To Plan or Not to Plan London Trip?

Old Mar 18th, 2004, 09:12 AM
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To Plan or Not to Plan London Trip?

Hi Everyone,

I'm leaving for my first trip to London in 3 days and I've been reading a lot of posts where people have planned their itinerary on a day by day basis. I haven't done that (my boyfriend was very adament about *not* planning every single day) and I'm a bit worried about what I might miss because of this. (Yes, I realize I probably should have asked earlier. )

Has anyone ever not planned their trip to London? Are there major concerns/snafus that we should beware of by not planning an itinerary?

We'll be there from Monday (arriving midday) to Saturday (leaving in the morning for Brussels). I did manage to get my boyfriend to agree to a day tour to Stonehenge on the Wednesday (2nd) day of our stay.

Thanks for any advice!
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Old Mar 18th, 2004, 09:25 AM
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As long as you have some idea what you'd like to see, you'll probably be fine. The biggest risks I can see of not planning are:

You certainly won't do everything, so if you do no planning, you may do some of the low priority things and skip some high priority items, then just run out of time. Planning would ensure that you do the highest priority items on your list.

You might waste time going to a museum or activity that is closed the particular day you want to go there and have to choose something else.

Neither is a horrible thing to have happen - especially if you figure you'll get back to London some day. If you're not a type-A personality and enjoy being laid-back, you'll most likely have a wonderful time in London, planned or not!
 
Old Mar 18th, 2004, 09:30 AM
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You may want to make a list of what you are interested in seeing and when they are open.

Then group them together either by open days and/or general location.
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Old Mar 18th, 2004, 09:38 AM
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I'd be inerested in hearing the BF's alternative strategy -- does he plan to wake up each morning, survey the sky, and say "Well, what do I feel like doing right now/"

Overplanning isn't a good thing, but there's also such a thing as underplanning. Do as Myer suggests, make a tentative list of interests and possibilities, so you'll at least know what your options are.
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Old Mar 18th, 2004, 09:43 AM
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Hi Ashura-

Sounds like you'll have 3.5 days in London (not counting Stonehenge). That is not a lot of time to spend in London. Depends on how much you want to see. Planning will help you maximize your sightseeing time.

I agree with others, make a list of places you want to go, check their opening times/days. And group them by location so that you won't waste time running all over the city.
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Old Mar 18th, 2004, 09:44 AM
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In a city the size of London with such a large number of sights and activities you're going to end up wasting a fair amount of time. It's possible to "plan" to do nothing- build it into the schedule. You could have a really laid back plan-" I really want to see Harrods and the Tower of London today. " Your options could then include going to the Tower first thing and then looking at your list of options to see if you want to squeeze in another activity before heading to Knightsbridge to Harrods.
Figure out what you need to see and do in London and plot out where each is to create a rough plan for yourselves.
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Old Mar 18th, 2004, 09:46 AM
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Hi:
You might also want to look into the time they say to give certain properties. For example, The Tower, they say to give it 3 hrs to tour. If you have places like The Tower to visit each day that's a lot of time. Have fun!
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Old Mar 18th, 2004, 09:50 AM
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I almost never "plan" my trips to London - but I've been there many times and sort of just know what is open when, which sites are near each other, etc. But even for someone who's been there a lot there is a certain amount of planning - double checking that opening times have not changed, which new play have opened, what special exhibits are running, etc.

For a short visit you really should do at least a minimal amount of research/planning. Get to know what sites are near which tube stations, when they are open, which are close to each other, and so on. That way each morning you can deide where you want to visit - after taking into account the weather etc.
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Old Mar 18th, 2004, 10:02 AM
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Have done it both ways over the years. I can relate to your boyfriend not wanting to feel regimented on a vacation and you not wanting to &quot;waste&quot; time. If I were you, in addition to the list others have mentioned &amp; checking days/times things are open &amp; closed, I'd find out <i>before</i> you go if there's anything you have your heart set on that he doesn't want to do at all (ie shopping, a particular museum-or any museum). Make sure you discuss it. Maybe he goes to the Naval museum while you go to Harrods etc. <i>whenever</i> that happens to be.

I would have an (agreed)idea of what you will do when you arrive whether it's just have a walk around the area you're staying, do a hop on hop off bus, go to Trafalgar Square...

Have a blast &amp; don't forget it's a vacation &amp; hopefully you'll be back some day.
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Old Mar 18th, 2004, 10:23 AM
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In your situation I'd at least make a list of things I'd like to see, and importantly, do some research on restaurants and pubs - I'd hate for you to fll into some awful toruist traps because you don't know where to go to get the best out of London.

You don't need a strict itinery - I hate those myself - but at least have a good idea of what to see and where to find it.
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Old Mar 18th, 2004, 10:32 AM
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Hi ashura,

I go with the boyfriend. I hope that he hasn't ruined everything by agreeing to hotel reservations in advance. That would take the spontaniety out of the trip.

He is planning on just stopping in at the airport and buying a ticket, isn't he?


Seriously, though. You do need a list of must-sees and must-dos.
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Old Mar 18th, 2004, 10:55 AM
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Ashura, you can plan what you want to see, and then your boyfriend can decide each day whether to tag along or to go by himself around town being spontaneous.
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Old Mar 18th, 2004, 10:59 AM
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Ashura:

London is enormous. At least buy a good, detailed map of the city and study it on the plane on the way over so you'll have some idea of where things are in relation to each other. Totally winging it will inevitably result in your wasting loads of time, and you don't have that much time to begin with.
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Old Mar 18th, 2004, 11:20 AM
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We never do day-by-day itineraries. Just bring along a list of the major things we want to see/do and info on when they are open/closed. We plan each day as it comes - and the list ensures we don;t miss anything we really want to see. (I don;t know how people plan that far in advance - who knows what the weather will be, or your mood, or how early you feel like getting up?)

Have a great trip and don;t sweat the deatails.
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Old Mar 18th, 2004, 12:03 PM
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Thanks for all your great advice. I'll be pulling out the London Streetwise map and the guide book on the plane to make some rough itineraries.

My must-see list includes:
Harrods
Stonehenge (already got a tour, woohoo!)
Victoria and Albert Museum
British Museum
Natural History Museum
Tower of London
Hyde Park/Kensington Park
a theater show
Westminster Abbey
St. Paul's Catherdral
West End
Piccadilly Circus

A rather long list considering the 'no-fixed itinerary' thing. But, hopefully, it's doable in 3.5 days.

Unfortunately, my bf feels that there's no need for an itinerary because his friends (who have visited London many times before) keep telling him that you can finish seeing the city in 2 days. The friends, tho, forget to mention that they've been to London 3-4 times before and have seen everything by now.

Anyhow, any recommendations for grouping of these sites?
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Old Mar 18th, 2004, 12:09 PM
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The biggest disadvantage to not planning your visit, is that you will spend much more time traveling between sites.

If you enjoy just crossing town, rather than actually visiting muesums, shopping, doing the theatre, than that should be fine.

I think an unplanned visit tends to work better with a city like Paris. Paris you &quot;experience&quot; more. London, you &quot;do&quot; more.

I hope you have a great time. Please share your experience after the trip.

Keith
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Old Mar 18th, 2004, 12:13 PM
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I don't see how you can do the city in two days, but again this depends what you mean by &quot;do.&quot; If it means every major site has been glimpsed, then possibly. If it means spending a few hours at each site to learn more about it, absolutely not.

I have to admit, that although I do favor planning, I often change my day's plans depending what I feel like doing that morning. But so long as you have an idea where you want to go, it's no big deal.
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Old Mar 18th, 2004, 12:14 PM
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I presume that you and your boyfriend know what things you like to do together and what you don't. I also presume that you have a pretty good idea of what is in London that appeals to you. If these two presumptions aren't correct for both of you, you are in deep trouble.

My wife and I are both of the &quot;wake up in the morning and let's do this today planners&quot; or if it's something like a visit to Greenwich or Hampton Court, the night before (subject to a change in weather).

We like the Michelin Green Guides with maps that show where things are so if we decide we want to go to the V&amp;A, we can see the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum are adjacent or a little walk will take us to Royal Albert Hall or Kensington Gardens. This is not trekking uncharted territory with Lewis and Clark that requires advance planning.

We've both been to London and Paris numerous times (my wife lived in both) but our approach to the first visit to Amsterdam and Rome was the same. Did we see everything we wanted? No. Do we regret what we did? Absolutely not. Are we embarrassed if someone saw more than we? You've got to be kidding.


Go, enjoy and return someday.
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Old Mar 18th, 2004, 02:57 PM
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Sorry to disillusion your bf -- but if his friends have &quot;been to London 3-4 times before&quot; they most certainly have NOT &quot;seen everything by now&quot;.

I lived in the UK for 5 years, get back to London a couple of times a year - and I STILL haven't seen everything.

It is a vast city and you, at minimum, need to know where the major sites (and your favorite minor ones) are located so you can group them and not be traveling back and forth across the whole city over and over.

Your list is pretty ambitious for a short stay - St Paul's, Westminster Abbey, the Tower, and all of the museums will each take a few of hours not counting travel times. Stonehenge is a full day, and the first day will be pretty exhausting because of the (probably) sleepless overnight flight.
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Old Mar 19th, 2004, 05:11 AM
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And then I was thinking about your question in relation to another current thread on information overload. It made me realize the obvious--there are plenty of people who don't plan a trip very much............<i>but you won't find them on this website!!!</i> The people here, by definition, are planners/information gatherers.

So, to answer your question &quot;Are there major concerns/snafus that we should beware of by not planning an itinerary?&quot; I've wracked my brain back to the days before the internet, before Fodors...before I planned. I can honestly say I've had as many snafus <i>with</i> planning as without. At least that's my perception. Strikes, train interruptions/breakdowns, weather problems, lost reservations can all happen either way.

The major benefits of planning, IMO, are
&gt;the possibility of saving money, &gt;getting tickets to something that might be sold out/not available on short notice,
&gt;finding out about something I didn't know existed,
&gt;saving time or getting the &quot;best&quot; experience.

So I <b>would</b> suggest reading up here or elsewhere, on the train pass options (decide what's right for you) to perhaps save money. Also read about the various places on your &quot;to do&quot; list (put each one in the text search) to find out what others say about best time to go, whether or not to take a tour etc. Also look at &quot;must sees in London&quot;

Here are a few threads to get you started. BTW, I think I read one of the tube lines (the Picadilly I think) is not running on weekends right now.

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...p;tid=34473411

http://fodors.com/forums/pgMessages....+visitors+pass

http://fodors.com/forums/pgMessages....+visitors+pass

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...p;tid=34411304

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