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first time trip to London, advice.
Old 07-06-2017, 07:23 AM   #1
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first time trip to London, advice.

Hello all,
I'm beginning the research for a trip to London England. we were hoping to go this year but as luck and fortune would have it.... anyhoo I'd like to go spring of next year. We actually did a 1 day trip on the train when we were in Paris last year but now I'd like to make London the destination.

Total of 5 folks, I'm taking my sons and two of their cousins. All are between 19-23.

1) What's the best area to stay in?
2) planning on doing 7 nights. we are going to do the major attractions but any recommendations of things you find interesting.

We are an adventurous bunch and we'll try just about any thing. I did pick up two tour books, Rick Steves and fodors but enjoy getting personal recommendations.

looking at end of May 2018
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Old 07-06-2017, 07:44 AM   #2
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https://www.apartments4you.com/searc...=2017&invtype=

I'm trying to post a link for some rental condos named Odessa Wharf..I hope it worked we stayed there last Nov. They have not yet opened May rentals but probably will soon. This would be ideal for a group like yours. It's a little off the main drag but the River Clipper dock is 2 minutes from the front door. The clipper will drop you off in the heart of the action without the "fun" of a tube ride.
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Old 07-06-2017, 07:52 AM   #3
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Love London. I lived there for a bit in my twenties.. sometimes I think I shouldn't have left ... ha ha

If the "kids" have never been there before, you can't beat a half day or so spent on the hop on/hop off service to get your bearings and see all the sights and decide where to return to.

Then probably spend the rest of your time using the Tube or buses. You can get their transport card ("Oyster") before you go...

https://tfl.gov.uk/travel-informatio...or-oyster-card

Stay somewhere central.. it is worth it. I lived in the West End (Earls Court) and so am partial to that area but anywhere north of the Thames is probably best.
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Old 07-06-2017, 08:03 AM   #4
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London: good for you! My favorite - I visit whenever I have a chance. As I'm sure you already suspected, you won't even begin to scratch the surface in 7 days but still, you'll like it. I don't often do the "touristy" things when traveling, but in London, of course, there ARE some must-do items, such as the Tower, Westminster Abbey, or St Paul's, that, while typically crowded are worth the hassle. Also, on what was maybe our 6th trip to London together DW and I decided to do one of those double decker hopp-off, hopp-on tours and found it quite worthwhile ( we knew many of the sites already, but the tour brought them together nicely and we discovered many other places to visit along the way.
I think London is best discovered on foot, so I recommend several walking tours ( assuming everyone in your party is physically up for it). For a somewhat unusual experience, I particularly recommend Richard Jones' "ghost tour"...
If you are into museums, there are many must-do stops. The Tate modern Art, National Gallery, British Museum, the Victoria and Albert, and many smaller more themed museums, such as the Imperial War museum or the National Maritime museum (while in Greenwich, hike up the hill to see the zero meridian and the observatory, then take a Thames river boat back to central London).
A short train trip outside of London can get you to Windsor Castle (of the Queen's residences and much more interesting than Buckingham Palace, IMO), or Hampton Palace (Henry VIII's favorite digs).
I'll stop here since I don't know your preferences or those of your kids. Of course, there is plenty of sports, theater, concerts, etc on offer too, as well as a ton of nightlife for the younger crowd.

Enjoy! I'm envious!
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Old 07-06-2017, 08:09 AM   #5
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Think about what types of attractions you and the kids would like to see.

Museums? Plays? Day trips to places like Bath, Oxford, Cambridge, Stonehenge?

Palaces or castles out of town like Windsor?

Most museums are free but there are other attractions with admissions fees. There are some 2 for 1 deals which combine transport tickets with discounts to some attractions.

If the weather holds up, I just like to walk around, to the parks, the famous squares, along the river. If it doesn't, there are the museums though some people may not do well spending hours in a museum.

There are walking tours to do where guides will impart a lot of history. Bike tours cover a lot of ground and may be fun for the kids. There are probably theme tours, like places in Harry Potter. Some of these may be in Oxford or something -- I've never read the books nor seen the movies. But maybe they'd be of interest to the sons and cousins.

This site has a variety of walks and is well-regarded:

London Walks "London's best guided walks" Time Out - London Walks

But costs can add up, for 5 people. There may be "free" tours where you're expected to tip afterwards. You may get away with a tip of 25 or 30 Pounds for a group of 5.

With 7 nights you should definitely be able to do a day trip or two. Again there are tours you can do where they'll take you on a coach to out of town places mentioned above.

But you can save money by figuring out the trains and buses to get to Cambridge, Windsor, Stonehenge, Bath, etc.
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Old 07-06-2017, 08:12 AM   #6
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An alternative to the hop on hop off buses is to take certain public bus routes which run by the major attractions:

https://www.tripsavvy.com/london-bus...seeing-1582177
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Old 07-06-2017, 08:18 AM   #7
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I really liked the Cabinet War Rooms, where Churchill and crew spent a lot of time during the war. Gave a good feel for war time London.
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Old 07-06-2017, 08:27 AM   #8
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I really liked the Cabinet War Rooms, where Churchill and crew spent a lot of time during the war. Gave a good feel for war time London.
Yes, I agree - a bit pricey though (close to 20 pound IIRC)
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Old 07-06-2017, 08:30 AM   #9
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All the pay attractions are rather pricey and if I was going to pay for one thing it would be a trip on the "London Eye", or the Tower.

There is so much free stuff that in 7 day trip you shouldn't have to do more then one or two paid attractions.
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Old 07-06-2017, 08:49 AM   #10
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Yeah the Eye is nice.

The Tower was okay but at least $50 I believe. Kids might like the stories about all the torture.
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Old 07-06-2017, 08:52 AM   #11
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Make sure you buy a visitor oyster card before you leave for your trip (not available in London). One per person. They will save you a lot of money on buses and the tube:
https://tfl.gov.uk/travel-informatio...or-oyster-card

Because of the tube its not really important where you stay, but I try to stay near a tube station.. My last visit was north of Regent's park Near the swiss cottage stop. I prefer to be out of the most touristy areas. Really good, low cost (for London), restaurants in the Swiss Cottage area. We had some great curries and a notably good Ethiopian meal.
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Old 07-06-2017, 08:55 AM   #12
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If available for your dates, check out the family room at the Premier Inn London County Hall (no, I am not affiliated). This used to always be the best deal in town - especially when you need a larger room. It is inside the old County Hall right next to the London Eye - a fantastic location. Just walk across the bridge to Big Ben, war rooms, etc.

I HATE museums, but the British Museum is fantastic.

Agree the cabinet war rooms are amazing.

If you plan to see a theater show, check out the official half price ticket booths. A good deal.

Bringing 19-23 year olds, they really might like to see Oxford or Cambridge which are nice college towns. Easy direct train ride.

Changing of the guards is completely over rated. Watch the first 5 minutes and then get out of there.
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Old 07-06-2017, 08:55 AM   #13
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Speaking of inexpensive, there is a good way to get to Stonehenge, if desired. Take a train to Salisbury and then a tour bus to Stonehenge. Added benefit: visit Salisbury cathedral (where one of the remaining originals of the Magna Carta is on display) plus as much time as you want to hang around the town after the Stonehenge tour. Fetch a train back to London whenever you feel like it. And speaking of the Magna Carta, two more copies are on display at the British Library in London (free admission and well worth a visit to see many historic books and documents).

Aside: the 4th original is located in Lincoln castle, which, by itself is worth yet another day trip (castle and cathedral).
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Old 07-06-2017, 09:12 AM   #14
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Make sure you buy a visitor oyster card before you leave for your trip (not available in London). One per person. They will save you a lot of money on buses and the tube:
https://tfl.gov.uk/travel-informatio...or-oyster-card

Because of the tube its not really important where you stay, but I try to stay near a tube station.. My last visit was north of Regent's park Near the swiss cottage stop. I prefer to be out of the most touristy areas. Really good, low cost (for London), restaurants in the Swiss Cottage area. We had some great curries and a notably good Ethiopian meal.
You can get Oyster cards at the airport. Then take the Underground into central London takes about an hour but is cheaper than the express train to Paddington or a taxi.

If you can fit everyone, a taxi might be worth it from the airport. There's also mini cab services you can book in advance that will get you a fixed fare.

If you have Apple Pay on an iPhone, you can use it on the Underground, don't need Oyster card. There are daily and weekly limits for charges on a given card so after you pay like 6 Pounds on Underground and buses rides, you're no longer charged. You can hit 6 Pounds in less than 3 rides in a day.

Buses have to deal with traffic so aren't as good for traveling more than a couple of miles as the Underground. However, you get to see the city while in the Underground, you're seeing tunnels. Look at getting an app. like Citymapper to figure out which bus to take from any two points, including your current location.

You would need data though so if you have an unlocked smart phone, consider getting a data SIM. You should be able to get something for 10 Pounds which should cover your needs.
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Old 07-06-2017, 09:24 AM   #15
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We stayed at the Rubens at the Palace - hotel near Buckingham Palace. We were in London about 5 days - not long enough. But we had a great time - Westminster Abbey, Changing of the Guard, London Eye, Churchill War Rooms, Boat ride on the Thames, London Tower/ Crown Jewels, Greenwich, shopping at Harrod's, an NFL football game, Buckingham Palace (Queen was in residence so we only could visit grounds and carriage house), several pubs. Rode the open top buses and the Tube. Walked around a lot also. Awesome city.
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Old 07-06-2017, 09:26 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by fosterscik View Post
Make sure you buy a visitor oyster card before you leave for your trip (not available in London). One per person. They will save you a lot of money on buses and the tube:
https://tfl.gov.uk/travel-informatio...or-oyster-card

Because of the tube its not really important where you stay, but I try to stay near a tube station.. My last visit was north of Regent's park Near the swiss cottage stop. I prefer to be out of the most touristy areas. Really good, low cost (for London), restaurants in the Swiss Cottage area. We had some great curries and a notably good Ethiopian meal.
This info is not correct, in fact you are better off buying the Oyster in person when you arrive..I bought an Oyster... 5 pound deposit and then added a zone 1 and 2- 7 day travel card..I wanted to use the Clipper and having a travel card reduces the Clipper costs by about 30%. make a cash deposit on your card for going out of Zone 2 and riding the Clipper its much cheaper. One word of caution.. start low and add on money as you need it. The fee and any leftover money is supposed to be refundable. But ALL the refund machines at the airport were out of cash at 10 AM on a Friday morning you could do it online within 60 days.. but everytime I tried I got a not working now message for the refund option. I had around 10 pounds including deposit so not a big deal and card is still active if/when I go again.
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Old 07-06-2017, 09:29 AM   #17
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So OP I forgot I was at a family event and they hired a family friend to transport the 7 of us to the big family event. Great guy, excellent driver and would be a good option for your trip....PM me if you want his details.
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Old 07-06-2017, 09:36 AM   #18
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I really enjoyed the night bus tour. The guide was awful that night but the ride was awesome.

+1 on the cabinet war rooms.

If you go to see the Crown Jewels get there when the Tower opens and make a beeline for them. They're in a building to the back of the compound and most tourists strolled into the attractions nearer the entrance. We were able to take our time admiring them instead of being whisked by on the moving sidewalks.
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Old 07-06-2017, 09:41 AM   #19
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All the pay attractions are rather pricey and if I was going to pay for one thing it would be a trip on the "London Eye", or the Tower.

There is so much free stuff that in 7 day trip you shouldn't have to do more then one or two paid attractions.
My general feeling is that if you are spending the time (especially for working people on limited vacation time) and money for airfare, hotel, and meals anyway, don't be too cheap about paid attractions. Pick only the ones you want to see that have value to you over the free attractions, but make sure you take in what you want to. I've also had some great experiences at "maybe" attractions.

I do agree there is a lot of free stuff to do. When I took my son, around age 8 at the time IIRC, we finished most days hanging out at Trafalgar Square, watching people and climbing statues and just unwinding from whatever we did that day. Walking through the parks around the palace was really nice too.
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Old 07-06-2017, 09:49 AM   #20
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Our most memorable activities in London were two Andrew Loyd Webber musicals. My kids still talk about them today.

My second most fun thing is getting a Brit Rail Pass. Ours was three weeks long, and we used it for one week in London.

Lots of things to see and do!
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