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London England

My son 22 yrs old is going to London in August, for Touring, then to Florence Italy for College. ( scholarship for one semester )
Where do I start to help guide him. I have never been out of country

1- safe place to stay.. low to medium priced..
2-transportation..how does he get around..taxi..bus..train
3-what to see..he will be there a week
4 how much money does he need for a week..
5 he is a great son.. but I have no knowledge of London

Help me advise him.. Thank you,
Andrew Ludwig, Bloomington Indiana, USA

Posted by
8662 posts

andrew, the best thing you can do is give him a guidebook (like the Rick Steves Europe through the Back Door, and then the specific county/city guide) that will cover such a very broad subject. He won't know what specific questions to ask until he has the basic information. People will be glad to help pin down costs, but you have to have some ideas of areas to stay in, expectations of comfort level, etc., to get more specific help. He's cut things pretty close for planning any trip in August.

Posted by
1332 posts

I'd assume at 22, he'd be an excellent fit for youth hostels. I'd also assume at his age with a limited budget but endless energy, he'd be using the tube and perhaps some buses. I can't imagine him needing a taxi. What are his interests? He might be more interested in bars and pubs and meeting people of his preferred gender than museums, but at least most museums are free, so that helps on a student budget. As far as how much money, what kind of food does he like? If he' a typical student, without high expectations, he can do quite well in London. I'd say he can enjoy himself easily on 75 pounds per day, and even 50 pounds per day would be fine. This does not include accommodations.

He's young and I assume tied into social media. Have him watch some YouTube videos on London. But, if he's going to be staying in hostels, then he'll be able to meet people from all over the world and make daily plans.

Finally, at age 22, I wouldn't worry about your son. If he spends a day discussing politics, movies, video games, or all of the above at some coffeehouse in London one afternoon, he'll enjoy that just as much as a rigid tourist itinerary.

Posted by
2017 posts

No offense but at 22 years of age and with access to the internet, your son should be doing most of the legwork. I agree hostels would be the best choice for college age guys to meet other students. As what to see, he should Google London attractions and he'll have a wide range of search options. The Matador Network is a blog he might look at as it's written for a younger, nomadic audience than RS. Easiest way to get around London is bus/Tube then a flight to Florence.

Posted by
4482 posts

If he has a lot of luggage with him for his semester in Florence, It would be helpful to take a taxi to and from Paddington Station, where he can take the Heathrow Express to and from Heathrow airport, if that is the location of his flights.

Posted by
274 posts

Great questions to ask, it's really hard being a parent of a traveling kid when you haven't done it before. My daughter went to Australia to visit my Dad, & tho she was with my uncle on the way there, she came back with only the stewardesses to accompany her. She was so exhausted from the flight, she was VERY scattered when she came back. Good thing your son's a bit older than that, but it's still possible to worry. :)

Travel low-down advising that comes from experience, was to always have an extra credit card with me. When I lived & worked in London, & if my then- 23 yr old daughter & I mapped out a plan to sightsee that went wrong, we got lost, or it just was NOT the same in person, we had a way to grab a taxi & be saved.

Getting a phone that works over there has been a repeated failure for me, salesmen would tell me it would work there & it really did not. Sometimes you're so tired in the airport that renting one, at some strange time in the morning, is not much of an option either. Last time I found a little phone store in Windsor that saved us with cheap phones, but it took us 3 days to find it. :(

I currently have a Google Fi phone, works off of wifi AND switches networks like Verizon and Sprint, as it finds them while traveling, so it keeps us connected here in rural NH now that we moved. Google Fi also says that they work in other countries, for no additional charge, even for data, same price, so I hope to prove it when I go to grad school in London in Sept now that my daughter's married. I would very much reccommend getting a phone someone *knows will work there, for sure.

If there are any clubs or groups that you, or he, belong to here, that also has members there, to definitely make that connection now. I found that Mensa in Britain allowed me access to their calendar once I proved I was a member here, & that gave me a wealth of options to meet people there. Just having some people in a MeetUp.com group at a pub, trivia night, whatever he likes, could give him lots of fun options, it almost always helps to have some local people to advise on details that you can't think of til you're there. :)

Travel videos on You Tube, including Rick Steves' channel, can be helpful. I would suggest that anything he studies about or watches on You Tube, to find it on a map, so he can learn as he goes. I'm sure he's doing his own preparations too, but connecting it to a map can be very helpful.

Become familiar with the currency before he goes. There are sites that show photos of each sized coin, they are very different than here. I had to get used to the idea of valuing my coins, because some of them were worth about $9 back then.

Also, use the web site: www.TimeAndDate.com
They have both a time zone & an international calling converter, it tells you step by step how to call internationally from wherever you are, to whatever country you want to call. Many people do not know how to navigate the international calling codes, country codes, etc. This fills in the blanks for you.

I also found it very handy to create a blog (I had family who was not on FB), so anyone with the link could watch my travels. If there was a problem signing in to Facebook because my wifi wasn't as secure as it wanted (happened often, on my last trip in 2015), then at least I could pop a message onto the blog for anyone who might worry. I also uploaded photos onto the blog, and realized it was a great photos- back- up.

Toughest part of being a traveler's parent is that things take longer than expected, you think he can call when plane lands and it takes him an hour to get online or whatever. Tell him about embassies, give him extra 2 hrs to check in than you think it'll take. Use video calls so you can SEE he's OK, parental instincts need that sometimes. And go visit him? :) Good luck!

Posted by
15724 posts

Getting advice about international travel from someone who has never been out of the country is like getting medical advice for someone else from your auto mechanic. They might mean well but it's best to let the person needing the advice get it themselves from someone experienced.

With generic questions you will get "here's what I like" answers. They may not be good answers because we don't know the real situation. What are his interests, what kind of accommodations does he want, how much luggage will he have, what kind of budget are we talking about?

At 22, and smart enough to get a scholarship, he is smart enough to plan his trip. It may be time to let go. You won't be there with him so it may be best to let him do this on his own.

There are a lot of websites geared towards younger travelers. Most of the people here are at least twice his age if not more. That makes a difference.

I suggest he also looks at Lonely Planet.

Posted by
11294 posts

I agree with the advice that he should start with a guidebook, then move on to internet resources. Trying to learn about London just from the internet is like trying to take small sip from a firehose. A guidebook will give him a framework; then, he can use the internet for more specific things.

However, I would also suggest/recommend/insist that you get two books right away: Rick Steves Europe Through The Back Door and Rick Steves London. You don't have to buy them, and you don't need the newest editions; as long as they're not more than about 5 years old, whatever is in your library or what you can get used at a low price is fine. The RS ETBD book will explain the "nuts and bolts" of European travel - food, transit, etc. The RS London book will have specifics on what Rick feels are the highlights, and how to see them, as well as specific recommendations for hotels, restaurants, night activities, etc. Again, these not the last word; in particular, a 22 year old is probably going to want different nightlife than Rick discusses. But they will provide a framework, an answer to your question "where do I start?"

Note that while it's fine for you to start with older books, for him, since he's actually going, he should get the newest edition available of any book he's buying, and then check online for more current updates. Things do change. For instance, I was in the UK in September 2016 and then again in April 2018. In that short time, the £5 note, the £10 note, and the £1 coin all changed - my "old" ones were no longer valid! Thanks to the trusty internet, I knew what to do with my older money.

Posted by
661 posts

Check out the YouTube channel ‘love and London’... run by an American lady who lives in London and gives all kinds of info in her vids.

Posted by
1332 posts

Another idea is for him to find a YouTuber based in London that posts videos of her/his daily life. While these won't be helpful for travel, getting a glimpse into the daily life of a 20 something year old Londoner can be useful.

Posted by
274 posts

Andy Steves, Rick's son, has a travel company for young people, here is his London page:
http://www.wsaeurope.com/trips/london/

It might be a good way for your son to connect with others his age, doing similar things, also studying over there for a semester.

I would also suggest having an app or a watch that can convert to the 24 hour clock, to minimize travel issues.

Good luck!
-AB