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To Scotland, flying from Oakland, San Jose or, preferably, Sacramento airport

Getting a late start booking airfare to the UK. So far unable to get from San Francisco, Oakland, or Sacramento (preferred) airports to London or Edinburgh with some degree of efficiency. Norwegian to LGW is best, except requires us to drive to Oakland, get a ride to Bart (rapid transit), then on to the Oakland Airport. then do this in reverse upon arrival home. (Could stay at sister's home before flights if necessary.) Any west coasters on this forum with best airlines suggestions? I've been working on this for far too long! Maybe a flight elsewhere in the UK instead of to London?

Day 1: Departure from West Coast

Day 2: Arrival day: If clear customs by 3:30PM (exhausted, I'm sure), considering a train to northern England to stay the night (suggestion please). (Probably best to stay at an airport hotel then take and early flight on a cheap airline, right?).

Day 3 :On to Glasgow, enjoy what we can...

Day 4, 5, and 6 : Take 3 day small group tour to isle of Skye .

Day 7 and 8: Enjoying Glasgow and a 1 day tour to the Borders.

Day 9, 10, 11 : To Edinburgh for 3 days.

Day 12: Train or bus to York to meet son who will drive us through that area on days 12 and 13, before going on to London.

Days 14 to London for several days before going home. (about 20 to 22 days in all, depending on best flight days.)

Open to all suggestions that get all this in!

Posted by
1259 posts

Hi, Barbara,

Since you're spending the majority of your time in Scotland, it may make more sense to fly directly there, then take an open leg flight back from LGW or LHR. Or round trip to and from GLA. Is spending time in London an option, or are you going there because of your flights? Which of the Bay Area airports is closest to you? SFO will give you the most options. You could possibly get a direct flight to one of the East Coast airports (JFK, EWR, PHL, BWI, etc.), and catch your Transatlantic flight there.

There are reasonably priced flights out of Chicago (ORD) as well. If you do end up flying in to LGW or LHR, your best bet would be to catch a connecting flight to GLA. There are several airlines which fly both routes (FlyBe, BA, BMI, etc), so you'd have no trouble making a connecting flight. Flight time is about 1.5 hours. Then you can take a hotel room next to the airport, or catch the bus in to town and stay in the city center. That gives you a whole day to explore Glasgow before you leave on your group tour to Skye.

There shouldn't be a whole lot of difference in cost between flying in to GLA as opposed to LHR or LGW. Check the airline websites to see which route suits you best. You could possibly fly SWA to any of the East Coast airports in order to catch your overseas flight. And you wouldn't have to pay for luggage on that leg of the flight.

Hope that helps, if only to get you started. Best of luck with your plans!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
11294 posts

When is your trip? Some of the flights to Edinburgh and Glasgow from the US are year-round, but others are seasonal.

Aer Lingus from San Francisco should be efficient, and they are often well-priced. They will fly through Dublin to Edinburgh, Glasgow, and London, so you can start your trip in Scotland and end in London, with only one easy change in Dublin each way. Furthermore, on your return you go through US customs and immigration in Dublin (called "preclearance"), so your landing in SFO is like a domestic arrival.

If flights to London, Edinburgh, and/or Glasgow are too expensive, look at Manchester airport for arrival and/or departure. There is a train station right at the airport, so it's not hard to get to either southern England or southern Scotland from there.

Posted by
23 posts

I've spent most to the day, it seems, trying all of the above suggestions, most of which I had already ruled out once, but you never know. Bottom line, flying out of Sacramento, our airport, to London is very problematic. Also, doesn't work well to try to fly to East Coast then separate flight to UK. Even SW is too expensive as an ad-on.
We can fly Norwegian out of Oakland for easily half the price of any other option. This is what we did two years ago and it was an excellent flight. Have been hoping to avoid getting to and from Oakland...close to a 3 hour drive IF traffic is OK, can be much longer. But Norwegians NS flight really makes the trip so much more tolerable.

As for our dates, I forgot to tell you, so sorry. We will leave late in September and be gone for around 22 days, including time with our son and daughter in law in London. I am hoping the Early October weather will be kind, especially on Skye.

Another question now. Have been looking at the Borders area of Scotland, which looks very appealing. Anyone have suggestions on how to do a particularly enjoyable area in a day or two? Is it easy enough to do on our own using public transportation or perhaps a tour suggestion?

My questions probably seem trite, but I have been at this for so long I need any help you are willing to give to make good decisions. Your help is so appreciated, and I thank you for your time and suggestions.
I think I'd best make air reservations right now, before good rates disappear!

Posted by
27 posts

Barbara, we live an hour north of Truckee and usually fly international out of SFO. But a year ago British Airways started their new route from OAK to LGW. I managed to book special sale tickets at $580 round trip for each of us! So that is what we did. Because we are so far from both Bay Area airports we always drive over the day before and book a park, sleep and fly hotel. Then we spend the night again on the return trip as we don’t want to get into our car after an 11 hour flight and drive home for five hours. It is the price we pay for living in the mountains! I just budget for it when we plan our trips. LGW doesn’t have as many connecting flights as LHR. Last year we had to go from LGW to LHR to get a flight to Hamburg! We had six hours between flights! We ended up using a Towncar service instead of an Express Bus which takes about 75 minutes. Another big splurge but worth it for ease of mind!(Besides our driver was from Romania, college educated and a delight! We learned all about Romanian life, culture and food! A real RS moment!) In your case I would drive to OAK and leave your car in long term parking. Have fun!

Posted by
764 posts

I have empathy with flight problems. We live in Cincinnati and have driven to Chicago on previous trips to Europe just to avoid messy layovers and multiple changes of planes.

I will offer a couple suggestions that are perhaps a bit "off the wall".

  • First: If you drive to Oakland for Norwegian, are there more flights available to Scandinavia than the UK. If so, head there and they fly to Glasgow.
  • Second: From Sacramento, what are flights like to Seattle or Los Angeles? Perhaps take one of these and fly from Sea-Tac or LA to Glasgow or Edinburgh. I just did a quick check and a flight from Seattle to Glasgow in late September for $406 RT. The duration of the flight was 6 hours.
Posted by
9369 posts

I always fly from SMF. My last few trips I changed planes at SFO, then flew to Europe from there. If you want to fly from Oakland you could consider taking Amtrak to Richmond, then changing to BART there. BART goes to the airport. You could do the same flying from SFO. I prefer to fly from SMF and deal with a short layover than to hassle with the Bay Area traffic.

Posted by
3542 posts

I believe the Capitol Corridor Amtrak has 16 trains per day between Auburn and the Bay Area. Like Andrea says you can change from Amtrak to BART in Richmond for the line to the OAK airport if you don’t want to do a park and fly hotel at the airport the day before your travel.

Posted by
3542 posts

If you are talking about booking a flight for 2 weeks from now I’d say your prices are going to be what they are. Have you looked at AA? There could be flights with 2 stops from SMF to Edinburgh for as little as $1400 at this late date. I’d look at open jaw, into Edinburgh and out of London or the reverse.

Posted by
1259 posts

Hi again, Barbara,

I do wish you the best of luck getting a decent fare at this late date. You may be able to find a reasonable fare through one of the ticket discounters (what we used to call back in the day "bucket shops") like Kayak, Expedia, or Priceline, or you could take a (not recommended) chance and fly standby.

As far as the Borders go, you'd have to decide, as you only have one day to explore, whether you want to visit the Eastern, Western, or Central Borders. Each is serviced out of either Glasgow Central or Edinburgh by train or bus. If you wanted to visit Sanquhar or Dumfries, for instance, you could take a train out of Glasgow. For Selkirk, Galashiels, and Melrose, it would be a train out of Edinburgh. Moffat or Lockerbie would involve taking a bus from Buchanan Street in Glasgow. The coast run to Ayr, Girvan, and Stranraer would again involve a train from Glasgow. The East Coast run to St. Abbs, Coldingham, Eyemouth, etc., would be best visited by bus out of Edinburgh, as the train has limited stops between Edinburgh and Berwick-upon-Tweed.

As the Borders are the area in Scotland least visited by American tourists, or tourists in general, there aren't a whole lot of day tours to choose from. This is a pity, as the Borders, though not as spectacular as the Highlands, have a serene bucolic beauty of their own. The A708, from Selkirk to Moffat, past St. Mary's Loch, the Gray Mare's Tail, and Tibbie Shiels Inn, is one of the prettiest drives in southern Scotland.

Had you thought about possibly hiring a car for one day to explore the Borders? You could take the M74 out of Glasgow as far as Moffat, the A708 to Selkirk, then the A701 down to Dumfries, which is definitely worth a visit.

Any of the tourist information offices which you encounter should be able to let you know if there are escorted bus tours to the Borders in late September. Rabbie's Tours, out of Edinburgh, do offer a couple of one day tours of the Borders, but they're primarily skewed toward castle and abbey visits, and not for enjoying the scenery.

Once again, best of luck with your search for your airline tickets!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
5818 posts

We have flown out of OAK and SFO driving down from Medford (6+ hour /300+ miltes each way). For working familites cheaper air fare is a trade off when adding a day(loss wges) each end of the journey and associated cost of drivng and extra overnight stays. We often take the SFO/OAK option to reduce winter delayed/cancelled flight issues departing MFR during fog season.

Our best option is staying with Bay Area family but when that was not an option, here are some alternatives:

One-way rentals can offset the cost of multiple week airport parking. Note that there is often a cheap direction (e.g. MFR to SFO/OAK) and an expensive drop off charge for the other direction (e.g. to MFR). When we have taken an airport hotel, we pick one with free airport shuttle, we only pay a one day rental and drop the car at the airport retrun in the evening, taking the shuttle to the airport.

Park-sleep-fly travel packages. A number of airport hotels offer free (typically a week) parking for each nights stay. Stay overnight, park for a week free and shuttle to the airport. On retrun to the states, shuttle to the hotel/motel, sleep, get second week of free parking.

Park and fly lots. Check web for discount coupons.

For travelers coming from the east, OAK avoids bridge traffic and generally has fewer weather delays. SFO fog conditions reduce airport operations to one runway from two.

Posted by
9590 posts

I just did a quick check and a flight from Seattle to Glasgow in late September for $406 RT. The duration of the flight was 6 hours.

SEA-LHR is 9+ hours GLA cannot be 3 hours closer Its 4500 miles. Only an SST could go that fast, but did not have the range.

Posted by
23 posts

Hello loyal, helpful forum people!
I owe you all a big apology. I spent so many hours searching and almost got it all together, only to find that our son will not be in London after all at the end of our Scotland venture. Going to see him and his wife and staying with them for several days was a major part of our trip plans. It just made us feel that we should do this trip next Spring, considering the rains and cold in Scotland going into October. I was so conflicted as to what to do. I went on to try to plan a different trip, to Italy, to Germany...but it is problematic to try to switch gears so late in the game. I admit that I am still having fits of Googling, hopeful that something will materialize!

I am so sorry for all the time and trouble you went through for me. You all made such thoughtful and helpful suggestions. I believe I had searched just about every angle already, but there were a few new wrinkles. I am going to print out your answers and save all for the next time. If I start making plans well ahead next time, things should go smoothly.

It is so amazing that strangers are so willing to be helpful. Thank you sincerely, Barb

Posted by
8386 posts

Well at least now you have time to plan with a bit more cushion and hopefully can find flights that are more to your liking. There are always compromises necessary with everything though, keep that in mind.