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First Time Traveler…Need Advice (Brittan/Scotland)

Hello y’all, I’m a female who is going to Scotland in late May (returning the first week of June) to meet some friends. I’ve never flown over seas before, in all honesty, I’ve only flown once in my life. I need advice as to not only what I should bring but what airline should I book? I am hoping to leave out of New Orleans, LA and have been told there are no direct flights from this airport so I would have to land in London. I’m okay with this as I would love to wonder the streets of London for a week and spend time with my friends in Scotland for a week. Does anyone have any advice as to which airport in London I should fly in/out of? I know I will also have to take a rail/train to Edenborough, is there a rail close to the airport to take or will I need an Uber/Taxi/bus? I don’t plan to bring more than a backpack and a carry-on, as I plan to pack light.
Honestly, any advise would be most appreciated! I’m so nervous and excited all at the same time. Thank you for your help in advance!! 😊

Posted by
3937 posts

First, learning to spell the places you wish to visit correctly would greatly assist your research as well as demonstrating that you actually have an interest in those places.

The two major airports in London that you'll likely fly into are Heathrow and Gatwick, Heathrow offers more options for transatlantic flights. I'm not sure of the flight options from New Orleans however I suspect there are a number of interconnecting options. Have a look at a site such as Google Flights or Kayak for some of your options.

Neither Heathrow or Gatwick are actually in London so when it comes to travel to Edinburgh you'll take the train from St. Pancras station which is in London proper, no need to return to the airport.

I'd recommend reading a couple of travel guides covering London and Edinburgh as these will cover the basics that you require.

Posted by
3210 posts

Sounds like a great trip! Do you have your passport? You can apply for it at some Post Offices. I’ve been to Edinburgh (pronounced Ed-in-burrah) a few times, from Colorado always through Heathrow Airport.

First time, after flying to Heathrow then spending a few days and nights in London, caught the train straight to Edinburgh, passing thru the cities of York and Newcastle on the way. Coming back to London, stopped in York for a couple days. Other trips, after landing at Heathrow, took another plane from Heathrow directly to Edinburgh, as Scotland was the destination, not London or other parts of England.

Flights between Heathrow and Edinburgh could be on British Airways, Virgin Airways, or Flybe Air. An airline called easyJet serves Gatwick Airport and Edinburgh, if you connect thru Gatwick. Flying lightweight is handy, but if you carry on your luggage and don’t check it (turn it in to the airline for them to put in the baggage compartment, and you have to pick it back up at the airport when you land), you’ll have to limit how many liquids/gels/pastes you carry on. They have to all fit in a single quart Ziploc bag, and no individual container can exceed 3 oz. - security rules.

You and your friends may have plans, but be sure to hear some Scottish music in a pub! The Royal Oak is a good choice - see if there’s any music scheduled. It’ll be different music, but you’ll have as much fun as if you were at Tipitina’s.

And go see the Royal Yacht, the Britannia. Queen Elizabeth doesn’t use it any more, so it’s moored just east of Edinburgh, adjacent to a shopping mall. You can wander all over it, and it’s quite a bit bigger than a shrimp boat, and there’s even a Rolls-Royce onboard.

Have some Scottish oatmeal for breakfast - it’s a real treat!

Posted by
659 posts

I would do the following to get up to speed:
1) Buy the Rick Steves Great Britain guide book (this will answer so many questions like where to stay and how to travel around)
2) Watch the video on this site on packing light to get an idea of how to make travel easy.
3) Get a money belt for your credit cards, passport, and cash.
4) Get your flights scheduled soon because May through September is the busy season for tourists and it takes off a lot of stress knowing that you have your seat on the plane.
5) Decide where your going to stay in each city/town and get your reservations (it's surprising how quickly hotels or B&B's book up)
Most importantly have a great time and enjoy your trip!!

Posted by
2487 posts

Consider taking the train from London to Edinburgh. Many connections only taking some 4h30, from door to door the train will be faster than flying, and you'll see something of the country in between. The National Rail website gives you all the connections, and the railway expert Man in Seat 61 can give you further practical information.

Wow - this is going to be a great trip for you! Lots of good advice to be garnered on this forum.
First, pick your destinations. That is, are you going to London and Edinburgh? Or, are you visiting other parts of England/Scotland? There are lots of ways to do this trip. 1) Fly into London. Spend 4-5 nights (or more!) visiting London. Consider taking a day trip out of London to Bath by train. Consider other day trips out by train. Know that jet-lag is significant your first day in London. So, keep sightseeing light on arrival. Consider a pleasant stroll near parliament or National Art Museum area.
2). Train to Edinburgh. Allow 3-4 nights (or more!) there depending on your interests. Consider using Rabbie's for day trips out of Edinburgh or for a longer multi-night trip outside of the city. 3). You can easily find information on Rabbie's trips online. My family and I have done a couple of their day trips. A friend did a multi-night trip.
3). Fly from Edinburgh back to USA.
Get out a legal pad. On the left side, write down each date(day) on a separate line. Then, write down on each line things like travel (I.e. By train or plane, where to, how long). Then, fill in your activities. Then, figure out your flights. You need to allow a lot of time for flying. International flights from USA to Europe means overnighting on a plane - not in a hotel. (So, don't book a hotel for that night.)
For the United Kingdom - obtain a high quality, packable raincoat with a hood. Don't mess with a travel umbrella.
Keep asking questions! You have a long way to go!

Cyn,
Great advice about the Passport! It's easy to overlook the basic, obvious aspects of travel. Thanks for nailing that down.

Posted by
2945 posts

“Wandering the streets of London” is an interesting idea, but doing research and planning will make that time in London more enjoyable. You have started your research by asking questions on this forum. Good for you!

Libraries have guidebooks. They aren’t always up to date on details, but you can get an idea of what others have found to be interesting locations to visit. Then you can fill in current info on prices, hours, etc from their websites on the internet.

Here are some of my favorite London picks: Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Churchill War Rooms, British Museum, Greenwich, walking along the Thames on the South Bank, Kensington Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral, Hampton Court Palace (day trip). If your budget can swing a West End Show, all the better.

I like to stay at Premier Inns (Waterloo is my favorite). You didn’t mention budget, but these are basic hotels that are clean and well run.

I would suggest that you tube videos about 1) how to get from Heathrow to central London. And 2) how to ride the underground system can be especially useful to view in advance of your trip.

Posted by
901 posts

Hi, adgarbarino,

British Airways has a daily non-stop flight from MSY to London Heathrow. If you're planning to spend a few days in London before flying up to Edinburgh, you should consider making all of your flight arrangements on BA. There are several commuter flights daily from LHR to EDI.

You should also consider purchasing a seven day Travel Card for your time in London. It will allow you unlimited travel on the tube, bus and some National Rail, and will include your travel to and from the city on the tube. Best to get the card that's good 24 hours a day, zone 1 to 6. You can purchase a paper version of the card before you leave for your holiday, or you can pick up a plastic card at Heathrow, at the tube station. Purchasing at Heathrow will cost you a few pounds more.

The station for the tube (subway) in to central London is right at the airport. You don't have to leave the airport until you get on the tube. It's a bit of a hike from where you land, but as you're packing light, it shouldn't be a problem.

If you decide that you want to go directly to Edinburgh, and skip London, you can connect through LHR, JFK, or EWR. Most other routes are going to involve more than one stop, which increases the possibility of missing a flight.

You're going to love Edinburgh! And London, as well, if you end up going there.

Best wishes,

Mike (Auchterless)

p.s.: In addition to Cyn's recommendation for live music at the Royal Oak, Sandy Bell's has traditional music sessions just about every day. It's on Forrest Hill, just up from Greyfriars Kirkyard. More like d.b.a. than Tip's!

Posted by
16771 posts

I agree that the train is the best way to travel between London and Edinburgh unless you are making the connection on the same day you arrive from the US. That train ticket can be very reasonably priced if you commit to a non-refundable/non-changeable Advance ticket very early, but you'll want to be sure of your travel plans before making that purchase. Buying a full-fare ticket not long before you travel would probably cost at least 4 or 5 times as much as the Advance fare.

For your transatlantic flights it will be most efficient if you look for a multi-city flight into your first destination and home from your second destination. That allows you to travel just one time between London and Edinburgh. The multi-city ticket may turn out to be no more costly than a round-trip to London, and it avoids putting yourself in the position of guessing how much connection time you will need at Heathrow or Gatwick. If the into-London/out-of-Edinburgh fare is too expensive, it's worth checking into-London/out-of-Glasgow as well to see whether the fare is enough lower to be worth traveling to the Glasgow airport.

Posted by
860 posts

As others have mentioned, there is a Finnair flight, operated by British Airways, that is nonstop. I found this by going to www.kayak.com and searching, then filtering to "nonstop flights" only. It's Finnair 5436 or British Air 224. It goes into London Heathrow. There is a convenient train service called the Heathrow Express that gets you from the airport (west of London) to central London.

You should take the train from London to Edinburgh; much simpler than flying. Trains in Europe are amazing; we really don't have anything to compare them to in the American south. You can book through British Rail or you can consider the Caledonian Sleeper overnight train, which would save you one hotel night. London has several major train stations; most Scotland-bound trains leave from King's Cross station which is on the north side of London.

As far as wondering the streets of London, you definitely need to make a plan for what you want to see. Either buy the Rick Steves' England book (which will give you both London and Scotland) or get it free from the library. It's FANTASTIC. This will help you narrow down activities to do. Once you've decided what you want to do, go to Google Maps and type in each location one at a time, then hit "Save" and create a new list. Once you see on a map where the sights you want to see are mostly clustered, you can then decide where to book a hotel. Your Scottish friends may have some advice about where to stay in London as well. Best wishes and keep asking questions!

Posted by
16771 posts

I don't think the walking tours offered by London Walks have been mentioned. They are excellent, do not require reservations (so you can react to the weather) and cost only 10 pounds apiece. You just showmup at the designated Underground station. The company's website is walks.com.

The schedule you can currently download (see top right on website) just runs through April 30, but I think you can find your travel dates on the calendar to see what will be offered in May. What I usually do is list 2 or 3 walks I'd be interested in for each day, then I see what I feel like doing and check the weather forecast in the morning.

Posted by
11153 posts

Some basics of booking transportation:

Use Kayak https://www.kayak.com/flights or Google Flights https://www.google.com/flights to do research. However, if at all possible, book directly from the airline. Some of the Online Travel Agents (OTA's) are reputable and some are trouble. If you are thinking of using an OTA to save money, ask here BEFORE booking, to avoid problems. For instance, my sister booked a flight through Expedia at half the price Delta would have charged, and had no issues. But some have had horrible problems with companies like Kiwi.

Decide where you want to start and end your trip. It's often most efficient to fly into one city and home from another (called open jaw). To find these flights (say, New Orleans to London and Edinburgh to New Orleans), use the "multi city" or "multiple destinations" tab, instead of "one way" or "round trip." Two one-way fares can be much more expensive than either a round trip or an open jaw flight.

Note that since you have to connect to get anywhere but London, you can start and end your trip anywhere. If you want to start in Inverness, go south through Scotland and England and end in Cardiff, just put "New Orleans to Inverness" and "Cardiff to New Orleans" in the flight search page.

If you are connecting through Heathrow, they have a wonderful flight connection tool. Go to https://www.heathrow.com/connecting-flights and put in all your details, and you'll see exactly what's involved. You can then decide if you feel comfortable with that connection or want a longer one.

You want to be booked all on one ticket, in case of problems. If you are booked on one ticket, and you miss your connection through something that is not your fault (such as the first plane being late), the airline is responsible for getting you to your final destination at no extra cost. If you are booked on separate tickets and you miss the connection, YOU are responsible, both logistically (the airlines don't have to help you) and financially (you have to buy a new, last minute ticket, which can be insanely expensive).

Example of what I mean: my sister flew from Baltimore to London Heathrow to Barcelona, all on British Airways on one ticket. Her plane was delayed several hours taking off from Baltimore, and by the time she landed at Heathrow, her connecting plane had departed. She was met on arrival at Heathrow by an BA agent, with a boarding pass for her new flight, and didn't have to do any "extra work" to get to Barcelona.

As for which airport in London, the vast majority of flights from the US land in Heathrow, but some use Gatwick. Both are fine, so don't worry about which one your preferred route uses. If you are taking a flight within Europe, note that London now officially has six airports (City, Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, and Southend). London City is by far the closest to the central parts of London; the others can take a lot of time and/or money to reach.

Continued in next post.

Posted by
11153 posts

Continued:

Within the UK, while you can fly, it's usually easiest and fastest to take the train. To find trains within the UK, use National Rail: https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/. Note that the cheapest fares are called Advance; these are not just any tickets bought in advance, but are heavily discounted one-way non-refundable tickets. These go on sale about 11 weeks out; if it's too early, keep checking. You have to take the exact train on your ticket, but in exchange for the restrictions, can save a fortune.

As for getting from the airport to the city, Rick's books have great details about all the options. They also have tons on information about getting around, food, sights, and the like. They will not only answer most of your questions, but also tell you about things you didn't even think to ask. You should get a Rick Steves Great Britain guidebook out of the library now. While you're at it, get out all the other books you can find about England and Scotland. Rick's next edition of his Great Britain book arrives April 2020, so you can buy it just before your trip.