Archive for the ‘Planning that trip to London’ Category

London Planning Going Strong!   Leave a comment

Believe it or not, this trip is just over three months away!

Time continues to fly, does it not?

The last time I checked in about this trip, I had just booked my flights through British Airways.

I am not doing a lot of planning on this trip…well, comparatively speaking :-). I am traveling with two friends (if not more), one of whom has never been to London and the other was only there once several years ago. I am trying to let them “drive this trip”, as I know there are certain things that “newbies” should (or should want) to see!

I did have to interject one thing though. As we get closer, I am poking around the London travel sites to find out “What’s On” during our visit in February. About seven years ago, I discovered that they offer a Twilight Tour of the Tower of London. However, it is only once a week and in all of my visits, it has never been offered while I am in the city…until this year!!! It is offered on my last night. Oh, how thrilled I was to discover this! And so devastated at the thought of missing it if my friends didn’t want to go! I was fully prepared to go off on my own (SEVEN YEARS!!!) but they showed enthusiasm for the tour and the tickets have been purchased. Yay!!! All is right in my world.

My friends are foodies, so we’ve booked a dinner at the Savoy which should prove to be amazing. Other than that I am trying to keep things open. I have learned through much experience that it is best to book only those things that you must in advanced. Too many reservations or pre-purchased tickets can result in a very stressful trip and a lot of running around!!!

I am also encouraging my friends to start really looking at what they want to see so I can arrange days geographically. On my second visit to London I found myself cutting the Tower of London short to race across the city to Madame Tussaud’s because we had tickets for a set time. A rookie mistake on so many levels!!! First that we were on the opposite end of the city from where we needed to be and Madame Tussaud’s!! I won’t lie and say I didn’t enjoy visiting it once…but really, there are so many much better things to see and do while in London!!!!

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London Again!!   Leave a comment

So DH and I have reached an agreement where I get to go to London every other year. He is not fond of cities and I feel like I am coming home each time I land at Heathrow. ☺️ Therefore we agreed that I get to go every two years without him. Makes both of us happy, right??

My last three journeys have been during winter months simply because of cheaper flights, and we don’t usually have plans anyway. 😂

I made the decision nearly three months ago that I was returning next February (third February I will be going). Since then I have watched airfare like a hawk. Yesterday, the direct flight I wanted via British Airways suddenly dropped $250.

Two years ago I paid $100 less…but I also booked last minute and had a layover. So while the price is the highest I have paid for round-trip London, I don’t think the price will dip too much more. Plus I got the added bonus of booking an airline I like that had the times that fit my desires the best. Win-win. And let’s face it…as airfares have done nothing besides creep up over the years (while everything else about air travel declines), I am simply not going to see the prices from 10 years ago.

So I pounced and booked my flights. Today I helped a colleague plan an awesome day in London (he’s a newb with minimal free time on a business trip).

All in all, a very good London day in the USA. 😄

Posted September 4, 2014 by cubechick in London, Planning that trip to London

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We’re nearly there!   Leave a comment

Well, you know you’ve hit a good day when the countdown clock shows single digits and the 10-day forecast starts showing your travel dates! 

I spent the weekend playing with my new cell phone and downloaded what appear to be some useful apps. There’s a London app from Trip Advisor that looks like it may be useful once I get there (currently when I pull up a location, it tells me that I’m 3,000 and some odd miles away, LOL). I also downloaded a tube app that a friend recommended.

My big find though is an app called Tripit that I think I love.

With Tripit, you forward your confirmation emails to it and it creates a file for your trip with all of your info in one tidy spot. Not that it’s useful on this trip (as I’ll be taking the train from the airport), but it even sets you up with directions…so if I were inclined to
drive from Heathrow to my hotel, I could do so. It also gave me a map of the area around my hotel.  

My airline and hotel information moved over without a hitch, as did my lunch reservation at the Savoy Grill.  Of course less familiar items, like my confirmation from Ticketmaster for my Parliament tour didn’t go over, but that’s easily added manually.

When I forwarded my confirmation for my cruise in September, it not only loaded my reservation info, but it has my ports of call each day and the length of time at each stop.

Pretty nifty.

Oh.  The one thing I didn’t like about it, was that when I forwarded my trip to my husband, it wouldn’t let him view it unless he created an account.  Didn’t like that one bit.

Now I’m just really getting into the details…like noting that if I do a pub walk that
leaves from the South Kensington Tube Station, a walk around the Victoria and Albert Museum before hand would fit in nicely.

I love trip planning!

Posted February 4, 2013 by cubechick in London, Planning that trip to London

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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Ah, London…   Leave a comment

First an update. The good news.  www.1800flyeurope.com does now identify your carrier when you book flights from them.  The bad news is that they no longer seem to be a bargain.  Darn!  Their prices are in line with all of the major travel websites.  😦

I’m harboring a fantasy that I’ll be able to zip to London for the Easter Weekend next year.  Really a complete hallucination on my part as we have 3 vacations booked next year!  But it doesn’t hurt to dream, does it?  I’ve been monitoring the airfare for a few months now (I am more than a bit obsessive.  I admit it!).

The price of the flight has dropped about $100…but at $773 round trip, it’s about $200 more than I’m willing to spend.  I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than $600 and I’m not going to start now.  I think I observed the same thing earlier this year.  The trip I booked to London in February was around $550 per person, but until January, that price was easily $200 more pp.

So I will watch those travel sites…and who knows?  If  I catch a lovely price drop in March, maybe I’ll be able to book a quick trip.  If not I’m definitely going back to London in 2013.  Skipping a year is about all I can handle!

Posted December 20, 2011 by cubechick in London, Planning that trip to London

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