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London

Thinking of surprising husband (70) with a first time 4- 5 day trip to London. Was actualy thinking of a mid December time frame.
Is this not a good idea? Thinking the Christmas /winter spirit would be lovely(but cold) .. from New England so this would not be much differnt. THoughts???

Posted by
1887 posts

How wonderful. We have been there in December and it was raw and damp but just dress in layers. It is so nice to see things dressed up for Christmas. Good luck.

Posted by
2081 posts

Andrea, i love london so in my opinion, anytime in london is good. happy trails.

Posted by
1540 posts

I think it would be wonderful. Several times I have spent the week between Xmas and New Year in London. Lots of theater, museums, day trips to places
like Bath, Leeds Castle, Salisbury, the list goes on and on.

Posted by
183 posts

The only possible negative I see is that the daylight hours are rather short.

Posted by
26029 posts

That's a lovely idea!!! Don't expect much if any snow in December, maybe just a whispy bit most Decembers and the temperature on the street will likely remain above or at freezing but usually not dramatically below. You may well see rain. I remember a few years ago walking through the Marylebone neighborhood after dinner and just getting a few flakes of soft fluffy snow on my wife's and my noses. In the Christmas lighting it was really romantic. Most of London's major museums are free to visitors (donations accepted but not pushed for) and are warm and dry. If you really want to warm up most tube stations and tube trains are so warm you will be (or could be) shedding layers. Yes, a really good time and a lovely thought. Come on down!!

Posted by
3419 posts

For many years we went to London (and sometimes another destination in Europe) during the week after Thanksgiving. It is a GREAT time to visit!!! We loved browsing the Christmas markets, seeing the decorations, etc. There's plenty to see and do, even with the shorter daylight hours. If you can stretch it to 7-9 days, I think you'd enjoy it even more. You'd then have time for 1 or 2 day trip to places like Bath (huge Christmas market), Cardiff (smaller market, but lots of local craftsmen), York, Canterbury, Windor (smaller French style market), or other places. We often left Thanksgiving night or the Friday after and would stay until the next Saturday or Sunday. Made a perfect winter break!!!
We only had snow flurries once- just enough to make it pretty. And most of the time we didn't even have to deal with rain more than part of 1 day of the trip. You will want a good coat (the wind can be damp and chilling) and gloves and scarf/hat.

Posted by
541 posts

You couldn't pick a better place to go than London in mid December! I have been twice at that time in 2009 and again 2011. I have been to London other times of the year but those trips were by far our favorite. It gets dark early but that just adds to the atmosphere. There are Christmas markets set up in Hyde Park and along the South Bank as well as Covent Garden with lots of food stalls and mulled wine everywhere. There's others too. Check out www.timeout.com/London for all the festivities going during your stay. The Christmas decorations along all the shopping areas are just gorgeous. It's very lively just about every night of the week as it appears from the full pubs at noon that there's not a whole lot of work getting done. Even if all you have is 4-5 days, do it! Of course, more is always better. My 2009 trip was a very last minute three night anniversary surprise from my husband and we had a blast. I'll be there in a few weeks myself only because we couldn't swing it in mid December this year. Hope you go and have a wonderful time!

Posted by
3 posts

This is so helpful and as well encouraging.. although we can't extend the time we would have four full days staying at the Hyatt two blocks from Hyde Park. Any suggestions re Travel Card? .. it doesn't look like it would cover the Express from Heathrow.
This is a surprise so I will be doing all the arrangements myself..and that is a challenge !! Can't thank you all enough for the input .. so happy I found this site!

Posted by
26029 posts

Andrea, do you want TravelCards for your London transportation because you will be using the Days Out 2 for 1 promotions from the rail companies or because you have read somewhere that they are needed? Most people are better off with Oyster Cards which are a smart card valid throughout London with no expiration. Neither Travel Cards nor Oyster Cards are valid on the Heathrow Express, that is correct.

Posted by
3 posts

Hi Nigel I am somewhat confused re Travel card, London Pass and Oyster card... we would be using some transportation.. tube? double deckers.. hop on/off and of course if my husband would have a say .. taxis ,but I am told they are very expensive.. If not too cold a Thames ride .. and off course several atractions. It is a bit hrad to tell what card would be the best.. the London Pas is 69 GBP right now for three days... WE will probbaly take the Express to and from the airport . Andrea

Posted by
26029 posts

Andrea, you can get confused because it can be confusing. All the fares are explained on the official page from TfL which is Transport for London at http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tickets/default.aspx There are really 4 possible ways to pay for local transportation in London, although only 2 of these are used by many people. The most expensive and most complicated of these is cash fares. You need to either queue at the ticket window or ticket machine at each origination station and buy tickets with cash or card. I don't know if the machines take US swipe type cards as well as the most-of-the-rest-of-the-world chip and pin ones or not. On many buses tickets need to be purchased ahead, sometimes from a kerb side red ticket machine which only takes coins. On some buses you can pay the driver a cash fare. Both Tube and bus cash fares are hugely more expensive than using a Travelcard or Oyster Card. The second way is via one of those strange sold-only-to-tourists London Passes. These are very expensive, include admissions to some museums which are free anyway, some attractions and some tourist traps, as well as a short TfL pass. Most, but not all, people see them as a ripoff as there is never enough time or interest to go to all the places which charge to get their money's worth. The last two are those methods used by the vast majority of residents and tourists. Be aware that all of London is divided into 6 major concentric zones for train, bus, tram and Underground (Tube) travel. Every station falls into one of these zones, as shown on many maps including those provided by TfL. A link to a map http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/standard-tube-map.pdf ... more

Posted by
26029 posts

... more ... The first of the more popular is the Oyster Card. This is a plastic smart card with technology which allows the card to just be tapped on a card checking pad at the start and end of the journey - you don't even have to take it out of the wallet or purse - which is loaded with pay as you go money, and the software only takes the correct amount. What's more, it is capped. You could ride all day long and it would never take more than the amount for an equivalent TravelCard for the zones in which you have traveled. If you don't use it for a day, it won't cost anything for that day; if you use less than the cap one day it will only cost the value of the journeys you did make. It is substantially less expensive than the cash fares, and because it takes care of the zones you only need one card for Tube travel from Heathrow and the same card will take you around the tourist areas without you needing to do anything. You can top it up as the value is used up, and if you never intend to return to London you can cash it in on your way home. There is a refundable small charge to create the card. A Travelcard is a fixed amount ticket for one day or one week which is either printed on paper or added to your Oyster Card, if you have one. It is issued zone-wise and is only valid in the issued zones. So if you had a Travelcard for zones one and two, the main tourist areas, you could not use it beyond zone 2. Relative to Oyster Cards it has several disadvantages: paper so can be damaged, if you don't use up the full value one day it is wasted, you have to get a new one each day or week. There is one time when a Travelcard can be a money saver, especially if you always get your money's worth of travel each day. ... still more ...

Posted by
26029 posts

... still more ... You see how hard it is to fit answers into 2000 characters... There is a promotion by the railway companies called Days Out. Their website is http://www.daysoutguide.co.uk/default For people who make their journey to an attraction by train, or who have an eligible train ticket, they can save about half of their admission charge. It has to be an eligible ticket, explained on their website, and must have been issued by a National Rail outlet and bear the National Rail logo. If that is so, and the ticket is valid, and there are even numbers of people traveling, and the appropriate form is completed (available on the website, print at home), two people can enter for the price of one. For central London attractions a valid Travelcard issued by National Rail (both people must have one) valid on the day is eligible. Not that Travelcards issued by TfL (at any Underground station or other outlet) are NOT valid for this promotion, they MUST be sold by a National Rail booking office. They are NOT available at Heathrow because there is no National Rail booking office there. Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect do NOT participate in the promotion and their tickets are not usable for the promotion. Of course as well as using the Travelcard to get the discounts you can also use it for transportation in the purchased zones. NOW - which to pick. It will depend on what you and your lucky husband choose to do during the time you are in London. Look at what is on offer. If you want to go to the Tower of London (cold in December - no central heating in those castles you know) it may be a good value. If you want to go to the British Museum or National Portrait Gallery (both free), maybe not. Hope this helps clarify.

Posted by
970 posts

Do it. Six hours from Logan to Heathrow. A few morning flights are available, which I find are much easier on my internal clock. December isn't a good time to tour the countryside because of the decreased hours of sunlight. But, that doesn't matter in London. Enjoy.

Posted by
70 posts

Andrea... It is very, very easy to obtain an Oyster card. Coming out of the terminal at Heathrow, I quickly spotted the symbol for the London Underground. One person in line. My friend and I were debating getting an express train in, but quickly found out that the trains were not running. I purchased a seven-day Oyster card for zones 1 and 2 with enough extra to get me into central London and back, please, for my flight home. And just like that, done. The underground into central London was fine, so that saved me money. When I made my way back to the airport, I came off the Underground, and went back to the same counter where I turned in my Oyster card and received a small cash refund on the deposit (5 pound) and the leftover "cash" portion of the card from my trip to the airport and back. So easy. The 2-for-one deal was not worth my time and energy coordinating, printing, having forms, etc. In the end, the only admission I might have saved on was the Eye. Go! Enjoy!

Posted by
11266 posts

I just want to emphasize the "dark" part of visiting London at that time of year. Not only are the days short, but it never gets very light, even at midday. I was not prepared for this, and found it very depressing. It wasn't cold (at least in December 1985, when I was there), and I don't remember much precipitation, but the darkness was memorable.