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England, March 2022

Our family of four (kids 15 and 10) just returned from a trip March 18-26. My wife and I have been to London before, but our kids had never been. York was new to all of us. A few thoughts:
1. We landed in London, took the train to York where we spent a few days, returning by train to spend our final 4 days in London. We had an absolute blast!
2. Covid infection rates in England spiked horribly the week we were there (it was down for a while across England but BA.2 variant is pushing numbers up quickly). Mask wearing is not happening much in York or London. Our experience was less than 10% mask wearing in public, and only slightly higher on the Tube in London.
3. We wore our masks a lot. However, we took the Tube, rail service and other public transport. We tried to eat at street markets for lunch where we could (e.g., Canopy Market and Greenwich Market in London, and Shambles Market in York) to avoid too many times where we dined inside with others. We benefitted from great weather which made a lot of outdoor activity and walking a good option too.
4. The return test process was very easy. Before leaving home we booked ExpressTest at their Kensington High Street location. Their staff was great, test took less than 10 minutes, and results back for lateral flow test in under 40 minutes (we walked down the street and hung out in Kensington Gardens while we waited for the results). Not the cheapest option but we appreciated having someone administer this for us and get the results to us quickly and efficiently with an easy to use "fit to fly" certificate that we then uploaded to our United Airlines app the night before our flight.
5. We debated going or not a lot before we left home, especially seeing the infection rate heading the wrong direction just before we headed out. Once we made up our mind, we focused on our strategies to try to minimize the number of times we'd be in a situation to be exposed, even though that's very hard to do. We were fortunate of course not to get "stuck" after a positive test but feel we had a good plan to minimize the number of times we were in crowded places, to wear masks a lot, etc. At a certain point, we felt we had to either cancel and wait this out a little more or adopt a good plan and hope for the best. We chose the latter and it worked out.
6. We found great AirBnb options in both York and London (just near Holland Park tube station). Sufficient for our family and both in excellent locations which made a huge difference.
7. York Minster was wonderful of course as well as the Shambles and York's museums, but our favorite activity was just walking the City Walls. There are quiet areas, neighborhood pubs, and so forth that are just outside the tourist crush if you walk the walls away from the Minster/Shambles. We stayed near Micklegate Bar, very near the train station but far enough away from the center to make it a little quieter option but only 10 minutes walk to the center. Lovely pubs in that area, convenient market, etc.
8. London was full of people everywhere enjoying sunshine and spring warmth. Tower of London, St. Paul's, Trafalgar Square, etc. were great, but we really loved Greenwich (Cutty Sark, Greenwich Market) and the relative quiet found around Holland Park where were staying.
9. I am so envious of the train systems in England. We have nothing of the sort in the US. Going back and forth from York/London, we met people who were visiting one or the other city just as a day out with friends. Impossible for most of us here in the US.
10. I took pictures all week with a theme - pubs. I love the signs, the names, the ambiance of so many. We enjoyed meals or drinks at several in both York and London (favorites included King's Arms along river in York, The Swan in York, or The Castle in Holland Park).
We are so glad we went. Like a lot of us, we have had trips cancelled and it was nice to get this one in (even it still isn't "normal" just yet). Cheers!
Steve

Posted by
66 posts

Dear Steve,
Thank you for posting about your experience. My adult daughter and I leave for a much-delayed mother-daughter trip to London this Saturday night. We are both experienced travelers and London is our favorite destination - although we've never gone together as a duo! I'll admit some anxiety regarding this COVID spike despite the fact that we will each be fully vaccinated, boosted, masked, and in good health. We are testing to return at the Kensington High Street ExpressTest as well so it is reassuring to hear that they are efficient and organized.

I'm happy that you and your kids were able to make the trip - such happy memories for all of you!

Thanks again.

Posted by
9929 posts

Steve, what a wonderful time you had! Thanks so much for posting and yes, I'm glad you went and were able to come home well. I'm so glad the kiddos had a great time too. It's good to get them curious about international travel when they are teen/pre-teen.

Thanks so much for taking the time to post!

Posted by
482 posts

Sounds like a great trip. Just curious since you went on the 18th, were airline employees updated on the no covid related documents required to fly into the UK changes that went into effect that day?

Posted by
6481 posts

Glad you had great time.

Stayed at a lovely Airbnb years back when the Holland Tube station was being refurbished. The Castle became our local. This was before it became a gastro pub.

The Holland Park neighborhood is very nice and its only a 25 minute stroll to Portobello Road Market. Would stay in the area again.

Posted by
3260 posts

Steve, I totally agree with you about trains in much of Europe. I am always amazed that many destinations have more than just one train a day.

Posted by
5267 posts

Thanks for posting this, Steve, it was fun and encouraging to read. You and family obviously made the right choices -- to go, and then to take reasonable precautions that didn't detract from your enjoyment of the trip. Lucky kids to have this experience early in life, no doubt they'll remember it for a long time and hopefully become intrepid (but prudent) travelers themselves.

I have a trip to Ireland coming up soon, having some of the ambivalence you felt before leaving, but encouraged by your family's example.

Posted by
1170 posts

This sounds like a fantastic trip. Thanks for sharing all the details.

Posted by
1236 posts

If you think the trains in the UK are good, then you'll be pleasantly surprised by the European ones.

I loved York more than I loved London and I stayed in a flat near Goodramgate. Just walking the city center and being able to walk around at night after the tourist have left was fabulous. Yorkshire is beatiful.