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London, May 1-8

I just spent a week in London with my adult son and had a great time. It was his first trip to London.
Airfare: Icelandair Seattle to London Round trip. We flew Saga Class (equivalent to US domestic first class) there and extra-legroom coach on the way back for $1000 each. The flights were full and very little mask wearing. The contrast between Saga Class and coach is huge. Coach gets you where you want to be, but be prepared to bring your own food and drink or pay dearly for poor quality food. Icelandair was allowing free checkin of carryons to reduce overhead bin crowding, but not enough people took advantage of it. Some passengers had mandatory gate checking (I am amazed at the huge bags people try to carry on).
Lodging: I ventured into the world of VRBO overseas for the first time since I knew my son and I would each appreciate our own rooms at the end of the day. I reserved far in advance (reserved Sept for May trip) and scored a great 2 bedroom flat next to Old Paradise Gardens/Lambeth Palace for the equivalent of $125 night. Location was great and flat was basic but clean. We walked or took the bus most of the time with occasional tube trips. The grocery was a short walk away. I would stay there again. I did note that new reservations are going for $185 a night now.
Sightseeing: I left the choices up to my son and his interests. We ended up doing Tower of London, Thames cruise to Greenwich, Royal Obsevatory, Queens House at Greenwich, Cutty Sark, Westminster Abbey, Hop on Hop off Bus Tour, Imperial War Museum, Arundel Castle (day trip), and Hampton Court. We also saw Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cinderella” in the West End. (very quirky and PC) but good music and dancing with fabulous sets. I learned early in our trip that we could do about 2 major sites a day before he needed a break. The final irony was when he (41) told me (65) that he wasn’t getting any younger….
Covid related Travel: I had researched UK requirements but was still a bit surprised that everything was wide open and masking almost non-existent. We did an over the counter self-test part way through our trip. It was then I discovered that my son did not want to do any more self tests and my two boxes of Binax proctored tests may not be the best option for this trip. A quick search on the internet found a testing center adjacent to Waterloo Station. We reserved our time for the morning the day before we were due to leave. We tested and then went into Waterloo Station to catch a train to Hampton Court.. It took about 15 minutes out of our plans for the day. Results (negative!) emailed to us while we were on the train. Airline wanted to see results at check-in, even though I had uploaded them.
Misc Observations:
The test to return requirement does add an element of stress to current travel. No way around this.
Cash is not needed or often not accepted. Contactless credit card essential.

City Mapper is a wonderful tool and it made transportation so much easier than any previous trip to London.

Posted by
1005 posts

Thanks Carol…. I forward your info to my son and dil who are going in. Few weeks and staying about a week.

Thanks for the TR

Did you like Icelandic air? We are flying with the in 6 weeks or do from Reykjavik to Glasgow.


Posted by
2161 posts

Thanks Carol,
I will be spending a few days in London after my rescheduled tour in a couple of weeks. Appreciate getting a feel for how things are in London at this time.

Posted by
7820 posts

@ Kim I did like Icelandair. Just be prepared for the plane to be full, little to no masking, and food snack options limited in coach. They are organized, fly on time, and get you where you want to go. I checked bags and had them within 5 minutes of clearing immigration both ways. After seeing how fellow passengers smashed and pushed at others’ carryon luggage to get “one more thing” in the overhead bin, I was glad I checked bags (essentials with me in backpack).

Posted by
2060 posts

"After seeing how fellow passengers smashed and pushed at others’ carryon luggage"

Yep, their's has to be be right above where their seats are, yours on the other hand, can be 5 overheads back of your seats - most convenient when deplaning.

Posted by
3470 posts

Sounds like you had a great time! I am a bit like your son - I don’t mind doing home tests to check on myself but I prefer to head to a clinic and have someone else do my official test….. But you are right - having to do that test brings a little extra stress and no way around it.

Posted by
2559 posts

So glad your trip went well and you both aced your covid tests! That requirement sure did add a cloud of impending doom over my head.

The airlines really need to monitor the ridiculous amounts and sizes of "carry-on" luggage getting onto a plane. While I like the idea and have done it successfully twice, it's very frustrating when trying to put my regulation size suitcase in the overhead and just my purse at my seat, to find that the bins are crammed with people's smaller totes that easily fit under the seat-- I get it, we all want our leg room--or worse, see people staggering aboard with a roller, equally large tote, backpack and a purse.

Posted by
1450 posts

Thanks for the trip report! It is good to see another Mom and adult son traveling together.

My son (25) and I (57) are leaving for a mad dash trip in 9 days (who's counting).

I am calling the trip GASP. Germany (Munich and Berchtesgaden), Austria (Salzburg, Melk, Durnstein, Krems, and Vienna), Slovakia (Bratislava, Cicmany and Puchov), and Prague (day trips to be decided).

Posted by
2060 posts

"it's very frustrating ... to find that the bins are crammed with people's smaller totes that easily fit under the seat"

See here's the deal, I pay to check my big bag, indirectly, with the purchase of an upgraded seat. In doing so I believe I have paid for the right to put my day pack in the overhead above me, so I can enjoy the legroom underneath the seat in front of me. I owe nothing to the "people staggering aboard with a roller, equally large tote, backpack and a purse."

Posted by
2559 posts

Periscope--you are not the problem, though on a few flights I have seen flight attendants removing smaller bags and making the owners stow them under the seat in order to let people put those larger suitcases overhead. This was in economy; I have no idea how they treat other classes of travelers.

Posted by
4079 posts

Periscope, everyone is entitled to put a regulation sized carryon in the overhead bin. Since you don't have one of those, of course you can use your allowed space for your carryon. This obviously doesn't apply to you, but airline officials need to enforce the rules-if a purse is not in a bag when a person boards, it counts as their personal item.

Posted by
50 posts

Thanks for the trip report Carol- you never know what direction a thread may go after posting:-)

We are headed there in a couple of weeks, so a little "scouting report" ahead of time is nice to read. Looks like the masking, or lack thereof, is pretty much in line with what others are reporting. We're staying in the Holborn area of London, so we'll walk as much as possible and just mask up for longer trips that require taking the tube.

Your mention of your son's limits sounds very familiar. At the end of our last trip, in Rome, we were getting ready to head out on a private guided tour of the Forum and he told us he was pretty much burned out. To be fair, I had packed in a lot each day, but it's funny that my wife and I typically find ourselves having endurance when it comes to touring. This past experience reminds me to try to slow things down a bit and try not to cram every single minute running from one place to the next- at that point it's almost like checking off a list rather than savoring the moment. Looking at my itinerary for our upcoming trip I'm not entirely sure I've mastered the "slow it down" concept. :-)

Thanks again for the great (and helpful) trip report.

Posted by
46 posts

Carol now retired; thanks for the report.
If you had tested positive before return to USA would you have been required to Quarantine in England??

Posted by
7820 posts

update: my son did test positive the day after our return. I remained negative.

If he had tested positive in the U.K, they encourage self isolation but do not require quarantine.