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13 days in UK with an older teenager and a newly minted tweenager!

Hello All - We got inspired by Rick Steves' videos on Facebook and decided to make our trip to Europe by visiting UK! We are arriving into and departing from London. Based on ton of research, we have come up with this broad itinerary; would love your inputs. Apart from the two of us, our two kids will be joining us - a 16-year old and a 10-year old. Apart from exotic castles and architecture of UK, we want to enjoy nature, hikes and just lot of simple things!
◦ London - 4 days
◦ Edinburgh - 3 days
◦ York - 2 days
◦ South Wales - 2 days
◦ Oxford/Cotswolds - 2 days

Posted by
1395 posts

Hi. I'm wondering what your plan is for getting from place to place? You say 13 days and that's what you have listed without any transportation time.

Posted by
18746 posts

Is this your first trip to Europe? If so, you may not be aware of how exhausted you may be on your arrival day. Many of us find the overnight flight a miserable, sleepless experience. If you fall in that group, you may find your time in London very short, since the first day may not be worth much. London is huge and has lots to do, including a lot of kid-friendly activities.

I'd suggest dropping at least one of your destinations. (I'd suggest omitting South Wales from this trip.) Those three 2-day stops in a row are going to make the second half of your trip feel very rushed.

In addition, I'm wondering about your last full day. Most of us prefer to spend the last night in our departure city or a town near the airport. If you relocate to London or the area near Heathrow, you'll have only two partial days for Oxford and the Cotswolds. The Cotswolds need at least a full day by themselves.

If you're planning to drive, check projected driving times on ViaMichelin.com, but be aware that they are generally considered a bit optimistic.

Posted by
4351 posts

Drop Wales and The Cotswolds/Oxford. If you really are insistent on doing London and Edinburgh then a stop in York is a logical choice. Spend the extra days in London, you'll need them.

Posted by
4686 posts

JC's suggestions are sensible for your timescale.

York is a good base for hiking with the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales.

Minted in the UK means rich - is this what your title meant?

Posted by
3467 posts

I assume you did, but if you didn't include the kids in your "...ton of research...", then please do so. The more involved they are in the planning, the happier they'll be during the trip and the whole family will enjoy trip much more. If they become "unhappy campers", even the best teenager / tweenager can be a handful.

Posted by
342 posts

Have to agree with the above posters. + We need some more detail to help more.

My suggestion would be to fly into London, spend most time in London (there are plenty of day trips you can do from London to give you a taste, including to Oxford and the Cotswolds) then train to York and then train to Edinburgh and fly home from Edinburgh.

Are you Harry Potter fans, will you want to do the studio tour? For day trips from London look at the London Walks website for ideas www.walks.com for their day tours.

Katy

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you so much to Sharon, acraven, JC, Jennifer, TC and Katy! Apologies for missing info from the original post but here it is ....and newly minted in my post meant a new tweenager :-)
- We have assumed rest on days of arrival and departure....and that leaves 13 full days.
- We are big Harry Potter fans so will be watching the plays (that in itself takes almost a day) but will be skipping the Studio tour; kids compared it to their experience at universal Orlando and feel they can skip it. But they want to do Harry Potter experiences in Edinburgh, including the Alnwick Castle.
- Ideally, we will prefer 3 and maximum 4 stays. We do want to do one of those as farmstays (York? Cotswolds?)
- We know that we won’t be able to cover all of England and Scotland in this but would like to have a very wholesome experience.
- We are including the kids in planning; it all started with us watching the Rick Steves videos together! This attempt is to get the broad itinerary right so we can book the hotels / B&Bs etc.
- Our trip is in the last week of May and first week of June.
- We have not yet thought of transportation. In London, we will certainly plan to stay close to action and walk / take tube. For the rest, would love to get recommendations but we assumed that we will have to drive, since we are family of four, for convenience and cost reasons.

Thank you again and looking forward to more insights!

Posted by
342 posts

Agree with Emma re Harry Potter. Haven't been myself, but have only heard rave reviews about the studio tour. As Emma says, nothing like Universal Studios. The play not such a big hit. For Harry Potter fans really do think the tour would be the better choice.

Katy

Posted by
18746 posts

This sounds like it's going to be a great trip.

The weather in the UK can be iffy even in mid-summer (though there is the occasional miserable heat wave then). You'll need to pack at least one warmish layer (something like light fleece) and a rain jacket/windbreaker for each traveler. Don't assume you'll be in shorts and short-sleeved shirts every day; they may never be suitable.

It's my impression, based on a recent 7-week trip between late July and mid-September, that the weather is more likely to be overcast and rainy on the western side of the island.

I mention the weather because you have south Wales on your original itinerary and your list of destinations has a northern tilt.

Posted by
5611 posts

I’m not going to deter you from your desire to do a farm stay, can easily be done but start investigating and reserving now. Better sooner than later.

I’m returning to London in November and booked everything in March. Accommodations, car rental and flight. Booked my advance Heathrow Express tickets last week. SUBSTANIAL savings. Have re confirmed all accommodations. Also booked a very popular annual music celebration last month. Glad I did was nearly sold out.

If you are Potter Heads then consider researching for a farm stay near Durham, England. The gorgeous Durham Castle was home to the hogwarts, the town is lovely and the surrounding countryside gorgeous. Very popular with film crews because of the beauty.

Also while in London don’t miss the glass covered
Ledenhall Market and have the boys find the entrance to the Leaky Cauldren.

Enjoy

Posted by
71 posts

Your trip sounds somewhat similar to the trip my family and I just took in July with three kids-- 7, 12, and 14. We did a week in London, 2 days in the Cotswolds and finished off with 4 days in Edinburgh and flew back from there. We found that not only did our travel days not "count," as others noted, but that our day traveling from London to the Cotswolds (though only a 2.5 hr drive) was not a day in which we could really do much else (pretty much lost on traveling-- we had a few hours to enjoy the farm we stayed at and a nice pub meal, but that's it besides travel) and our day going from the Cotswolds to Edinburgh was 100% travel too... Though I don't regret any of the places we stayed, I do look back and am surprised by how much time and energy it takes to move from one place to the next... I can't personally imagine 5 locations in the same amount of time ...

Like you, we love nature, hikes, and the simple joys of just basking in the culture and pretending (as much as possible) to be locals. We found that some of our very favorite memories were just this-- walking through some of London's many fabulous parks (Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park were near our flat), feeding swans down by the Thames in Windsor after touring the castle, and hiking up to Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh. We also scrapped some things that sounded good on paper back home and opted for more low-key choices with less travel -- even if it were a day trip.

I'm actually in the process of writing a (very) long trip report about our adventures, so feel free to see if you can find anything helpful there. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/trip-report-family-vacation-7-17-to-london-cotswolds-edinburgh

Good luck-- and whatever you and your family decide -- it will be a grand adventure and one you will always remember!

Posted by
205 posts

We are big Harry Potter fans so will be watching the plays (that in itself takes almost a day) but will be skipping the Studio tour; kids compared it to their experience at universal Orlando

They need to rethink. The experiences are not comparable. The studio is not a fast ride theme park. It us vastly superior to Orlando.

You would need to book way ahead. As for the plays tickets are as rare as unicorn poo so you need a strategy if you haven't got them already.

Posted by
205 posts

experiences in Edinburgh, including the Alnwick Castle

Alnwick isn't in Edinburgh. It actually isn't in Scotland.

Posted by
698 posts

If you are going up to Alnwick Castle, which is in northern England and some way further north than Durham (where the castle is a prison! - I think the Cathedral Cloisters were used as some of Hogwarts - I'm sure Potter heads will correct me on this if I'm wrong!), then maybe a farm stay up on the coast near Alnmouth (a couple of miles down the road from Alnwick) would be a good idea. The Northumberland coast is wild and beautiful and is studded with castles - Alnwick, Warkworth, Bamburgh, Dunstanburgh, Lindisfarne (Holy Island). Further inland is the remarkable Cragside, near Rothbury, not a castle but a rambling, architecturally slightly bizarre stately pile. The beaches are big, sandy and deserted in the main and there's a terrific pub, The Ship at Low Newton, which is owned by the National Trust I believe. I hear that the 'word is out' on The Ship and it can get very busy, but in my experience it's worth a visit. And of course, you are not too far away from Hadrian's Wall. I love Northumberland's coast line but as a northerner, of course I'm biased, although locals up there would view me as a soft southerner! Don't tell anybody else about it, it'll be just our secret, right?!!!

Hope you have a great trip!

Ian

Posted by
329 posts

You have so many choices to make...but I can't resist suggesting you consider the play "STOMP". It is not a play, a group of incredible musicians/athletes who use all sorts of everyday items to drum, make rhythm, it's fabulous. We had smiles on our faces for the 2 hours. Appealing to any age...and not even a teen would consider it boring. There are no bad seats in the theater.
http://stomplondon.com/
enter link description here

Posted by
257 posts

Do the Harry Potter studio tour, drastically different than FL (seeing that HP thing down there with bright FL sunlight must be so weird :) after being in England) but try to stay at a little hotel near Victoria Station to do it, that's where the HP bus leaves from when you buy the package. The town of Watford is not really greatly-connected to other transportation, so it's Victoria Station that is the key. OR stay in that Watford area, that could be easy too, could go into the country after that. There is a shuttle from the Watford train station to the studios, but it's not the easiest train station to get to from some areas.
This is helpful
https://tfl.gov.uk/plan-a-journey/

(I've applied for grad school at University of Hertfordshire for January, town near to Watford, and now my 29 yr old daughter wants to apply too :) HP studios tour is a big deal.

There are also HP walks from London Walks, that would be good for teens too. They were popular with the Pax Lodge Girl Scout Girl Guide groups when we lived and worked there. Family friendly place to stay for members and also non-members,
https://www.wagggs.org/en/our-world/world-centres/pax-lodge/book-now/

http://www.walks.com/our-walks/wednesday-walks#harry-potter-film-locations-in-the-city-1

I would also recommend knowing for a fact that the kids have some phones that will defintely work there (I found cheapy ones in Windsor for £5 each so my daughter and I could definitely find each other if we were separated). I've had too many american salesmen lie to me about phones that are supposed to work there, and they never did. My new Google Fi phones are supposed to be able to work over there for same prices and in the same way as here. I may find out in January... :)
Good luck!
-Alison

Posted by
329 posts

Speaking of phones....my teens went wild playing Pokemon Go (free to download) all around London and caught many many Pokemon at all the London sightseeing locations. Even though the game is 1 year old now, if you have a pre teen and a 16 year old, it is worth suggesting. You may have to have rules about when they are playing (ie looking at their phones) and when they are experiencing real life....but it can be done.

Another place to consider in London is Camden Yards Market...it is a giant flea market with food stalls and all sorts of junky things that teens seem to like. Tshirts galore, hats, gloves, belts, candles, junky jewelry, scarves, this is not designer stuff....it is funky rather than fancy but my kids loved it. We took a 15 minute bus ride, very easy, from Russell Square and kids loved "window" shopping at what is basically an outdoor flea market. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g186338-d187577-Reviews-Camden_Market-London_England.html

Posted by
7 posts

Seeing The Cursed Child is a wonderful idea! But I agree that tickets are near impossible to get, so book them ASAP. If your travel dates are currently sold out, you can sign up for email updates for when new tickets are released. I don't suggest waiting in the stand-by line for tickets on the day of, because that will waste most of your day in London and tickets aren't guaranteed. If you are unable to book tickets, don't worry because this show will be in New York soon and likely to tour to other theaters all over the U.S. in the future.
So, in the event that you cannot book tickets for this show (which is what happened to me last year), the studio tour is 100% worth it for the entire family as others have commented. It is much different from Universal Studios in the states and is totally magical!

Other places to see would be the Elephant House in Edinburgh (where JK Rowling wrote some of the books). Edinburgh has lots of green spaces for hiking like Arthur's Seat and Calton Hill. The castle and the University are interesting to visit and many museums have free entry, just like London. Getting around Edinburgh is very enjoyable by foot, but you may find that the public transit is not as efficient as London.

Posted by
7 posts

Another vote for the HP studio tour. We took the train, then the shuttle bus. Very easy. We were back at King Cross by early afternoon. Some other things my teens still talk about: view from the Shard, boat ride on the Thames, and Borough Market.