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Best of England - Two Itinerary Problems

The two problems are: 1. the day to go to the Tower of London and; 2. the use of a bus in London.

  1. When we signed up for the Best of England tour, Westminster Abbey (WA) was scheduled for Day 12 (the day you arrive in London from York) and the Tower of London (ToL) was scheduled for Day 13 (the full day in London) . Some time later the itineraries for these two days were switched. A big mistake. Rick's advice in all of his tour books and his shows is to get to the ToL early to beat the crowds and go see the Crown Jewels first before a long line builds up. Because of the switch in itinerary (and the use of a bus, see 2 below) we did not get to the ToL until mid day. The crowds were awful and, with the limited time we had, we had to choose to take either the Beef Eater Tour or to see the Crown Jewels. No way could you do both. If, as originally scheduled, we had gone on Day 13 we would have arrived when the ToL opened. We also would have had a lot more time at the ToL which was greatly needed.

  2. Okay, who in their right mind uses a bus to go cross town in London when there is a direct Tube to where you are going. On arrival at London Paddington Station from York a bus met us and took us to the ToL. We spent at least an hour in the London traffic. There is a direct Tube line from Paddington to the Tower Station. So much quicker. Then again on the way from the end of Thames River Cruise we took the bus to our hotel and lost another 1/2 hour in traffic. Guess what, there is a Tube line from Westminster, where the pier is, to the hotel we were staying at. What about luggage? Hire a lorry to meet us at Paddington and take the luggage to the hotel. I expect that a short time use of a lorry would cost a small fraction of the cost of the bus for a full day. Oh, Oyster Cards for the Tube were already purchased for every one in the group so this would not be an additional expense. The tour group using the Tube would have been no problem as we did it the next day to go to St Paul's Cathedral (WA was closed to the public that morning because of a special service). All this wasted time meant we did not get to our hotel until 6:00 PM. This is the day the itinerary says "Tonight is a perfect evening for the theater (book something in advance online or pick up a ticket in London)". Luckily we had advance tickets and had just enough time to get to the theater. There was no time for dinner. Again, luckily we had not booked a show and dinner package. Those who did not have advance tickets had no chance to pick up a ticket in London.

Posted by
373 posts

Bob. I could not agree more. The London part of this itinerary is an epic fail.
I think it would be better to only spend two nights in Bath at the beginning of the tour. It would be possible to tweak that part of the itinerary easily. Avebury could easily be added to the Glastonbury time. The Blenheim stop could be on the way to Stow. That would create one extra night for London. Both the TOL and Westminster/St. Paul's days would then be the usual "tour in the morning and have the rest of the day on your own". That would allow for as much or as little time as individuals wanted to spend there.
Your idea to use the tube as upon arrival is excellent. As it is, all that time on a bus in traffic seriously squandered our time.

Posted by
4518 posts

You can actually walk from Kings Cross to the Tower of London in around an hour, only at a moderate pace.

Posted by
2552 posts

Hello, Emma, I agree with what you have said!
I do think it makes some sense to change the hotel that the tour uses in London to accommodate the arrival. No bus, no tube needed. There are several really good hotels in Bloomsbury that could fill this need. Walking distance from the station into which the tour group arrives from York.

And the Russell Square tube (Piccadilly line) takes you right into South Kensington and Gloucester Road tube stations. This way, tour members can access the same neighborhood as the present hotel, in case they want to visit the V&A Museum, the Science Museum, or the Natural History Museum.

The Piccadilly line could also be used to take tour members to Heathrow airport from the Bloomsbury hotel on the day of departure.

I agree with Bob that they still have some kinks to work out of the London part of this tour.
I like Traveling Mom's suggestions. One more night in London (pinched from somewhere else in the schedule) would be great.
Her idea for that to be Bath is good, because most tour members arrive there a day or two in advance of the tour anyhow.

Posted by
2552 posts

Emma, you are right, of course. "South Ken" does have the "posh" reputation!

Posted by
4518 posts

TfL planner seems to comes up with a 'crazy' route if you put this journey in, suggesting Kings Cross to Bank, using the passage to Monument and completing by the District and Circle. In theory 1 minute shorter than just taking the Circle. In practice ...

Posted by
3453 posts

When I took this tour a couple years ago, the bus ride was pitched as an introduction to London and a quick view of some of the sights that could be seen from a bus. I found it enjoyable.

We got there early enough so that this did allow us time after Westminster for lunch. But I think the trade off was a very very early train ride from York. And of course Westminster was done as originally scheduled.

I am guessing it was because of the special event at Westminster that the tour swapped the days around in hopes it would be open.

Posted by
3106 posts

Curious that the tour used Paddington, only reachable by connecting train, when there are direct trains to Kings Cross much closer to the Tower.

Posted by
1195 posts

OOP's. I the train did come into Kings Cross. I got that train trip mixed up with the one we did to Windsor on our own a few days later. This does not change any of my comments. It is not that there was a special event at Westminster Abbey that day as this change has been done for all the tours after ?? as this is the current itinerary shown on the Best of England tour page. Note, we did not go to Westminster Abbey because of a special service and went to St Paul's Cathedral instead.

Posted by
3106 posts

Bob: I agree with your suggestion and really feel that the Tower requires 3 hours to see most things, 4 hours to see things comfortably including eating lunch, and that's with a 9 am arrival.

Thanks for the reminder that tours are not for me, I can't stand this kind of mis-planning, and can't stomach the thought of staying in South Kensington, either. Was recently on a short museum tour in Sweden and finally left after listening to people interrupt the guide with idiotic questions again and again so the content was compromised.

Posted by
1195 posts

Tom
I really an not a tour person either. We have made multiple trips to Europe on our own. I even worked in Germany for 3 months.
The only reason we were on these tours (we did South England also) was that when I called to rent a car I was told that I was "too old". There is some insurance or law limit in the UK (and doing some research found similar limits in other countries).

I disagree with your opinion of South Kensington. We stayed an additional 4 days and found South Kensington to be a great access point to London. The local Tube station had 3 lines, Piccadilly, District and Circle, which meant a no change route to most attractions. There were a lot of restaurants within walking distance. Also for going home, Heathrow was a direct shot on the Piccadilly Line.

Posted by
4518 posts

The only reason we were on these tours (we did South England also) was that when I called to rent a car I was told that I was "too old". There is some insurance or law limit in the UK …

No there isn't in general - the majors don't have an age cut-off as such, although they may restrict the type of vehicles or load the insurance. In Ireland however a cut-off is common and I think there is confusion arising from this.

For example Enterprise only asks if you are 30+.

Posted by
2552 posts

Bob, I agree that South Kensington is a great location for catching any of the many tube lines to go anywhere in London, especially Piccadilly out to Heathrow. Agree that there are many restaurants within walking distance of the tour hotel.

"The only reason we were on these tours (we did South England also) was that when I called to rent a car I was told that I was "too old".

Trains are a good alternative to tours or to driving. Train plus bus or a taxi ride can get you to many places.

Posted by
2688 posts

I'm sorry this tour had so little free time. We usually travel on our own, but last year took the first tour we've taken in 25 years and really enjoyed it. It was not a Rick Steves tour and we had most afternoons free to do our own thing-which to me might be the key for some of you to enjoy tours-be sure you have lots of free time. With more free time, you could have gone back to the Tower on your own. I don't know if this is the case with Tower tickets, but for some attractions, tickets are good for 24 hours or in some cases, even a year.

Posted by
2426 posts

I agree, the original itinerary made a lot more sense. We were on the Best of London tour last summer. We got to the Tower very early, for the keys ceremony. If you Google that you’ll see tickets are hard to come by. It is fun and you are the first into the Tower. After the ceremony follow the Beefeater in and you are right in to see the Crown Jewels. No crowd. There has got to be a reason the RS tour folks made that switch. Maybe we will hear from them?

Posted by
3106 posts

South Kensington is a great location for catching any of the many tube lines

Tangent reply: I equate time spent underground on trains with sleeping, it’s vacation time where you could be anywhere, i.e. lost vacation hours. Rather than be near several tube lines, I’d rather stay within walking distance of 15 things and short bus or taxi rides from 50 more. And skip being underground entirely, even if that means skipping “don’t miss” sites.

Posted by
116 posts

Bob and Rebecca, if you haven't already done so, Please send an email to RSE (at the bottom of the website pages, choose: About Us > Contact Us> Guided Tours> Tour Department) detailing the deficiencies of your tours, and perhaps the titles of your forum posts, so that they can review the schedules and operations. They do not and cannot read all the forum threads. Send a letter, if you prefer, but RSE needs this sort of valuable feedback for which there is not room in the after tour evaluation form.
As a 6-time RSE tour member who has enjoyed my tours and intends to take more, I would appreciate any improvements which may come of your comments, especially as I have not done England yet! Thanks!

Posted by
1195 posts

GoodmanTx
I did include the above information in my tour evaluation by using several of the comment blocks as a continuation of the first block in order to provide the complete discussion.

Posted by
3453 posts

The bus "tour" could have been just a way to kill time until we got to Westminster for our assigned tour time. I took it for what is was told to us it was supposed to be.

Our guide was also very knowledgeable about London, and all of England at least the parts we visited. She lived in London and was a registered London Tour Guide (even had the badge to prove it).

Posted by
2552 posts

Very cool, Mark! Having a Blue Badge guide (I assume, since her having a badge was mentioned) for the London portion was a stroke of good luck!

Posted by
408 posts

For the person that posted about free time on RS tours that has not been on one that is usually a hallmark of his tours & why we enjoy them. I have not been on this tour but usually about half the time is free rime on many tours so you can do what you like. For the OP why not call the office to tell them in person your concern? I have found the staff very helpful.

Posted by
56 posts

I agree with Travelingmom who said it as well as can be said. As set up, the London portion of the Best of England Tour is an epic fail. I do not understand why is is currently set up as it is. Too many things wrong to even go into them.