Please sign in to post.

To Book or Not to Book?

Hi all,
My 13 year old and I are making our first trip across the pond together. I typically travel off-season and pretty much plan nothing. However, with her, and because we are going during late June, early July (for 10 days or so) I have booked the first 2 nights lodging at the Travelodge Vauxhall (coming into LGW) for simplicity. So, my question is, should I book ahead of time all of our places to stay and thus lock us into accommodations or can we get where we want to be and book a B&B near there like I usually do? I am concerned because it is high season and I never travel then. Please advise. Thank you in advance.

Posted by
211 posts

You don't mention where else you are staying -- all UK places? But since it is high season, I would go ahead and book places. Many hotels allow you to cancel within 24 hours of the dates you are booked. B&Bs are a little bit different though. Most usually require a deposit and their cancellation policies are different. Check the fine print.

Posted by
21032 posts

Our experience is quite different. The only reason to book ahead is to pin down exact places at exact prices. But if you want the flexibility, then have a general idea of where you want to go/stay and call ahead a day or two. Failing, the local TI at the train station can point in the direction of other housing. If you are comfortable doing what you usually do, then continue to do so. Good luck.

Posted by
37 posts

Thank you for your replies. We are on a pretty tight budget, so I am thinking we'd better plan ahead somewhat. I know there is always somewhere to stay if money is no object. (BTW I am trying to stay around $100-$125 US per night).

Posted by
1838 posts

You will get cheaper prices at Travelodges if you book ahead, So, for example, it is possible to perhaps pay £25 for a room well in advance (& out of peak season) but when demand is heavy - the same room could cost £75 (if available) by paying on the day or just before.

Another chain offering good value is:> http://www.premierinn.com/?cmp=KNC_D_BND&mckv=sZRug8Jwz_dc%257Cpcrid%257C26662743071%257Ckword%257Cpremier%2520inn%257Cmatch%257Ce%257Cplid%257C

www.booking.com is a good website for finding accommodation & they usually have generous get out terms & conditions. This is the only website that I have found that also 'throws up' the prices for single rooms. Also double check the price of rooms here:>
http://www.travelsupermarket.com/hotels.aspx?source=mse

In case you don't know, 'TIC' referred to above means Tourist Information Centre & they are not always located in railway stations.

If you plan to travel longer distances (say over 1 hour) by train, then it is usually far cheaper to book ahead on most routes. Times & fares here but remember that fares on longer journeys go up nearer the date. Play around with the system & you will see what I mean.
www.nationalrail.co.uk (Best to book via the actual train operators website). Try & avoid Fridays & commuting times on weekdays.
More on trains here: http://www.seat61.com/UK-train-travel.htm#.U1oCM1w-aiY
Cheap long distance buses = www.megabus.co.uk
www.nationalexpress.co.uk

The good news is that you probably have the best odds of good weather and the school holidays in England & Wales have not yet started. (They usually start about 25 July and continue through August. So, ultimate peak is last week of July & first week of August. The last week of October is another school holiday week).
http://www.visitbritain.com/en/EN/

Posted by
37 posts

Wow! You guys are great! I think I am just going to get in there and book! I will be sticking to places serviced by rail and bus because we won't be getting a car. Fab1, you have actually begun to answer another question for me; I am thinking of a Britrail pass which I can get 2nd class for $350US for 4 days for both of us (she is free) and having Oyster cards while in London. I think we may want to go to Scotland, so I assume this one trip (est. by RS as $190 each) makes it worth it?

Posted by
4524 posts

Don't rely on the RS estimate. It doesn't take into account the discounted advance tickets. You need to price out your trip. For example, one-way from London to Edinburgh can be found for under 30 GBP in advance. You do need to purchase your ticket well in advance and commit to a specific train, but you can often save over the cost of a railpass. You can use this website to price out your trip and then decide if the railpass makes sense.

http://www.nationalrail.co.uk

Posted by
16834 posts

The BritRail pass is a good fit with your preference for flexibility, with no need to book ahead, currently $365 for both of you for 4 unlimited travel days within 2 months, including Scotland.

When I have traveled without hotel reservations, it more often has been with a car, which gave me the greatest flexibility to get to B & Bs further out of town. But other strategies include calling 1 - 2 days ahead from the road, or getting into your destination town by early afternoon, to have more choices. Some places that don't want to take a short 1-2 night reservation in advance will take it later if the room is still available. Many hotel reservations also are changeable; confirm the cancellation policy when booking.

Posted by
5581 posts

Note what was said above about weekends -- I once spent a night sleeping in a rental car because everything was full on Friday night. After that my daughter (12) started pointing out B&B signs in mid-afternoon. And I booked ahead for weekends!

Posted by
37 posts

Well, I decided to take all the advice I found here and went ahead and booked my first 7 nights. It took all day to find anything reasonable, but I persevered and got each night in London and in Cardiff for about $100US per night. Now I just have to figure out the rail system and Oyster card and how to get to the hotel from LGW. Wish me luck. :-)