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sam913 May 3rd, 2005 11:50 AM

First Trip to the UK
We (Dad, Mom, Daughter, (18) Son (14)) will be taking our first trip to the UK this June. Coming from two weeks in Germany.
This is my daughters HS graduation trip. May be the last time we travel as a family. (hope not!)

Found lodging in UK to be expensive because of the 2-1 exchange rate on the US dollar.

Days Inn Waterloo in London was for a rate of 55pd a night for a room for four.
Now the room may be tight, but we don't plan on being in the room that much, only to sleep.

Looking for suggestions on planning our 3 days in London. Would like to see some live music.
I'm a big fan of the british invasion music of the 60/70s, the kids are more into punk type rock.

Here is our travel intensive schedule. Any comments/suggestions would be appreciated.

Day 1 - Fly from Berlin to Newcastle (EasyJet) - rent car drive to Edinburgh ( Priestville B & B)

Day 2 - Edinburgh Castle - old town

Day 3 - All day drive to Drumnadrochit (loch Ness) via Inverness - tour highlands - castles - picnic lunch (Benleva Hotel)

Day 4 - Drive to Fort William -Jacobite Steam Train - Drive to northern England find place to stay

Day 5 - Drive into Wales to Cardiff - U2 concert at Millennium Stadium (Big Sleep Hotel)

Day 6 - Drive to Stonehenge - Tour Cotswold's - See friends in Northampton (Holiday Inn Express) (drop off rental car)

Day 7 - Friend drives us into London . (Days Inn Waterloo)

Get oriented - London Eye - Thames River Cruise - South Thames River Walk - Maybe a play (Mouse Trap)
Day 8 - British Museum - Soho - Tube to Archway Tavern - (Kinks Muswell Hillbillies LP cover)

Day 9 - Tower of London - Harrods - Hyde Park

Day 10 - Gatwick Express from Victoria Station - Fly home……..

Robespierre May 3rd, 2005 12:14 PM

How did you get the Days Inn Waterloo for £55 for four adults? Their rack rates are in the 80 range for two in a room.

sam913 May 3rd, 2005 12:25 PM

Booked in January thru the US 1-800 #.

Told them 2 adults two children under 17.


JoeTro May 3rd, 2005 12:29 PM

A couple of comments, in no particular order:

1) Mousetrap is quite good.
2) I think Stonehenge is really, really overrated.
3) You have left out Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery/Portrait Gallery, which I all happen to really enjoy, as well as some other parks, which will probably be nice in June. Kensington Gardens and Palace for example will be pretty close to Harrods.
4) I actually preferred Hollyrood Palace to Edinburgh Castle; they are only total ends of the Royal Mile so if you start one early you might be able to make it through to the other end. The National Gallery in Edinburgh is very good.

Have fun.

JoeTro May 3rd, 2005 12:29 PM

Oops ... I also forget to mention that if you are like my family, this won't be the last time you all travel together. I'm a junior in college and still travel a lot with my parents!

Nigello May 4th, 2005 09:39 AM

Day 4 - 5 looks like it will be a long, hard drive. It might not look a lot on the map, but it will take time to drive all that way. Even if you were driving from Manchester, which is south northern England, it would take about 4-5 horus to get to Cardiff. Day 6 - are you kidding? Tour Cotswolds, go to Northampton? ?????!!!!!

sam913 May 5th, 2005 03:52 AM

We are early morning risers, and since sunrise will be about 4-5 in the morning that far north, we will get an early start. Not sure how nice the M higways are in UK, but here in the states on our holidays out west we average about 500 miles a day driving time stoping at intresting sites along the way.

Thanks for your comments.

tomboy May 5th, 2005 05:19 AM

Day 5 (Stonehenge, Costwolds, etc)
Roads are more narrow than interstates.
How narrow? Stand in front of your car, pace off 12 steps heel-to-toe. That's the width of the road (not the lane, the road) in cotswolds. Add cars, trucks, tour buses; prepare to slow down. Did I mention sheep on road?

tomboy May 5th, 2005 05:28 AM

Lodging in London is expensive because property there is a scarce resource given the demand, not because of 2:1 exchange rate. When the pound was low (1.4:1), your $110 room would have cost $79. That's double the cost of a Days Inn in Podunk, Iowa.
If you think London hotels are pricey, don't go to Switzerland or Vienna.

KidsToLondon May 5th, 2005 08:21 AM

You said it right when you described your itenerary as "intensive." On days 3-7, another word is prominent too: "drive." My comment/suggestion would be to focus your trip a bit so that less of it is taken up by driving from place-to-place.

Your itenerary within London sounds doable. You've probably got plans to see more sights that you listed, but I would consider many other possibilities before putting Harrods on my itenerary-- it is just a department store, albeit a huge, famous and expensive one. But Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's, the National Gallery, changing of the mounted horseguards, St. James's Park, Parliament...these are all unique to London.

Have a great trip. Hope your family continues to travel together, but if not, you will still have given your children an experience that they will remember (and perhaps a lifelong love of travel too).

cambe May 5th, 2005 09:01 AM

Hi Sam,

I am Irish and take life a quite a slow pace but even if I was doing it at full speed I just don't think you can do Drumnadrochit (loch Ness) via Inverness - tour highlands - castles, or Drive to Stonehenge - Tour Cotswold's - See friends in Northampton in one day. You won't see any castles or villages as you will be in the car all the time.

The days are long in June but nothing opens until 9am, 500 miles on country roads as someone has already said, will take from early morning until night in car without stopping.

Why not skip the highlands and Stonehenge this trip and spend some time in the areas you are in to fully appreciate what they have to offer.

We want you to enyoy your experience in the UK, not end up in London completly exhaused and too tired to see all the sights London has to offer.

Have a good trip


LKC May 5th, 2005 10:04 AM

I agree that this itinerary has plenty of driving and less time to experience places. When I travel like this, my memories sometimes end up as a blur. But have a wonderful time whatever you do; family time traveling is great. The motorways may get you there, but any time spent off the main highways (on the A or small B roads) might show you more about Britain than driving to a list of key sights/places. Day 5 to 6 is pretty intense; Stonehenge is good if you can focus on it despite the crowds, but you've got too much to do. Tour the Cotswolds--at least you'll get off the highway. In London, definitely Westminster Abbey or St. Paul's (a favorite of mine; you might do it with the Tower as both are east; you can also climb up for a great city view, which I did instead of the Eye). For a touch of how the old royals lived, I like Kensington Palace, in Kensington Gardens west of Hyde Park. I like your river cruise idea; I've taken a boat back from Greenwich to Westminster--great views! Don't miss the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum.

sam913 May 5th, 2005 12:31 PM

Thanks again to all for you kind comments, and suggestions.

This is the kind of travel schedule the kids and wife are used to. We have done similar trips out west in the US and put 5000 miles on the van in 3 weeks.

I for one don't think we will be able to afford to go back in the near future due to the cost of college educations, so I tend to take a lets see as much as we can attack.

I have been using multimap to get travel time estimates. (hope they are accurate)

I was going to drop Stonehenge but when I told the kids they seemed a little disappointed. (NP European vacation!)

The only part that I think was pushing it was the time from Drumnadrochit to Cardiff.
We may skip the Train in Fort William.

I don't see day 6 being that bad except that we may be wore out after seeing U2.

For Example:

Leave Cardiff at 7:30 am (2hr) to Stonehenge (2hrs max there) drive (1.5hrs) to Bourton on
the Water. We are there by 1PM. Tour Cotswolds (lunch) till 5PM and we are in Northampton by 7PM for dinner.

Again thanks....


caroline_edinburgh May 6th, 2005 01:27 AM

In my experience Multimap timings are over-optimistic unless you're going a fairly short distance. We always reckon on averaging 50 miles an hour in the UK even for journeys including a lot of motorway, including lunch breaks but no sightseeing. And when you're mainly on little country roads it will be less. So to me, 500 miles a day = *at least* 10 hours travelling. When we go to my in laws in Pembrokeshire, just over 400 miles, it usually takes us 10-11 hours including an hour for lunch and 1 or 2 brief comfort stops (apart from when we did it on Boxing Day & it took 7.5 !).

julia_t May 6th, 2005 01:59 AM

More impressive than Stonehenge, and on the A361 between Devizes and Swindon is are the Avebury stones (the road actually passes through the circle). If pushed for time you don't have to stop, but they are an interesting sight. I suggest that from Swindon you travel towards Bourton-on-the-water via Cirencester - I have written a suggested route through the Cotswolds (see post on Cotswolds Region Villages - click on my name to find it), taking in Bibury on the way to Bourton-on-the-water. From Bourton it is fairly easy to Northampton via Stow, Chipping Norton, Banbury and Daventry. It is quite a lot of driving that day, but do-able.

janis May 6th, 2005 12:02 PM

OK - sam913: You have received some good info but seem to think you can travel in the UK the same ways you do in the states.

PLEASE - take what I am about to say into consideration. First of all I am a Californian who thinks NOTHING of driving from Sacramento to LA for a weekend so I know waht your 500 mile days are like. But I also lived in theUK for several years and know the realities of travel there.

You want to leave Ft at 4 or 5 a.m. -- well you will do that on an empty stomach because the B&Bs generally won't serve breakfast until around 8 a.m. or later.

second - you CAN make good time on the motorways - but NONE of the sites are on the motorways. Driving straight through on the Motorways will give you no more experience of being in the UK

janis May 6th, 2005 12:05 PM

OOPS - hit post in the middle of a sentence.

Driving straight through on the Motorways will give you no more experience of being in the UK then driving down the I-5 in central california

If you go through with some of these crazy drive days your entire family will be bats by the time you get to London.

leonberger May 6th, 2005 02:54 PM

I have to agree with many of the other posters...your entire trip will be in the car, hurrying from one place to another.

I, too, live in the US and regularly drive long distances. My parents live 700 miles away, my husband's parents are almost 900 miles away (fortunately, they're in the same state, so we're getting to close to one when we arrive at the other!). We will gladly drive either of those distances in one day - sometimes the 700 mile drive can be done in as little as 11 hours, the 900 mile drive can take up to 16 hours.

But, we don't SEE anything on those trips....highways and the main roads that lead to them, lunch at Truck Stops (or McDonalds or Arbys), a quick three minute walk for the dogs when we stop to fill up the gas tank.

If you drive as much as possible on the M roads in England/Scotland/Wales, you'll see some pretty scenery whizzing by at various places, but you won't see the beautiful and spectacular scenery that is tucked away out of your view.

You'll eat at the Little Chefs or other dreaded Motorway stops or at very forgettable chains located near the exits. You won't find a nice pub or family-owned restaurant anywhere near the highway (that's an exaggeration, I'm sure, but the odds of you happening to stop for lunch at the one decent place close to the highway on the road between London and Edinburgh isn't good.

And, many of the actual sites you want to see can't be accessed easily from the Motorway, so you're then going to be on those little roads others have mentioned.

Not only will the travel be slower, but there will be traffic - lots of it, since you're going in June. When you want to stop for lunch, so will everyone else - you may have to look for a place that can seat you, or wait in line.

If you actually make it to the site you've chosen, there will be other people there, too. In your way, queuing in line in front of all the special things you want to see.

It isn't like traveling in the US. We "did" the southwest US in a 2 week trip one year, centered on my brother's wedding in Las Vegas. We drove to the Grand Canyon - saw nothing on the way except Sedona, for about 2 hours. Back to LV for the wedding. Then, drove to LA to visit Universal Studios and one or two other things. I would never claim that I had "seen" all of the SW - we laugh about out whirlwind tour. Fortunately, there's a lot of desert in between the locations we visited, so it wasn't quite as bad.

To the contrary, there are wonderful things to see around almost every corner in the UK.

Please, listen to the advice of all these seasoned travelers and leave some things for another trip. Just slow it down, and cut out a few of teh far-away places, and take the time to enjoy where you are.

You really will thank us after the trip.


P.S., Like the others, I'm not saying you CAN'T physically do what you've proposed. I'm just saying it's not a great plan, knowing what I do about travel in the UK.

Good luck, whatever you decide!

Kristopherroe May 8th, 2005 09:36 PM

Hey, was doing a bit of searching on here for some things myself and saw your message, wanted to add my own two cents. First off I am a musician, I do loads of travel in my band and I have personally driven all over the U.K. with my wife as well as in a tour bus with a hired U.K. driver, first thing I will assure you is that anyone in the U.K. will pretty much tell you that a drive takes way longer than it normally takes, I have driven from New York to Los Angeles serveral times, something when you mention to most people in the U.K. they will pretty much scoff at you and call you crazy, but honestly one night we left Glasgow after a late gig in a hired car and made it to London Waterloo station by 6am with enough time to catch the early train to Paris. Granted if you are driving mornings do note that yes, I agree some of the motorways are the size of any smaller back road in the U,S. or Europe and you usually have to slow down during towns to acvoid speed cameras, but there are alot of major motorways that will get you from one end of this fairly small country to the next. The worst problem I would say is the traffic around rush hour near larger cities, i;e Edinburgh, Birmingham, Manchester, London... etc. none the less, if you are like me you will have an enjoyable time driving, be able to have good conversation with the family and see alot of beautiful things roll by whilst doing it. Now as for sights, yeah. I have been to Stonehenge and where I agree it is something everyone should check out at least once, it is off the beaten path a bit and is a slight bit overrated. If you and your kids are into music and so forth there are is plenty of cool shops, music venues, memoribilia shops... etc. around Oxford street as well as theatres, a huge arcade, that Queen musical "We will rock you" is pretty amazing, it is right there around oxford street near the venue the Astoria where we usually play, and this street was also where most bands such as the Clash and Sex Pistols first got their start, if you want to see if there are any other gigs, concerts playing in advance for while you are in a city, check out, it is a free website that is a very complete up-to-date listing of pretty much all of the concerts in the world, just enter the city and the dates you want to check. or you can actually check by band... just type... Brian Wilson and then you will get all of the dates he is playing during said window. Anyways, I hope this helps. Enjoy your time in the U.K. it is a beautiful place with generally really great people, I'm sure that you and your family will have a blast. Kris Roe / The Ataris

MissPrism May 9th, 2005 12:14 AM

Your itineray makes me exhausted just reading it.
If I were you, I'd just stay in London and take the odd trip outside.
You might perhaps start in Scotland, drive around a bit and then take a train to London.

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