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10 Days in England with 3 kids - Is the itinerary too ambitious?

We're heading overseas for the first time as a family of 5. We're not city lovers by nature, so we're attempting to get hikes and outdoors time in as much as possible. Tentative itinerary is below. Is this too much with 3 kids or have I managed to hit some of the high spots while also catering to spouse's hate of big cities?

6/15: Leave home, fly to Heathrow arrive 6/16 at 6am
6/16: Edit:Train to Bath. Gardens in Bath, tea, whatever we can manage. Collapse.
6/17: Edit:Train to Salisbury and Cathedral, bus to Stonehenge, back to Bath. Stay in Bath overnight.
6/18: Edit:Rent car in Bath, Drive to Hiking--Looking for moorlike, more desolate suggestions, like Dartmoor but closer. Return car wherever we decide to stay this night pending.
6/19: Return to London by train. Check into apartment near King’s Cross. British museum late afternoon, explore until kids tired.
6/20: hop on-hop off bus tour, including Tower of London and Westminster.
6/21: Edit: Further London exploration, Hyde Park if it is a nice day, Imperial War Museum or Transport if miserably rainy.
6/22: Finish up London, hit up anything boys want, late afternoon train to Cambridge. Stay night with friends.
6/23: Day with friends in Cambridge. Return to London to spend night near Heathrow.
6/24: Return to Heathrow, fly home (1030 flight).

Posted by
5611 posts

Head is spinning.

Few questions:

Ages of the children? Have you driven on the opposite of the road? Where are you flying in from?

And tell spouse to look online at https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks

You can easily walk in the Heath and Regents Park and not believe you are in a large city.
Even a walk from the Serpentine in Hyde Park to Kensington Palace is relaxing.

Posted by
4661 posts

I wouldn't try to drive to Bath, on the "wrong" side and all, on the jet-lagged arrival day. See if you can get a bus to Reading and then a train, or maybe a National Express bus from LHR to Bath.

Whether you take my sound advice or go ahead and drive, you still might find it easier to visit Stonehenge on the way back from Dartmoor on 6/19, even though it's already a long day.

Another thought: Unless Dartmoor is a really important destination for you, consider the Cotswolds for your hiking grounds. Beautiful countryside (though not desolate like the moors) and villages, definitely a rural experience. Much closer to Bath and London. You could even drop the car in, say, Oxford and take an easy train to London on 6/19. Or drive to Stonehenge, drop the car in Salisbury, and train to London.

Posted by
389 posts

I hate to rewrite someone's itinerary but I think you need to relook at this. You're essentially here for a week so you need to be efficient with your time but you're heading out in all,sorts of directions. Even if you keep the basics of your itinerary I would scratch Stonehenge and go straight to Bath and ditch Dover. It has very few redeeming features.

This would be my suggestion though. Arrive and take the tube straight to London. Take it easy on the first day, use the HOHO buses, spend time in the parks, go on the Thames. Day 2 more stamina to see the sites. Day 3 take the train to Norwich, a very nice small city. Spend the next few days in the beautiful Norfolk countryside. Perhaps hire a boat on the Norfolk Broads, hire bikes, explore the coastline or just hike. This area gets most of our sunshine and th least amount or rain, plus it won't be peak season. Then head to Cambridge either by car or train to meet up with your friends before your return to Heathrow. If your friends know you well ask them if you think you will enjoy that area. Look at a map and see how much more efficient this is.

Posted by
4351 posts

I would not recommend driving straight after a transatlantic flight particularly to Stonehenge where roads can be narrow and orientation difficult due to hedgerow. Unless you've had the benefit of a lie flat bed and a decent sleep you are not going to be well equipped to deal with the drive.

Is there a particular reason for wanting to hike in Dartmoor? It's a long way to go (don't rely on Google's estimation of a 2 hour drive from Bath) and in my opinion it's not the most obvious choice for hiking. Why not consider the North Wessex Downs or the Chiltern Hills for hiking? Both offer more diversity and more sights of interest and are closer to Bath/London so it avoids travelling so far west and then backtracking to return to London. It would also enable you to travel to Bath straight upon arrival in the UK via coach or train, pick up a car when leaving Bath and tour Stonehenge and hike in the vicinity.

Also, Dover? What's the attraction there? If it's the cliffs then it's widely accepted that the best view, and the iconic one that everyone associates with the cliffs, is obtained from the sea, usually on the return from France. The view from land is likely to be disappointing. Of course the castle is very interesting however for such a short time in London I would recommend staying there and exploring further.

Posted by
4686 posts

Sorry, but it’s dangerous attempting such a long drive as Bath with jet lag and roads that you are not familiar with. Take the train or bus to Bath and then try to walk around for the rest of the day to try to recover. You don’t need a car whilst in Bath.

It sounds as though your children are young with your comments about play time. Would they be interested in Stonehenge or are you visiting as you feel you ought to or that it’s en route?

Dartmoor is a long drive from Bath for a 2 hour walk and a one night stay and an even worse drive all the way back to London with children in the car. If you were to hire a car upon leaving Bath, you could have a night in the New Forest which is heathland, like Dartmoor and you could go walking and looking for the wild ponies (also like Dartmoor), but it would involve less time in the car. Your boys may like Beaulieu Motor Museum or you could take the short ferry hop to the Isle of Wight. If you are interested in old stones, visit Avebury en route.

Unless you are going to head towards London straight after breakfast on 19 June, you aren’t going to have any time for the British Museum. Your Dartmoor to Kings Cross including dropping the car at Heathrow would probably take more than 7 hours without any stops. If you went to the New Forest, you would be better dropping the car in Southampton or Basingstoke and taking the train to London from there, as Heathrow is out of the way.

What do you want to see in Dover? It’s a long day trip from London and although the castle is interesting, the town centre is dreadful! Personally, I would add another night to the New Forest.

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks for the responses already, it's a lot to think on! Kids are 8-6-4, can't believe I forgot to mention that. This is obviously a bit of a last minute fling, but due to some family changes, we won't get another chance to explore internationally for at least another 4-5 years.

Y'all are absolutely right about the car from Heathrow. Train to Bath, then a car should we need it from there. I'll do a bit of checking about (since all three still need carseats in the UK, we need at least a 5-seater minivan size, automatic, with boosters available to rent, and I was a bit worried about finding that outside of an airport situation.) Boys are still enamored with the idea of riding on a train, so a train back to London from Bath would also be fun for them.

I'm open to something to replace Dartmoor. That was included on the list mainly for my spouse, who hates cities. His big request to me after my first itinerary draft (2 days Bath, 5 days London, 2 days Cambridge with our friends) was to add hiking on a moor or heath. Dartmoor came up because of its connection to both Hound of the Baskervilles and Harry Potter. Something closer to Bath would certainly be fine (and much more convenient; we could extend our stay there and just use it as a base). He resisted the Cotswolds as too peopled, though any suggestions for 5-10k hikes around there with a pub in the middle could possibly hit that need.

I think I'll remove Dover, or at least keep it just as an optional day should we have the energy or not want extra London. it's on there mainly for me. My grandfather was stationed there during WWII, and my last visit was 16 years ago and drenched in rain from start to finish. I'd love a chance to take an easier time around the castle and tunnels, but it really isn't a necessary stop.

Posted by
3467 posts

Don't know what the train and bus fares are for kids, but with five people it might be just as economical to hire a private car service for the airport to Heathrow leg. We've used a Bath based service and were very pleased. The web site is chauffertravel.co.uk and the email to explain your needs and get a quote is enquiries@chauffertravel.uk Check it out and see what you think.

Posted by
18746 posts

If you're looking for a comparatively inexpensive hotel at Heathrow, check our the relatively new Premier Inn near Terminal 4 (perhaps a 10-minute walk via covered walkway). I think you'll have to take two rooms, but I paid under 50 GBP for a single room last September, and others on the forum have also gotten very good prices. It's great not to have to pay for a taxi from the airport or depend on a hotel shuttle to get back to the airport.

Posted by
1128 posts

I"ll agree with the above poster. Rick's, "Start off in Bath.." advise is some of the worst I've ever seen. Of course, if you want to see Bath, that's fine. But on such a short trip, I'm not sure it would make the cut for many travellers.

I'd also skip the Hop on Hop off. You're going to spend far too much time stuck in traffic. If you want to go to the Tower of London, then just use transport to get there.

I'd also consider just dropping the rental car idea. Picking up and returning a car will suck time out of a very limited trip. Yes, you'll probably have to forgo the hiking but that's a lot of moving around on a short trip and especially with kids, it might be better to be based in one place.

I understand the spouse hates big cities. But, I'd suggest either making the trip based out of London with a couple of day trips or else base yourself out of London, but be prepared for the frustration of not having convenient transport. Obviously, you know your family better than I do, but I just see a lot of tiredness and bickering with such an ambitious itinerary in such a short trip.

My gut feeling would be to base yourself in London, do a couple of day trips to get out of the city, but avoid the moving around from different hotels/apartments. You've got basically a week on the ground when you eliminate arrival and departure days.

Posted by
2769 posts

I understand your desire to see as much as possible, but if this is not your habitual type of travel, including the overnight flight, this could turn into misery for some or all of you . Unless your kids are experienced plane sleepers, I would just want to get off the plane and check into a hotel at Heathrow to sleep for a few hours, then possibly go to Bath in the afternoon. Or find an apt in London, stay there the entire time, and do day trips by train-this would be much less exhausting than constantly moving luggage to new hotels.

Posted by
615 posts

I think you may end up with some very cranky family members on this kind of itinerary. If your friends live in Cambridge, then I would be inclined to stick to East Anglia, especially as you are traveling with three little ones. There are a ton of places to explore there and you will hardly see an American tourist in any of these parts. I know you feel that you must hit the main tourist attractions - but I think if you husband prefers less crowds then head to Cambridge, Suffolk, and Norfolk areas. I agree with a prior post, you have pretty villages, beautiful beaches, and a chance to hire boats on the Norfolk Broads - the kids will love it! I am thinking, Cambridge, Norwich, Lavenham, Ely, Wroxham, Aldeburgh, Southwold, Kentwell Hall, Audley End House, Duxford, Sandringham. June is a good month to travel as UK students are still in school, attractions will be less crowded. If you really need to go to Bath or Dover - choose one. Personally, I would pick Bath. Salisbury Cathedral is very nice, but I'm not sure the kids would be interested, same with Stonehenge.

Margaret