Archive for January 2013

Tweaking the London Plans…   Leave a comment

Well, I’m a big fat liar.

First I had convinced myself that I was going to travel to London with just a carry-on bag. Ha! Double Ha!

I had a business meeting last week that required a hotel stay and I completely stuffed my bag. It was bulging at the seams and I even forgot stuff! Granted, it was a billion below zero in Boston last week and I packed some accordingly bulky clothing, but it made me realize that traveling to London in February, just packing a carry-on wasn’t going to happen.

Granted, if you look at the current forecast, London is in the 50’s, and in the 40’s next week, a far cry from a billion below zero. But my experience last week has me rethinking my plans. I’ll continue to monitor the forecast before I make a final decision, but at the moment, I am planning on checking a bag.

The thought of carting a suitcase onto the Tube during rush hour is the result of my second lie. After all that spouting off about the Tube versus Heathrow Express, I booked a HEX return ticket yesterday. Sigh. It’s the details that can make you mental. The fact is that I’m arriving and departing during London rush hour. From experience I know how mobbed the Tube can be. By taking HEX I will drastically cut the time I spend on the Tube. Heck I can even grab a cab from Paddington to my hotel if I choose (and vice versa). I’m also not convinced that HEX’s 15 minute ride to Paddington won’t save me time. Be sure I’ll be reporting back on that!!!

Well, I’m at t-minus 16 days! I simply cannot wait to get to London!!!

Posted January 28, 2013 by cubechick in London, Planning that trip to London

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Getting That Inexpensive London Hotel   Leave a comment

I just realized that I’ve been remiss in not sharing how I got my hotel. I have booked hotels in London through Priceline four times now. The first time I had seen a post on the Trap Advisor London Forum where a person posted the deal they got. That gave me the confidence to give it a go myself and I ended up at the Hilton Metropole near Paddington Station for $85 a night. Fantastic for London! Subsequent deals were the Copthorne Tara in Kensington for $65, Holiday Inn Kensington Forum for $85 (that was in June!) and the Intercontinental Park Lane for $125 (5-star hotel normally $400 + a night).

Despite the success, I wanted more control over exactly where my hotel would be as I’ll be by myself this time. For example, the Copthorne Tara left you walking down a darkened residential street to get to your hotel from the tube station…something I’m more comfortable with if I have a companion.

I spent plenty of time at all of the sites I know (including hotel websites as they can sometimes have the best prices). Finally I found the hotel I’d been looking for (literally…it’s exactly the hotel I wanted based on reviews and location) through http://www.booking.com for £65 (about $104 a night). Currently £211.80 per night…not a bad savings! I did have to pay for my room upfront, but it was worth it for such a great price!

Tip! The big tip here is perseverance. Just like with the airfare, keep looking, look at multiple websites and your hard work will pay off!

Posted January 16, 2013 by cubechick in Planning that trip to London

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More London Planning!   Leave a comment

So, the trip planning is coming along swimmingly.

I’m at the five week mark and I continue to flip through travel books and poke around on-line to see what’s happening in London while I’m there.

The last thing that I had to get sorted was my transportation to/from the airport.  The last couple of times I’ve splurged on a car service…which wasn’t too bad when splitting the cost, but isn’t practical if I’m going to be by myself.  I hemmed and hawed between Heathrow Connect and Heathrow Express.  HC gets you to London in 30-minutes vs 15 for HEX and is half the price at £19 for a round trip journey.  But the idea of getting to London in 15-minutes is very appealing.  Of course both trains take you to Paddington Station which leaves me with the conundrum of getting to my hotel near the Charing Cross Station.

I’d nearly made up my mind to splurge with HEX when I put the trip into the Journey Planner.  TIP!  If you’re planning a trip to London and want to know the best way to travel between two points, the Journey Planner is an excellent tool: http://journeyplanner.tfl.gov.uk/user/XSLT_TRIP_REQUEST2?language=en

According to the Journey Planner if I went with my original plan and took HEX to Charing Cross, the journey would take about 45 minutes including walking to catch the trains.  However when I changed the search parameters from “Fastest” to “Tube only” the journey time is estimated to be 60 minutes.  I had the 15 minutes that HEX takes in its travel time so firmly planted in my brain that I forgot the rest of the travel time.  So now I’ve decided to take the tube which by far is your cheapest alternative at a mere £5 for peak travel on my Oyster card.  With a 15-minute difference separating the two journeys,  the savings of £28.20 round trip (including tube fare…about $45) is well worth it.

That settled I continue my poking around the web and discover to my surprise that I can take a tour of Parliament!  For some reason I had it in my head that you had to be a UK citizen to do so!  There are a couple of ways to do this.  You can actually watch debates for free if Parliament is in session (which it is not while I am in London) or you can pay for a guided tour on most Saturdays and during the 6-week Summer Opening.  If you want to guarantee your chance to tour Parliament, the best thing to do is what I did.  Purchase your tickets through Ticketmaster.  £15 is the cost and you have to select your time in advance.  Alternatively you can buy your tickets in advance at the ticket office next to the Jewel Tower (across from Parliament), but that would be subject to limited availability.  I’m psyched to check this out…especially Westminster Hall which was built beginning in 1097!

Tip(s)! Don’t book too much in advance!  Sure there are things you may need to book if you really want to see them (like Parliament) but try to limit it to no more than one thing a day.  Otherwise you may find yourselves cutting your time at the Tower of London (spectacular historical site) short to race across town to Madame Toussaud’s (cheesy tourist trap) where you bought tickets in advance to cut the line (rookie mistake!).  That leads me to the second tip.  Pull out your map of London and where possible plan your day geographically.  You can see a lot more if you’re not hopping the tube trying to get to the other side of town to see something.

Well that’s my update for now.  I know I’ll continue to make notes (but won’t pre-book anything else!).  I like to have a list of opening times and various things that have caught my eye.  That way I can relax over some fish and chips and perhaps a pint and decide what I’d like to do next. 🙂

 

 

 

Posted January 8, 2013 by cubechick in London, Planning that trip to London

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Happy New Year!   Leave a comment

Here’s hoping we all have fantastic and safe travels in 2013!

Posted January 1, 2013 by cubechick in Random Travel Thoughts

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