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Mother-Daughter / One Month in England

We will spend almost one month in England/Wales on the tiniest budget in the universe (even though I have been dreaming/planning/saving/scrounging for this for ten years).

I need advice.

What should we prepare?

I was planning on taking a GoPro but should I bring my Canon 5D Mii?

We'll be there the mid July to Mid August (We will be in Scotland from Mid August to Mid September and first two weeks of July and the last two weeks of September will be in Ireland.)

What is worth the expense?

Any warnings about travel in England? Crazy serial killers, gangs, terrorists, etc.?

What about the weather? We are from Southern California where it's 86F (30C) in January. Does it rain much in the summer?

I will be with my seventeen year old daughter who will have just graduated High School. I want to spend time with her before she leaves for college.

We're not interested in a party type scene but I want it to be fun and interesting for her too.

She's an American girl so of course she likes to shop and loves music but she is also writer and a bibliophile. She consumes books and has read everything from Ayn Rand, Dante, Dorothy Sayers, Austen, Dostoevsky, Tolkien, Lewis, etc. to contemporary authors as well. I say this because she is determined to have a beer at "The Eagle and Child" as she has been part of a reading/writing group named after the famous "Inklings." Jane Austen's home and some Austen sites are definitely on the map as well. I was also considering the Harry Potter Train and castles, etc. I know she's older now but I thought it would be nostalgic of her childhood.

Should we do something Sherlock Holmes-ish?

I know the legal drinking age is 18 but it's 21 in the US. I'm not against her having a rare champagne toast or Margarita-ish drink with dinner but definitely no drunkenness.

What are the places and things that we should definitely not miss?

Any random advice? Off the beaten path memory makers?

Posted by
3498 posts

So, I'm just trying to keep score here. Is this roughly right? Your total trip is 3 months long?

July 1 - 15 -- Ireland
July 15 - August 15 -- England/Wales
August 15 - September 15 -- Scotland
September 15 - September 30 -- Ireland

Excluding airfare, what is your tentative budget per person per day for the whole trip? And what is included in that? I know you are only asking about the England/Wales part here , but knowing that info will help people provide more accurate information and suggestions.

Posted by
16834 posts

My response is on the Scotland question. Happy planning!

Posted by
3415 posts

There are many ways to cut expenses.

Check out hostels, but also check out renting apartments ad staying at universities/colleges (many rent spare dorm rooms or apartments- one that does is London School of Economics). Or look for cheaper hotels that might also have microwaves/cooktops and small fridges. Not only are these options sometimes less expensive than some hotel stays, they give you the chance to prepare some of your meals, pack picnics, etc.

Research travel options. With 2 of you the paper travel cards for the Tube and buses in London (offered by the National Rail - details at http://www.daysoutguide.co.uk/2for1-london) will give you access to many discounts.

Do the math on long distance travel. BritRail passes are not the bargain they used to be, but do give you flexibility. But if you can commit to specific days/times for travel, advance purchase tickets can be cheap on some routes. If you are considering driving, be sure to research the cost of gas (petrol), insurance, etc. and factor that in. Parking in the UK is also expensive, and scarce in cities. Don't for get to research congestion zones and associated fees.

Many museums are free. Your daughter may love shopping at places like Covent Garden and other markets- and walking around markets is free, too- and VERY interesting!!!

For summer travel, pack a waterproof, breathable jacket or raincoat- I like one with a hood. Take a sweater or light weight jacket for evenings and cool days. Plan on layers- a T-shirt under a long sleeve button up if very versatile and can go from casual to dressy. Take comfortable shoes!!! Make sure everything 'goes with' everything. Pick a base color or 2 and it will make life easier (I use black and red or cobalt).

I've always felt very safe in the UK- just use normal precautions. Be aware of your surroundings, and watch each other's backs in crowded situations (for pickpockets).

Plan days here and there where you can relax- a day at a garden (we love Kew Gardens) or a walk , etc. With not too much 'site seeing" planned. And just let things happen. It will help you to feel less rushed.

Posted by
3318 posts

So if you're on a budget here's something to try...you are going to be there for a very LONG time and things will get expensive fast unless you control your spending.
Some people will probably voice concerns about this but you may want to look into airbnb.com. They offer all kinds of housing but the kind I'm thinking of for you is the kind where you actually stay with people in their home and rent space from them. We have done this in several countries and had great experiences and saved a lot of money. We read the reviews carefully beforehand, email with the host extensively, and make sure everything is clearly agreed upon before booking. We have stayed in libraries of Victorian homes on the east coast, in rooms in homes in London, and the occasional beach cottage/guest house. It's really wonderful to stay with a local, get advice for places to see and eat, and get to know someone in another country.
We spent a good chunk of the summer in England this past year and, being from So Cal as you are, I feel safer there than some of the areas around home. Just exercise the same precautions as you would at home and you'll be fine.
It will certainly rain - just take along a small umbrella, shoes that can get a bit wet, and a light jacket to keep you dry. You will also have days into the 80s and even the 90s perhaps. Just be prepared for extremely varied weather...it never gets TOO cold though.
Sounds like you're going to Oxford...definitely visit the Eagle and Child for a drink or a meal. Lots of Tolkien/Lewis memorabilia on display. You mentioned Harry Potter so definitely visit Christ Church College - much of the first film was made there.
The Sherlock stuff is all very touristy...you can visit 221B Baker St. There is a gift shop on the ground floor and a 3 hour line to visit his fake apartment led along by his fake housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson. Cheesy but fun to pick up a keychain or a deerstalker!
Get your daughter involved in making plans for the trip. There are so many guide books out there and they all can give both you and her lots of ideas for what you both might be interested in.
Don't stress about the planning - cover your bases, have a general outline, and go with the flow. Travel is about experiences...overplan and you'll miss out on the adventure!

Posted by
10 posts

@Emma & Lo I started at $8,000 but after paying for the airfare and insurance I'm down to $6,176. I am trying to scrounge up a bit more but won't know until Mid-May. I know it is peak season but I had to leave after my granddaughter's 1st birthday party and I have to be back before my travel buddy daughter starts school.

As far as safety, I live in Southern California so some neighborhoods are perfectly safe and others are dreadfully dangerous and when we cross the border into TJ, Ensenada, Cabos, etc., we have to be very careful in certain places, especially at night. In areas like Westwood, San Diego, and San Fran it's actually fun and safe at night. Since we are two women (or 1 woman 1 girl) I don't want to do anything that will put her in danger.

@Charlotte & Anita, thank you so much. I love practical stuff because in 29 years of marriage, we have only been on a few vacations. I have taken a lot of road trips with the kids but have never been outside the US or Mexico. I will look into Air B&B and your other recommendations as well. Maybe we'll skip Sherlock.

Thank you all.

Posted by
10 posts

Oh, @Emma & Lo and I have already paid for/covered 3/4 of my lodging so the budget I have left over is after my airfare and 75% of our lodging.

Posted by
98 posts

If you want a Sherlock Holmes experience that is certainly not tacky the London Walks company does a walk in the Footsteps of Holmes tour which was guided by "Richard IV" when I took it recently and he was extremely entertaining and well informed.
http://www.walks.com/London_Walks_Home/Fridays_Walks/default.aspx#12877

I would also recommend Chawton , Jane Austen's home village and tie it in to a visit to Winchester where she died and is buried in the Cathedral.

If you were visiting Scotland and Ireland in the reverse order you would be present when Scotland holds its referendum to leave the UK which I expect to be a very exiting time to be around whatever the result.
If her interests are at all sporty you would enjoy attending either a cricket (sophisticated baseball) or football match whose seasons overlap when you are in Britain.

Posted by
1838 posts

www.travelodge.co.uk and
http://www.premierinn.com
are two of the cheaper chains that offer good value accommodation. If using public transport, it would be better to choose hotels that are in city centres. If hiring a car, those in the country or suburbs should come with free car parks.

Trains in Britain are cheaper if booked in advance. Schedules at www.nationalrail.co.uk Foreigners can buy passes at www.britrail.com

Read more on trains here:- http://www.seat61.com/UK-train-travel.htm#.U1AcSVw-aiY

Cheapest long distance buses are www.megabus.com Also check coaches http://www.nationalexpress.com/home.aspx
Young Brits do drink too much.

Britain is a very safe country. Even the cops do not normally carry guns.

The weather should be pleasant during your visit with excessive heat being unlikely. The countryside will look verdant with fields of crops and animals grazing interspersed with trees / woodlands.

Posted by
799 posts

I want to second Emma's suggestion of volunteering for a National Trust or other opportunity. My daughter and I did a week with BTCV in 2009, before her senior year in high school, and had a great time. We were building a drystone wall around an old church near Lincoln and were the only Americans in the group; it was a nice chance for her to hang out with some British teenagers (instead of just with mom) and really settle in somewhere for a week. You have a LONG trip planned; a break like this partway through could be really helpful.
PM me if you would like more info.

We spent a few days before that in Edinburgh during the Fringe - lots of fun and inexpensive entertainment, much of it just on the street.

Also a thought on drinking. If she is heading off to college it will be really good for her to see that a cocktail before dinner or a beer or glass of wine at dinner is a pleasant custom and that drinking does not have to mean getting drunk. She can perhaps also learn something about how she reacts to alcohol in a safer setting -with you- than on her own at college.
Anyway, have a great trip!

Posted by
5553 posts

I would also suggest you look into Airbnb lodgings. Interaction with the hosts can often be one of the most rewarding parts of travel. As you are obviously concerned with safety, having someone to call if there was an emergency might relieve some angst. BTW, I also dwell in the megalopolis and there isn't a neighborhood I haven't visited because of my job. Not every LA neighborhood is the West side and that is what makes the City of Angels a dynamic melting pot! Try a few rides on our Metro to get a bit of idea what riding the London Underground will be like. Public transport is a way of life in the UK. Practical and well run. Devour all of the RS guides on the countries you'll be visiting to get a lay of the land (s), public transport options, sites you might like to see (and their costs), to understand currency exchange, as well as ideas for safety (money belts) etc. Pack as light as you can. Spent a month in England, NI and Ireland last fall and took only one bag. It can be done. Definitely take two pairs of shoes. You'll be doing a lot of walking and having comfortable shoes will be a godsend. I prefer Keens because they are light weight and durable. Also SmartWool socks. Pricy but worth every penny. No blisters. No odor. I know you are there in July/August but trust me you won't be wearing sandals the entire time. Learn to picnic (parks are plentiful in the UK) or have one main meal a day to cut down on food expense. Pret a Manger's, Marks and Spencers, Tesco's, are good spots for picnic items. Pub food is great. Check the sign boards on the sidewalks which will announce specials. Also, like here in LA, there a great number of wonderful inexpensive ethnic restaurants to enjoy. Give up the lattes. More expensive there than here. Pre planning is the key, so take the time to do more research about where you want to go, how you are going to get there and what you want to see when you do. As far as off the beaten path memory makers, the Gap of Dunloe in Eire, comes to mind as does seeing a play at The Globe. If you are a shopper Liberty department store is an interesting spot to spend your money. Enjoy your sojourn.

Posted by
28 posts

I'm an "older" lady who toured England with another "mature" lady and we felt perfectly safe for the whole 2 weeks. We live in San Diego and are used to city life, as I'm sure you are. Just take the same precautions you do at home. Never ran into one problem. Book rail fair from home, much cheaper, we saved $300 on one leg from London to York. If you know the date and time it's a snap to do. We also were on a budget, so B&B's were great with a large breakfast included, snacks and tea for lunch, and a nice dinner in a cozy pub. Nice sitting in front of the fire enjoying an ale or wine and just listening to the locals visit. English people are so very friendly. For getting around London, it's a great walking town, get an Oyster card for the tube and busses. Check out Neal's Yard in London, quirky! One of the best memories we made were the free tours offered by the Mayor's office in Bath and York. 2 hours of walking and great stories by well informed guides. I don't know if they're offered in other towns. Walking anywhere in England is memory making and even being in foul weather and having your umbrella turned inside out makes a great tale. Just relax, do your research, and enjoy the experience!

Posted by
2 posts

Hi there! I’m also a Californian going on a trip to England with my mom this summer!
I went last year for a study abroad and I have to say I always felt really safe. I usually travelled with a small group of young ladies like myself so I wouldn’t be too worried. Just stay aware of your surroundings the way you would at home.
Your daughter sounds a bit like me (I went to study Shakespeare for my English degree) so my two cents will probably work best on things she would like. Definitely go to the British Museum and have a look at all the amazing artifacts they have on display. The literary history is amazing and it’s free!
I wouldn’t recommend the Sherlock Holmes museum as it was a little pricey and tacky for me. Like another commenter said, it’s all just recreations of what it might have looked like with no real history involved.
I would 100% RECOMMEND the Harry Potter Tour just outside of London. I am a full grown adult but also a huge nerd about Harry Potter so I was very very impressed. It’s definitely expensive, but if she likes Harry Potter then it will be worth it.


Weather wise, I went last summer and it was consistently in the 80s. I felt a little silly when I woke up every morning and saw my heavy coat in the closet. I would suggest layering and bringing a light raincoat. When it did rain (twice) it still wasn’t very cold.