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Please critique my train itinerary

Two of my children and I will be in London three days before my husband and daughter arrive (semester exams!). They fly in about 8 am into Heathrow. My husband is trying to save money (there's five of us, and that really adds up), and so he wanted to take a rental car from Heathrow to York. Our hope is to go to York, spend two days, drive back toward London stopping at Hampton Court on the way. We would drop the rental car off before we got to London.

I however, hate this plan. Granted my husband is a business traveler and flies across time zones once a week so he is used to it. However, I told him tonight: I know you want to save money, but you will fly into London after an all night flight, and drive in a country that has quite different road rules than we do. And it's not just driving on a different side of the road. I think you have to look at the big picture and not just about money. Thankfully, he finally agreed with me and told me to book what I needed to book. So here is what I have found:

They will meet us at King's Cross station and take a train to York, about 10:00 AM. That's on the 19th. Stay in York until the 21st, then take about a 10 AM train to Hampton Court. I picked the time on the 21st as it's a little cheaper, and I know Hampton Court closes in the afternoon. Then we will take a train back into Waterloo station, although I am a little uncertain on the time to leave.
Does this itinerary work or am I making mistakes? And do I need to purchase a ticket ahead of time from Hampton Court to Waterloo or can we purchase it when we get to the station?

I am also planning on purchasing a Family and Friends railcard when I arrive with the two younger kids. That gives a discount on these tickets and I believe we will be able to use them before they get here with a day trip or two.

Posted by
3420 posts

I'm not certain about the rest of it, but I don't think they can make it to Kings Cross by 10:00 if they land at 8:00. They might not even be through immigration by then. It's possible, but not at all probable. I'd aim for a noonish departure and even that is risky (if their plane is even a little bit late it would throw it off). In truth, it would be best for them to spend one night in London with you and depart early the next morning. Or else try for a very late afternoon train and get to York just in time to check in and grab supper.

Posted by
77 posts

Good point. We already have a flat for York, so we do have to stay there that night. Thanks for the heads up. I completely forgot about customs. Argh.

Posted by
3192 posts

Toni is totally correct. The only addition I would make is that with current security concerns, getting through Immigration (not customs) Control is likely to be a longer process than usual. The U.K., in my experience, has generally been more careful when scrutinizing foreign arrivals than the other countries we've visited. I suspect the waiting lines will be worse than ever. I think you should look into the possibility of changing that booking. If impossible, follow the advice to take a late afternoon train.

Posted by
30 posts

Trains to York are every half hour during the day. It might be easier for you just to pitch up to the station and get your ticket when you get there rather than book a specific train and then worry about being late.

Posted by
1924 posts

You intend to take a 10.00am train from York to Hampton Court? I assume you've thought through how long this will take, and how long you'll get to spend at Hampton Court. What about any luggage you may be carrying?

Tickets for the York to London journey will need to be bought in advance if you want to save money. https://www.virgintrainseastcoast.com/

Posted by
5048 posts

You may be lucky, arrive on time and clear to immigration quickly and have an express train to London waiting on the platform, but more realistically, there will be some slippage. Aim for a train nearer to 11 or better still, go for the more expensive flexible tickets, which if the flight is delayed by 2 hours will work out cheaper than having to scrap those and pay again.

There are lots of trains to York, but they do get busy and you may not all be able to sit together, as many will have reserved seats.

Unless a complete disaster occurs, you should be in York mid to late afternoon. This isn't a journey I would wish to undertake after getting off a transatlantic flight.

A car is a hindrance in York.

You cannot (unless you get a very early train) go from York to Hampton Court in one day. This is c 3.5 hours door to door and I would imagine with increased security that you will not be able to take luggage in there and there will not be any left luggage at Hampton Court. You have to catch three separate trains, which is a recipe for disaster if one runs late. Today, there are rail problems on both the journey into London and on the local line to Hampton, so today, this is a 4 hour journey.

Posted by
77 posts

I'm so glad I posted this, as it sounds like we need to ditch the idea of going to Hampton court that day. It sounds like there are too many complications. And it closes so early. Rats, okay thanks.

Posted by
3312 posts

A car is not necessarily a hindrance in York. There are 3 large park and ride lots ringing the city with bus service into the center, less than 10 minutes, a family day bus pass is 5 pounds. There are many hotels on the suburban fringe of York with free parking and rooms with more space for a family. The Holiday Inn Express in Monks Cross has connecting rooms.

Frankly, I think the driving from Heathrow was a better plan. The rental car will wait at the airport for a late flight at the same price. Motorway driving on the left is the easiest kind of left side driving. If you don't think you can make it all the way to York jetlagged you can stop after an hour or so, once you are out of the London traffic, or closer to the halfway point.

Posted by
26448 posts

Which semester exams? Are you coming this month or next summer?

Posted by
26448 posts

Where did you find that Hampton Court Palace closes for the afternoon? I had never heard of that and just checked their website which showed that they are only closed at Christmas and in the winter, if that is when you are coming - see my prior post - they don't close until well after dark, not until 16:30. You'd want to see the vast majority of it in what passes for daylight in December here.

Posted by
77 posts

Nigel --

We are coming next week. She does not have semester exams until the week we get back, but she has to attend all the reviews and study classes. So yes, this semester!

I realize it is the Floridian in me that views 16:30 as afternoon as it doesn't get dark here until much later than that. Yes, you are correct, we would want to be there during daylight. So we definitely need to be there earlier.

Posted by
26448 posts

This week, sunset (ha!) is about 3:50. It is quite dark somewhat earlier than that.

When I am at home I put the lights on for most of the day, and draw the curtains around 3.

Posted by
77 posts

3:50!!!!!! Wow, this is totally blowing my Florida mind!!

But I understand that everyone is still out on the streets and there will still be Christmas markets and things to enjoy?

We are going to have to adjust to the time as soon as we can and get and go in the mornings!

Posted by
4539 posts

Sunrise is around 8am presently in London.

Posted by
113 posts

You also have to allow time to get into Central London as well after arrival. The most direct route would be the tube to Kings Cross although it's also not the shortest at about an hour . You also could go to Paddington by the Heathrow Express and then take a taxi from there--this would add about 10 to 15 pounds to the train fare but would cut the travel somewhat. I definitely would not go with time specific tickets because lines at 8 AM can be horrible going through passport control at Heathrow.