We’re at the 70 day mark – 70 days until we arrive in England for a massive 33 days. It’s coming up fast. Which means it’s time to really get stuck-in planning this trip.
As promised, I want to give everyone an insight into how we plan these trips so that they can help you when you plan your own. At the end of the day, however, this is our trip and how we do things may not work for everyone. We’ve traveled to Britain almost a dozen times, so we have ways of doing things that we’ve learned over the years.
First off, we’re in London for a total of 8 days, we arrive December 12th and leave on December 20th (for Christmas in Dorset).
It’s the perfect time to be in London – it will be at its most Christmassy and judging by previous year’s weather, the weather should be pleasant.
That said – there’s a TON of Christmas stuff going on in London but as this is also a trip to London, we want to cram in things that we’ve wanted to do over the last year, but haven’t been able to.
First – Some Words about Where we’re Staying
Because we’re traveling with young kids, we’re avoiding hotels. We stayed in some hotels and B&B’s on our last trip with Anglotopia Jr. and it’s putting it mildly to say it was a disaster. The kids need their own rooms and the only way to do that affordably is to rent an apartment.
We’ve rented flats in the past and it’s been a great experience. We get our own ‘home’ while we’re in London and it will help the kids adjust to being abroad. Best of all, they have their own rooms so bedtime should go well. We love being temporary locals – it’s the best way to travel.
We’re staying in a flat in South Kensington that we booked with London Connection (check out their nice new website), who specialize in renting out London flats for American travelers. We’ve had a great experience with them in the past and we trust them – which is very important when it comes to booking something like this.
Step 1: Make a Massive List
Through running this site we become aware of new attractions and events all throughout the year – some really cool, some we have no interest in. But being privy to this information allows me to keep an ongoing list of things I’d like to do on our next trip to London (and there is always a next trip planned in this household).
So, over the last year, I’ve been clipping things, putting things aside, making notes in guidebooks and all around building a massive list.
Step 2: Cut Massive List in Half
We’re only going to be in London for 8 days, when we sat down to trip plan the other night, we quickly realized that we weren’t going to be able to do half the things we wanted to do, so the first task was to remove the things that we just wouldn’t have time to do.
We have a few challenges to manage with this trip. We may have 8 days and this is our longest trip to London yet, but this is also a business venture. We have to cram in business meetings with our partners, visits to attractions to write about, etc.
On top of all that, we’re going to have a 2 1/2 year old and a 6 month old with us.
It’s going to be a busy trip!
So, what items didn’t make the cut this time around?
One of the big things I wanted to do was visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and I’ve been wanting to go since it opened.
The problem is that our kids aren’t really old enough to appreciate the place and it’s not really going to be worth it to schlep them across London on the Tube then the Train, then a bus to get there. I considered going by myself and letting the family do their own thing for the day, but that’s not particularly fair to Mrs. Anglotopia (you’d understood if you hung out with our toddler for a few hours). It’s a thing that will take all day and there’s just not a going to be a free day for me to get away to do it.
So, that’s off the list. Painfully.
Here’s a quick list of what else didn’t make the cut. We have to be merciless.
- Hampton Court Palace – We’ve never been but again, this is a day trip requiring several public transportation connections and it’s just not something we want to attempt with the kids.
- Sherlock Holmes Museum – While I love the new modern take on Sherlock, I’m not really that big of a fan anyway. I’ll save this for another trip.
- World War II London Bus Tour – Not Running during our stay and since Mrs. Anglotopia wants to do it as well and it’s not appropriate for kids, it doesn’t make the cut.
- Secret War Exhibit at Imperial War Museum – While this exhibit sounds fascinating, the rest of the museum is closed for renovations and Lambeth is kind of out of the way anyway.
- Ice Skating – You know the scenes of a Christmas London from Love Actually where people are Ice Skating? Totally want to do that. But as our toddler is not old enough to ice skate and our baby would have to be held by someone (Mrs. Anglotopia is a terrible ice skater), ice skating is not in the cards. Re-enacting Love Actually will have to wait.
Step 3: Build in Flexibility
Because we’re traveling with two very young children, we have to be very realistic about what we can achieve in a day. Realistically we can do one thing in the morning and one thing in the afternoon and nothing in the evenings to keep the kids happy. Happy kids = happy parents. Most evenings we’ll eat dinner in our flat and put the kids to bed on their normal routine – then Telly time!
So, there will be another list of things we REALLY want to do and a list of things that we will be sad if we can’t do, but it’s not big deal if we don’t.
Step 4: Start Dreaming
This is the best part, once we have a realistic idea of what we can do, we can now plan to make the most of every minute in London. What we do is print off a Calendar in iCal on the computer and then start filling in the blanks. This is my favorite part of trip planning.
Events We’re Doing No Matter What
There’s a few things we’re going to do that we’re planning the trip around. The first is that Mrs. Anglotopia’s 30th Birthday falls in the middle of our trip in London, so we’re planning a fancy dinner out at a very nice restaurant (to be determined) with some very close friends of ours.
The second major event is we’ve always wanted to go to a London play and despite this being our 10th trip to London, we haven’t been to one together. So, we’ve decided to see Jeeves & Wooster in Perfect Nonsense starring Stephen Mangan (Episodes) and Matthew Macfayden (Pride & Prejudice). It sounds really cool and we’re big fans of the Jeeves & Wooster TV show.
Thankfully, we’ve lined up a baby-sitter for those two nights, so we can go enjoy ourselves and the kids will be with someone we trust implicitly (my mother Dowager Anglotopia, who is going on her own trip to England at the same time and will be in London at the same time).
Another event that is happening no matter what is I’ve booked a ticket to take a tour of the Houses of Parliament. I have always wanted to do this and I’m finally going to get the chance. The tour is not appropriate for the kids, so Mrs. Anglotopia will have to sit this one out (she’s a bit sad about this).
Also, this isn’t something I would normally do on a trip to London: I’m going to the movies. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug opens the day we get to London. I’m a HUGE LOTR fan so there is no way I’m going to wait until our trip is done in January to see it at home. I’m hoping to see it on the big screen Odeon theater in Leicester Square.
Whew – that doesn’t even scratch the surface but I wanted to give you all an idea of what we’ll be doing. We’ll write another post with some other things we plan to do. And of course, when we return we’ll be telling you all about it.
I haven’t even gotten to all the Christmas themed things we intend to do – I will save that for a later post.
What’s the one thing you’ve always wanted to do in London but haven’t been able to do?