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Base for South West Region (Bath, Cotswolds)

Travelling to London in the Fall with group of 8 or 9, including elementary school to high school age kids. My wife and I are speedy travelers and cover more territory than the average forum poster. The kids are great travelers - driven all over the western states, including cities, beaches, mountains, national parks, etc. They have done well with city walks and museums in downtown Los Angeles, Denver, etc.

After several days in London, we plan to visit the South West. We plan to have Thursday through Sunday available. I'm leaning towards hiring a large rental van - likely less expensive for the large group than trains and provides flexibility....and I enjoy the driving. Flight leaves from Gatwick on Monday afternoon.

My wife and I lived in London for several months when our oldest was an only child. We have been to Bath, Glastonbury, Wells, Stonehenge, Avebury, Cotswolds, Stratford-upon-Avon and Blenheim Palace. I have been to Windsor. We want the kids to experience the area and to share past memories and create new ones.

Paulton's Family Theme Park in Romsey is a must-see because the kids are huge Peppa Pig fans. Seems like decent roller-coaster rides for older kids too...and a good break from museums and palaces. We will likely stay close to Paulton's Park on Thursday night so that we can visit the park on Friday. Southampton? Winchester?

After that, I'm looking into base accommodations for Friday-Sunday nights that might provide reasonable access to the area - Bath to the Cotswolds - to give us some flexibility. We prefer apartment or home-type accommodations with kitchen. We would prefer to stay in the same location all three nights so that we aren't constantly packing and unpacking. I've considered Cirencester, Cotswold Water Park, Swindon, Cheltenham, Oxford.

I appreciate any suggestions and feedback on places to stay, travel logistics, itinerary, etc.

Posted by
3925 posts

I love Paulton's Park but unfortunately my kids now think it's too childish and prefer Thorpe Park (15 and 12). There are some decent rides there but it is definitely geared towards the younger child. Staying in Southampton is probably your best in terms of proximity and choice of accommodation although Winchester is a far more interesting place to visit but it appears that you are intending on leaving after Paulton's Park so there won't be time for sightseeing.

Avoid Swindon. There's nothing redeeming about the place. Personally I'd prefer to base myself in The Forest of Dean, it's an area I find more interesting than The Cotswolds but the area can be reached quite easily along with Bath. However, I would not want to make the journey from there or anywhere in the Southwest on the morning of an afternoon flight from Gatwick (precisely what time is your flight?).

Two days to explore Bath and The Cotswolds is not enough. It will be very superficial and most of it will be a blur from the car windows (for those fortunate enough to have a window seat!). Also be mindful that vehicles with such a large capacity are not common rentals in the UK and you may find choice limited. I would book well in advance. Also be aware that if all seats are utilised in a 9 seater vehicle then that leaves little room for luggage.

Posted by
166 posts

We may have to choose one or the other. May be Bath with a side trip to Wells and Glastonbury or Cotswolds area with Stratford-upon-Avon.

Our Gatwick flight leaves around 2:30 in the afternoon, so I figured that we would need to leave from wherever we are by about 9am to get to the airport before noon. Google Maps and Rome2Rio show that you can make the drive from most places in the South West on a Monday morning in under 2.5 to 3 hours. Is that not accurate?

May we should rethink where we focus the itinerary or at least where we stay Sunday night.

Posted by
1020 posts

Have you been to Warwick Castle? I would think kids would love that.

Posted by
23402 posts

I often find that if I add a quarter to a third again to the Google Maps time it is fairly close. Unless you hit traffic or an accident.

Remember to factor in the booster seats for the younger children. Strictly enforced.

And 9 people in a people carrier leaves no room for 4 peoples' luggage let alone 9 people.

Posted by
16766 posts

If your flight from Gatwich is back to the US or Canada, won't you need to be there 3 hours early (i.e., by 11:30 AM)? I think 3 hours in advance is pretty standard. And you'll need to factor in time to return the car and get from the drop-off point to the appropriate terminal.

In an earlier thread--I don't remember about which country--it was pointed out that a standard driver's license may not be sufficient for renting/driving a large vehicle. Check on that right away so you're confident your plans to drive are sound.

Posted by
3925 posts

You need to be at the airport 3 hours in advance of your departure time for long haul flights, that means being at the airport for 11:30. Factor in the time involved in droppping off the car (including having it checked over) then that means leaving you accommodation before 09:00. At that time of the morning on a monday, during rush hour, I wouldn't be expecting it to take 2.5 to 3 hours. I would want to be somewhere closer to Gatwick the night prior to my flight. When I fly from Gatwick I either drive or take the train. Driving from Portsmouth takes about 1.5 hours on average and if there are delays as a result of an accident then there are several different routes I can take that won't add too much to the journey. If I were you I'd be looking at staying somewhere in the South Downs National Park. A pleasant area to explore but also close enough to Gatwick to get there without making it too tight.

Also be aware that renting such a large vehicle may require the use of two separate credit cards to secure the deposit. There may also be other restrictions depending on the vehicle.

Posted by
4128 posts

We stayed at the Brooks Guesthouse in Bath and later at the Volunteer Inn at Chipping Campden. Check them out.