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York to London Christmas Quandry

Hi everyone, I am stuck and hoping you can help. My family of five will be visiting London and some of France over our Christmas break. We are obviously trying to make every day count. We are trying to stay in York from Christmas Eve day until the day after Christmas, where we hoped to catch a train to London to take the Eurostar to Paris. I did not realize that in England the trains are not running on Christmas Day or Boxing Day. We really need to head out on Boxing Day, but I seem to be running into dead ends. We thought to rent a car, but we can't turn it back in on that day due to the offices being closed. They haven't put the bus schedules up so I can find out if we can take a bus.

I am also hoping that sites will be open during that time, and that we can find places to eat on Christmas Day. Does anyone have any experience with this or advice or should we just bag York? :(

Thanks!

Posted by
4528 posts

Many restaurants that open on Christmas Day serve a Christmas dinner at a high price to people with reservations. I doubt you will find any of the regular tourist haunts open on that day either. The Minster will be for services at least.

National Express shows 2 coaches available on Boxing Day but keep in mind that they take over 5 hours. Cheapest seat already up to £38.

Posted by
77 posts

Thanks for your help so far!

Five hours to get to London! Well I guess beggars can't be choosers. I am wondering if we should put York at the beginning of our trip and then stay in London for Christmas? However, I suppose we will have the same problem with places being closed. I'm just not sure what to do.

A few years ago we were in Paris at Christmastime and able to use the trains so it threw me for a loop to find they wouldn't be running in England. Of course, if I were at home I would want everything closed for the holiday. But since I am going to be a tourist I want it all! :)

Posted by
2726 posts

Hi, In 2006 We stayed in York for Xmas (between Scotland and London travels). I just did a quick look for my journal but couldn't put my hands on it. I can search more later. However, we picked York to stay in through Xmas and it was lovely. I think we might have stayed thru Boxing Day, but I'll check it, as my H thinks not. However, Xmas Eve was interesting as the Minster had the Ten Carols early Xmas Eve. There was standing room only. Xmas Eve had all the young people bar hopping, which is not something I expected…yes, really. We were with my 21 YO daughter who was studying in France that year, and she confirmed that's what I was seeing. LOL. We planned ahead for Xmas dinner, and if you are thinking of this Xmas, you should make reservations as they fill up. We went to the Monkbar Hotel for Xmas dinner and enjoyed it, crackers, hats and all. We did get a family room in the hostel in the old town so that we could cook other meals if necessary over the holiday because we hadn't been sure what would be open. On Christmas Day we went to the movie theatre. We did use the kitchen for one meal. Basically, it was a relaxing holiday. Make sure you have a good book with you for down time. York is a lovely village. Wray

Posted by
8244 posts

Not an expert, but I agree with Emma and encourage you to change things around. At least being in London over Christmas you will only be trying to get around locally on the closure or partial closure days, not trying to manage a significant transportation hop on an inconvenient schedule on Boxing Day.

Posted by
77 posts

Okay, I know what I am doing tomorrow. Trying to move things around! I am definitely feeling the pressure of buying train tickets, etc. Especially with five of us! I just feel the pressure as well of making every day count. I don't know when we will be able to afford to come back.

Thanks for all your advice!

Posted by
3182 posts

Are you booking apartments or 2 hotel rooms/night? With an apartment you can always cook for yourself.

Where are you flying home from? If Paris look for a flight from Manchester to Marseille then work you way back to Paris.

You can always return a car at an airport.

Posted by
77 posts

We are actually flying out of Brussels.

Maybe I am being ridiculous, but I know my kids were excited about the experience of taking the Chunnel train.

Posted by
8244 posts

I don't think you are being ridiculous at all! I know is it old hat to some, but really, it gives me a thrill to know I am under the English Channel. I took the Eurostar to Brussels last year and Paris this year and yes, it is still amazing to me.

Posted by
3182 posts

Oh I thought you were the same family of 5 going to Provence on the France board. Eurostar makes sense for your itinerary.

Where are you flying into?

Posted by
9777 posts

Hi aes.

We are going to London for Christmas as well. Glad to see you changed your order of travel. I thought some of my research might help you.

  • Get reservations for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Many London eateries do online booking. Get cracking on this as I understand even Londoners start booking in August! I started with Trip Advisor, FWIW, as a resource, but I also Googled "London restaurants open Christmas" for ideas. Might want to be sure the restaurant is within hoofing distance as you will probably be walking.

  • London Walks does tours every day. We plan to take one each on the 24th and 25th (as well as some others). The schedule is out. NO reservations required!

We have an apartment planned, but a B&B of hotel with breakfast would suit you as well, perhaps, although with 5 people I'd think an apartment would be less costly. Try LondonConnection. Their service in booking has been top notch.

And I am excited about the Chunnel train. We are taking it both directions with a few days in Paris prior to London and a scenic ride through Switzerland on our way back to Roma.

Posted by
4528 posts

Christmas Day in London is a good one for walking or cycling as the traffic is down considerably.

It can be easier to get meals in some areas where the population has a significant number of people from outside of the Christian tradition although note that even here only small shops are allowed to be open.

Incidentally there has been a recent report for TfL about whether to run some kind of bus service on Christmas Day in the future - but it came out as being well short of cost effective.

Posted by
77 posts

Wow great advice for London! I will definitely look into making reservations now for Christmas. I am feeling much better about this arrangement. We will go to York first and then to London. And the walking tours would be great. Hopefully there is a Harry Potter one as well!

Tom we are flying into heathrow.

Posted by
3182 posts

Great, I am sure there are several options Heathrow to York. Don't forget to look into renting a car, likely fastest and cheapest. You can immediately dump the car at the RR station and some hotels are within walking distance from there. If you have points to burn there are both Hilton and Holiday Inn options in York.

Leave 2 hours for York Minster, interesting museum in the basement. It's more impressive than Westminster Abbey and much cheaper for a family, maybe $45. Those London churches are super expensive, like $80-$100 (depending if any child is over 15).

London and the U.K. are more expensive than Paris and France generally but even more so for a family since 16 and 17 count as a child in France for both admissions and restrictions on number of adults in hotel rooms.

Are you getting apts or 2 hotel rooms?

Posted by
77 posts

Well I think we are going to look at an apartment as I think that might be cheaper for the five of us.

Do you think on Christmas Eve day or Christmas Day we can get an uber or taxi if we need one?

Posted by
3182 posts

I would lock up lodging quickly. A family of 5 is cumbersome in Europe. In August we ended up having to get 3 hotel rooms in Frankfurt for the 5 of us, but it was just hotel points.

A local will give better taxi advice.

Posted by
30 posts

I haven't read the whole of the thread but am happy to help with any York queries you might have aes74. Keep it manageable though!

Posted by
5632 posts

The absolute beauty of Christmas Day in London is that it's unique to Americans. There's a respectful nod to what Christmas Day is to be supposed to be and its not watching sports, 1/2 price sales or running to the local 7/11 for egg nog. It's about taking a time out to be with family and friends and if your one of the faithful, celebrating Your faith. Thus London comes to a standstill so everyone, cab drivers, train engineers, vendors, shop owners, etc take the day off. It's lovely. I've found it a wonderful time to for introspection and exploring London on foot. Watching Londoners out and about in the parks on new bikes, wearing new coats, walking new puppies, etc. I've spent three Christmases in London. Throughly enjoyed the loss of the hustle and bustle on Christmas Day and watched the Peter Pan Cup race in the Serpentine each Christmas morning. Silly traditional fun. Then a nice stroll around Hyde park. Love listening to the Queen's broadcast, eating ethic meals or enjoying traditional roast in a pub for Xmas dinner. prior to Christmas day enjoyed looking at the Christmas lights and store display windows, seeing a Panto, (you must see a panto), watching the ice skaters at the rink in front of the Natural History Musuem, watching the Santa Run and midnight mass at St Paul's is one of my fondest memories EVER!
Great city. Look up TimeOut London online to see what Pantomimes are on ( Pantos) where and when the Santa Run will be, etc. If weather is good take the opportunity to ride bikes thru Hyde Park, regent Park, Green Park, St James Park.... Whatever large park your accommodation is close to. Enjoy!

Posted by
25746 posts

Well summarised, Claudia.

Laurel - if you are reading this, study the immediately prior post....

Posted by
77 posts

Hi Emma -- I am studying studying studying with a vengeance on accommodations as I can hear the clock ticking! My difficulty is having five of us rather than four. Although my children don't take up much room, and my youngest child honestly just curls up between my husband and myself on vacations. I am torn between a charming hotel w breakfast, and renting an apartment on airbnb. The flats we can afford are just so far away its a 45 minute tube ride into the city. Which is not a deal breaker, but not ideal. We are just really trying to keep costs down so I don't believe two hotel rooms would work. Especially since my children are young, I wouldn't be comfortable putting them in a separate room (FYI ages are 15, 11, and 6).

Claudia, perhaps your Christmas experience is different, but in the South where I live everything shuts down for Christmas. So alas, there are no "half price sales" or "7/11 egg nog runs" (Hmmm a new, fabulous tradition I can start at the gas station?) I agree Christmas is a holiday, I am really just trying to clarify transportation issues so that I can make the best use of my time and plan our visit wisely. I have no doubt that Christmas in London is magical and I look forward to experiencing it with my family.

Thanks for all the tips and comments, you all have REALLY helped so much. I have completely changed our itinerary so that we can do York when we first arrive, and then be in London for the actual holiday. It makes so much more sense and I feel so much better about the fact that we can still do both locations and take it easy on Christmas walking and watching rather than trying to get somewhere. I have found some great websites that list neighborhoods that go all out with Christmas lights and decorations. We are really excited. Now if I can just get the accommodations nailed down I can sleep at night!

Posted by
3182 posts

London is tough for a family of 5. Looks like your choices are to stay somewhere completely central where you can do more every day and shorten the stay, or save a bit by staying out a bit and extending the stay to make up for the lost commuting time.

Most people stay on the west side (Kensington, Mayfair, Oxford St) but I think right in the middle on the Thames is a smarter location, something with walking distance of the Tower and the Houses of Parliament, near St Paul's or the Globe.

There are also Premier Inn locations that could work with 2 rooms and not be too much.

Posted by
77 posts

Thanks, I will check into that!

Honestly, I'm about ready to have my kids draw straws to see who gets left behind.

Posted by
3182 posts

Some thoughts, having done similar in 2014:

Try this Premier Inn in London, "Premier Inn London City - Old Street" two rooms are about 75 pounds each if you prepay/no changes. You will have to put an adult in each room.

Charming is not what you want, I remember looking at charming B&Bs for 5 in York and they started at 350 pounds.

If money is this tight, consider renting a car at Heathrow, keeping it in York, then dumping it on the north side of London (Luton, Stevenage, St Albans) and taking the train in. You will want something like a Passat or Vauxhall Insignia with an automatic. It's all freeway Heathrow to just outside York, no tolls. York has easy shuttle bus lots that ring the city and for 5 pounds you can get an all you can ride family bus card for the day. You may even find a country B&B outside York where 5 is not such an issue. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on the north edge of town, early booking 70 pounds per night, free breakfast. They have connecting rooms.

In London for 5 people usually a black cab is cheaper than the tube, and of course much more memorable. Not of course cheaper if you are going more than say 5 miles.

If you are quick you could churn a credit card for free hotel stays. For example, the Chase Bank IHG card only requires a $1000 spend to get 60,000 IHG points, enough for 6 rooms at the Holiday Inn Express in Stevenage (they also have connecting rooms), so that's 3 nights of 2 rooms. Stevenage is about a 25 minute train ride to Kings Cross. British people will say "Horrors, not Stevenage" but it is a new hotel and a perfectly ordinary British town.

Note that when looking at train fares, you will probably get a group discount if you book the 5 of you at once, and another discount if you return the same day.

This works for Paris, great location, 2 normal bedrooms, bathroom and hall, kitchen area not that nice but works for breakfast. http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p192356vb

Posted by
244 posts

We just returned from London. We rented an apartment, Vancouver Studios. We rented the two bedroom, but I'm pretty sure they have a three bedroom. here It was a RS recommended hotel. We loved it! Very comfortable!

Posted by
7920 posts

Tom, that Paris apt looks really good and a good price... and I see it has a washer/dryer, big plus for 5 people. You're also right, good location.

Posted by
25746 posts

Don't commute by train on commuter lines. It would be no fun for an individual and absolutely horrid for a family.

It is hard to believe just how crowded those trains get, and how unlikely it is to get a seat, and how unlikely it is that 5 people can stay together.

I really wouldn't recommend it.

You could, of course, travel off peak, but then so much of the day would be gone.

Stevenage, while not a nice place to commute from, is famous as the birthplace of the Formula 1 World Champion, Lewis Hamilton. He has moved out.

Posted by
3182 posts

I knew the Stevenage comment would get some remarks. In our case we just spent the night in Stevenage before returning the car at Luton. Our experience for one-way rentals of larger automatic cars is that we were restricted to airport drop offs only, so it had to be Luton, and the Holiday Inn Express in Luton was 2-1/2 times more points. So we didn't commute from Stevenage, but I know some tourists at the hotel were doing it.

Like I said all the London tourists stay on the west side like the flat recommendation north of Hyde Park above or the hotel near Kew, but in these places you are absolutely locked into a daily tube regimen since the historic sites are so far. The Premier Inn in the City on Old Street is within walking distance of the British Museum, the Tower (a ways but doable), St Paul's, Shakespeare's Globe, Millenium Bridge, Bankside, and St Pancras for your train to Paris. In a location like this, you would only need to use the tube for the farther sites and could get one day travel cards for that. The tube is pretty expensive so you have to calculate that into any location out of the middle where you would have to use it every day.

We stayed in Southwark and loved the convenience of the location, and usually just walked. We entered and left London by Thameslink Rail so only used the tube one day and got one day travel cards for that. All your children are under 16 so they would get the reduced (I think is was 50% off) fare.

It is tempting to follow the North American custom of sneaking the 5th child into hotel rooms rated only for 4 but, although we did successfully do this once at a very large UK hotel where there was always a lot of tour bus loading and unloading commotion, I do not recommend it. There are no key carded side hotel doors anywhere in Europe that I am aware of, so you will have to enter and leave the hotel every time by walking past the front desk, and the room limits appear to be taken seriously there (unlike the US or Canada were loading a room with 10 high school hockey players is commonly done).

Posted by
8244 posts

If you do get 2 hotel rooms, then you and DH stay in separate rooms with a variety of kids split between you.

Posted by
77 posts

Where is croydon? Is that too far away? I think I've found a Marriott there?

West India quay?
Regents park?
Maida bale?
All Marriott locations...

Posted by
3182 posts

Does somebody have Marriott status or points? Those can be useful, esp if it gains you access to an executive or concierge lounge with free breakfasts, appetizers, drinks, desserts. It's also possible to churn a Chase Bank Marriott Visa for 50,000 points.

You can map these at Marriott.com, it's the third icon in the upper left that says "Map." West India Quay is in the Canary wharf area on the east side.

Posted by
30 posts

Croyden is a particularly ugly part of London. I am occasionally unlucky enough to go there with work. I think I have stayed in that Marriot before and whilst that is ok, the scenery is basically concrete jungle. You will need to get an overland train (about 15mins journey time from recollection) to London Bridge. Too far to walk.

Posted by
77 posts

I think we are going to go with the premier inn at two rooms. That seems the best so far. There are reasonable prices at London Old City location, tower bridge, tower hill, Kensington earl's court, and Kew Bridge. Any of these we should really steer clear from?

Posted by
25746 posts

By Old City, do you mean Old Street? If so it is the centre of London's silicon valley with a lot of overpriced hipster eating places and not where I would pick at night. The rest sound OK.

See if you can get connecting rooms. That's two rooms side by side with a private connecting door between them. Much nicer for a family than two separate rooms. Nicer for the other guests, too.

Maida Vale is pretty good. Stay away from Croydon - many reasons.

Posted by
3182 posts

other Premier Inns near the Thames and central, all about the same price:

London Blackfriars (Fleet Street)
London Southwark (Tate Modern)
London Southwark (Borough Market)
London Holborn
London Waterloo (Westminster Bridge)

I'd avoid too far west (Earl's Court, Kew Bridge) . Tower or Tower Hill are better but a tad too far east

London Blackfriars (Fleet Street) does offer the best exit to the Eurostar as the Thameslink train is right across the street (City Thameslink stop) and the trains go right to St. Pancras, no schlepping bags on the tube required. I'll bet there is a way to buy the Eurostar tickets with this little leg included for free.

Posted by
1291 posts

Probably not adding much to what has been said so far, but unless you are able to get food included with the accomodation or meet up with friends or family then the bigger the city in the UK the better. And once accomodation is sorted you will need to make the restaurant bookings quickly as well.

London is probably the best choice, much better than Stevenage as strange as that may sound, and would leave the areas to people more in the London know.

And repeating the advice above, Christmas Day is very much a family day, in most of the country almost everything closes in the early evening of 24th December and will not open until 26th. Emma points out that in Scotland Christmas Day was a normal day until the 1970s, but the English Christmas has been almost solidly adopted up here since.

And then in the evening you can partake in some other Christmas Day traditions of passing out in front of the Christmas special of Doctor Who or Strictly Come Dancing as the feast you have enjoyed hits home.

Posted by
2627 posts

My opinion, the best of the locations is Premier Inn Southwark at Borough Market:
http://www.premierinn.com/en/hotel/SOUANC/london-southwark-borough-market
Rooms from £64.00 each. On-site restaurant serving very good food. Walk to nearly every London tourist attraction. See photos, one room has a queen bed with a twin: http://www.booking.com/hotel/gb/premier-inn-london-southwark.html
Perhaps you could book two adjoining rooms, or two rooms next door to one another.

This hotel is near the River Thames for a beautiful walk along the riverbank. Walk west along the riverbank walkway to get to Westminster Bridge, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace. Walk north across the river to get to St. Paul's. Walk east along the river walk to get to Tower Bridge; walk across and you're at the Tower Of London. Located near your hotel: Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, and Tate Modern Art Museum. Borough Market is a market with food stalls selling all kinds of fruit, cheeses, pastries, and there are restaurants and cafes there. I have stayed at this hotel twice, and loved it.

City buses are good transportation, except they won't run on Christmas Day, of course. On other days, you can get almost anywhere in London by walking, city bus, or a combination of the two. Use your Oyster cards to travel on the city buses. Cheap and fun way to travel. The RV1 bus comes right by your hotel, and will take you to the London Eye in one direction (going west) and traveling east, to Tower Bridge, and Tower of London.

When you were asking about Marriotts, you mentioned several locations. Regents Park is the best of the locations that you mentioned. Regents Park is beautiful, and contains the London Zoo, which your children may enjoy. Transportation is good from there, also. I think this Marriott would work for you. Would also have a restaurant where you could eat meals Christmas Day. Could be a bargain, if you have some Marriott points to use up.

Do you have a good map of London? This would be useful to have right now for planning and choosing a location. And you will need one, of course, to find your way around London once you get there.

You will need to figure out where you will be eating Christmas day lunch or dinner. Many restaurants are closed then. That's why it can become important to stay at a hotel that has a restaurant on-premises which will serve you a meal on Christmas Day.

Posted by
7920 posts

Really helpful info Rebecca, thank you. Nice of you to include both links bc Premier Inn website would not show photos (??) so the Booking website was great. Looks like a great place to stay and wow, for London, inexpensive. I'll have to keep this info for the next time I'm in London.

Posted by
2627 posts

Hi Susan! You're welcome! Yes, I loved being walking distance to sights, and having the Borough Market right on my doorstep! Being close to the River Thames was great for walks. I forgot to mention, it is also near Southwark Cathedral, a good place to visit.

Posted by
7920 posts

Rebecca, sounds perfect to me. Wish I was there now!

Posted by
2627 posts

Actually, Susan, this would be a great time to be there!

Posted by
77 posts

Rebecca! I am loving this recommendation! Great location and price! I'm going to book two rooms tonight. I don't know how to book adjoining rooms though? Perhaps I should call or email them tonight?

Posted by
7920 posts

Amy, I would call them. Remember though, they're 8 hrs ahead.

Rebecca... I know! Really, really wish I could be there.. : )

Posted by
2627 posts

Susan, me too!

Amy, yes, call them in the morning. Or, I guess you could call them now. Surely there's someone on duty. Or you could email them. I have no idea how long it would take them to respond.

Remember the "Booking" page says "From" this price. Meaning, the very room you want may be that price, or slightly more. It is always best to book directly with the hotel. Check the hotel website for the exact dates you want, and see what the availability and price is. Then call the hotel number on the Premier Inn page, and tell them you need for the rooms to be adjoining, if possible. You will get more information that way, talking to the hotel personnel. I would reserve right away. If they quote a much higher price, tell them politely that you had checked the "Booking" website, and gotten THIS price, and could they do that price? Or come very close to it? When pushing for a bargain, politeness counts. The hotel had rather you book directly with them, because they would have to pay the "Booking" website a fee if you book through that. So you have that advantage when negotiating price with the hotel directly.

After you make your reservation, of course you will give them your email address, and ask them to send you a confirmation of the reservation, for both rooms. Be sure to print that, and take it with you to London.

Posted by
3182 posts

As I said earlier we stayed in Southwark (approx pronunciation Suthik) and loved it. Tube service isn't great but it does run directly to Westminster which has a lot of sights and is really a tad too far to walk, at least both ways.

London is 5 hours ahead of Eastern time normally but perhaps only 4 if summer time is already over there.

Posted by
7920 posts

I just realized for you Amy, they're 5 hrs ahead..

Calling is better than email, imo, because a) time is of the essence and b) as Rebecca said, you get more info by talking to someone.

Hey Rebecca, I've decided... let's go!

Posted by
8244 posts

Well if you 2 are going, I want to go to!!

Posted by
77 posts

Please help me…it is asking for a valid mobile number, which I put in, but it will not accept. I have put in 1-area code-phone number. I've tried 001-area code-phone number. It keeps kicking me back and I can't make my reservation. And apparently I don't have international calling on my phone so I can't call them! Argh!

Posted by
77 posts

I finally got it haha!!!

I booked two rooms at the Premier Inn Southwark (Tate Modern). The Southwark (Borough Market) was already gone, so I grabbed this one. I feel so much better now!

I am so grateful for all your help and tips. I could kiss you all, but that would be a terribly American thing to do so I will pass! ;)

Posted by
3182 posts

Great you will be only a block from where we stayed. You will be tickled how close you are to things. My boys liked just watching the boats in the river.

Some notes: the Thameslink train station Blackfriars is a very handy thing as you can walk there from the hotel and it goes directly to St Pancras for the Eurostar (see if you can use Blackfriars as your origin for the ticket). Also if you do drop a rental car in Luton or St Albans that train also stops at Blackfriars (which is also the most sensational way to enter or leave London as the station is over the River). The train (surface rail) is not as cramped as the tube so better with luggage. If you train from York then also buy the tickets destination Blackfriars and switch at Kings Cross to St Pancras, they are virtually connected.

Congratulations you can leave and enter London without having to schlep bags on the tube or pay for a transfer service or cab.

Posted by
7920 posts

Rebecca & Pam, we'd have so much fun... Let's start packing!

Posted by
2627 posts

Susan, you are right! We would all have so much fun! I can pack right away...

Amy, congratulations! You have your reservations! And possibly not a minute to spare, because Premier Inn-Tate Modern would have filled up, too! Woo Hoo! You're on your way! So happy for you!

Now, you will have Susan, Pam, and me sleeping in sleeping bags on your floor. Is that O.K.? (Kidding)

Posted by
8244 posts

I may have to wear the sleeping bag on the plane cuz it will not fit in my 20in roller. I am sure Amy and her very nice family will not mind us staying there as well!

Amy, very glad you got the reservation. What was the trick with the phone number? (just for future reference!)

Posted by
77 posts

lol you are welcome to crash the party!! I do shower every day so it shouldn't be too bad! ;)

Posted by
8244 posts

Laughing, I shower daily too! I do rely on sink wash for my clothes and they are usually fine but I have not tried to sink wash a sleeping bag if I've worn it on the airplane.

Posted by
2627 posts

Well, I have been looking on AirBnB and other apartment rental sites for London, so you can breathe easy, Amy! "The Gang" will not be showing up at your hotel with sleeping bags in hand! LOL! Have a great trip!

Now to find an apartment with a washer and a dryer, so Pam won't be sink-washing all the time.......