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Old 12-15-2015, 12:33 PM   #61
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Lots of good advice in the posts above. The family and I spent a week in London this past summer (me + DW + 5 kids (tweens thru teenagers). Some thoughts from me (apologies if it repeats info from some of the above posts).

I did a bit a research on transit cards and for us, the 7-day London TravelCard worked out best. Get a 7 day pass from a National Rail Station, and you get 2 for 1 discounts on a number of sites (You have to purchase from a National Rail Site - getting from a Tube station will NOT work to get the 2 for 1 deals). We felt it was better than the Oyster card, and we didnt want to get locked in by purchasing one of the all access passes. We definitely got our monies worth on the transit part - took buses/tube everywhere. Used the 2 for 1 a couple of times which helped. Another note that if you do purchase this type of TravelCard, you will need a passport sized photo.

As someone mentioned, if you have a smart phone, there is a great London transit app. We stayed by King Cross station and could put in our location and destination and it would let us know which bus, tube, etc. to take and the location of the bus stop. Could watch on the map in real time where you were going.

We thought about going to Stonehenge, but after some back and forth, decided that we would make a day trip to Bath. Not quite as easy to get to Stonehenge and my understanding is that you cannot go directly up to the monument. You are kept some distance away. Bath is highly, highly recommended. All the kids loved it - great scenery, great history, etc. Definitely one of the highlights of the trip. We took the train there. I would have to double check but I believe it was around $35/round trip or so. ~ 1.5 hours one way.

Warner Bros. studio was another day trip. If there are Harry Potter fans, again, recommended. We did it ourselves - train to bus and was quite easy. There are all inclusive tours offered (transport + entrance to the studio), but with a bit of research, you save quite a bit (on the transport) by doing it yourself. We spent the whole day there (though it does take about 1.5 hours to get there).

Lots of free museums. We did do the Jack the Ripper walk. Guide was great, but the city has changed so much since that time that you really have to use your imagination to see how things were. Relatively inexpensive things we did and enjoyed: Tower Bridge, The Monument (which has a vertigo inducing circular staircase to the top!), Shakespeare Globe theater (not so cheap but very interesting), the Clink Museum

We did not rent a car, and did not have any need for one. The travel pass and taking the train for the day trips worked out just fine.

We rented an apartment via Homestay. 7 people and worked out just fine, but we live together all the time, so are used to each others company. LOL

All in all, a great week. Kids are already asking when we can go back. Any questions, let me know.
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Old 12-15-2015, 12:53 PM   #62
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Every time you go into and out of Europe, they're going to date stamp your passport. And you cannot be in the EU more than 90 days out of 180 days. You'd essentially have to stay in England/Ireland the other time. Visa's are out of the question unless you're a college student, and retirees usually are not going to be eligible for any visa from an EU country.

But Americans buying houses in certain EU countries can get a Visa if the bring between 300,000 and 500,000 Euros into their banks. One country charges 60,000 Euros admin. fee.

Thanks for the information. I doubt we will be in EU more than 90 days, at most it will be 60 days. I think I should be ok, but it's good to know. I didn't give myself a thought about this subject until now.


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Old 12-15-2015, 01:02 PM   #63
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I definitely enjoyed Bath and Bath water. Lol! I'm thinking of driving to northern England and Scotland. I wonder if anybody had any experience with buying a used car and then selling it afterwards, is it more beneficial then a rental car, especially one for long time, like 6 months.


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Old 12-15-2015, 02:10 PM   #64
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Great thread!

Here's a Crap App:
Crap app: there’s an app to help you find the nearest toilet in London – Now. Here. This. – Time Out London
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Old 12-15-2015, 08:26 PM   #65
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Originally Posted by eastnortheast View Post
Lots of good advice in the posts above. The family and I spent a week in London this past summer (me + DW + 5 kids (tweens thru teenagers). Some thoughts from me (apologies if it repeats info from some of the above posts).

I did a bit a research on transit cards and for us, the 7-day London TravelCard worked out best. Get a 7 day pass from a National Rail Station, and you get 2 for 1 discounts on a number of sites (You have to purchase from a National Rail Site - getting from a Tube station will NOT work to get the 2 for 1 deals). We felt it was better than the Oyster card, and we didnt want to get locked in by purchasing one of the all access passes. We definitely got our monies worth on the transit part - took buses/tube everywhere. Used the 2 for 1 a couple of times which helped. Another note that if you do purchase this type of TravelCard, you will need a passport sized photo.

As someone mentioned, if you have a smart phone, there is a great London transit app. We stayed by King Cross station and could put in our location and destination and it would let us know which bus, tube, etc. to take and the location of the bus stop. Could watch on the map in real time where you were going.

We thought about going to Stonehenge, but after some back and forth, decided that we would make a day trip to Bath. Not quite as easy to get to Stonehenge and my understanding is that you cannot go directly up to the monument. You are kept some distance away. Bath is highly, highly recommended. All the kids loved it - great scenery, great history, etc. Definitely one of the highlights of the trip. We took the train there. I would have to double check but I believe it was around $35/round trip or so. ~ 1.5 hours one way.

Warner Bros. studio was another day trip. If there are Harry Potter fans, again, recommended. We did it ourselves - train to bus and was quite easy. There are all inclusive tours offered (transport + entrance to the studio), but with a bit of research, you save quite a bit (on the transport) by doing it yourself. We spent the whole day there (though it does take about 1.5 hours to get there).

Lots of free museums. We did do the Jack the Ripper walk. Guide was great, but the city has changed so much since that time that you really have to use your imagination to see how things were. Relatively inexpensive things we did and enjoyed: Tower Bridge, The Monument (which has a vertigo inducing circular staircase to the top!), Shakespeare Globe theater (not so cheap but very interesting), the Clink Museum

We did not rent a car, and did not have any need for one. The travel pass and taking the train for the day trips worked out just fine.

We rented an apartment via Homestay. 7 people and worked out just fine, but we live together all the time, so are used to each others company. LOL

All in all, a great week. Kids are already asking when we can go back. Any questions, let me know.
Thank you so much for your post, this is excellent information! I have lots to look into.
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Old 12-15-2015, 08:29 PM   #66
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That is hilarious! But likely very useful! I have already warned the kids that DH and I never miss a chance to "pee for the road" while traveling. Sometimes you don't know when you will find the next restroom. I hope they won't be too mortified!
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Old 12-15-2015, 08:30 PM   #67
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Thanks again everyone for such thoughtful, informative and often funny posts!
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Old 12-18-2015, 08:38 AM   #68
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If you are using the Tube for a week get an Oyster card.

Last time we picked one up at Heathrow. Paid a deposit for the card and loaded it up with some cash. Very convenient.


Be very CAREFUL crossing the street. Look both ways twice-even on one way streets. It is so easy to forget that the traffic is on the opposite side to what we are used to.


IF you plan on some one day trips out of town, pre booking your rail could save you some money. Plus there are several rail companies to choose from on some routes. Try this site for rail tickets.
http://www.redspottedhanky.com/trains/
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Old 12-18-2015, 03:39 PM   #69
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I am trying to control my "bossy big sister" urges

I have been waiting all day to use this somewhere...
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Old 12-19-2015, 12:28 PM   #70
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I have been waiting all day to use this somewhere...
Haha! I am embarrassed about my tactics when I was younger. Now that my little brother is 45 I am much nicer!
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Old 12-19-2015, 10:07 PM   #71
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Be sure to spend some time in the British Museum, especially the ancient Sumerians.
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Old 12-20-2015, 11:13 PM   #72
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Get the Eyewitness Travel Guides for London and Berlin.

Far and away the best travel guidebooks available. Great info and tons of pictures.
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Old 12-24-2015, 04:05 PM   #73
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http://www.timeout.com/london/museum...eums-in-london
My favorites are: British Musueum, V&A, British Library, Gallery. (Natural Science is close to V&A).
Some how, museums are free but going to church is going to cost you.
I would choose any out of London sights very carefully as any of these will burn a day but we enjoyed Bath.


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Old 12-24-2015, 08:13 PM   #74
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Regarding Visas, 90-day stays, etc.

Many of the European Union countries are part of the Schengen Zone: they have no border controls. So, for example, you can drive from France to Germany to Switzerland to Italy without showing a passport -- just like driving from Texas to Louisiana to Arkansas to Tennnessee, only better.

Not all European Union countries are part of Schengen, however. The major exceptions are the UK, Ireland, and many eastern European countries.

US Citizens may only spend 90 days in a 180 day period in the Schengen Zone without a special visa.

US Citizens may spend 6 months in the UK/Ireland without a special visa.

Hence, people who want to "do" Europe for more than 90 days will typically spend 89 days (to be safe) in the Schengen Zone countries, and then go to the UK/Ireland or the Balkan countries for 90 days....and then back into the Schengen Zone countries.

Your passport is stamped when you enter/leave the UK, and when you enter/leave a Schengen country. It is YOUR responsibility to make sure that you do not stay in Schengen more than 90 days -- you definitely do not want "overstayed visa" in your passport!

The Schengen rules are comvoluted, but I hope this helps.
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Old 08-08-2016, 10:25 PM   #75
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I realized I didn't get back to all the thoughtful posters who gave me great advice for my trip! I really appreciate it and it made for a well planned smooth trip.

I ended up getting us 7 day travel cards and 3 day London passes.

We saw a ton of sights and also worked in some downtime.

Meals ended up being much cheaper and in some ways easier than I expected due to the kids pickiness. Breakfast at the apartment, lunch from a grocery store, for me usually a pre made sandwich that costs between 1 and 2 pounds or my favorite - cheese scones for M&S Simply Food, and we often picked up dinner at the Waitrose near the apartment.

We planned to rent a car to drive to Stonehenge one day, but that totally fell through, the rental car company didn't have the vehicle my brother reserved that would fit all of us. Once he got over the initial disappointment, it ended up being a good thing, there is so much to see that we didn't need to leave town.
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Old 08-09-2016, 09:24 AM   #76
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How did the busyness, burnout factor work out for your group?

I'm heading to London with a large group of family ranging from 19 to 63,we all got condos in the same building which means pretty much all our waking hours together.We then throw in about a dozen UK based cousins and our 80 YO Aunt who is the reason for the trip.

My DS already has my head spinning with all the outings she has planned. I hope our family motto of "everything is voluntary and no one has to anything" holds up with so many people involved.
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Old 08-09-2016, 11:34 AM   #77
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How did the busyness, burnout factor work out for your group?

I'm heading to London with a large group of family ranging from 19 to 63,we all got condos in the same building which means pretty much all our waking hours together.We then throw in about a dozen UK based cousins and our 80 YO Aunt who is the reason for the trip.

My DS already has my head spinning with all the outings she has planned. I hope our family motto of "everything is voluntary and no one has to anything" holds up with so many people involved.
I think we did ok with the busyness factor - the plan ahead of time was for the kids to see tons of sights which we accomplished. One challenge was because my DB and SIL were new to traveling and intimidated by the tube system they didn't want to venture out on their own at all. I made a point from the beginning to point out all the directions/tube stops we were going to so they would feel more confident. We stuck together for the first 5 out of 7 days, but then I wrote out directions for tube stops and circled them on a map so they could do some things on their own. DB seemed surprised at how easy it was to get around and they really enjoyed their time untethered.

I found that the kids, ages 12 and 14 wanted to spend tons of time in souvenir shops and taking pictures, including lots of selfies.

What part of town will you be staying in?
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Old 08-09-2016, 05:27 PM   #78
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We are in a small RCI property right on the river by the Southwark area, off the beaten path, my unit has a balcony overlooking the river. A little longer walk or a quick bus ride to the tube, but less then 5 minutes on foot to the Thames Clipper. Family lives down by Croyden so on the same side of the river. Everyone except the 19 YO has made multiple trips to London, so I hope we can pick and choose things over trying to do everything.
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Old 08-15-2016, 03:33 PM   #79
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Very close the the London Eye is an underground museum of the cabinet war rooms..absolutely fascinating and that one is worth the price of admission especially for military history buffs.
I was in London this past spring but didn't get to the war rooms but plan to next trip.

Also of potential interest to military history buffs:

1. The already mentioned Imperial War Museum
2. The Blitz Walking Tour
3. HMS Belfast (WW2/Korea era Navy cruiser anchored in the Thames.)
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Old 10-10-2016, 06:49 PM   #80
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London Eye is touristy and costly but definitely worth doing on a nice clear day. I bought a combo ticket for both day and night so I went twice on the same day.
Yes, ride on the eye both day and night.
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