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Heathrow or Manchester? Driving with a Hire Car

Heathrow or Manchester? Driving with a Hire Car

Old Aug 14th, 2020, 08:37 AM
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Heathrow or Manchester? Driving with a Hire Car

We're trying this again, after having had to cancel the trip that was planned for the end of this month.

We don't have any real itinerary yet, and it's likely to be peculiar, although it will definitely involve Harry Potter Studios in Watford. That would suggest Heathrow to me, although we will have about two weeks and a hire car, and we're intending to cover a fair amount of ground. We probably won't visit the exact same things out of Manchester as we would out of London, but I'm not going to have any trouble keeping us amused.

We're tentatively looking at May 29--June 12, probably on Aer Lingus connecting through Dublin from Philadelphia. The main reason I was contemplating Manchester is that I thought it might be somewhat easier to drive out of than London. True? False? True but not enough to be worth the bother?

If we were carless, I'd probably just go for Heathrow, but we do think we need a car, and if we could reduce the amount of traffic mayhem in the first day or two...
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Old Aug 14th, 2020, 08:44 AM
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Essentially no difference at all. You don't want to drive IN Manchester or IN London, but from either airport is no problem. It would depend more on 1) airfare, and 2) the itinerary you settle on. But since one should not drive on arrival day after an overnight flight(s) it really doesn't matter. Now - of course IF you were going to stop over a night or two in Dublin - driving the first day in the UK would be OK.
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Old Aug 14th, 2020, 09:14 AM
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Originally Posted by janisj View Post
Essentially no difference at all. You don't want to drive IN Manchester or IN London, but from either airport is no problem. It would depend more on 1) airfare, and 2) the itinerary you settle on. But since one should not drive on arrival day after an overnight flight(s) it really doesn't matter. Now - of course IF you were going to stop over a night or two in Dublin - driving the first day in the UK would be OK.
We're definitely not driving on arrival day, no matter where we go, but would probably stay at or very near the airport, so we will be driving out of there. I was hoping for slightly smaller and less confusing, and out of an urban area faster, but I have never been to Manchester (although my grandmother lived there in the fifties) and am completely unfamiliar with its airport.

We're probably not stopping over in Dublin for longer than it takes to change airplanes.
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Old Aug 14th, 2020, 09:50 AM
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Heathrow is quite a bit outside of the urban London area. It's easy to get on the M4 or M25 motorway, especially if you are going west from LHR.
Day and time of arrival make a difference; if it's rush hour on a weekday it could be very busy. Weekends are less busy.
It all depends on where you are going first. Say you want to stay in the centre of Oxford; I would take the bus from LHR and only rent a car when leaving Oxford (for example). So it all depends on your itinerary after arrival.
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Old Aug 14th, 2020, 10:12 AM
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"I was hoping for slightly smaller and less confusing, and out of an urban area faster, but I have never been to Manchester "

IME/IMO there is next to no difference in driving away from either airport. (Or LGW . . . IF flights into LGW resume by then). It really does depend on where you want to spend the first day or two. Oxford or Windsor or ?? - LHR. Chester, or York, or Manchester itself, or ?? - then MAN.

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Old Aug 14th, 2020, 12:35 PM
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Well, Oxford is probably not on the itinerary. We are not really planning on London either, and probably not Windsor.

Driving around in circles may be involved. Wales is, but the person who wants to go to Wales doesn't really care where in Wales. Watford is necessary, probably Stonehenge, and possibly the tank museum at Bovington (although I'm seriously hoping I get away with substituting one or more other military museums). My plan of attack will probably involve mapping out the must haves, adding in desired things that don't look too nutty distance wise, and then filling in with anything appealing along the route. We're pretty easily amused, so I'm not anticipating having trouble finding things (and a lot of must haves are types, rather than specifics--zoo, beach town, amusement park, stately home, gardens, random fortifications, etc.,etc.).

Geographically, it looks like either would work, but if we went into Manchester we'd probably hit Blackpool and maybe Alton Towers, and if we went into London, we'd probably do Brighton or Bournemouth (or both). I'm quite sure there are more things that will appeal than we can possibly fit into one trip. Our original itinerary was fairly southwards, but I had to go to Southampton, which isn't necessary this time.

Since it sounds like one airport isn't more intrinsically desirable than the other, I am going to try to get some sense out of my family and try to make a slightly more solid itinerary.
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Old Aug 14th, 2020, 05:07 PM
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Family is in favor of Manchester.

DH doesn't really care, but he wants to ride the Big One at Blackpool Pleasure Beach and the Wicker Man at Alton Towers. DS thinks everyone passes through Heathrow sooner or later, but this may be the only time he goes to Manchester.

Current thinking is to swing up from Manchester to Blackpool, then Alton Towers, then west to Wales, work our way over to Stonehenge and then Bovington, and then slowly northeast to Watford, hit Audley End House, and then back to Manchester. It's weird, but we should have plenty of time.
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Old Aug 14th, 2020, 07:15 PM
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If that is the sort of itinerary you are working on - then consider flying in to MAN and out of LHR.
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Old Aug 15th, 2020, 01:34 AM
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Following that last comment from janisj, why not stay in Manchester for a night or two and take the chance to visit the Imperial War Museum North just outside of the city? I can recommend hotels and restaurants if you'd like if you give me an indication of budget.

It's in the area known as the Quays, or Salford Quays where there are a number of hotels across the price range, Manchester United's stadium, the Lowry Outlet Mall and a number of reasonable restaurants. While I appreciate your DH's wish to ride the Big One at Blackpool, the town itself is not worth visiting especially on a weekend. The cost of the entry to the Pleasure Beach at Blackpool where the Big One is is eye watering.

After that, head for Chester for a night or two which is a great base for North Wales, Llandudno, Conway, Caernarvon and Snowdonia before you head South.

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Old Aug 15th, 2020, 04:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Rubicund View Post
Following that last comment from janisj, why not stay in Manchester for a night or two and take the chance to visit the Imperial War Museum North just outside of the city? I can recommend hotels and restaurants if you'd like if you give me an indication of budget.

It's in the area known as the Quays, or Salford Quays where there are a number of hotels across the price range, Manchester United's stadium, the Lowry Outlet Mall and a number of reasonable restaurants. While I appreciate your DH's wish to ride the Big One at Blackpool, the town itself is not worth visiting especially on a weekend. The cost of the entry to the Pleasure Beach at Blackpool where the Big One is is eye watering.

After that, head for Chester for a night or two which is a great base for North Wales, Llandudno, Conway, Caernarvon and Snowdonia before you head South.
The Imperial War Museum sounds like a great idea. Hotels should be comfortable, but not super fancy. Independents should run more to "traditional" than "modern boutique". I like to try to keep them to no more that a 100GBP a night. Less is always better. Restaurants should be pretty traditional, unless Italian, since both DS and I find it appealing and it's easy to feed my husband. A recommendation for something a little more interesting than a chain pub/carvery would be welcome though, since I think there is going to be a lot of that on this trip.

Unless I'm missing something, the cost at the gate for an unlimited Pleasure Beach adult ticket is 39.00 GBP, and it's somewhat less online. Pricy, but not as painful as Harry Potter at 47.00 (that's really making me wince). Otherwise is Blackpool not really worth visiting? I thought there was a fair amount going on there, in a honky tonk beach town kind of way.

We might stop in Chester, but we were thinking to work our way south in Wales, although I know that's going to be a slow go. Some previous itineraries included Ulysses, but it's close enough to a cruise ship that we're assuming unnecessary ferry rides are still going to be not a great idea.
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Old Aug 15th, 2020, 04:30 AM
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Originally Posted by janisj View Post
If that is the sort of itinerary you are working on - then consider flying in to MAN and out of LHR.
We had wondered a little bit about that, although my husband has a preference for flying in and out of the same airport (and returning the hire car to the place he got it from).

I probably won't book the airfare for a couple of days yet, so we're not yet committed to in and out of Manchester. It sounds like I should spend some quality time with google maps.
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Old Aug 15th, 2020, 08:01 AM
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If you're counting pounds, you might want to do two dummy car reservations to compare quotes for round-trip and one-way rentals.
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Old Aug 15th, 2020, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Jean View Post
If you're counting pounds, you might want to do two dummy car reservations to compare quotes for round-trip and one-way rentals.
That's a good idea. I always figure it's more to drop off in a new location, but if it's not a huge difference it might change our thinking a little. We're not on a super tight budget, but a pound saved is another pound for fun stuff and snacks.
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Old Aug 16th, 2020, 02:36 AM
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You have a choice of staying in the city centre or out near the IWM, but evenings near the IWM are limited in your choice of restaurant. There's far more to do during the day in Manchester's city centre than out in Salford and you have a much larger choice of hotels. For instance, the Piccadilly Hotel run by Mercure, is slap bang in the centre and comes in at less than 100 prpn for your dates. It's an OK hotel and has easy walking distance access to the whole of the city.

As far as Italian restaurants go, you could try:

San Carlo-- a bit pricey but excellent
Rosso--pricey but excellent
Don Giovanni--Less pricey and good

If you want to be a bit a bit more adventurous, try some Indian food at:

East z East
Rajdoot
Akbars

This hotel is a short stroll from Chinatown with lots of choice, eg:

Yang Sing
Little Yang Sing
Woo Sang

Let me know if there's anything else I can help with, such as things to do in the city during the day.
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Old Aug 16th, 2020, 04:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Rubicund View Post
You have a choice of staying in the city centre or out near the IWM, but evenings near the IWM are limited in your choice of restaurant. There's far more to do during the day in Manchester's city centre than out in Salford and you have a much larger choice of hotels. For instance, the Piccadilly Hotel run by Mercure, is slap bang in the centre and comes in at less than 100 prpn for your dates. It's an OK hotel and has easy walking distance access to the whole of the city.

As far as Italian restaurants go, you could try:

San Carlo-- a bit pricey but excellent
Rosso--pricey but excellent
Don Giovanni--Less pricey and good

If you want to be a bit a bit more adventurous, try some Indian food at:

East z East
Rajdoot
Akbars

This hotel is a short stroll from Chinatown with lots of choice, eg:

Yang Sing
Little Yang Sing
Woo Sang

Let me know if there's anything else I can help with, such as things to do in the city during the day.
Thank you so much!

I've plotted out a route that does have us more or less in a circle, without insanely complicated deviations. (It helps that while neither Blackpool nor Alton Towers are all that far from Manchester, they seem to be in completely opposite directions). I'm thinking we may do the IMW on the back end, possibly the day before we fly out, rather than on the front. The Italian suggestions are great. DS and I may eat some Indian at some point, but DH will not eat either Indian or Chinese.

I have done some more research on Blackpool, and while we still want to go, our plans seem to have us there on the Monday Bank Holiday. Does this mean that everything will be insane, or just that everything will be open and running? It also looks like I should exercise some caution in the booking of hotels, because while we don't mind older, it looks like some of the seafront hotels we should theoretically like have seen much better days.
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Old Aug 16th, 2020, 08:45 AM
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Bank holiday will be busy.
Blackpool is a dump. I'd not stay there, find a town along the coast with a proper hotel.
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Old Aug 16th, 2020, 09:10 AM
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Originally Posted by bilboburgler View Post
Bank holiday will be busy.
Blackpool is a dump. I'd not stay there, find a town along the coast with a proper hotel.
Big Ditto - dash in to ride the Big One then get out of Dodge . . .
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Old Aug 16th, 2020, 03:02 PM
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You're right, Blackpool and Alton Towers are in opposite directions, but if you must go to Blackpool it's by far the easier to get to, -practically motorway all the way. Alton Towers involves a number of cross country roads and it's a PIA to get to. The Bank Holiday will be manic in Blackpool and if this pandemic is over, the queues will be horrendous on the Pleasure Beach. A fast in to ride the Big One and fast out may not be possible. I don't think I'd bother staying on the coast as it's only an hour or less (traffic on a BH permitting) so I'd do it as a day trip and come back to Manchester for the night. Hotels in Blackpool are generally awful with the possible exception of the Grand, Imperial or Savoy. (In that order). Even then I'd still drive back to Manchester..Leave early to get there early.

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Old Aug 16th, 2020, 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Rubicund View Post
You're right, Blackpool and Alton Towers are in opposite directions, but if you must go to Blackpool it's by far the easier to get to, -practically motorway all the way. Alton Towers involves a number of cross country roads and it's a PIA to get to. The Bank Holiday will be manic in Blackpool and if this pandemic is over, the queues will be horrendous on the Pleasure Beach. A fast in to ride the Big One and fast out may not be possible. I don't think I'd bother staying on the coast as it's only an hour or less (traffic on a BH permitting) so I'd do it as a day trip and come back to Manchester for the night. Hotels in Blackpool are generally awful with the possible exception of the Grand, Imperial or Savoy. (In that order). Even then I'd still drive back to Manchester..Leave early to get there early.
We were thinking the Imperial. We love the look of the Savoy, but the reviews aren't great. The Grand looked like something odd was up with it. There were a couple of smaller ones that looked not completely terrifying, and we thought Pleasure Beach's own hotels might be okay. We're up to a certain amount of adventure, and shore hotels here can be weird (I stayed in one in the 80's that had literal toadstools in the carpet), but there are limits. I was surprised by how few chains seem to have made incursions into the market there.

We definitely want at least one night, and like the idea of being near the promenade, and absolutely love the look of Pleasure Beach (I watched some videos, and it looks awesome--we love both amusement parks and shore towns--we had not realized what a variety of rides they have) and we'd like to visit the piers and Blackpool Tower as well. My impression is of potentially rowdy, but as long as you stick to tourist areas and don't do anything stupid, probably not dangerous (and please correct me if I'm wrong).

Right now we're thinking that we'll do Alton Towers on the way back into Manchester (we're planning on the Black Country Living History Museum in Dudley, and it looks likely Audley End to that to Alton Towers is reasonably sane), and we'll just have a slowish drive from AT to Manchester.
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Old Aug 16th, 2020, 06:14 PM
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" I was surprised by how few chains seem to have made incursions into the market there."

There is a reason for that . . . don't say we didn't warn you. And I didn't realize you were headed there on the BH. Oh my . . .
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