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4 days in London

This is the start of our trip. We land between 8-noon (depending on flights) on July 2nd. Looking for feedback on these plans. I don't know where we are staying yet. Family of 4 (boys 13 and 15). {the guide books have been delivered but I won't be home for a few more hours}, All feedback is welcome, nothing is set yet so if the order is bad or proximity is better another way let me know. TIA! July 2nd morning land, afternoon tour bus and nap (wife said so, hehe), pick up fast track tickets to Eye and Tower, evening Ceremony of the Keys or Stonhenge July 3rd Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, British Museum evening stonehenge or Ceremony of the Keys July 4th Windsor, London Eye, evening a Play
July 5th London Tower, bridge, evening Eurostar to Paris

Posted by
2638 posts

First, you will need to send for a ticket to the Ceremony of the Keys, when you request a ticket you will have to tell them what night your first choice is then give an alternate date...the ticket will be for only one night. Your tour book should have the address to send it to. Stonehenge hours are 9am to 7pm so will need to go there during the day, it's 80 miles from London.

Posted by
1068 posts

Robin makes excellent points. There's no way to go to Stonehenge your first evening. I wouldn't take that nap. I tried the nap thing.... once. I planned to nap for an hour, then get up and go to dinner and a play. I didn't wake up, and missed an entire half a day of a short trip. Gah! My solution to "jet lag" is to just power through the first day and get to bed at a normal time. Next morning, I don't sleep in - I get up reasonably early and just go. It might not work for everyone, but I think it makes sense. I don't get unusually tired. If I feel a tad droopy, a get a coffee! But that is totally personal, so.... just my two cents'-worth. Otherwise, your plan seems do-able, if a tad unambitious. But I predict that once you start to peruse the guidebooks, you will see tons of stuff you'd like to add. For instance, on July 4th, you could do more than the London Eye after you get back from Windsor. The Film Museum is steps from the Eye, and the Churchill Museum is very close, too - right across Westminster Bridge.... and if you cross the bridge, you can stroll down the Mall to Buckingham Palace! Or you could just stroll along the Embankment. Anyway, check out the guidebooks. And have a great time!

Posted by
473 posts

Rather than a bus tour and nap the first day, I'd suggest a walking tour. London Walks usually have a number to choose from with 2 pm (or thereabouts) start up times. Pick something that is not too far from where you are staying. You'll get a great orientation to an area of London (with lots of history) plus the fresh air and walking that are critical to beating jet lag. I'd suggest against fast track tickets to the eye, because you don't know what the weather will be and it would be a waste of time and money to ride the eye on a rainy or foggy day. I would also skip the fast track tickets to the tower, and spend the extra $ on peak tube tickets so that you can arrive before it opens. It is without question the best way to avoid the lines. The first 90 minutes of the day are the best time to see the Tower when it's not absolutely jammed.

Posted by
332 posts

I agree with all the advice above. Skip the nap and take a walk outside. My son fell asleep as soon as we boarded the hop on/hop off bus the first day. Consider dropping Stonehenge from such a short London visit, the trip involves too much travel. Consider splitting up at times unless the four of you really want to see exactly the same things. You might go to a pub while the others go to the theater, for instance. For best prices purchase your Eurostar tickets 4 months in advance from www.eurostar.com.

Posted by
1595 posts

Another possibility: July 2, land, get rental car, drive to Salisbury, spend the rest of the day seeing the cathedral and enjoying the town, overnight there.......July 3, early morning tour of Stonehenge, return to LHR and return the rental car, then proceed with seeing your London sites.....You have to apply for a private access Stonehenge tour several months ahead (Now would be a good time!) and it costs a bit extra, maybe 20 pounds?

Posted by
26398 posts

nap, even with the hehe, not a good idea on first arrival day. It won't be easy to get back awake. Voice of Experience. Long way to go for a small reward - evening day trip to Stonehenge - but its your vacation so go for it...

Posted by
2349 posts

Now, see, I like a nap. No nap and I get that buzzing in my head from over-fatigue. But I do set my alarm, sleep an hour, and then shower. Even if you opt out of a nap, a good clean up will make you feel better. Have the boys look through the London Walks website and pick out something they'd like. Remember that 80 miles in Britain is longer than 80 miles in Texas. Something about the metric/pounds sterling/language differences. Look at going to Hampton Court. We all enjoyed that. You can take a boat ride there or back, and the train the other way.

Posted by
1717 posts

From London Heathrow Airport, ride in a railroad train (Heathrow Connect) to Padington staion in London. I like having overnight accomodation at a hotel located near the Kensington High Street station of LONDON UNDERGROUND. It is a quick ride in a London Underground train (London "Tube") from Paddington railroad train station to the Kensington High Street station of LONDON UNDERGROUND. Riding in Underground trains from that area in London to the places in London that you want to go to does not take very much time. When you go to Windsor castle, ride in a railroad train from Paddington station in London.

Posted by
107 posts

Excellent. I like the fact the itinerary looks underwhelming, it means I can add stuff and I much prefer to add than take away. I was up way too late last night reading the guide book. Lots of ideas. Stonehenge is a high priority for us so I'll have to work it in somehow (I've cut other stuff the oldest wants to see elsewhere so I have to get him to Stonehenge). The walking tours sound good too. I've found a flight that lands at 10:45 pm on July 1st but It'll add some expense since it leaves Chicago at 9 am and I'd have to get to Chicago on Sat and spend the night there. It may be worth it for the jet lag.

Posted by
107 posts

One suggestion I had was to rent a car for a Windsor/Avebury/Stonehenge (6:30 evening tour) day trip and pick up and drop off at Heathrow the same day. No driving in London, no taxi after hours for Stonehenge. Thoughts on this?

Posted by
26398 posts

I'm worried about a flight leaving Chicago at 9am and arriving at 10:45pm for a number of reasons. As you said, you need to stay near the airport the night before, I guess after flying up from Texas? So you need to claim your luggage, etc., before you can relax in Chicago. Then all day flying. Figure on 90 minutes to 2 hours after arrival before being able to leave the airport. So that's 12:15 am to 12:45 am. So you will be tired and have to stay at Heathrow Airport, too. The worse thing is, I don't think it will help the jetlag. That comes from traveling east through all the time zones. The best cure is getting outside immediately in the daylight and (hopefully) sunshine. It is the daylight that resets your internal clock. Only problem is there's no daylight in the middle of the night. Do more research, perhaps, but I'm really concerned that you will need to deal with the jetlag when you get up the next day. It seems to me that you are buying trouble, and causing un-needed problems, while delaying the inevitable. I may be wrong, but those are my concerns. If you fly overnight and arrive around 6 or 7 in the morning you can be in London, all checked in and fed, and out on an adventure by lunch time.

Posted by
231 posts

David, If you're looking into renting a car for one day, then check the rental car office hours before you do. My husband and I rented a car for the day while we were in Bath (driving to Glastonbury and Wells) and by the time they sent someone to pick us up (after their office opened) and the time we had to be back in order to get a ride back to the apartment (so their driver could be back at the office before it closed), that was a pretty short "day". It worked for us, but the place would have to be open quite late to accommodate drop-off after an evening visit to Stonehenge.

Posted by
107 posts

Leslie, Good thought. I'd use the Avis counter at LHR, they are open 24 hrs. If I drop a car off at 9 or 10pm could I get back into town (not sure exactly where yet - but "down town" prolly)? Cynthia, Thanks for sharing that. Lola pointed me that direction in another thread when I first posted my trip to Europe (and I happened to notice it was in the guidebook as well). I'd like to do Stonehenge in the evening tour if I could, we're just not very good morning people. So it might look like this - still filling in details but trying to first get flights figured out and second where Stonehenge, Ceremony of Keys fits in. I'll be trying to secure tickets to those in the next 2-3 weeks. Jul 2 land, lunch, walking tour, more? Ceremony of the Keys Jul 3 car trip from LHR to Windsor, Avebuy, then Stonehenge
Jul 4 Day Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, British Museum, Lunch on the thames, London Eye, Evening A Play Jul 5 London Tower, more?, Eurostar to Paris

Posted by
231 posts

David, Yes, the Tube runs until midnight and later, so you should have no trouble getting back into central London from Heathrow at 10 p.m. Closer to the date you can run a trial trip time through tfl.gov.uk on their journey planner and it will tell you what trains (tube trains) are available around then. I see you've already swapped around your plans for July 4, but you could still include the British Museum if you grouped it differentlyWestminster Abbey (at 9:30 when they open), Big Ben, London Eye, lunch on the Thames, British Museum, a play. Maybe we've always been lucky, but we've never waited more than 30 minutes for the London Eye (plus maybe 10-15 minutes in the ticket line). I suppose it might be different next year with the Olympics drawing larger crowds to London. Anyway, the different grouping would keep you from traveling back and forth from the Westminster area.

Posted by
635 posts

I'd do the driving tour your first day and plan on spending the night either at Heathrow, Windsor or Slough. I was going to ask about the logistics of something I was thinking of trying but you give me the perfect opportunity to suggest something similar and see what others think. Get the car right after landing. Most direct afternoon flights from IAH land before 8:30 am. That would get you to Windsor Castle around the time it opens. You could spend all day there but let's say you leave around noon. You could then drive to Stonehenge. After there, you could hit the always open Avebury. You then get to drive back. There are car rental drop offs around Slough. You'd probably be too late on day one but you could spend the night nearby and then drop off the car early. The train from Slough is around 8 GBP. I wouldn't suggest you drop off a car late in the evening and then going to your hotel in London.

Posted by
473 posts

I think your Day 4 is a little full. One challenge is that the British Museum is across town from the other things you are planning to do....and you don't want to waste a lot of time getting to and from places. Our daughter was about the age of your boys when we visited London last year. She spent the better part of a day at the British Museum (while the adults took turns doing other things) and could have stayed longer. We also spent an entire morning at Westminster Abbey, and didn't scratch the surface. You may be in line for some time at the eye, as well. (You could add the eye to your first day's itinerary, since it won't get dark til late....but we were exhausted by early evening on our first day, so I'm not sure that would work.) You'll want to have at least 3 hours for the Tower of London as well. Don't spend your whole trip racing from place to place....you won't feel like you've really seen the sights you've seen, and you'll waste a lot of time in transit.

Posted by
107 posts

More good info. Ken, I had originally suggested: land in london, Windsor, Stonehenge and Bath (spend the night in Bath). The RS guide books says this is possible too but other feedback indicates that there would not be enough time to do that and jet lag would be problematic for a car trip. I could look at this option too (I'm still working on flights) Jul 2 land, car to Windsor, Avebury, Stonehenge 6:30pm, night in Salisbury Jul 3 drop off car, walking tour (get play/eye/tower tickets?), lunch, check in, British Museum, Ceremony of the Keys 9:30 pm Jul 4 Westminster Abbey, Lunch on the Thames, Big Ben, , London Eye, Evening A Play
Jul 5 London Tower, Eurostar to Paris

Posted by
14 posts

David...I just got back from Chicago/O'hare and it took me over an hour to get through security and to my gate and I was already checked in online! As Nigel said, you will all start your trip tired. If you have a 9 am flight, you will need to get to the airport a minimum of 3 hours ahead of your flight so you can check bags, go through security and get to your international gate.That means being in the airport at least by 6 after returning your rental car and after arriving at your hotel after midnight. It will be short night for all of you.
And Heathrow is not a quick exit airport either. Just some thoughts.

Posted by
111 posts

I'd really suggest not napping on your first day and instead keeping your plans relaxed. You can walk around Westminster and Kensington and see an awful lot without having to go inside and exercise will help you stave off jet lag. I personally wouldn't go outside of London on such a short trip either. You'll be tired and driving on the other side of the road is mentally taxing enough as it is without adding jet lag and being rushed. Given the age of your kids, consider the Churchill War Rooms and maybe Greenwich with Canary Wharf (both are well East of the core). If they like art, Tate Modern is well located to other core sites and interesting (an hour is okay for a first visit). If you go to the British Museum, I'd recommend having a plan of attack and limiting your visit. You can literally spend days in there but if your boys are like my son, they'll be ready to go after an hour or two. I'd go near lunchtime and plan to eat nearby as there are lots of cafes but not much else. I also agree about not buying tickets ahead of time. I go to London on a fairly regular basis (hubby is from there) and I haven't experienced lines I couldn't handle. The Eye is nice day and night, so you can go when the weather suits you. Tower of London has all the palatial stuff, including jewels, so if you decided not to go to Windsor, you'd be covered there. I felt 2 hours was plenty of time at the Tower. Lastly, since you'll be there in July, check Time Out or The Guardian for events as it will give you a chance to meet and interact with locals rather than only tourists. If you can, spend some time in neighborhoods for the same reason. I like Paddington and Southwark for markets and shops with nice locals. Have a great time

Posted by
638 posts

I think your first day is nuts! Youwant to fly all night, drive on the "wrong" side of the road, hit 3 big places and spend the night in a 4th?? Not only will you be a dangerous driver (IMHO) but you will only remember bits and pieces. I would rethink it, is there anyway you can stay another day or 2??

Posted by
236 posts

David, I agree with Elaine - you're all over the map, literally! Plus another factor I haven't seen mentioned yet: unforseens happen. We had a beautiful itinerary until QE decided to pop in Westminster Abbey for a ceremony (wasn't on the schedule when I left for London) and WA was closed the morning we arrived at 9:30! So much for being at the front of the line. My daughter & I loved the changing of the guard and the parade to Buckingham palace and could have spent days in the War Cabinet Room/Churchill museum. We rode the Hop on/Hop off bus the first day - up top in the fresh air - and stayed awake with no problem. It was a great orienting tool. When something struck HER fancy, we hopped off. The ticket is good for 24 hours (confirm with website) SO you could use it for 1/2 of the route the first day and end up by the river/BigBen/Parliament/Abbey and walk back to the hotel. Also wanted to mention to your sons that the Hard Rock is the original - my daughter was very happy there (and the beer hit the spot).
Stonehenge, in my opinion, is not-to-be-missed but does take an entire day. We took RS advice and trained to Bath, toured some there, Mad Max tour to Stonehenge, and then trained back to London late at night.

Posted by
107 posts

Tickets have been bought (we added a day by Leaving on Sat instead of Sun) and we have a hotel reserved (could change but we have one for now next to Victoria Station). Jul 1 land 10:45am Fat Tire Bike Tour at 3:30 Jul 2 London Tower, afternoon TBD Jul 3 Car trip (Windsor, Avebury, 6:30 Stonehenge after hours tour) Jul 4 Westminster Abby, Eye, Big Ben, Play
Jul 5 morning TBD, afternoon Eurostar ride to Paris.

Posted by
1595 posts

I think you have time for something else on July 4. I would suggest either the British Museum ( one mile from Big Ben) or the Victoria and Albert.

Posted by
107 posts

Jul 1 land 10:45am Fat Tire Bike Tour at 3:30 Jul 2 London Tower, City walk in reverse stopping at St Paul's Jul 3 Car trip (Windsor, Avebury, 7:30 Stonehenge after hours tour) Jul 4 Westminster Abby, Eye, Big Ben, British Museum, Play
Jul 5 V&A or science museum, afternoon Eurostar ride to Paris. Thanks all, I think it's coming together nicely.