First Europe Trip With Children - Great Britain, 2007

Note; While I suspect the intent of starting a trip report category on the Helpline was to give feedback on very recent trips, I also note that very few people have taken advantage of this opportunity since it's inception a few weeks ago. So in the spirit of trying to get the ball rolling faster, I'll chime in and start at the beginning. I hope that others (particularly those with children who might be hesitant to take this sort of trip as a family) might find our experience enlightening. In 2007, after numerous summers of American road trips covering almost 40 states, we came to the conclusion that we were not enthusiastic about repeating any of those trips. We wanted our next trips to be more memorable - not just a collection of mildly interesting sites sandwiched between long drives, bland hotels, swimming pools and fast food. We decided to revisit Great Britain, where we had been once before, 13 years earlier, before children. We stayed for three weeks. At the time, our children were 11, 8 1/2, and 4 1/2. (Anyone interested in following our upcoming trip to Italy in a few weeks, or in a more detailed record of our more recent trips can send me a Personal Message and I will be happy to share our family travel blog address) (continued...)

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1508 posts

We were limited to summer travel and chose July in the hope that the weather would be warm enough by then. I started looking for airfare the December before and found that the low average was about $900/pp. Just before I decided to buy and lock us in, I saw a freakishly low mid-week fare on AA for $565/pp. Yes, I was thrilled! We were hesitant about doing a lot of trip transitions with the children, so I wanted to keep things as simple as possible. We decided to do two week-long rentals; one in the Cotswolds (the village of Painswick) and one in Edinburgh. We would have a rental car and do day trips from our home bases. Having driven in GB years earlier, the idea didn't scare us too much. Since we were traveling mid-week and the rentals turned over on Saturdays, our trip both began and ended with three nights in London, each at a small hotel called the Edward Lear, near Marble Arch and Hyde Park. Our time in London was great! We took full advantage of the free museums and the typical stops like Covent Gardens, Buckingham Palace (changing of the guard) and the London Eye. One of the things the we all treasured the most though, was being able to grab some snacks and just lounge around Hyde Park in the evenings and decompressing while people watching. The children were so enthusiastic about drinking in all the little differences from home - from the taxis and double-deck red buses to the food and accents as people spoke. (continued...)

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1508 posts

Our rental in Painswick was a fantastic converted mill c.1600's that was refurbished into a 2+BR cottage. From there we took road trips to Bath, Stonehenge, Salisbury, Burton-on-the-Water, and the nearby corner of Wales. We went for numerous evening walks in the countryside and the children reveled in the almost fairy-tale atmosphere of the place. We drove to Edinburgh in one strait shot (with pit stops) to get to our rental apartment in a converted factory building just a block off the Royal Mile. We spent most of three days just in Edinburgh, but also took day trips to Stirling, Linlithgow, Roslyn, and Falkland (and the windy north sea beach). The children loved the parkland surrounding Edinburgh castle and climbing the Scott Monument in the park (and playing at the park playground). We also climbed "Arthur's Seat" which was within walking distance of our apartment. Overall we almost OD'd on castles and cathedrals, but that's what we were there for after all. The children were overjoyed at having the opportunity to do something really special on vacation and seeing so many things they had never seen before. Driving went well. Our tiny, fuel-efficient diesel car got great mileage. Even though the exchange rate was terrible at the time (2:1), we spent less, overall, than we expected to - in part due to the great airfare and in part due to the economy of lodging in rentals and cooking most of our own meals. For any family with children (especially younger children) wondering how they might take that hesitant first step toward international trips, I cannot recommend this type of trip highly enough. The combination of slow travel with being in an English-speaking country made the transition so much easier than it might have been otherwise.

Posted by Teresa
Seattle
463 posts

Randy, how was the Edward Lear? I used to see it advertised in In Britain magazine and always wondered about it. Great location, if nothing else.

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1508 posts

Teresa, The Edward Lear is small - maybe 20 rooms - and depending upon your personality and whether you are an optimist or a pessimist, you would judge it either charming or a bit shabby. It's on that edge between the two. We chose to find it charming. The breakfast was full English or cold cereal and the location was great. The clincher for us is that they had a family room for 4 with a little extra space for a cot for the youngest child. It's hard to find places in the city for 5 in one room and we could never afford two rooms.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8745 posts

Randy, that's a great trip report. It paints a wonderful picture of the holiday, both rural and urban. Painswick is a lovely village - what a good idea to pick there. I'm only an hour or so from there and it makes me want to take a day off and go. Thanks

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1508 posts

Thanks Nigel! I'll be following yours as well.

Posted by Darren
Galt, Calif., UK
135 posts

Could you please provide the mill info. in Painswick? thanks !

Posted by Marty
Sykesville, MD, USA
48 posts

Randy,
Great post, and thanks for sharing. We are a family with similar mind set on travel. Having done the majoriy of the US on summer auto trips we ventured abroad to Italy in 2008 and now we are off with our kids, 19 and 21, to London and Edinburgh for 2 weeks. I look forward to your post on Italy. I hope to post our coming trip to share as you have done.

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1508 posts

Marty, Thank you. By all means, post how your upcoming trip went when you get a chance. Your children are older, but it's still a different dynamic traveling with children than with just a group of adults. One thing that's nice about having older children is that you don't have to be continually counting heads in every crowded tourist attraction. If something happens and you get separated, they can probably find you again eventually. Happy travels!!

Posted by Amanda
Plano, Tx
59 posts

Randy, Thanks for sharing. We travel all over Europe with our now 4 year old. We will venturing to Italy in November (she will be five by then) so would love to hear about your upcoming adventure!
Amanda

Posted by Marcella
Hendersonville, TN
91 posts

Great report, Randy. Our first trip abroad was also 2007 to England. We could only afford 9 nights and chose 4 in the Cotswolds and 5 in London. I, too, loved seeing everything with my boys. They were 4 1/2 and 11 1/2 and just soaked it all in as children can. Our next trip was this past summer and we sprang for 2 weeks in France. We fell in love and are planning a return for 2014. I also like to encourage people to travel with their kids. I can't even think about going away without them. I'll wait until they are both grown and on their own and then I will do parent only travel!

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1508 posts

Marcella, Since we travel for longer periods, I couldn't imagine traveling without the children, either. I suppose a week without them would be feasible, but then I can't justify the cost of going to Europe for just a week. I would like to travel alone some time, however - just to experience what it feels like to do exactly what I want to do, when I want to do it. We leave for Italy in 10 days! Trip reports will follow, as will daily blog entries. Send a PM if you would like to follow along.

Posted by Marcella
Hendersonville, TN
91 posts

Hi Randy, Just saw this. Hope you and the family are having a fabulous time on your holiday. Look forward to reading about this years adventures.