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Logistics of planning daytrips from London

Logistics of planning daytrips from London

Oct 27th, 2009, 07:59 PM
  #1  
kit
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Logistics of planning daytrips from London

I'm hoping you can help me figure out the best way to accomplish a few daytrips while visiting London on a leg of a multi-week trip.

It will be the first time to London for the majority of our group of 8. I have been many times already and would prefer to venture out on my own while they explore London proper.

I am interested in Bath and Oxford, mainly. Is it reasonable that I would treat these as true daytrips -- that is, waking up in the London hotel in the morning and training out and back the same day. Or would it be better to go from London to Bath then directly to Oxford without returning to London (by staying in Bath that night?)

I appreciate your thoughts. And if I'm missing an obvious daytrip destination, I would love to be advised! (I chose Bath becasue of its Roman roots and Oxford because I am a CS Lewis fan, if it helps.)
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Oct 27th, 2009, 08:06 PM
  #2  
wug
 
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I've been to Bath as a day trip before and it was fine. I felt like I had plenty of time to see what I wanted. We went by bus. I absolutely LOVED Bath! Still one of my favorite places in the British Isles.
As far as doing Oxford too, I can't really comment on that as I've done that as a separate day trip, although it was a day that was paired with a visit to Stratford Upon Avon. We had a guide in Oxford, which was GREAT but, it did feel a bit rushed since we were doing Stratford too.
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Oct 27th, 2009, 08:12 PM
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There is a bit more to see in Bath than can easily be done in one day, but it's surely worth the trip if you can focus on your priority sight(s) there. The baths, of course, are at least the minimum visit you could or should make. We were there in 2004 and quite enjoyed, in addition to the baths themselves, our not inexpensive treat in the Pump Room of scones with fresh raspberry jam, maramalade, clotted cream, accompanied by a lice classical quartet, plus a modest drink of the Bath water itself (50p, if I recall). I can't speak to Oxford, but we had quite an enjoyable day trip to Cambridge, including a walk through the chapel (rather large for a chapel) at Kings College, and a bit of lunch and tea by the River Cam. Have a fine time; your options are many.
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Oct 27th, 2009, 08:14 PM
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I don't want to bug you, so here's a small correction to my post, above: It was a nice classical quartet, not a lice one.
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Oct 27th, 2009, 08:21 PM
  #5  
kit
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Ha Mohun! Thanks for the advice. Yes, I am trying to figure out if Bath needs an overnight or not. Is it easy to get from Bath to Oxford, directly, and about how long would that trip take? Thank you mohun and wug. I appreciate your answers!
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Oct 27th, 2009, 10:36 PM
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There's no more a general rule about daytrips from London than there is about daytrips from New York. Actually, even less of a one, because the density and complexity of public transport round London throws a gazillion new complications into the pot.

The central problem is cost. An advance-purchase weekday day return from London to Bath is £49 on trains arriving at 1200 and later, £59 on trains arriving between 1000 and 1200 and £70 on trains arriving earlier (it's a 90 min train journey, with trains every half hour or so). Unbooked, the walk-up fare can be as high as £148. There's no real alternative mode of transport for a daytrip, though you might try hiring a minibus.

Advance offpeak fares to Oxford are as little as £4 each way (£3.60 if you book at the First Great Western website. Peak is arriving before 1020 on a weekday), though the standard day return walkup fare is £20 on trains arriving after 1020. Arrive earlier and it's £24 each way. "Fast" trains take 55 mins and are every half hour. Buses are a lot cheaper and go every 5-10 mins, but traffic means you have to allow about 2 hrs each way.

So two daytrips on weekdays - giving yourselves time to see things - can get pricey. You CAN try to see both cities in a day - but it's a 90-105 min journey between the two, which wipes 2.5-3 hours out of sightseeing, and you'll really see little worthwhile. There's usually two trains an hour.

The most practical solution (apart from travelling at weekends) is almost certainly making it a two-dayer, staying overnight in either city.

Buses ARE an option to and from London for both cities if you're not planning a daytrip, though they're not really practical for getting a group on a schedule between the two. The National Express and Megabus sites are booking engines for both (try both engines, since the Megabus one is cheaper but has more draconian limits): www.oxfordbus.co.uk for the alternative Oxford bus service.
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Oct 27th, 2009, 10:51 PM
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I read the OP to mean doing the day trips without the others. Solo - not as a group. Right?

If so - both are totally doable as day trips (NOT on the same day). Bath is only practical as a day trip if you book your train tickets well ahead to get the discounted fares.

Bath is a very small city (from a tourist's point of view) and w/ an early start you really CAN see most of it in a day. The Roman Baths/Pump Room, Abbey, and general architecture/wandering can easily be done in about 5 or 6 hours plus meal time.

Oxford is also a very easy day trip. Booked ahead, train fares are dirt cheap. Not booked ahead - then you'd probably want to take a bus or end up paying a fortune. If you do this on a weekend - the traffic will be lighter so a bus would take less time than on a weekday.
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Oct 28th, 2009, 05:02 AM
  #8  
kit
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This is great information, flanner and janis...thank you! I will buzz around on those websites and return later with more questions/thoughts.

(Is the 49 fare arriving 1200 or later London-Bath a roundtrip fare; is that what "return" means?)

Thank you!
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Oct 28th, 2009, 05:37 AM
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Why not check out London Walks and see what daytrips they offer on certain days? I've not done the daytrips, yet, but their regular two-hour tours are one of my favorite things to do when I visit.

This would be in a group but not in your OWN group - perhaps that is what you meant?
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Oct 28th, 2009, 08:03 AM
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The central problem is cost. An advance-purchase weekday day return from London to Bath is £49 on trains arriving at 1200 and later, £59 on trains arriving between 1000 and 1200 and £70 on trains arriving earlier (it's a 90 min train journey, with trains every half hour or so). Unbooked, the walk-up fare can be as high as £148. There's no real alternative mode of transport for a daytrip, though you might try hiring a minibus.>

which is why the London Plus railpass can be a great deal and simplify the maze of options - the pass, in its shortest form gives two days of unlimited rail travel in a wide swathe of area around London, including to Bath, Stratford-on-Avon, Oxford, Cambirdge, Salisbury (for Stonehenge) etc. and it also gives a return trip on the Heathrow Express, Gatwick Express or Stansted Express trains - and these trains are not cheap - and the airport transfers can be used outside the normal 8-day (i think - see link) validity period for the 2 unlimited travel days. If only going to Oxford or Windsor, etc then these are usually rather cheap but if going to Bath, as flanner.uk illustrates the pass could be a good deal - especially since it can be used on any train anytime - no off-peak periods, etc. - just show up at Paddington and hop any of the twice hourly or so trains to Bath Spa station. For more on the pass and British trains - www.seat61.com; http://www.budgeteuropetravel.com/id11.html#londonplus; www.ricksteves.com - passes not sold at British train stations as marketed for foreign tourists and Brits can't use them.
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Oct 28th, 2009, 08:16 AM
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I 2nd London Walks www.walks.com check out their explorer days. We always send our guests on these and they have a great time.
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Oct 28th, 2009, 09:34 AM
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and excursions to Bath it seem also often include a look at Stonehenge en route.
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Oct 28th, 2009, 11:39 AM
  #13  
kit
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I love London Walks; it's just that their Explorer Days are very limited...about once a month to Bath and Oxford, if I am reading that correctly. Will check out these links y'all have provided...thanks very much!
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Oct 28th, 2009, 11:01 PM
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I do wish PalQ would read that bit of the agreement he signed with Fodors where he promised not to advertise.

The scam he's touting costs a minimum of $139 for two days, or £85 in real money. There's no way on earth anyone could possibly squander such a ludicrous amount of money on pre-booked day returns from London to each of Oxford and Bath unless they were feckless enough to believe hucksters like PalQ.

Just do a nanosecond's advance planning on www.nationalrail.co.uk And help put the touts out of business.
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Oct 29th, 2009, 05:40 AM
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Kit - return DOES = round trip
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Oct 29th, 2009, 05:56 AM
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flanner - i am a big booster of railpasses, which i always use. Period. and this pass, providing for unlimited fully flexible travel can be a boon for folks that desire that. Compare the pass to fully flexible first class tickets and fully flexible standard class tickets for day trips to places like Bath and Stratford and also return ticket on Heathrow Express and do the math. I never said it was the absolute cheapest but for some folks requirements a good deal. I only wish i were on the take from BritRail or whoever markets those passes. The mantra that a pass is always a bad deal is to me one of the big myths and mantra for fodorites.
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Oct 29th, 2009, 07:21 AM
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The scam he's touting costs a minimum of $139 for two days, or £85 in real money. There's no way on earth anyone could possibly squander such a ludicrous amount of money on pre-booked day returns from London to each of Oxford and Bath unless they were feckless enough to believe hucksters like PalQ.>

Well flanner you completely mis-characterized what i posted - i said for fully flexible tickets the pass could be a boon - i just put in for tomorrow on nationalrail.co.uk London to Bath Spa ticket search and here is what i got:

"Anytime tickets" - return Standard Class 148 pounds
First Class 222 pounds - now this is way way more than the pass costs - one trip alone and i make a point of saying for folks who want fully flexible travel plans and not having to dodge off-peak times or set their times in stone when visiting a place where they have little idea of how long they may want to spend there. And I THINK THIS IS VALUABLE INFO and if you want to throw dispersions my way so be it.

I always say the pass is not the cheapest way but IMO - IM strong O after using passes in Britain since Beeching took his axe to chop down the rail system - that being able to go to the station and just hop any train is PRICELESS for me and perhaps for others. You seem to have a myopic view of how folks - foreign tourists want to travel - not everyone wants to book an advance fare ticket with restrictions, etc. when you say 'squander' well this is your opinion only.

Now for those advance fares London to Bath Spa - standard return tickets cheapest i saw was for one train at 49 pounds and 59 poundds was the rule - that's about $100 for a return ticket to Bath along (remember the pass is $139 and also includes return travel on airport expresses - 32 pounds for Heathrow Ex i think - making a return 'advance' ticket to Bath and a round-trip on Heathrow Express MORE than the pass and the pass would give you another day of unlimited travel - go to Stratford or Salisbury and then the savings on the pass can be huge PLUS fully flexible travel and again 'anytime' fares just to Bath return are 148 pounds - much more in itself than the pass costs. so i think you need to do the math and quit presenting misleading and indeed awful advice. Is this pass always a good deal - no and i said that before if only going to Oxford and closer in places no - but it was the Bath component that shows the pass could be very very good deal and convenient - not everyone wants to wait for Off-Peak (M-F after 9:30am on day trips to places like Bath as there is so much to see there. OK throw your accusations as me but first do your math. and if i am missing something by my fare comparisions please correrct me.
And for the average American tourist in Britain i would always advise going first class on British as there is a huge huge difference between steerage - standard class which IME of 40 years of traveling on European trains is by far the worst and most cramped and crowded and filthy in Europe - but first class is amongst the best - i did a day trip to Bath last year and my first class car was mainly empty seats and i got free tea or coffee and smacks the whole way - standard class is like a Greyhound bus IME.
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Nov 1st, 2009, 05:24 AM
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I would check out Megatrain if travelling to Bath. This is booked through the Megabus site, but you actually travel on a South West Train. Prices start at £1 single. Tickets generally available 6 wks before travel and rise as you get closer to your travel date. There are only two trains a day, but you have over 4 hours in Bath if not staying overnight. Example fares 16 Dec, 9:20am outward journey London to Bath - £10, return to London on 17 Dec 4:07pm - £1
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Nov 1st, 2009, 07:26 AM
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What's this, Pal, "Smacks the whole way"? Whatever turns you on, or as a colleague once told me "Don't knock it till you've tried it".
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Nov 2nd, 2009, 07:17 AM
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Yup the real benefit of first class is the smacks served the whole way - well of course snacks - biscuits, various stuffed rolls, etc. Now this first class comp stuff varies as to the rail franchcise used - i always seek out Virgin Trains as they give a veritable meal on their trains - even at times free booze, though less and less it seems. Then there is the East Coast line where you only get lots of 'tea or coffee' and some crackers it seems.

And the value of a railpss in first class is furthered by the fact that the pass lets you into the first class first-class seats - so-called Gold Zone - there are also first class carriages that are typically full with reserved seats from online discounts - those are not nearly as plush as the real first class, where discounted tickets seem not to be seated IME
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