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Recommended Travel Agent for England Trip

Hello everyone,

My family and I are planning a trip to England from the US (Oregon) for this September. Though I have an overwhelming amount of research material, I'm interested in connecting with a TA who may specialize in England/UK travel. If anyone has used or knows of a reputable agent/agency, I'd appreciate the information.

Have a good day and Keep On Travelin'~

Jennifer

Posted by
926 posts

Taking the plunge and booking it all yourself is possible if you use this forum well. There's lots of very knowledgeable, helpful people on here that can talk you through every stage of it.

Posted by
8 posts

Thank you GerryM, I appreciate your comment. I may just do that. Have a good day~

Posted by
8881 posts

Been going to the UK for decades.

Have stayed in Belfast, London, Oxford, and Richmond.

LAX and SFO to LHR. Solo traveler.

Have done and continue to do my own bookings.

What information do you seek?

What are your family’s interests? History? The Royals? Parks? Theatre? Sports? RU foodies?

Happy to share intel accumulated over the years.

One of the first things to look at during research are London Walks ( www.walks.com). Have taken and enjoyed each one. Insightful and well managed. Most recent was Inns of the Court in 2022.

Posted by
8 posts

Hello Claudia,

Thank you for your feedback. We travel a bit and almost always plan the trips ourselves, however, this trip is very special to me, and I may have gone down one too many rabbit holes and was looking for a professional. I have many maps, travel books, and saved websites to refer to, and it's possible I have overwhelmed myself.

We are big history buffs, and are interested in seeing the castles, monuments and villages. I believe we have our list of areas to visit nailed down, but not specific towns or accommodations yet. I'd prefer to travel by train rather than renting a car (as we're American drivers), but it's not totally out of the question.

London (arrival plus 3 days) would love to see the Tower of London, Westminster, older parts of the city/architecture, and any nearby castles (Windsor, Hampton Court). We LOVE to eat, so we hope to find some good pubs/inns while we're there. Since everything seems to be spaced out in the city, ideally I'd like to stay somewhere in London with some "charm". We're looking more for historical than fancy lodging.

Oxford - (2 days) tour the colleges, frequent some inns/pubs.

York - (2 days) Still haven't decided where to stay. See the Shambles, York Castle, Churches.

Warwick - (1 day) Warwick Castle, Avon River sites.

Cornwall (3 days) Stil haven't decided what towns to stay in. Looking for more of the same, mainly historical sites and older villages.

Stonehenge (1 day)

Bath (1 day) Still undecided....

Back to London - would like to see more of Southern England/Coastal historical sites before we leave, but don't have that outlined.

I know there's probably some wonderful, "must see" things I've missed. Other than London, the order of our trip and timing of each stay are still pretty loose at this point. We will have two weeks or more to fit it all in.

I'll take all the guidance I can get.

Thank you~

Posted by
1005 posts

You can't fit in what you have planned for London in the 3 and a bit days you have, unless you are planning some more days there at the end.

You will need at least 3 weeks for this as outlined. Remember that you need to travel between all these places so 2 nights on Oxford needs 3 nights etc.

You say family - who is coming? I'm not being nosy but the ages of any children are relevant to any advice. For example Warwick Castle has been largely 'disneyfied" so is interesting to younger children but probably not teenagers onwards.

You mention Avon river sights. Bear in mind that there are no less than 9 River Avons* in the UK. I imagine as you mention it next to Warwick that you mean the Warwickshire Avon but be careful to get the right one!

Cornwall is an outlier as it takes a long time to get down there. Distances might look nothing to someone from Oregon but you don't have the packed roads that we have here and there are no motorways beyond Exeter in the south west.

  • The reason for this is that Avon (or more correctly Afon - a single f is pronounced as a v in welsh) is the Welsh word for river. So the one actually in Wales is literally River River.
Posted by
8648 posts

Ok, everyone. Instead of telling her she doesn't need a travel agent, perhaps someone could answer her actual question.
I'm no help since I haven't used an TA. Perhaps someone in the UK knows a reputable agency there.

Posted by
7024 posts

I agree with Carol - I'm seeing that a lot lately. Also like Carol, I have not used a TA. But you might try looking on Trip Advisor as they have reviews for people like that, so that would give you a place to start, at least.

Posted by
439 posts

I've taken so long to post, it looks like some of this may already be covered...

One of the best pieces of advice I heard (maybe from Rick Steves originally?) is to believe you will return to a location again so you're not distressed at what you can't do. Usually once I've spent time in a place, I decide there's much more I want to do.

Our family (and also just my husband and I) have had some vacations in which we've really moved quickly from city to city. That strategy was right for those particular trips, but not always ideal.

Just before our eldest was entering his senior year of high school (in April or May my husband and I: "Omg, this is our last guaranteed summer"), we did a whirlwind trip (not in this order) including London (definitely limited--included the Eye, the Tower, Trafalgar Sq, a Globe show, British Museum, another museum or two? and ??), Cornwall, Bath, York, Cotswolds, Edinburgh (Fringe Festival/Tattoo/R. Mile). We went up to Culloden/Inverness for a day & so we'd have a longer night train back to London. Oh, we also did a bus tour of Oxford, had about half a day at Warwick Castle a day in Wales (Caerphilly Castle; husband says also Rhymney and Newport, but I don't recall). I'm tired realizing how much we did.

We broke all the rules about stuffing itineraries, but we had rail passes and just hopped on the trains with our backpacks. I think Oxford and Cardiff were last minute impulsive day adds.

I don't recall that we had done much planning in advance aside from accommodations and car rental:
York (1 or 2 nights), Edinburgh (2 nights), Cornwall (2 nights?) Moreton--in-Marsh (Cotswolds, 1 night). Bath (day trip), and our London B & B (maybe 2 nights?). We also stayed near Reading at a college I had attended a quarter century before :). I think we were there at least 3 nights, so we used it as a base for both London and afield. Our total trip was about 2 weeks. Would not recommend two of our nights--the night trip from Scotland trying to sleep in our seats (kids slept fine!) and our last night at the airport. We stayed in London until about midnight then headed to the airport to attempt 4 hours of sleep. We had a very early flight home to Seattle.

We were fortunate that we found rooms at BnBs from Rick Steve's England. Now, one can't count on booking rooms so late in the spring for an August trip for a family of 5.

The Cornwall days were to visit a couple of my ancestral locations. We travelled by train except in Cornwall where we really needed the flexibility to visit the locations. I also visited a records office with whom I'd communicated. Even though it was a brief visit in Corwall, our churchyard visit for looking/finding ancestors' graves was a great prologue to our only other full family vacation since-- fall 2022 with our adult kids when we showed them a German graveyard with an ancestor from their father's side. We even have similar photos of them trying to decifer the eroding inscriptions.

We were fortunate that our kids (17, 14 & 11) were all curious but relatively laid back kids with game to tackle unexpected/unplanned adventures.

It looks as if you are hoping for a similar sample of UK locations in a similar timeframe---but I hope you can do the "or more" length of vacation.

What are the ages of the travellers? Do you have any ancestral connections to any of the planned (or other) UK locations?

This forum is a great place to get, not only, feedback on plans but also questions to help you think critically about aspects you may not have considered. (As you can see with Claudia's great questions.)

Keep asking questions. There's a wealth of information from the experienced forum members. Feel free to ignore suggestions that don't seem right for you. And..it can feel overwhelming when there is so much to choose from! Come back to share your experience!

Cheryl

Posted by
439 posts

oops...Carol and Mardee are right...we're not answering your question. Sorry for the essay.

You will find, however, that there are many forum members who are knowledgeable who could (and would happily) provide very specific details to help you navigate the planning process and the execution of your plans if you decide to do it sans TA.

Also, I'll add that a lot has changed since my family's trip. There are so many more travellers now that I'm afraid everything is taking longer. Sites and transport are much busier, often with reservations required for sites.

Posted by
8 posts

Thank you all for your input. It all helps put the information I have in context. This will be my first time to England, so I'm navigating this as best I can.

Johnew52 - I appreciate your comments about the timeline. I'll look at that. My husband, my 23 year old daughter and myself will be on this trip, so maybe we should skip Warwick Castle. Yes, I meant the Warwickshire Avon River, but will keep in mind there are 9 so not to get them confused. Good points on Cornwall, but I'd hate to miss it.

Thank you Carol now retired and Mardee - I've checked TripAdvisor but can go back to that if I don't get a recommendation here.

CanAmCherie thank you for sharing so much about your UK trip! It sounds amazing and the spontaneity is inspiring. I'm a big fan of English History (I blame Public Television - ha ha!), which is why this trip means so much to me. We've put it off for several years, in order to afford the time I/we would like to spend.

I'm trying to remind myself this won't be my only visit, but that's difficult. All of this is also why I was looking for a TA to help, even though we've always planned our own trips. This trip is very important to me, so I appreciate everyone's feedback here.

Thank you all~

Posted by
869 posts

You might inquire at the travel department your local AAA office if you ar e a member - they may have an agent that specializes in the UK.

Posted by
439 posts

With your interest in history, you may find the Richard III museum in Leicester interesting. Have you seen the film the Lost King? Before our UK visit last fall, I was curious to see where Richard III's skeleton was found (car parking lot) but did not have the history down (did not pay attention/read all the text in my British History class:). Our 34 year old daughter was keen to visit the Battle of Bosworth museum and site, as well as visit the Richard II museum. We all found it very interesting and well done. Since I hadn't read anything before our trip, it was helpful to have my daughter answering my questions and providing more insight during our trip. We found all the docents very knowledgeable.

I know this is adding to your long list, but it's only a few hours from London. Perhaps visit en route to York?

Posted by
3821 posts

To answer your question, I second Markcw's recommendation for you to contact your local AAA (Triple A) office. Each office has a travel agent to help you plan your trip.

A travel agent we have used before is Elizabeth Holmes Travel, Seattle. They do all or most of the travel arrangements for Rick Steves when he travels to make his videos.

Here's a video from one of Rick's Monday night broadcasts featuring the travel experts from Elizabeth Holmes Travel:
https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/travel-classes/monday-night-travel/transportation-tips

This may help you become more comfortable with using them. All planning with them can be done by phone, email and text messages.
https://elizabethholmes.com/

I hope this helps.

Posted by
8 posts

Hello again~ thank you so much for the input!

CanAmCherie, I would love to see Bosworth Field as I too have done some research on Richard III and his family. That's a great idea, I'll look into how feasible it would be to fit that in. Many thanks!

markcw, that's a good idea thank you. We are AAA members, so I'll reach out to them.

Rebecca, thank you! That's a big help, I appreciate you sharing your TA contact.

Posted by
33336 posts

Jennifer

edited... I'd just suggest to check that any travel agent has actual on the round on the ground experience and knowledge of what they are advising.

As you are starting to find there are several locals who contribute to the Forum, including me - and I live not terribly far from both Leicester and Bosworth Field (and civil war battlefields too), and we all give freely of our experiences and travel knowledge. What's more, there are several people here who regularly travel to the UK from Canada and the US, and they have direct experience of hotels and apartments, and plenty of flight experience.

So if we can help you plan and organize please call on us, and feel free to ask us sense check what a travel agent has suggested...

good luck with all your plans

Posted by
6737 posts

I read what Carol NR has to say about using a UK agency.

I'm not sure it's really the sort of thing most UK agents would do. I can think of one who might be able and interested to, but am not sure the idea would meet with the approval of the forum, so will hold fire on the notion. In particular I'm not sure if you are happy to book air fare on your own and am looking for an agent to package the UK ground part, or an agent to put together an air and UK ground package together as a complete entity.

There are a number of questions which an agent would be looking to answer-
- are you looking to use public transport exclusively, a rental car exclusively, or a judicious combination of the two?
- what kind of budget are you contemplating for your hotels?
- within that budget (whatever it is) are you looking for chain hotels, or 'characterful properties' (a la Rick's style)?
- food, how much of a gourmand are you?
- 1 day Warwick and River Avon locations- are you able to specify that a bit? I think a day to achieve both is significantly short of the time needed.
- Cornwall- historical locations- can you define what you mean by that? This could mean everything from the likes of Tintagel Castle and St Michael's Mount through to the mining history of the County (and you are not telling the history of the County without a good passing reference to mining). But any historical perspective can not possibly omit the strong and distinctive religious and pilgrimage story of the County. A part of that is the story of non-conformism (for example the Bible Christian movement). Also the history must include the development of ports (the likes of Charlestown and Padstow to name but two, there are many others) and the fishing industry which has to lead you to Newlyn. Things like Porthcurno and it's vital role in the development of submarine communications.
Talk about the coast and you can not omit smuggling. And the development of the tourism industry in the County is a vital part of the history. Your interests and how far you want to deep dive into any/some/all of those aspects determines the time you need in the County- and if you need the services of a Cornish guide. I am trying hard not to make this an essay.

It also seems to be a theme of this forum, to overstate the effort to get to Cornwall, and I don't understand the motives for that. There is a sleeper train from London (to cover the distance by night) and domestic flights to Newquay airport from many points, including London.

Posted by
427 posts

Just to add on about Warwick and your desire to visit a castle, have you considered Kenilworth Castle? It's very near Warwick, and while it is a ruin, it's a pretty substantial one. I've been twice and am planning to go again in Feb. It had a fascinating historical link to Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. And if you do go to Warwick, be sure to visit the Lord Leycester Hospital, a beautiful historic institution that's sort of a small version of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, and is likewise connected to Robert Dudley.

Posted by
2744 posts

You might look at the website for McKinlay Kidd. They have all kinds of tours — guided and self guided with car or by train. With the self guided tours they make all the arrangements for you (hotels/B&Bs, transportation and day tours), and they have an app where all your reservations and tickets are stored. You are not part of a group. They will make changes to their standard tours or plan a custom tour for you. We used them for the Orkney and Shetland islands last year and had a wonderful time. We have booked two self guided tours in England with them for April.

Posted by
16924 posts

I am late to the party!

I know many people in Seattle have used Elizabeth Holmes Travel, and I believe they were recommended by Rick Steves in the early days (the 1990’s) when his travel book business was getting started. Elizabeth herself has retired, but I imagine one of the current agents could help.

https://elizabethholmes.com/

For an historic London hotel, I would recommend St. Ermin’s:

https://www.sterminshotel.co.uk/

Their history, especially WW2 and Churchill:

https://www.sterminshotel.co.uk/about/our-history

It is now a Marriott property (part of their “Autograph Collection” of independent hotel that are affiliated with Marriott for booking purposes, but retain their original character and charm).

The location is great—-just blocks from Westmainster Abbey, Parliament Buidlings, and the Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben). On the other side you will find 10 Downing Street, Horseguards Parade, and the Churchill War rooms. Keep going west a couple of blocks and you arrive at Trafalgar Square. Or walk through lovely St. James Park to reach Buckingham Palace.

Cross the Thames on one of the bridges** to reach the South Bank, with shops and restaurants, the National Theater, and wonderful views of the Parliament Buildings across the river. The pedestrian-only Thames Path
(Aka the Queen’s Walk at this point) along the river, providing easy traffic-free walking, and the South Bank area has lots to offer, including a used-book mart set up each day under the Waterloo Bridge:

https://southbank.london/see-and-do/south-bank-book-market#:~:text=Tucked%20under%20Waterloo%20Bridge%20on,it%20started%20in%20the%201980s!

Keep going downriver to reach the Globe Theatre and nearby pubs, the Tate Modern, and the Millennium Bridge to St. Paul’s Cathedral, back on the north side.

If you tire of walking, hop on one of the iconic red double-decker buses. Here is a schematic map of the main bus routes in Central London, with the major sights indicated (not to scale). Several routes stop right close to St. Ermin’s (see the stop marked Big Ben on the map). Others can be boarded at Trafalgar Square.

https://content.tfl.gov.uk/bus-route-maps/key-bus-routes-in-central-london.pdf

We prefer using buses instead of the (faster) Tube, so we can stay above ground and enjoy some sightseeing during the ride. Payment is easy with a tap-enabled credit card.

** For crossing the Thames in the Westminster area, we much prefer the pedestrian-only Jubilee Bridges attached on either side of the Hungerford Bridge. The Westminster Bridge is generally very crowded, with the sidewalk blocked by people watching one of the 6 or 7 shell-game scammers that operate there. You get no views of the river and are forced to walk close to the traffic. If you do wish to use this bridge, walk on the upriver side (the right side as you face the river.

Edit: I did not see Rebecca’s post about Elizabeth Holmes Travel before I wrote this. I am happy to see my vague memory regarding the RS connection confirmed. If and when you contact them, you might mention that you learned about them from the Rick Steves website travel forum.

Posted by
16924 posts

Regarding AAA, my impression is that they are mainly interested in booking tours, cruises, flights and other fairly standard travel packages for their clients. I see our local AAA lists “planning your next trip”and “destination expertise” among the services offered by their experts, I wonder how good they are at addressing specific travel interests like the OP’s.

https://wa.aaa.com/travel/contact-an-expert.html

Posted by
33336 posts

Thanks, Simon for the mention of Lord Leycester Hospital in Warwick.

They have been closed for a refurb and I'm glad to report that they will be fully reopen again from the 1st of March. Very atmospheric, very informative, very interesting. I'll have to get back to see what they've done to improve the experience. I haven't been back since covid and the refurb.

Posted by
8 posts

I just tried to post a lengthy reply to recent posters, but it doesn't appear to be making it to the forum. Hopefully it will soon, but in the meantime I wanted to thank each and everyone for their help! You've been gracious and kind and I appreciate it. Jennifer~