First trip to England

Old Feb 9th, 2005, 08:16 AM
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First trip to England

We are just starting to plan our trip for a week in or around London for next year. 6 people(3 Couples)maybe renting a home or something. Any advice and helpful info would be so helpful.
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Old Feb 9th, 2005, 09:50 AM
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Is this a first trip to London for all 6 of you?

Some ideas to get you started:

Just go to London. Don't try to go other places. You won't be able to see all you want to see in London, and taking time to go other places (on the train, etc.) will just frustrate you.

Look for an apartment. I'm currently working with londonguestsuites.com and am amazed by their range of apartments and how affordable they are. You can choose how many bedrooms and how many bathrooms, plus you get a kitchen, living room, etc. Almost all of the ones I'm considering even have washer/dryers!

Don't plan on seeing more than two "big" attractions in a day. By this I mean, the Tower of London, St. Paul's, Westminster Abbey, etc. You might be able to squeeze in some smaller sights along the way, but if you try to do too many things, you'll end up not really "seeing" any of them.

I highly recommend the Vergers Tour of Westminster Abbey (book ahead of time), and the similar tour of St. Paul's. You'll learn a lot more, and get into more parts of the buildings.

Also, get tickets for the (evening) Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London. It's the centuries-old tradition of locking the Tower for the night and is quite interesting. (If you search on the Board, I'm sure someone has posted a link to where you write for tickets.)

The London Eye at dusk was a nice experience. And, long walks after dark through the major areas of London are breathtaking

I'm sure others will have suggestions, but this will get you started.

Gayle
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Old Feb 9th, 2005, 10:44 AM
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Yeah, first trip for all 6 of us. Thanks alot for replying. We really just want to experience London and not rush and try to see everything. What's the best time of year to go? Any certain area and or neighborhood we should try to find a place to stay? I will definetly check out the website for rentals. Any other great websites to check out for some helpful info? Thanks again.
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Old Feb 9th, 2005, 11:06 AM
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I respectfully disagree that you should stay in London the entire time. London has a lot of things to offer in the form of museums, shopping and the arts, and pubs, but it is expensive and exhausting (like any major city). More importantly, if you are looking for the quaint ambience you see on tv or movies or have read about, you really need to get out of town. Ideally (IMHO) you would spend 2-3 days in London upon arriving, maybe a couple or 3 days in Bath or somewhere not too distant, then another 1-2 days back in London. If nothing else, take day trips out of London.
Also, each of the 3 couples needs to engage in the planning and you need to plan to separate. Please read the thread on travel companion horror stories. Keeping 3 couples happy doing the same things for an entire week is impossible.
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Old Feb 9th, 2005, 11:48 AM
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Oh, Bitter, I agree with you - if they want the wonderful English "atmosphere," they should definitely go outside London.

I was just commenting on coston's own message: "a week in or around London." Most people who do that end up not seeing London AND not seeing the countryside because they try to do too much. Since it's a first trip, they can easily spend a full week in London alone and still not see even all of the major highlights. That's all I was trying to say.

Personally, for my own travel, I agree with Bitter. I'm only going to London on my next trip because my travel companions really want to spend some time there. I'm already planning one full day at Hampton Court, another train trip to Bath, and a full day of church services, parks and tea - then I'll just have one day to "putter" to major sights or do shopping in London. But, I've already seen many of the big things and am not a city person.

Also, if coston wants to rent a home or apartment, most of them are only available by the week, which means they'll be in London for the duration. (Unless they decide to take day trips by train or similar.) I can't imagine they'll rent a place for a week and then also pay for 2-3 days in the countryside w/ lodging.

I guess my major message was that too often people try to "do" all of London AND squeeze in 2-3 day trips as well, all within the space of a week and that's not possible.

Either coston will need to cut back on seeing as much in London or he/she will need to spend the week IN London.

Again, if it were my trip....York, the Lakes, Cornwall/Devon - those would be my destinations. (Or Scotland.)

But, for my first trip, London by itself would probably be just fine.

To coston:

My favorite times to visit are April and September. Crowds are smaller, everything is still open, weather is generally OK, gardens look great, and everything is cheaper.

I don't know where you're flying from, but Virgin Atlantic has 3 night packages from the east coast for less than $500 - airfare, hotel, and a couple of extras thrown in. But those are the spring/fall prices - summer is much higher.

And, yes, you'll want separate time (as Bitter mentioned) for each couple. Renting a vehicle is tough with six - yuo can fit the people, but not them and their luggage.

So think carefully about traveling with six. I try to stick with 4. Two double/twin rooms and one rental vehicle. Perfect.

TravelBritain is a good website. It has links to almost everything.

Be sure and plan for the things YOU like, coston. Maybe the city is perfect for you, maybe it's the countryside, maybe it's a combination. Only you can decide what works in your situation.

Gayle
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Old Feb 9th, 2005, 12:01 PM
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I can't recommend day trips of any length on a one-week trip, because the time it takes to get to the destinations cuts into your sightseeing time. But if you make them overnighters, you can do all of your travel when it doesn't matter.

For example, go out to Bath on an evening train, after all the "daytime" sights are closed. Stay the night, then spend the whole next day seeing the baths and other points of interest, then in the late afternoon, visit nearby Stonehenge on the way back to London (or perhaps a destination in the Cotswolds) in the evening.
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Old Feb 9th, 2005, 12:11 PM
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Even for a weeks vacation I would take a journey out of London at least once. The urban sprawl can become nauseating after awhile, you'll need time to really breathe. You will also get a far more rounded view of the English way of life if you experience it from another angle.
It is easy to get up to Oxford by bus. They depart London every ten minutes (Victoria and Marble Arch), and apart from the attractive town and University there are some of the best museums outside of London. Or take a train from Paddington to Bath. There are also numerous guided coach tours to the Cotswolds, Canterbury, Stratford and Warwick Castle.
Just spend one day away from the city, I'd hate to think the only view you had of England's countryside was from the window seat of the plane.
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Old Feb 9th, 2005, 01:32 PM
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Coston:
We just went there last fall. Stayed at the Radisson Mounbatten Hotel near Leister square. (check Radisson website for info.) Great spot, reasonably priced. Close to Covent Gardens & Picadilly Square. Suggest you pick up tickets near Victoria station for one of the double decker tour buses. Red bus has guided tour guides. Ticket is about $35 USD & good for 24 hours. It will take you to all the interesting sites and get you oriented so you can then use the tube (their subway). It's very cheap and easy to use.
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Old Feb 9th, 2005, 01:50 PM
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As lovely as Britain is, your first trip should stick to London with maybe one day trip to somewhere like Bath or Windsor. I always suggest spring or autumn as nicer times with cheaper air fares. You can get better weather then as well.
Choosing an apartment can be a nightmare - just make sure that you are paying the owner directly and that you have the address and telephone number of the apartment. One company I can recommend is Coach House London Vacation Rentals - www.chslondon.com
For day trips you need to decide whether to do it yourself by rail or take a tour with someone like Evan Evans. There are also explorer day outs with the London Walks company
www.walks.com
www.evanevans.com
www.nationalrail.co.uk

Hope these ideas get you started and good luck!

Adam C
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Old Feb 9th, 2005, 01:55 PM
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Here's the link to the London Superthread: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34548473

You'll find tons of info there.
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Old Feb 10th, 2005, 01:57 PM
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With only 6 days, and being there with 6 people, I wouldn't spend any time outside London. Even if you do some parts of the trip as couples, the large group will eat into the time you have for doing things.

Keith
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Old Feb 13th, 2005, 11:29 AM
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I'd like to second the recommendation to see the Ceremony of the Keys. The atmosphere of the event takes you back to medieval England ... except for all those other people there with you! But it's really ... hm, magical isn't the right word, but it's close. Magical in an eerie forgotten-time sort of way. Unless things have changed since I was there three years ago, you do have to get tickets in advance, so reserve early and allow enough time for your request to get there and the tickets to get back to you.

I was in England for only five days. We did London and York. Sure, there was a ton more to see in each place, but I don't regret taking time to go to York and its surrounding areas. Really beautiful. And talk about history! There's a school in York that was established something like 417 B.C. - I thought, what did they teach back then?!

Have a great time! Ah, to be back there again!!!
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Old Feb 13th, 2005, 11:30 AM
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Uh, der, that's 417 A.D., not B.C. That would have been an old, old school!!! Mea culpa!
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Old Feb 15th, 2005, 11:05 AM
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Thanks guys for the info. I realized we need to do alot more research. It's great to be able to get some input from other people.
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Old Feb 15th, 2005, 11:13 AM
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My advice? Don't drive. Use public transportation. Believe me, you do not want to be behind the wheel of a car in this city.

Sesamee
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Old Feb 16th, 2005, 05:26 AM
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There's plenty to do in London for a week--that's an understatement. I couldn't get to everything on the rough "A" list I brought along for my first week-long trip; we made it to Westminster Abbey but not St. Paul's, for example. Take time and enjoy what you do see. Be sure to see a play; use the Tube; and see the Elgin Marbles at the British Museum! You can go to Greenwich for a day (by Tube and DLR; take a boat back for great city views)if you want the feeling of a village within the city. Or take the half-hour train to Hampton Court Palace if you want one look at how the royals lived outside London.
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Old Feb 16th, 2005, 05:45 AM
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I agree that a day trip out would be a must. Four or five days of sightseeing in London can get very tiring. As much as I love it and still have plenty to see there, the countryside is so appealing and relaxing--esp by train.
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Old Feb 16th, 2005, 05:49 AM
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I agree w/ the general with what's been said before. With only 6 or 7 days you should either spend all the time in London - OR - spend all the time outside of London.

Don't try to do both because travel time, packing/unpacking etc will take up a lot of time and you will shortchange seeing much of anything. While it is fun, the logistics of traveling in a group does complicate and slow things down. Unless you split up into smaller groups for sightseeing, everything - meals, museums, major sites, shopping - takes a LOT longer w/ 6 people in tow.

Now - IF you could manage a 10-14 day trip, then a week in London and 3-7 days out in the countryside makes for a wondeeful trip.

If you head to London I would rent a 3 bedroom apartment - it will save a lot of money over 3 hotel rooms and give you more space to spread out.

If you decide to spend the week outside of London, I'd rent a cottage in a scenic area and use it for day trips to all the surrounding sites. Some good places to look for cottages are the Cotswolds, Kent/East Sussex, Wiltshire/Somerset/Dorset or up in Yorkshire.

But really for a trip for 6, it is easiser to spend the time in London - no driving and it is easier to split up for individual interests because the public transport is so good. You could squeeze in one day trip - Greenwich, Hampton Court Palace, Windsor or Bath are all logical choices. But w/ just a week you may decide to not even take one day trip.

If you travel in the country, cars large enough for 6 adults plus luggage tend to be VERY expensive and are not much fun for the primary driver.
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Old Mar 1st, 2005, 07:47 AM
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I am not sure if you need this information anymore but the address for tickets is:

Ceremony of the Keys Tickets
Her Majesty’s Tower of London
Tower Hill
EC3N 4AB
London
England

Let them know your name, address, age, requested date, alternate date and enclose 2 International Reply Coupons which I got from the post office. I received my tickets in about 10 days.


Carmen
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Old Mar 1st, 2005, 08:03 AM
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to clarify timecop's info just a bit -- when you write for Keys Ceremony tickets you need to include the names and addresses of EVERY member of the party. Otherwise they will just send it back and you have to start all over again.
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