As many of our followers know, we spent a month in Britain from mid-December 2013 to mid-January. It was a whirlwind trip that was very enjoyable – but it also had a few disasters we thought we’d share. Not everything goes according to plan. Every blunder is a learning experience to improve our next trip (and we are always planning our next trip). So, take our lessons to help you plan your next trip to Britain.
Not realizing how much would be closed
This is a big one. As we were planning the things we wanted to do on our trip, we should have done something as simple as check to make sure all the attractions we wanted to visit would be open. We just assumed they would be and we had quite a shock when we discovered that half the things we wanted to do were in fact closed for the winter. This left us scrambling to find other things to do and a bit disappointed really that some things we’d always wanted to do, would have to wait for another trip.
Scratching the Rental Car
We had our rental car (or hire car as the Brits say) for 3 weeks. That’s a long time to drive a large family car down narrow country lanes and a lot of reversing out of driveways. Let’s just say that while the car didn’t have any major incidents, some (notable) scratches did occur. If we hadn’t had a prior arrangement with our rental car company, we would have been stuck with a $700 repair bill until our credit card insurance paid us back. Rental car companies take scratches seriously, very seriously.
Taking One Stroller for Two Kids
We knew traveling with two young children would be a challenge and we put a lot of energy into planning what gear to bring. Anglotopia Jr was almost three during the trip and Miss Anglotopia was just 8 months old. Since Anglotopia Jr pretty much walked everywhere at that point, we thought we could get away with taking one stroller and whenever he needed it, Mum could wear the baby in a wrap. We learned how big a mistake this was on day 2 of our trip when a long walk led to a Meltdown of Epic Proportions. A quick taxi ride to Mothercare later, we bought their cheapest stroller and the whole rest of the trip went a little smoother because of it. When the trip was over, we gave it to our friends so they could offer it to guests of their cottage and hopefully we’ll be able to use it again as well. Lesson Learned, take two strollers anyway.
Not spending enough time with friends
We’re averaging about 1 trip to Britain every 18 months or so and one thing we never get enough of is time with our friends. Since we rarely get to see them – we’re always a little sad that we didn’t spend enough time with them before we ventured home. All the more reason to go back! What’s funny is that when we started traveling to Britain 11 years ago, we had no friends there and over the last decade we’ve made a few good friends and now when we book our trips, we’re more excited about seeing our friends than seeing Britain!
The Broken Computer Saga
Anglotopia is an internet business and a mobile one at that. Armed with a laptop, I can run our business from anywhere, which gives us the freedom to travel like we do. Things were going very smoothly during the London portion of our trip until my computer had a run-in with my toddler and a cup of tea. The computer got fried. I’ll save you the whole sad story, but it took nearly two weeks to get it fixed by Apple – it didn’t help that this was over the Christmas holidays. The cost of the repair wrecked our trip budget but thankfully some Anglotopia readers donated enough money to cover the costs. We had a temporary computer from friends that allowed us to keep things running at a bare minimum. I was very happy when I got the computer back on New Year’s Day. The irony is that it still wasn’t really fixed and worked strangely for the rest of the trip, when I took it to the Apple Store upon our return to the states, they fixed it properly but I had an odd souvenir, the computer now has a UK Keyboard, which has a different layout than a USA keyboard. Takes some getting used to! Lesson: keep my cup of tea away from my toddler and my computer.
Not Researching good WiFi
When choosing a place to stay, I need to do a little more research into the WiFi on offer since I need it to run our business. The last place we stayed in advertised WiFi but I didn’t read the fine print that said basically “we’re on a farm in the country and it’s spotty” – they weren’t kidding. We went a little stir crazy without properly working WiFi and had to take the computer out with us on our days out to leech Free WiFi to get valuable work done. Despite this, I still managed to get our new t-shirt business Anglotees launched (an entirely new business – one day I’ll write an article about this, it deserves more than a sentence). So, the lesson is, when your business depends on WiFi, actually ask tough questions about the reliability of the WiFi on offer.
Not Budgeting Well Enough
I’m sure we’re all guilty of this. While we paid for most of the trip in advance and budgeted for our expected costs, the trip still cost way more than we budgeted. This caused a cash crunch while abroad which caused a lot of stress and reduced some of the fun factor (‘we can’t go do this today because we have no money’). It didn’t help that December ended up being a bad month for Anglotopia (about 40% less revenue than we usually make) so our budgets combined with unexpected expenses and blunders, really hurt us when we got back. Which leads me too…
Putting Off Pre-Trip Problems Until After the Trip
A few problems arose before our trip that were large enough but not urgent enough to be dealt with right away. To give you a few examples. A tire on our van had a slow leak, but it was drivable, you just occasionally needed to top it up with air. Well, guess what happened two days after our return? A total flat. Two new tires needed. Before the trip, our small Honda was having trouble starting. We rarely used the car so we figured we’d sort it out when we returned. When we returned it wasn’t running at all. It sat in our driveway until last week because we were so broke after our trip that we just couldn’t fix it. So, before the trip, based on our cash-flow projections, we would have been fine with these ‘post-trip’ problems we put off. But as we said above, the trip cost more than we planned and business took a negative turn we’re only now recovering from so those problems persisted! Don’t put them off!
Not scheduling enough stuff enough in advance for workload
One of the great things about a lot of the stuff we do is that you can schedule most things in advance so that if I have to be out for the day, our articles still go out and traffic still comes to our website and our Facebook page stays active. We were so busy before we left on our trip that I was only able to schedule the editorial calendar for the first week of the trip. I figured I would sort the rest once we got there. Well, then the computer broke and we became busy making the most of our trip. Our site, Facebook, Twitter, etc was very inactive for most of our trip and that’s just not a good thing. This led to lower traffic for our website, which didn’t help our ad revenue problems. For future trips, I need to plan more in advance and have more stuff ready to go out.
Not Knowing What to do When our Kids Got Sick
This was a little scary for us as parents of young children. All four of us got sick at some point on the trip with various maladies. At home, we know what do to. We know what to buy and what medicine and who to call when there’s trouble. In Britain, all the medicines are different, you don’t have a doctor to call. We certainly didn’t have any life-threatening emergencies, but that uncertainly is stressful. Especially when your kid inexplicably throws up all over the wood floors of a 300 year old pub in the Cotswolds. Thankfully, our friends were on hand to help.
Forgetting to stop the mail
We planned to stop our mail while we were gone. When I went to do it, I learned you can only do it for 30 days and we were going to be for 33. So, I made a note to do it once we got to London. I forgot. Our poor cat sitter had to gather our mail for our whole trip.
Starting a new business from a cottage with spotty wifi
When I came up with the business plan for Anglotees last year, I knew I needed to start it as close to the first of the year for several reasons – since we were doing 1 shirt a week – missing any weeks would lose us money. And since Downton Abbey was coming back the first weekend of January, I wanted to launch with a Downton Abbey Shirt. This meant that I would be launching an entirely new business while on our trip. No worries, I thought. The work wouldn’t take more than a day of hard graft in front of the computer. I did as much pre-work before I left and had the first t-shirt design finished. I just needed to get everything setup and going. Well, as I wrote above, spotty WiFi made this quite a challenge. But I got Anglotees launched on time and it was a huge hit – which greatly improved our cashflow on the last part of the trip. Next time, I won’t plan a business launch around a trip!
Overpacking and spending too much time doing laundry
Despite our best laid plans, we still managed to overpack. We just took too much stuff. This is really easy to do with two kids under 3. The problem when going for a month is that you’re there for a month – chores like laundry will have to be done. This takes time (more time than at home with inadequate European style washing machines) that takes away from your trip. Despite renting a rather large car – we still had too much luggage to fit in the car which created misery. Next time? A single carry-on per person, that’s it. It’s a personal vow.
Missing Half of a London Play
This one is rather personal but it’s one of my low points of the trip. We planned a night out on the town without the kids. We arranged for a sitter to watch the kids (a good friend) and we went to a nice dinner at Barbeqoa (Jamie Oliver’s new Steakhouse) and then to see Perfect Nonsense, the new Jeeves & Wooster play with Stephen Mangan and Matthew Macfayden. The first act was brilliant. But that’s all I got to see. Our dinner (or possibly lunch from earlier in the day) did not agree with me – I have very sensitive digestion which gets massacred on trips abroad and I ended up missing the last half of the play because I was so sick. A perfect night out on the town in London was ruined. But Mrs Anglotopia looked great she enjoyed the whole play! I hope the play is still running on our next trip so I can see it finished!
This one is rather odd but this was the first time we were victims of a crime while we were in London. On the night of Mrs Anglotopia’s special Birthday Dinner, we met up with friends for a nice dinner out. They brought us gifts, which we left in their car during dinner. Upon returning to the flat, we all realized that the gifts were gone. They had been taken out of the car during our dinner and we didn’t notice at first. What was odd is that Covent Garden is brightly lit – so taking something out of a car was so brazen. But it happened. We lost our wonderful gifts and were shaken, but our friends felt truly horrible. They reported it to the police the next day. Later on in our trip, we discovered our friends had re-bought us the gifts, which was a truly lovely surprise and we’ll cherish them even more now. What’s your biggest blunder on a trip to Britain? Let us know in the comments!