London/Oxford

Old Jan 20th, 2023, 08:56 PM
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London/Oxford

Our family is visiting England this spring. I have a work event in Oxford but we will stay longer and spend some time in London as well. The trip is a total of 8 nights.

We will fly into London Heathrow. The next day we will need to go to Oxford. I know public transportation is plentiful....but if you have the best method for us to travel to Oxford, feel free to share.

The next four nights we will be in Oxford, since I have a work event there.

Then we will return to London for 3 nights.

We will do lots of walking, and checking out sights. We will not have a rental car. Our family has done lots of traveling in the United States, a little bit in the Caribbean, but has not been to the United Kingdom. I'm looking for the following help:
- "must see" places in Oxford and London
- "must do" tours in Oxford and London
- great teen/children activities in Oxford and London
- best way to go between London and Oxford and vise versa
- best way to get from London Heathrow to airport hotel
- any reviews on the hotels listed or reasons to change them
- any tips for first time visitors and less experienced international travelors

Last edited by IBJoel; Mar 15th, 2023 at 08:29 AM. Reason: requested by user
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Old Jan 20th, 2023, 10:41 PM
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Welcome to Fodors

Just a few random thoughts:

• f it must be one of those Wilde Aparthotels, then yes, the Paddington property is the better location. Its about a 7 0r 8 minutes walk from Paddington Station.

• Paddington Station is a great hub for transport from Oxford and to LHR. Trains from Oxford go into Paddington . . . and the Elizabeth Line train is direct from Paddington to LHR.

• What time do you arrive at LHR?? Most US flights land in the early AM through early afternoon. If so - 'wasting' a night at the Courtyard may not be the best option. There are direct express coaches from LHR to Oxford that take less than an hour so if you have any flexibility you might want to head straight to Oxford on arrival.

• There are many many more 'major sites/musts' in London than you could possibly see in 3 short days -- so you may want to get a guidebook or two and decide which handful of sites interest you. A short list would include the Tower of London (about half a day), V&A Museum (2 hours at a minimum - all day not out of the question), British Museum (2 hours at a minimum - all day not out of the question), Westminster Abbey 1.5-ish hours, St Pauls about an hour, National Gallery (or any of the many other are galleries), Hampton Court Palace bit more than half a day, Theatre, for Harry Potter fans - the Warner Brothers studio tour (more that half a day including travel from central London). But in three days you couldn't fit all of these in.

• Oxford is totally walkable -- you are staying south of the central city but just about a 5 minute walk from Folly Bridge. Visits any and all colleges that you find open to visitors (many are not and some only for limited hours). Christ Church - besides an interesting college to visit -- also Harry Potter film locations. Ashmolean Museum, If the weather is nice take a punt out on the river, the Bodleian Library and Radcliffe Camera, There are lots of walking tours in Oxford. A short bus ride north to Woodstock to visit Blenheim Palace.


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Old Jan 21st, 2023, 01:21 AM
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janisj has touched on Oxford pretty well. The colleges tend to be open specific times (normally afternoons) and dates for tourists (students need quiet to study) so worth checking which ones will be open when. Not knowing your religion you might still like to go to a service in one of the chapels, normally 6ish it gives you a chance to slow down in time and imagine the many people who have sat there before and think they paid for these services.
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Old Jan 21st, 2023, 02:30 AM
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janisj
We have day flights and arrive into Heathrow late evening (22:00). That was my rationale for staying near the airport the first night. However, to maximize our time in London, we could sightsee most of the following day until departing to Oxford later in the evening. Instead of staying near the airport we could book stay closer to some sightseeing areas.

I chose the Wilde Aparthotels due to their more spacious design for a family. I noticed you said “if it must be,” are there other hotels that would be better for our trip?

Thank you for listing some great sightseeing opportunities in London and Oxford. Although I’ve booked airfare and hotels, I have not determined any specific places to visit yet so those were helpful.

bilboburgler
My work event is at the “Examination Schools” in Oxford. We will try to check out several of the schools as well.

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Old Jan 21st, 2023, 02:56 AM
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The examination schools are on the "High" with support buildings around the back in the heart of the town and about 10 minutes walk from the station.
There are other "schools" but 1) they are not open to the public and 2) they tend to be very boring (not strictly true one or two are ancient in there own right) what you might want to see is the independant "colleges" which make up the University. Based on a historical endowment they "house" or not, a group of students who are also students of the University, the colleges also house lecturers and researchers who offer tutorial education to support the lectures and laboratory support provided by the University. You will find each college is highly protected by walls, gates and tough lodge keepers (normally ex military or police). Each can be viewed online and open hours are displayed there and at the lodge.

You might also want to see is the main old Library building (a tiny bit of the Bodlean which undermines the central part of the town and pops up in a variety of massive buildings) or the Sheldonian where you go to pick up degrees and the like and is about as dull as such things should be. If you like a good bookshop then Blackwells is worth a potter. Each of these are close together and within 5 minutes walk from the Examination Schools, you also get to pass near the Covered Market which is a great place to spend money in.

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Old Jan 21st, 2023, 04:23 AM
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You asked about tours. Unnecessary for either city, but for London you might look at: https://www.walks.com/

There used to be a tourist information place on, I think, Broad Street that arranged walking tours of the colleges but I can't find anything about it online now. I did find this, which will be useful for visiting colleges: https://www.ox.ac.uk/visitors/visiti...g-the-colleges

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Old Jan 21st, 2023, 07:01 AM
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Just very quick - going out for several hours . . .

In that case - definitely, with an evening arrival staying at the airport makes sense -- OR staying close to Paddington which is a very short train ride from the airport and then train ride the next morning to Oxford. But LHR hotels are generally cheaper than central city properties. Especially for a family of 5.

Lucky you booking a day flight!! There aren't all that any and they book up early and tend to charge premium fares because they are so popular. Wish that was a possibility for me but living on th West Coast all our flights are ALL overnighters.

What is you hotel budget? When I get back home I can check out some other London options.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2023, 02:39 AM
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London/Oxford travel

As a general rule, the trains between London and Oxford are fine: roughly half of them go on to serve my remote Cotswold microtown and they serve us reasonably well. But they're still struggling with damage from the collapse of income during lockdown, difficulties in rehiring staff laid off and government fear of subsidies, so I don't think I've had a single journey in the past year that wasn't seriously overcrowded between London and Oxford. To get from a hotel on the LHR periphery via Paddington requires a bus to the central LHR service hub, a 30 min train to Paddington (the 15 min Heathrow Express has close to the world's highest train fare, rated on cost per mile), a further wait at Paddington of on average 15 mins and then a bit under another hour to Oxford on a train whose funky seat reservation system more often than not is out of action, so getting a seat requires discretely administered physical force.

All of which might be sorted by the time you're travelling, but the past year gives me little confidence. It's slightly quicker, cheaper and likely to be comfier to get the direct, half-hourly, bus from the central LHR hub (https://www.theairlineoxford.co.uk/o...-heathrow-bus/) to central Oxford, Coming back to London, there's also a decent bus (https://traveloxfordtube.com/) to a number of central London locations, but it does take a good bit longer than the trains, and the current local gossip is that the alternative train route (operated by Deutsche Bundesbahn to London Marylebone) is less likely to be messed up (though it has no seat reservation system at all) than the traditional route to Paddington. On either route, DEFINITELY worth avoiding travel at peak hours (7.30-10 Mon-Sat, and 5-7 Mon-Sun), and both routes can be investigated at the common website shared by all UK rail operators (nationalrail.co.uk). Advance booking (up to the day before travel) almost always ensures lower fares.
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Old Feb 14th, 2023, 12:21 AM
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There are 2 train lines and 1 coach serving Oxford.

Great Western should be a bit more frequent but charges a bit more. If you plan to take the Great Western, you can consider Hayes and Harliington, Slough or Windsor. The fast train to Oxford calls at Slough. Hayes and Harlington and Windsor are a few stations away from Slough. There are also hotels near the Slough rail station as well, though I gather many participants in this forum hold very 'particular opinions' about this place . Hayes and Harlington definitely has lots of buses from/to Heathrow even late in the evening.

The other train line Chiltern train calls at High Wycombe. There are a few hotels near that station as well. There are a few National Trust sites

I think the main difference between the 2 lines are the rolling stock. Great Western offers the Hitachi 800 series, which resembles the design of Shinkansen. I believe the line is electrified. Noise insulation is quite good. Chiltern trains offer the diesel rolling stock. Diesel trains can be a bit noisy.

If you want to take the Oxford tube, you can consider staying at Uxbridge underground station. There is a Premier Inn. Uxbridge and Heathrow are connected by A10. The Oxford tube last stop in London is at Hillingdon, which is 1 tube station away from Uxbridge.
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Old Feb 15th, 2023, 12:03 AM
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Jeffrey's comments are slightly confusing.
There is one direct public transport link between Heathrow and Oxford: the more or less half-hourly The Airline bus service (https://www.theairlineoxford.co.uk/), which we use pretty much whenever we can. It's by far the quickest, cheapest and least painful way of travelling between Heathrow and the Oxford area.. I suspect no daytime flights from the US east coast arrive in time to be sure of getting one of them, though, and arriving in Oxford to sleep the night there.

There are two train links, over two different routes, between central London and Oxford: the GWR subsidiary of the First Group and the Chiltern subsidiary of Deutsche Bundesbahn. Neither stop en route at Heathrow: both require messy connections from Heathrow to their intermediate stops, and personally I'd never dream of using Chiltern for travel between Heathrow and Oxford (getting from Heathrow to its stations is a potential nightmare) - though it's fine for your planned return from Oxford to central London. All those railway intermediate stops are very expensive taxi rides from Heathrow, and I suspect none have public transport running from Heathrow late at night - so you'll probably have no alternative to staying at a hotel on the Heathrow periphery.

Comparing the GWR train to Shinkansens is rather flattering. Yes they're all made in Japan: but the GWR's diesel (for most of the route) trains are a very great deal slower - and at present dismally less reliable

Between central London and Oxford, there's also a regular bus confusingly branded the Oxford Tube. This is excellent for saving money, is the default choice for many students, runs through the night - but is subject to traffic delays on the overcrowded roads into London and can take twice as long as the train.
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Old Feb 15th, 2023, 12:34 AM
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I should have been clearer. I was referring to routes between London and Oxford, not Heathrow to Oxford.

That's why I mentioned Hayes and Harlington, Slough and High Wycombe, which can be accessed from Heathrow.

It is not a must for Op to get to Paddington after landing.

Connection from Heathrow to Hayes and Harlington is definitely easy. Lots of transport for London direct buses run til after midnight. Cab is not the only option.

I wasn't saying Gwr as a company was comparable with Shinkansen, operated by JR west and JR East etc.

The speed of the Hitachi trains running in UK by gwr, lner and Lumo etc. Is nowhere near high speed rail. But the rolling stock design of the 800 series does share similarity with some Hitachi trains in Japan, like seating.


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Old Feb 16th, 2023, 09:18 AM
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Has anyone actually tried getting from LHR to central Oxford by train without going into central London? Here's what you do:

1. Get Elizabeth Line train or bus to Hayes&Harlington station (use journey planner at tfl.gov.uk, but service is good)
2. Get yourself (with luggage or kids or any walking disability) across uncovered bridge to westbound line. There's no escalator, lift or porter. And the TFL data isn't kept on the National Rail website, so you need to separately check H&H to Oxford on nationalrail.co.uk, though someone may have stumbled over a website that carries the whole of this journey
3. Get westbound train to Slough or Reading and change train - and probably platform.- again
4. About an hour after leaving H&H arrive at Oxford station and grab a cab to your hotel.
About 100 minutes, and you've got a high chance of getting drenched.

Alternatively: get the Airline bus. Faster, cheaper, comfier and, on about a third of British days, drier - and, unlike the train, it probably drops you close to the city-centre hotel you want to stay in. In 20-odd years of flying to and from the Oxford area via LHR, I've tried the H&H option just once. Never again.
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Old Feb 16th, 2023, 10:01 AM
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I would highly recommend doing the Westminster Abbey verger tour. Also we have done a Cotswald village tour through London Walks or, since you'll be in Oxford, consider doing a tour of the Cotswalds from Oxford. Enjoy your trip.
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Old Feb 17th, 2023, 08:19 PM
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Thanks!

@flanneruk
@Kiddo
@jeffreycwuk
@janisj
@thursdaysd
@bilboburgler


Thanks for all of the suggestions!

When we arrive into London (March 31), we will stay near the airport the first night (Staybridge Suites - $155/night including breakfast). We are to arrive about 10:00 PM London time. The next day I believe we will try to do some sightseeing in London prior to heading to Oxford in the evening. My thoughts were to go from the Staybridge Suites to Paddington (feel free to give me the best way to make that trip). Then possibly see if we could leave our bags with a bell hop around the Paddington area. Usually hotels will allow you to do that, even if you are not staying there. (Sometimes I don't think they even know.) However, maybe heading to a place in the Central part of London where we would probably sightsee would make more sense? Obviously we don't want to haul our suitcases everywhere with us that day, so if we go to a specific sightseeing place that day, maybe we could just find a hotel near there? We would sightsee around London on April 1. Then head from London to Oxford that evening. I saw mention in the comments about a couple suggestions for transportation to Oxford. (Again, after knowing our plans, feel free to suggest the best ways.) We will be in Oxford from late on April 1 and leave early on April 5. We are scheduled to stay at Hotel Ethos (about $915 for 4 nights including breakfast.) I will spend some time at an event at Oxford University but will not be there the whole time. My husband and kids will want to do some sightseeing the whole time, and I'll join them the majority of the time. Early on April 5th, we will head back to London (again I saw some suggestions on that, but feel free to leave more after you read these plans). We are staying at the Wilde Aparthotels by Staycity -London Paddington. I chose that hotel due to the space (its a bigger room for a family of 5) and I was able to get a good deal on their rooms (about $800 for 3 nights). We will sightsee on April 5, April 6, April 7, and until we depart the afternoon of April 8.

Each hotel I chose because they were a bit bigger rooms. I did put that we were a family of 4 in for each hotel room (although we are really 5) because it is impossible to find hotel rooms for 5. (I have a portable cot that one of the kids can sleep on.) However, I have never had a hotel say anything to us about having 5 sleep in the room. Although, sometimes while checking in my oldest will hold back a bit just in case someone would say something, but we've never had it happen. At each of the hotels I booked I chose the flexible rate where I could cancel, if need be. So, if you believe other hotels would be better for our group - please feel free to share.

Again, thank you everyone for your help!
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Old Feb 17th, 2023, 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Kiddo
I would highly recommend doing the Westminster Abbey verger tour. Also we have done a Cotswald village tour through London Walks or, since you'll be in Oxford, consider doing a tour of the Cotswalds from Oxford. Enjoy your trip.
What is the best way from Oxford to the Cotswold area?
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Old Feb 17th, 2023, 08:57 PM
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Just two comments right now:

I personally think your plan of going in to London for the day/schlepping luggage and all, before heading to Oxford doesn't really make sense. If it was me I'd head to Oxford using the Express coach from LHR - leave the bags at your Oxford hotel if the rooms are not ready yet.

And "I did put that we were a family of 4 in for each hotel room (although we are really 5) because it is impossible to find hotel rooms for 5. (I have a portable cot that one of the kids can sleep on.) However, I have never had a hotel say anything to us about having 5 sleep in the room. "

A big no -- just no. Hotels tend to be very VERY strict about the number of people in a room. If for no other reason than fire regulations. Do not try to 'sneak' in an extra person. Plus most hotel rooms holding 4, hold . . . 4, with absolutely no space for an extra (snuck in) cot. You aren't talking an infant here. If you need to sleep five you will either have to 1) get a hotel room that legitimately sleeps five, 2) book two rooms - a double and a triple, or 3) rent a flat that sleeps 5. Those are your options.
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Old Feb 17th, 2023, 09:03 PM
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Originally Posted by janisj
Just two comments right now:

I personally think your plan of going in to London for the day/schlepping luggage and all, before heading to Oxford doesn't really make sense. If it was me I'd head to Oxford using the Express coach from LHR - leave the bags at your Oxford hotel if the rooms are not ready yet.

And "I did put that we were a family of 4 in for each hotel room (although we are really 5) because it is impossible to find hotel rooms for 5. (I have a portable cot that one of the kids can sleep on.) However, I have never had a hotel say anything to us about having 5 sleep in the room. "

A big no -- just no. Hotels tend to be very VERY strict about the number of people in a room. If for no other reason than fire regulations. Do not try to 'sneak' in an extra person. Plus most hotel rooms holding 4, hold . . . 4, with absolutely no space for an extra (snuck in) cot. You aren't talking an infant here. If you need to sleep five you will either have to 1) get a hotel room that legitimately sleeps five, 2) book two rooms - a double and a triple, or 3) rent a flat that sleeps 5. Those are your options.

Thank you for that info about hotels. We’ve never stayed at one that it was an issue - but that’s really good to know. Thanks again. I haven’t found any 5 person hotel rooms in London or Oxford. I’ll look again this evening. Maybe something will show up? Otherwise I’ll look at double/triple rooms. We could also do a flat. Something to reconsider….
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Old Feb 18th, 2023, 06:19 AM
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Meant to add -- re the Ethos in Oxford -- AFAIK they only have large double rooms (king beds) and a few rooms with 2 queens. It is not a large hotel -- fewer than 20 rooms so they definitely would notice a family of 5 coming and going. They are known for having larger than normal rooms, so maybe contact them and ask if you can have a rollaway added. Do NOT ask for a cot . . . 'cot' in UK-speak' is a baby crib and I'm pretty sure your 8yo wouldn't appreciate that

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Old Feb 18th, 2023, 06:29 AM
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numbers in rooms, oh yes, hoteliers care
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Old Feb 18th, 2023, 07:12 AM
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Thanks!

I sent an email to the hotel in Oxford about 5 in a room (we have a Signature Superking reserved).

I’ll keep working on some solutions for the other two reservations. I’m coming up empty on rooms for 5 in London. I’ve found just a couple - but they are all booked. (Several show they have availability for 5 but once you continue on, they don’t.)
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