -- not sure how easy the Tube is to use, how far things are from each other, etc. Of course, I won't be working at a language deficit like I was in France. I took French in college but it's way rusty, and my hubs speaks a Chevy Chase-style of French

Have fun, texasbookworm, on your upcoming trip!
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Old May 17th, 2011, 07:34 AM
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Don't know Addison Lee--Might be worth getting quotes from them/it and justairports.

For walking distance approximations you might like walkit.com It has a good London page--such fun! Either that or use googlemaps and click on walking icon.

I think the Tube is pretty easy to figure out, so no worries.

I'm sure you are perceiving that London is waaaayyy spread out so that's why just 2-3 major sites/sights per day are best to schedule, the need to group by neighborhood, and the need to factor in travel--all of which you have generally.

PS--Be sure to plan time for a Trip Report upon return!
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Old May 17th, 2011, 08:34 AM
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If staying in Notting Hill, you can get your travel cards at the Notting Hill Gate tube station assuming that it's the closest. From there it's a short walk to entrance to Kensington/Hyde Park. If weather permits cross through the park to Harrod's for picnic supplies. If weather is lousy I'd have lunch at the Orangery.

If you return to Notting Hill Gate tube you can get the Circle/District line to Westminster for Parliment/Big Ben. The London Eye doesn't really fit into your first day itinerary. Although, if still on your feet, you can get the tube to Waterloo. I'd give the Eye a miss if the weather's uncooperative. If you intend to visit Kensington Palace that fits in with your first day plans...Kensington Park, Harrod's etc. In fact several of the best museums are close by... Natural History, V&A and the Science Museum. It'd let the weather be my guide, if nice go for the outdoor activites/places, if not, try one of the museums. I sometimes find that museums can be a bit tiring after a long flight, but you can spend as much or as little time as you like there.
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Old May 17th, 2011, 08:45 AM
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addison lee is fine. a fairly well-known taxi service. may not be the cheapest. but not a rip-off and certainly safe.
- a london local
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Old May 17th, 2011, 08:46 AM
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oh, and london eye on your 1st day is a very good idea
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Old May 17th, 2011, 10:15 AM
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"If staying in Notting Hill, you can get your travel cards at the Notting Hill Gate tube station"

But they wouldn't be eligible for the offers on daysoutguide.com which requires either train tickets (not HEX, HEC or Eurostar) or a Travelcard bought at a train station (eg Paddington)
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Old May 17th, 2011, 10:36 AM
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yep -- I was going for the DaysOutGuide offers. But we could get the right travel cards at Paddington Station.

I'm trying to do stuff on Tuesday that my husband is ambivalent about, which he is about Kensington Palace. He will be busy with work that day. But I know my MIL will like that. I live in Kansas City, and Diana's wedding dress is here now. She's giddy about it. So I think she will want to see Kensington Palace.
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Old May 17th, 2011, 11:27 AM
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Sorry about any confusion over travel cards at Notting Hill Gate. I missed the DaysOutGuide part.
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Old May 17th, 2011, 11:45 AM
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on the day you go to Kensington Palace, have tea next door at the Orangerie.
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Old May 18th, 2011, 10:09 PM
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Ok, I've tweaked some. Maybe it's better? What am I missing?


July 4: Arrive in London. Take Addison Lee taxi to flat. (Did price comparison, and Addison Lee is cheaper for us than justairports.)

We stow our luggage, then go to Paddington Station to get the Travelcard for use with Daysoutguide 2for1 offers.
Then we go to the London Eye. Afterward, we cross the river and walk by Parliament and Big Ben on way to Churchill War Rooms. Go to Trafalgar Square afterward on the way back home.
Then home, grabbing dinner on way.

July 5: Hubs is at conference

The rest of us tour Kensington Palace, go to Harrod’s, Sherlock Holmes museum?
We spend time in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

Evening: War Horse. 7 p.m. National Theater.


July 6: Stonehenge? Salisbury?

If we’re not too tired when we get back, we can go to Covent Garden for dinner.


July 7: Tower, South Bank

Head to the Tower first thing and go straight to the crown jewels to avoid standing in lines. Then go back to the gate and pick up a beefeater tour (free). Expect to spend 3-4 hours here. http://www.hrp.org.uk/toweroflondon/

Get a snack or lunch after.

From here head across Tower Bridge to South Bank and walk along the river to London Bridge. Then head to Borough Market . If we haven’t eaten heavily, pick up lunch at the market. Walk along the river again to see the Globe. http://www.boroughmarket.org.uk/

Evening: Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London


July 8: Royal Westminster

Changing of the Guard and Westminster Abbey with London Walks

Go to St Paul’s and the Museum of London



July 9: Portobello Road market in the morning

Not sure what to do in the afternoon….East End?
Or Mayfair?


Evening: London Walks ghost walk


July 10: Hampton Court?
East End when we get back, if we haven’t already gone

July 11: British Museum and Library
Go back to Covent Garden if we feel like it for dinner
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Old May 18th, 2011, 10:58 PM
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I hope you're not flying TOO far to get to London - you'll be exhausted! But make time (and money) available for at least an ice cream downstairs at Harrods - worth the "investment"..
Yum.
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Old May 18th, 2011, 11:30 PM
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Just be prepared to be a little flexible on the London Eye time. If it's a cloudy or rainy day you really wont "experience" the eye. If it's a clear day, go for it, otherwise have a back up plan with one or two things, or full days you can swap around. Assuming you are flying from US? When we arrived from Australia i found the best thing was to just keep those kids walking!!! About 6pm we picked up take away salads from M and S and ate them in our room then all crashed out from 7pm on. Saved wasting money on a resturant when they would have been face down in the food! All woke up at 630 the next morning raring to go. We are also going in July...see you in the queues! By the way, shattered Diana's dress is not as KP. So glad you mentioned it as i would have taken my daughter there to see it and "wasted" half a precious day!
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Old May 19th, 2011, 04:45 AM
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Good to keep flexibility and adaptibility as necessities as things go along.

I think Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's and the Museum of London is too much for one day. You might conceivably "get to" the 3 off them but----could you move the Museum to July 9? We went in 2008 before renovations finished and barely spent an hour. It was way way down on list of things to see, but we were able to get there and I'm glad we went, and I have heard there's more to see now, but I'd not rush St. Paul's to get to it. Or move St. Paul's to July 9, so as not to "do" both churches on same day. Seeing both close together might make good comparisons, but I think for your kids, they might keep them separate in their memories if they didn't tour them back to back. But you know you and your family much better than any of us here.

Also you might start your day at the British Library, as there's really only the Treasure Room to see things in. Even I the literature lover can be done in 90 minutes, so you could go there and then head to the BM and spend as long as you like/last there. Plenty of places to rest in both places (although the BM can get mighty packed and the benches highly coveted!)

Also how are you "doing" Salisbury/Stonehenge? We did that very easily by taking a train (fairly early), then catching a Stonehenge Tour bus right outside the train station, spending several hours riding the bus and touring the stones, and then spent the afternoon in Salisbury and ate dinner there before heading back to London. I wouldn't try to rush back to eat dinner in London; just enjoy the whole day at a more leisurely pace. (We had rail passes which had total flexibility so we didn't have to decide ahead of time what time to head back, but I'd still recommend that you choose an after dinner return time if possible so you don't feel rushed in Salisbury.)

Enjoy!
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Old May 19th, 2011, 09:07 AM
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Aout July 7 -- just something to think about:

The daytime part is absolutely fine, So is the Keys Ceremony. But in between you do have a bit of a problem.

The Globe closes for tours at 5:30 and you must be at the Tower at 9:30 for the Ceremony. So you have 4 full hours to deal w/ and will be all the way across London from your flat so going back to rest/freshen up would be a hassle.

It seems logical to do the Tower and ceremony the same day since they are at the same place. But not really -- I usually recommend folks NOT tour the Tower and attend the Keys Ceremony on the same day just because one is early in the AM and the other is late at night w/ hours to fill in between. Plus you often need heavier clothing at night than you would earlier in the day.

Think of them as totally separate. The Ceremony is more like attending a late night play or concert - a night time event.

Do you already have the keys tickets? If so -- I'd definitely consider shifting your Tower/Southbank day.
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Old May 19th, 2011, 01:27 PM
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Already have the keys tickets. Have to get them three months in advance, according to web site.
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Old May 19th, 2011, 01:35 PM
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Hilmel -- you might check on Diana's dress. It's leaving Kansas City on June 12. I'm not sure where it's going next, but I think it's returning to England.

We're flying from Detroit to London. We'll definitely keep moving all day when we arrive. Just hoping the youngest sleeps some on the flight over. On the way to Paris last year, he literally talked the whole time. To me. Everyone else in our group slept, but not the two of us. I was pretty exhausted. I think I might give him some Benadryl this time...

We'll definitely be flexible. I need to sit down with the inlaws and go over this. My MIL wants doesn't understand the Tower issue. I do, but although she has been to London several times, it's always been on a tour. I will have to explain everything.

Also, on the St. Paul's thing, I don't know that we'll go in. I was just thinking of going, maybe doing a walk-by.

Thanks for all the suggestions.
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Old May 19th, 2011, 01:48 PM
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Switch the day for your Churchill War Rooms tour -- that's easily a couple of hours' worth of touring and it would SUCK when you're jet-lagged. Easier to do it on July 8 with the rest of your Westminster stuff bc the CWR are in the area.

The Tower/St. Paul's is a better grouping than Westminster-St. Paul's and an easy walk. The Monument is on the St. Paul's side of the Thames about one block from London Bridge.

London Bridge itself is an arch bridge made of concrete that's about 40 years old, so it's not a sightseeing destination. The original is in Arizona.

Are the spawn boys, girls or both? Boys would love the Imperial War Museum.
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