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Pre-tour suggestions

We’re planning to go to London before we embark on our BOE in 14 Day Tour in June (which starts in Paris). We can only spend 3.5 days in London; 1.5 days to see the city sights and 2 days to see the outskirts. Since it’s going to be our first time in London/Europe, would you recommend getting the London Pass? And where would you suggest to book the tours for outside London? I want to see Stonehenge, Bath, the Cotswolds, Oxford, Warwick Castle, Stratford-Upon-Avon, etc.


Posted by
12868 posts

I'm a do-it-yourself sort of person and have no experience with tours. I know, though, that LondonWalks has a few out-of-town tours that begin with a train ride, which is likely to get you to your destination faster. Warwick is not far beyond Heathrow, so that one would be simple enough on your own.

I must point out that two days is not long enough to see all the places you list except perhaps at a trot. For me, the Cotswolds would be at least one day (no time for hiking), Bath (though not my favorite place) would be one day and Oxford would be more than one day. So I've already spent more than 3 days outside London and haven't gotten to Stonehenge, Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick Castle.

If London is your landing point from the US/Canada, I wouldn't count the arrival day at all due to sleep-deprivation and jetlag.

Posted by
464 posts

Congratulations on your first trip to Europe. London is a great city with a ton of sites to see just in London itself, not to mention going outside London.

If your 3.5 days includes the day you arrive from the states, then I would plan an outdoors activity. I personally don’t sleep on planes, so doing something outside and trying to stick to local bedtimes helps to adjust to jet lag. For your first day, you can take a self-guided tour using RS London book and follow his recommended walks or take a London Walks tour ( They have a great introduction to London tour—Hello London that shows you the major sites around Westminster and Parliment. If you feel up to it on your first day, you may want to visit Westminster itself or the nearby Churchill War rooms.

For your second day in London, you are going to need to choose what interests you the most. The RS London book can help narrow down your options.

For out of town tours, given you have 2 days to see the outskirts, you are going to need to limit your focus. Most of the tours that you are looking at will be all day trips. London Walks has day tours (but they are limited), you can look at trip advisor for other recommendations.

After you do some research, you may opt to take only one day tour and stay in London. We just returned from London to celebrate the holidays and spent 8 nights. Even though I have been there a dozen times, still wasn’t enough time to do everything that I wanted to in London.

Have a great trip,

Posted by
10520 posts

Have you flown to Europe before? Some people can function their first day upon landing, but most of us find the first day is a jet-lagged haze. Fine for walking around, but not good for anything requiring concentration or lots of time indoors. Some of us are tired the next day as well. You definitely don't want to plan anything on the arrival day that requires pre-payment, in case you arrive late and miss it, or arrive on time and just don't feel up to it. And even if you feel OK during they day, you are most likely to be tired early, so whatever you do, don't plan on theatre your first night, or it will just be an expensive nap!

I also agree that with "3.5" days in London (I'm not sure exactly how you're calculating that), you can see a some of London, or can see even less of London and one side trip. You also don't want to exhaust yourself before your tour starts, as the tour will be busy.

The London Pass is only a good value if you are seeing a lot of the covered attractions. It's hard to make it pay off unless you're running around a lot, and as I said, even if that's your intention, you may not be up to it. Many things in London are free. Those that aren't usually have a discount for online booking (you can do this the morning you go for most things). And if you want to see the Churchill War Rooms, these now have long lines due to the movie The Darkest Hour. While admission to them is included in the London Pass, you don't get skip the line privledges. For them, it's best to pre-book a ticket online with an admission time.

What day and time do you arrive in London? I assume you're taking the Eurostar to Paris - what day and time is the departure? Remember that it's recommended to get to St. Pancras station an hour before the departure, to go through the formalities. And, what are your absolute priorities for London and surrounding daytrips? With this information, we can help you plan a good few days in London, that won't leave you needing a rest before the start of your 14 day BOE tour.

Posted by
3866 posts

With so little time in London you should not bother with day trips outside of the city. You barely have enough time to see London’s top sites. Windsor Castle is not too far away, near Heathrow.

Posted by
58 posts

Thanks for the responses. We will actually be arriving England 3 days before we go to London. We’re flying directly to Manchester then stay in Liverpool with relatives for 3 days before we go to London. I’m assuming we arrive London around noon, hence the 3.5 days. I know it’s not enough time but, unfortunately, that’s the only time we can spend. I’ve seen combo tours like Stonehenge/Windsor Castle/Bath Tour and Oxford/Cotswolds/Stratford-Upon-Avon/Warwick Castle Tour. Any thoughts on those?

Posted by
6258 posts

The problem with those combo tours from London is that you are spending most of the day on the bus and not enough time at the actual sights. If you decide you must see something outside London (other than the Manchester/Liverpool sights) then pick one and save the others for next time.

I love Stonehenge but I like to do it on my own by taking a train to Salisbury and then using the local Salisbury Reds bus called The Stonehenge Tour to go out to the stones. It makes a continuous loop all day out and back. I spend the night in Salisbury but with your short time frame that's not really an option.

Bath also is an easy train ride and you can spend enough time in Bath to see the Roman Baths and walk thru town.

London Walks has some day tours if you hit the right day of the week you might join them for an interesting day tour to Oxford or Stonehenge or Bath.

Windsor Castle is an easy day trip from London as well. Really, you can probably make it a 1/2 day trip if you don't dilly-dally when touring the castle. The castle usually takes me 3 or 4 hours to see but I'm sure others see it in less time.

There is more than enough to occupy you in London for 3.5 days without even taking a day trip!

Posted by
58 posts

Thanks, Pam. I will consider that. Your post made me really think about quality of our vacation vs quantity of sights to see. =)

Posted by
6258 posts's so hard the first time you go. You want to see EVERYthing! You'll get a good dose of that with your fantastic BOE tour, so for doing London on your own, I'd just tell yourselves you'll be coming back!

I'd also consider this - your BOE tour will be at a very fast pace. Rick, the guides and the bus drivers have everything choreographed and efficiently routed but you keep moving. I'd want to make sure you save some energy for that as well and try not to overdo on your London portion.

Posted by
11035 posts

I’ve done a combo tour - Stonehenge - Bath and Salisbury I think ( not sure on last one as I’ve been to all of those places before independently except Stonehenge )

For a first timer they are fine - thousands of people take them and are basically satisfied with a quick look - honestly I found Stonehenge a waste of an hour - would have chosen to spend more time in Bath as on the tour you only get enough time in Bath to see the Baths themselves ( which are worth seeing for the museum section alone ) or have time to walk around town - since I had been to the Baths before I spend the allowed time wandering around town which I liked .

I have been to Warwick castle with local friends and I liked it - we spent hours there !

Posted by
1637 posts

I've been to London 7 times and would spend the entire 3.5 days there if this is your first visit there-there's so much to see in London. If you really must do a day trip, I would pick a place that's easily accessible by train, such as Bath or Oxford (or Cambridge) and spend the day enjoying the place rather than trying to cram in so much that it goes by in a blur.