Tuesday, October 18, 2011

London Travel Tips

When I travel, I don’t want to waste one precious minute of my vacation time. The problem is, how do you make the most of those precious vacation hours when you’re touring a town that you’ve never before set foot in? As always, organization is the key. A little preplanning can make the difference between a so-so vacation and a great vacation.

First, do some research on a travel site such as http://www.tripadvisor.com/to see exactly what unique treasures your destination has to offer. Next, make a list of all of those places that seem to be calling your name, including museums, amusement parks, zoos, restaurants and shopping areas. Group those sites by location within the city, then pick a different area to visit each day.

When planning an upcoming trip to London, I structured our itinerary around Tube (subway) stops, picking one station per day and planning our activities accordingly. For example, Holburn Station is within walking distance of Covent Garden, the Charles Dickens Museum and the British Museum. We will take one short Tube ride on that day and then enjoy all three of those sites. Planning our trip in this way saves us transportation time and money. One Tube ride everyday is obviously less expensive and time-consuming than multiple rides.

The Tube is the most economical and easiest mode of travel. Get an Oyster card on-line before you leave home and you’ll be all set for the ride from the airport to your hotel when you arrive. The Oyster card site is: https://oyster.tfl.gov.uk/oyster/entry.do. In order to master the Tube in advance, visit http://journeyplanner.tfl.gov.uk/user/XSLT_TRIP_REQUEST2?language=en, and use the Journey Planner to determine your routes. Print out your routes and take them with you so you won’t have to wander around lost in the London underground.

The itinerary below concentrates solely on London. Many Americans who travel to London try to spend just a couple of days there and then spend time running all about the U.K. and other nearby European countries. However, if you want to really get the feel of London, I suggest staying there for several days and soaking up the culture.


Day 1
You’re going to have jetlag when you arrive. Rest and take it easy on your arrival day. Concentrate on staying awake until bedtime in London in order to get acclimated to the time zone. Get your bearings. Talk to the staff at your hotel and ask about nearby restaurants, Tube stations and shopping.

Day 2
On this day, you are going to learn the lay of the land. Start your day with a tour of The London Eye and get a bird’s eye view of the city. You can order tickets on-line at http://www.londoneye.com/. Ordering your tickets on-line is not only cheaper than paying at the door but it also allows you to skip the long lines at the ticket counter. When you disembark from The Eye, take a walking tour of the city. You can hire a touring company to give you a guided tour or you can download several free self-guided walking tours from http://www.londontoolkit.com/. This site details several self-guided walks that will lead you to all of the major sites, including some of the royal palaces.

Day 3
Today, go check out the Tower of London. Order your tickets on-line for this attraction by visiting http://www.blogger.com/www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/planyourvisit/default.aspx. While you’re on that website, read up on the Ceremony of the Keys and learn how to order free tickets for that nightly event. Plan on spending your afternoon touring the Tower and seeing the Crown Jewels. Once the Tower closes, head out to a nearby pub for a leisurely dinner and then return later in the evening for the Key Ceremony.

Day 4
You should have fully adjusted to the time zone by now. Hire a coach from http://www.londontoolkit.com/tours/premium_windsor_stonehenge_bath.htmand take a day trip to Windsor, Bath and Stonehenge. They will pick you up from a local hotel, drive you to the sites and feed you lunch at a local pub. You will be deposited back at your hotel later in the evening.

Day 5
Start your day at Leicester Square where you can visit the TKTS booth and pick up deeply discounted theatre tickets for a show that evening. Once you’ve secured your tickets, wander over to Harrods and spend the afternoon bumping about that iconic department. Late in the afternoon, enjoy a late tea in the elegant Georgian Restaurant on Harrods fourth floor. The sandwiches and desserts they serve are generous enough to constitute dinner for the evening. Afternoon tea at Harrods is quite popular, so make your reservations on-line well in advance of your visit by applying at http://www.blogger.com/www.harrods.com/content/visiting-the-store/restaurants/georgian-restaurant. It is my understanding that Harrods has several restaurants but that The Georgian on the Fourth Floor is the best. After enjoying your tea, then take a stroll to the theatre for your evening entertainment.

Day 6
This is a museum day. The charming Charles Dickens Museum and the impressive British Museum are both within a short walk of the Holburn Tube station. As of this writing, the admission for the Dickens Museum is £8 per person, but the British Museum is free. For a lovely website offering all of the information you need to know regarding London’s Museum Mille, visit http://www.museum-mile.org.uk/. Covent Garden, with its abundance of shops and restaurants, is the perfect place to wrap up your day with shopping and dining.

Day 7
Today’s destination in the Notting Hill Tube station. From there you can visit the area made famous by the movie of the same name. Wander the Portobello Road Market and then explore the Natural History Museum. In the evening, indulge in the fun and surprisingly informative Jack the Ripper tour led by http://www.thejacktherippertour.com, the top rated tour of its kind by http://www.tripadvisor.com/.

If you are fortunate enough to have more than seven days in London, you should be able to fill the rest of your days with visits to the London Zoo, the many palaces and more free museums. You will never run out of fun and interest things to do during your visit to London. As Samuel Johnson said, "When a man is tired of London he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." As a matter of fact, there is a fun little website by the same name that provides information on daily activities on London. You can reach that site at http://www.tiredoflondontiredoflife.com/.
For other helpful travel tips, download a copy my book, Simply Wonderful Travels, at http://www.amazon.com/Simply-Wonderful-Travels-ebook/dp/B003T9UXDS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1318847972&sr=8-1.

Nest week on this blog, I’ll post an organized itinerary for short trip to New York City.