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Eric_Bal Feb 13th, 2010 09:40 PM

London, Southwest of London family hols
Hi,I've made the going-in plan for a July trip to London, Southwest of Londo with my wife and 2 toddlers (4 and 2 years old).

We arrive on a Friday morning at Heathrow, spend the first week end in London. Then take a 12 day driving trip in the Southwest : Bath (2 days), Cotswolds (3 days), Exmoor (2 days), Cornwall and Devon (6 days). We head back to London for another 7 days.

1 - Are the 9 days in London enough ? As we have 2 toddlers, we will be taking a more relaxed pace to explore. We want to visit the ff : Tower of London, Museums of Natural History and Science, Parliament House area, watch the changing of the guards, take a Thames river boat ride, Covent Garden,Hamley's.

2 - What are the best value castles to visit ? I've read about so many and having a difficulty time choosing. Especially since most of them have admission charges...and it's quite steep if we don't pick and choose....

3 - Parks best for familiies/toddlers in London ?

4 - Should we consider a day trip to Cambridge ? Or is the plan OK as it is ?

5 - What London public transpo card/pass should we get ? The guide books state it's better for us to buy when we are still overseas and haven't landed in London. The Oyster Card ? Will we be able to use that despite the 12 day gap between stays in London ?

6 - Any city / tourist pass cards you recommend given what we plan to visit ?

Thanks to all!


janisj Feb 14th, 2010 12:08 AM

It is getting on quite late here so I'll only make a couple of quick comments right now --

"<i>What London public transpo card/pass should we get ? The guide books state it's better for us to buy when we are still overseas and haven't landed in London.</i>"

Burn those guidebooks. It makes no sense to pre-purchase your transport passes. Oysters are best bought at any tube station. Or if you and your wife (the kids will mostly be free) want to use any 2-for-1 offers, you can't book from overseas since you'd need a paper travel card.

"<i>Any city / tourist pass cards you recommend given what we plan to visit ?</i>"

No city passes, though depending on what ends up on your final itinerary, the Great British Heritage Pass is very good. It covers places like Blenheim Palace, Warwick Castle, Stonehenge, the Roman Baths . . .

texasbookworm Feb 14th, 2010 11:44 AM

Definitely look into the Great British Heritage Pass; I think it will pay for itself.

Definitely wait to buy London public transport card/pass upon arrival and avoid postage (and maybe some other fee)---Counter at LHR will be easy--and agents helpful. Oyster cards with pay-as-you-go money loaded on them don't have time limits. You just load whatever amount you want on them; the money stays on there until you use it or turn the card in upon leaving and get your refund. You may want to load a 7-day-pass onto the plastic Oyster card; it seems that many people do that instead of loading money covering estimated amounts needed (pay as you go). You MAY want to also buy a 7day PAPER travel card FROM A RAIL OFFICE when you return to London--it will enable you to use the 2for1 offers; it does have time limit.

If a man is tired of London he's tired of life said Dr. Johnson, but 9 days will be plenty of time to get done what you list.

Castles--The Tower for sure; Warwick was lots of fun!

BKP Feb 14th, 2010 01:48 PM

Is there a reason for going into London for the weekend and then beginning your road trip? Another option would be to pick up your hire car at Heathrow and drive to Windsor. There is plenty to do there. The next day you can get started on your road trip and you won't have back tracked. Although I've never done it, this plan is often recommended here on Fodor's.

The value of a pass will be determined by what you want to see! I would plan your itinerary based on what you want to see -- then go back and see if the pass makes sense. I wouldn't want to buy a pass and then try to visit things just because they are covered, to get my money's worth.

Castles. My family breaks the castles down into roughly 3 categories:
The BIG ones (The Tower, Windsor, Hampton Court, Warwick)

Mid Range (Tintagel Castle in Cornwall, Dunster Castle in Somerset, Old Wardour Castle in Wiltshire)

FREE (Nunney Castle in Somerset, Longtown Castle in Herefordshire)

The BIG ones usually run about 15-18 gbp for adults, under 5's free. The mid range are close to 4-6 gbp, sometimes you will have to pay a child's rate for your 4 year old. Of course, the free ones are free! If I were to plan a trip I would include 1 maybe 2 of the BIG ones, a couple of the mid range, and as many of the free ones as I could find. 40 gbp is an investment and I would hate to repeatedly spend that much if it seemed to be overwhelming for your children. There is a lot to see and read at the big ones but not always as much to do, which can be difficult for little ones.

Once you narrow it down to be sure to check the individual castle websites, as many have festivals of some sort during the summer.

Parks in London have recently been discussed here. Do a search. I'll see if I can find it for you.

BKP Feb 14th, 2010 01:54 PM

Oh and one more thing! I would recommend a Sat Nav for your road trip. We love ours. We've road tripped through England using maps and it was much harder. We find we are more apt to take the back roads and explore with our Sat Nav. It's also much less stressful which cannot be overvalued when driving with two little ones!

Our particular model has two cool features: #1 Point of interest. We can find nearby parks, grocery stores, tourist sites, petrol stations, museums, hotels etc. #2 Restaurants. Sat Nav can find the closest McDonald's! We're not proud of the fact that we use this feature, but sometimes french fries can really cheer up a four year old trapped in a car on a long trip!

ElendilPickle Feb 15th, 2010 05:13 PM

A couple of people have recommended the Great British Heritage Pass. We used one and saved a lot of money; it's definitely a great bargain.

Take a look at for more information on the GBHP, including a list of all the properties covered by the pass.

Lee Ann

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