My husband and I took our first trip to Europe in 2013. We’ve traveled to 12 countries so far, but this was our first trip to England (or any of the British Isles for that matter). The deciding factor for this trip was being able to get cheap airfare from Des Moines to London…rare, because deals out of Des Moines just don’t exist.
Bath (4 nights)
Day trip to Wells and Glastonbury,
Woodstock (1 night)
Stow-on-the-Wold (2 nights)
York (3 nights)
London (7 nights)
In terms of planning this trip was rather time consuming. Why?
- There is SO much to see, so lots of research and then deciding what were our absolute “must see and do’s”. And many of the museums in London require timed entry so more detailed planning was needed.
- In other countries I’ve been able to find comfortable and convenient lodging in the smaller towns for less than $100/night. I knew London was going to be expensive, but I thought that if I spent enough time looking, I could find less expensive lodging in the smaller towns. Nope.
- A majority of our trips have included a car rental for a few days and most of these days end up being some of the most memorable ones of each trip, however, my husband didn’t feel comfortable driving in England so figuring out how to get from Point A to B took time.
- Trains. So many different train companies. Train apps. Railcards. Sticker shock from the cost of train fares compared to other European countries. Timing the purchase of said train fares to avoid draining the wallet. Heathrow Express vs. Piccadilly Line vs. Elizabeth Line. Tfl app. Oyster Card vs. contactless card. TRAIN STRIKES. Getting refunds for train tickets. Private messaging forum members for help in re-routing. Purchasing new train tickets. Transportation…was just A LOT…
Transportation Planning Recommendations:
- I found the National Rail website good for broad trip planning, i.e. How long will it take me to get from London to Bath? How much will it cost me to get from London to Bath? How much is that ticket 12 weeks in advance? 10 weeks in advance? Ect.
- Download the LNER train app. One of our (pre train strike) journeys was on a Great Western train so I tried to use that app to purchase tickets but I could never get it to work. The LNER app was very user friendly and neatly stored all of our e-tickets including those from non-LNER train companies.
I am 62 and my husband is 58. The Two Together Railcard was the best deal for us. The Two Together Railcard site was easy to navigate, and took less than 10 minutes to produce a digital railcard stored in the Railcard app on my phone. Paid $36 and significantly reduced the cost of our train tickets. When you purchase your tickets you will be asked if you want to add a railcard (to determine the cost of the fare). Technically speaking you can purchase the railcard after the tickets because the only time you need proof of purchase is when you are on the train.
If you are going to take a bus on any part of your trip load those apps on your phone. There are many different bus companies that service different regions of England. We used First Bus while we were in Bath, Stagecoach to get from Oxford to Woodstock, and Oxford Tube to get from Oxford to London. We didn’t see anyone using cash to purchase a bus ticket from the driver - they either scanned a pre-purchased ticket from the app or used a credit card.