england

15 articles tagged as england

Sso, I told you all I know while it was fairly fresh.

Other things you might want to buy:

Sunscreen stick – it’s smaller than most sunscreens, AND it’s not a liquid.

No Jet Lag – Maybe I am special and jet lag just didn’t bother me, but the No Jet Lag pills seemed to work.  I felt fantastic my first day in England, and I was great to drive and did not feel hideous when I returned.  I don’t heavily encourage it, but it worked for me.  I also made sure to sleep as much as possible going to London, so maybe I was lucky.

I feel blessed because this was not me. But since I keep talking about it, the next flight is sure to be hell. Hell, I say.

Inflatable pillows:  Be super careful.  I choose poorly.  https://www.target.com/p/travel-smart-polyfilled-inflatable-neck-rest-blue/-/A-50020496?lnk=rec|adaptpdph1|related_prods_vv|adaptpdph1|50020496|1  Look at it.  It’s SOFT.  It’s BLUE.  And it held air fine.  Until I got on the plane.  Mum had one, too, and it was the same utter fail.  The saving grace is that there is enough to it that it served as a nice support to hold my soft jacket around my neck, so I was able to sleep on the plane.

It doesn’t hold air off the plane, either.  So I screwed up.  I might buy Microbeads and fill it up?  Or maybe just throw it out and lick my wounds.

Plug Adaptors:  I used these — https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0080R95XI/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1  and did not destroy anything with them, so I assume they are OK.  I actually did need three, one for my iPad, one for my mum’s tablet, and one for our camera.

I also bought a super foldy bag in case I bought so many souvenirs that I needed to pay for another bag.  I did buy stuff…mostly magnets and souvenir books.  A lot of places would not let you take pictures inside so the books were fun and useful.  But we packed so little that we were able to pack our souvenirs in the back packs.   But a bag that folds small could be useful.

I did buy laundry stuff, because mum and I were carrying so little.  I did not use the laundry line, though it might have been useful…(I did not even pack it.  I bought one, but changed my mind.)  I bought a drain plug, but most hotels had sinks that could be plugged.  I also bought tide mini-detergents, but probably I could have made do with the shower soap?

But the tide mini-detergents rinsed out really well.  A secret is that you wash stuff, let it dry, then iron it to finish it.

But the award for thing I bought that really helped goes to:  https://www.target.com/p/coleman-174-adults-highbanks-trail-polyester-jacket-l-xl/-/A-14900779?sid=1270S&ref=tgt_adv_XS000000&AFID=google_pla_df&CPNG=PLA_Sports+Shopping_Local&adgroup=SC_Sports_Local&LID=700000001170770pgs&network=g&device=c&location=9006013&gclid=CJmf2Mq499QCFdWIswodZUkFbw&gclsrc=aw.ds

It’s a Coleman Raincoat.  It comes in a little mesh bag.  It folds up super small.  If you wear it on top of your jacket, it makes your jacket much warmer.  It dries wicked fast.  It has a zipper flap so it protects the zipper from bringing water in.   It’s 24 bucks, which is around what I paid for my really nice raincoat, but my nice raincoat is super bulky.   I kept it in an easy to get to place, and when I rained I just pulled it out and was fine.

It’s two weeks in the UK. You will need a rain coat.

I also took a hat.  Hats are awesome.

What did I pack?  Counting what I wore?  Three short sleeved tees.  One long sleeved.  Two pants.  I skipped jeans in favor of lighter stuff that would dry faster.  Sun screen,  deodorant, sample shampoo, conditioner, a mini bar of soap, travel toothpaste, folding tooth brush.  Underwear I did not want to keep – you know, those suspect pairs that are really awful and you would not want anyone to see you in, but you keep them because “They still have wear” – and I threw them out as I went, freeing up more room.  Which saved me paying more money to bring another bag on the plane.  Three pairs of socks.  IPad.  Passport, cards, money.  Raincoat,  shopping bag that folds small (I used it the days I did not have to carry my back pack around, to carry the raincoats and purchases.)  My purse, which also can be folded up as its cloth.  For my medicine I packed exactly what I would need, and ripped off the labels and threw out the bottles, making myself more room.  Hair brush, hair ties, hat, aspirin and ibuprofen.  Chapstick, drain plug, tide, little Kleenex pack, pack of wipes.  The deodorant was old, so I could pitch it at the end without too much self-hate over the waste.  I also made copies of the pass ports and printed the vouchers out.  Oh, and an extra bra, shorts, and a tank top and a sports bra to sleep in.

I did not need the sample shampoo and conditioner…every place had some.  I used the soap because I knew there would not be wash cloths.  I could not feature carrying a wet washcloth around England, so I made do.

As long as I looked clean and did not smell, I made sure I did not think too much about what I wore.  I felt a little grubby in London because the girls were mostly wearing pretty dresses.  But, I did not have the time to worry too much about it.  I had to be practical.

I think that’s it.  Mostly everything I learned.    Hopefully it will be of use!  Feel free to post comments below for fellow travelers!

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Wwhere are you going?  Where have you been?

The other way I saved time and money is through pre-buying passes.   I mostly bought my stuff through Visit Britain’s shop:  https://www.visitbritainshop.com/  You have to print them ahead of time, and I printed two copies…one for my back pack, one for my mother’s.

But…but I bought my passes already. I can go in!

I bought the Scottish Heritage Pass because I added the price to get into Stirling and Edinburgh castles and realized it was cheaper.  I was also able to get to a couple other places using this pass, making it even better.

I bought the Three Royal Palaces pass for the same reason…and I bought the London Pass.  Wait, you might be thinking…why would you buy BOTH of those, when the London Pass covers all three of those palaces?

Timing, really.  I did not save much money wise – I think I only saved a little money using the London Pass, BUT – it pre-paid for my stuff, they gave me a pretty useful booklet that I could carry around instead of my iPad, and fast tracked me into a lot of places, saving me time.

I saved money on the Three Royal Palaces pass because I ended up using it on days I did not have the London Pass.

NOTE:  If you use the Three Royal Palaces pass, you have to turn the voucher in at the Tower of London, you can’t do the other places first.  This worked great for us – we got off the plane, took the tube to the Tower, walked across tower bridge and got to get the Tower done.  Then we took a train out to Warwick.

You can use that pass any day you want over the next couple of years, so you can see three major attractions (That all take a ton of time) on different days than you have the London Pass for.  Granted, we only bought the pass for two days.   So your mileage may vary.

I think you should have the pass mailed to you.  I bought it sort of at the last minute, and had to make an extra trip into London to get it.  It worked fine?  But I would have been happier with it in my hands.

I did not use the mobile option because I was not sure what kind of phone I’d buy in England.  I intended to buy a burner, because my phone at home is a burner – Tracfone would not let me use it overseas.  But I never quite got around to it.  So I survived 14 days in another country without a cell phone.  I did have my iPad, which made it easier.  But yes.  You can survive without a cell.  It was a little inconvenient only in that it would have been nice to have been able to call my own taxi or use an app to look up when a bus was due, but otherwise I was fine.

So, yes.  Look at where you are going and see if you can get tickets for it ahead of time.  For Kensington it saved us because even though the security line slowed us down (this happened a few times, you cannot fast track through security) we still did not have to wait in long lines for tickets.

So, yes.  I liked the passes I bought because I was able to do the Tower, Hampton Court and Kensington on three different days, and then a whole bunch of other awesome stuff, like Windsor, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s, etc. on the London Pass days.  I don’t know how I would have seen all those things in two days, so the flexibility really super helped.

Again, it’s something you will really have to study out.  You may find adding another day to your London pass is more effective.

Finally for next week:  Things you might find useful to know

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Sso.  Transportation is out of the way.   But where do you lay your lovely head?

For mum and I, hotels are usually the cheapest and most convenient we can find because we cannot stand camping another night in a row, or because if we skip camping and drive well after dark, we can position ourselves to launch to our next cool thing to do.

The UK has some of the coolest looking hotels.

We decided to really make the hotels a part of the experience this time.  This meant spending much more than usual, but we wanted the hotels to be a) close to what we wanted and/or b) a real part of the memory.  So we stayed over a pub one night in Whitby.  In a Georgian block near the Circus in Bath another.  In a lodge on Loch Lomond.  In a castle near Stirling.  In a charming bed and breakfast in Edinburgh.  There were other awesome stays, and they are all part of the memory.  (One thing that was funny – we stayed in The Mitre, which was built in 1665 and had a HUGE room with a HUGE bed – and the next, we spent three nights in The Huttons in London, which was really nice, but it was so very tiny.  So very, very tiny.  (I liked it – and I think it was a Victorian Block) but it was a fun contrast.)

This might not be your cuppa.  But no worries – the info I am giving you is pretty general.  I decided to lean heavily on Hotels.com for my planning (I usually use a combo of things – Google, etc) because I could pay for the rooms up front, and they were in USD so I didn’t have to think about numbers too much.  I also felt like I had some protection…so I guess for this step, choosing a service like Hotels.com where you can pay up front is essential.

If you know for certain when you are going to be at a particular place, that is a night you can book.

We knew we wanted to stay at Warwick Castle – so I booked that for my first night through their website, and grabbed a pass and reserved their medieval feast while I was at it.

Staying at Warwick was so cool – and at the right time of year you can stay in a medieval pavilion. (Not pictured)

I knew I had to be in London on July 2nd, because the next day, fairly early, we had to catch the plane.  I also knew we wanted to spend a few days, so I booked those days – I did the non-refundable because it was much cheaper.  (Booking sooner will also net you deals hotel wise – later I checked the hotel for June 29th because I thought about just going to the Huttons instead of the Mitre and it was much, much more expensive.)

I booked the first 5 days of my vacation and the last three well before I ever set foot in England and Scotland, and was able to pay for them ahead of time (even when I chose the refundable option) and therefore was able to get them paid for over a couple of paychecks.  (I booked my hotels over several weeks.)

What should you look for in a hotel?

Price lowers the further from the cool stuff you are.   So weigh where you can afford to stay against how much it will cost you to get from your hotel to what you want to see.    For Edinburgh I stayed in a hotel that was a two miles from the Castle.  Half of that was ALL UPHILL.  So I ended up paying about 8 bucks per time to use the cab, because I chose a place that was a bit out of the way.  So I probably blew about 32 bucks in cab fare.  BUT, the Antlers Guest House was right next to a bus line, so I could have done that, and the land lady was a jewel, the room was amazing, and I was in a safe, quiet neighborhood.

I chose The Huttons because it was near Victoria Station, which my research told me was a main tube/rail station, so I figured I could get everywhere easy, and I was right.  Pimlico was actually .3 miles closer, so I ended up walking to Pimlico and using it to get to Victoria and then launching to all the awesome places I wanted to go.  (Also, it was not so expensive that I felt like I’d have to sell organs.  I like my organs.)

Read reviews.  What do other people think of it?  I learn to throw out reviews that are just people wanting to say something unkind, or things I don’t worry too much about.  “Needs updated” isn’t super important to me, as long as it’s clean.

High on my list of stuff to avoid.

Also, while my general theory is that I just want a clean place that I can sleep without worrying that I will be robbed and murdered that also has free Wi-Fi, for this trip I really did think about what would make my mum or myself happy.  What would make a really good memory?  So think of that, too.   I will always be able to say I slept in a castle.  I will always remember sitting in our room staring at Loch Lomond, marveling at the rainbow that seemed to last forever.   That is not without value, too.

Next:  Passes

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Oor, now you’re on the ground, how to you get to where you want to go?

I bought my pass through Visit Britain, but here is the info from the BritRail Pass site:  http://www.britrail.net/passes  Note the consecutive days are much cheaper than the flexible days.  (I bought an Oyster Card the same day – a real must have!  Cheaper and so easy to use.)

I will be honest, I looked into car rentals enough to realize that it was too expensive for me – the rental, the petrol, and the stress of driving around on a different side of the road and making my way through narrow roads and roundabouts and trying to find parking when I saw something I wanted to see…I decided fairly early it was not for me.  The parking thing is not a joke…I overheard a couple of travelers commenting that they wanted to stop places but could not because of parking.

Full of nope.

STILL, if your party has more than two people, you may want to seriously consider driving because the more people in the car the cheaper that option becomes.

So if you go that option, find out what you can pay for ahead of time.

But, let me tell you about the Britrail Pass.  I LOVE  the Britrail pass.  You can only buy it in the states, because it is such a bargain.  I went with the 8 days consecutive, and mum got hers cheaper because she’s of the right age.  ;P

The Britrail pass seems pretty expensive on the face of it, 335.00 for 8 days for me, 285.00 for mum.  BUT,  I used the National Rail app to figure out how much I spent on going from place to place, and I realized that the pass saved me around 300.00…that’s pretty sweet!

But the savings aren’t the only reason I fangirl this thing so hard.

The first time you use the pass you take your voucher to the ticket office and you present it to them and they give you your pass.  Then you literally hop on whatever train you want for however many days you picked.

Sort of what mine looked like but I am lazy and did not take a picture.

You supposedly can reserve seats, but I never made it work, so make sure you find the unreserved car.  (Or read the digital read outs above the seats – people seem to reserve seats a lot and not come on to claim them, and people are used to others just sitting in their seats, so people will come in and ask you to move.  No one seems particularly upset, so I think it happens a lot.  A passenger I met from Australia called it the British way of life.)  I think that you cannot reserve a seat on the day you are using it, and mum and I were not really able to say YES, that train, that time, tomorrow.  I wanted as much freedom as possible.   Out of 8 days I only had to stand once.  About three times mum and I did not sit together.  I thought that was pretty good, though it does get stressful, wondering if the person coming on is about to kick you out of your seat!

I loved the pass because I never had to buy tickets, and there are always people to ask where you need to be.  And I asked.  A lot.  Because you might be going to, Say, Whitby, but while the readouts are pretty good they are not always self-evident.  I am a certainty junky.  So I asked.  All the time.  And I was very sweet and polite and thanked people for their help and they never seemed to mind.

So, you jump on the train, and present your pass when the conductor comes around.  They look at the dates to make sure you are using a good pass, thank you, and move on.  It’s fantastic.  And no roundabouts, car rentals, expensive petrol, getting lost, etc,  to worry about.

Several times we made trains with only a moment to spare, so if we’d had to stop to buy tickets we would have missed out, though to be honest I ended up buying tickets after the pass has expired and it was not bad.

Romantic, right? And we did get to see lots of lovely country.

You should take time every evening to plot your course for the next day, though, to make sure that you know when the trains leave and if there is a last-train-you-damn-well-better-catch.  I used the National Rail App on my iPad.  It works really well, and gives you an idea of when to go, much better than Google Maps, which is what I used before I was actually in the UK.  Google maps is OK, but I found that the accuracy was – not off?  I am sure?  But the info from the National Rail App was tons better.

Once we did take a bus to where we wanted to go, because the trains were not very convenient to take us to Glencoe and Loch Lomond.  So sometimes you will want to take a bus and save yourself some time.

I also took cabs a couple of times to get to the hotel from the rail station.

I had no problem finding cabs at the station, but in London they keep emphasizing that you need to make sure you call for a taxi because apparently people have been getting into fake cabs and being hurt.  Be careful out there.

Next:  Hotels

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Tthe first part is to choose when you want to go.  The ability to be a little flexible is a plus (you can look at the chart of flights, and sometimes you will see that the flight on one day is cheaper than the flight on the day before, for example.)

I got lucky – the flights I wanted for the return trip meant I returned on July 3rd – I had the 4th off without having to give up a vacation day, so I could recover.

Photo snagged from another great WOW article, http://thegirlandglobe.com/wow-air-reviews/

Choose your airline. There are lots of helpful articles online about the best time to buy tickets, i.e. on a Tuesday.  Save up your money and buy your tickets ASAP.  The sooner you buy them the cheaper they will be, AND that will give you your time parameters.

Now that you know when you will get there and when you will leave, you will find that planning will be easier.  You actually need this before you can do any other steps.

So, I went with WOW.

They really are cheap, but like any airlines the tickets you choose are only a base, you then have to pay if you want to pick a seat (And I did, I didn’t want to spend hours in the air 15 rows away from my mum) and if you want more than one piece of personal luggage.  At the time you could have a medium-ish back pack, so I decided that I would not add on either a second carry on or a checked bag at first.  You can edit your preferences online until you check in online for your flight the day before, so I decided to put off adding anything until I knew if I needed it.  If you add anything at the airport or via phone it costs more, so be careful of your timing.

They are actually really good.  Their customer service is friendly and fairly quick.  (Use the email – the phone was not as effective.)

The Flight Attendants (or Cabin Crew) were dressed in really cute retro uniforms.  From a practical standpoint I felt bad for them (heels!) but they looked fantastic.  They also did their hair in vintage styles.  (I love vintage – I wear vintage – so yeah.  But I would have been equally happy if they had not been in jackets and pencil skirts and more comfy.)

The planes were nice and clean…the seats were comfortable enough?  And the plane for the longer leg of my journey had outlets, so I could top up my iPad, which (since I was carrying everything on my back) was my book, travel planner, note book, and mindless pokey game provider.

The food, though, was a little pricy.  Mum and I shared a ham baguette, which was very tasty.  The bread was marvelous, but you might do better on land.   During first stopover at Keflavik mum and I managed to pass through a little store that served pre-boxed sandwiches and such, and that was a little better value.  They don’t care about you bringing stuff on the airplane, so make sure you bring water and something to eat and you will be fine.

Next step? Decide how you will get around the UK.

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OoR, How do you go to England on a secretary’s salary without punching your savings account too hard in the face?

I feel like this sometimes, but I never look that happy about it.

Intro time.

I have wanted to go to England and Scotland for years.  Way too many years.  But every time I looked into it the plane tickets were prohibitive – I could literally take my mum on a road trip across the US for what two plane tickets would cost.  So I didn’t feel like I could justify it.

Then Wow Airlines came in.  They were cheap (I will talk about them in the next post.) and suddenly I could make things work.

And as I started planning, I realized that there were a lot of things I could do to not only make the UK affordable, but to spread out the financial pain.   And I’ve been telling people about it, and they seem like, “This is pretty awesome” so whether it is awesome of they were just being nice, I will let you decide over the next few weekly posts.

Before we get started, let me explain the kind of traveler I usually am…I say usually because this trip became very different!   My mother is on the “Golden Age Pass” – which, if you are 62 and up, means you and a friend can get into any National park free. (https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm)

We are NPS junkies so this is fantastic for us.  Camping is often discounted even in State Parks for peeps her age, too.  So usually we camp as much as possible and eat inexpensively and such.  But England, we knew would be different.   So that was an adventure, all on its own, but also more hotels = more expense.

My usual type of vacation.

We are experience people, not shopping people.  (I LIKE to shop.  Don’t get me wrong.  But I am worthless at making time for it.)

We know that we may never get back (I know, never say never, but) so we try and do as much as we can.  We try and steal marches by getting as close as we can to the next thing before we stop for the night.  Sometimes we will decide to stay at a cheap hotel so we can drive another couple of hours and get to the place.  But we couldn’t do that this trip, either, so planning had to be very different.  And there was some stress wanting to make the train because I’d already pre-booked a room somewhere.

Thus, I also think of time as being worth as much as money.  I actually have a mental worth for my time.  If I can spend a little more and waste less time, or gain more time, I am likely to.

So this trip, with the realization that I would not be driving already had a different complexion.  And we had to carry as little as possible because we would be carrying it on our backs, and my mum is an adorable little older lady who you don’t want to carry much.

  1. Enough intro. Since I am wordy as heck and no one wants to read a ton of stuff in one sitting I will be dividing up these posts.  I am pre-writing and pre-posting these for every Friday without fail.  I don’t like leaving people hanging!

Next week:  The airlines, or, in which we make the big commitment OMG.

 

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axollot:

Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire by SharpeImages.co.uk on Flickr.

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jaded-mandarin:

bonitavista:

York, England

photo via martina

My old home!

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bonitavista:

Yorkshire, England

photo via becky

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bonitavista:

North Yorkshire, England 

photo via kaye

I love this because I live in farm country…seeing haying is a part of my visual landscape so much of the time.  But, I don’t live in the UK, so to me this is both beautiful and surreal.  It really speaks to me, combining my reality with my fantasy.

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