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"Travel help needed! (England/Paris)" Topic

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337 hits since 28 Jan 2017
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Forager28 Jan 2017 8:17 p.m. PST

OK, TMPers. I need your help. My wife wants to go to Europe for our anniversary/spring break trip this year in mid-March. Our eight year-old son would be going with us. Because of the school schedule, we only have a maximum of 9 days, including travel. Budget is a factor, as well. We need to try to keep expenses down where possible.

For the most part, I am a total newb at international travel. Never been to Europe before. Only to Costa Rica (where my wife is from). I think we can agree on England for the most part, although I know she wants to make at least an overnight side trip to Paris, but beyond that I am pretty much at a loss on where to begin.

She has been looking at hotel/airfare deals but I feel like we'd be chained to the hotel and I don't think that's what I want. I'd like to hit a few different areas (don't really know where though) and spend 1 or 2 days there sightseeing before moving on to a new locale.

So any advice for a first-timer in England would be greatly appreciated. I need help with everything from getting around the country, to accommodations, to recommended sites. For the latter, here are some of our interests. For my wife, she is a shopper (with an eye toward value) but she likes old structures too. She'd like seeing a castle, but probably wouldn't be too particular about which one. (I'd prefer something 11th-13th century, I guess, if there are options that fit that and are in decent condition, but not super picky beyond that. She said regular touristy spots are OK, also. As for Paris, info on getting there and 1 or two recommended sites for what will probably be a pretty brief stay would be appreciated as well. For our son, his is really into Titanic stuff now. So something related to that would be great for him. And for me, I'd like to hit one or two of the big military related museums. Naval sites, especially WWI and Napoleonic era ones would be of interest to me. Maybe an ECW battlefield, also. Any of those that are well marked and/or with a small museum? Thanks for your help!


Tacitus28 Jan 2017 11:08 p.m. PST

I know you're probably looking for specifics, but I can't recommend highly enough the travel books by Rick Steves. His Great Britain travel guide is available on Amazon. He does a great job helping to make trip easy, cost-effective, and unforgettable. Trust me on this.

Tommy2029 Jan 2017 12:11 a.m. PST

We always base ourselves in London. You can day trip to just about anywhere short of,Scotland, and don't have to constantly be checking in and out of hotels.

For Napoleonic naval, you can't beat Portsmouth and HMS Victory. Dover Castle is a great day out as well. York is a long day, but well worth the travel. In London, you can hit the Imperial War Museum and Tower of London, and find just about anything else you might be interested in.

Finally, you can easily day trip to Paris from London via the Eurostar. Do a hop off bus trip, and you can see all of the major sites.

Doug MSC Sponsoring Member of TMP29 Jan 2017 6:41 a.m. PST

I am planning to go to England this summer for 9 days also. I am renting a car and going to Stratford Upon Avon for two days, I'll be touring Blenheim Palace and Warwick Castle while I'm there. Then I'm driving to Canterbury and staying there for two days and touring that area including Dover Castle. Then I'm driving to London and turning my car in and spending five days there. So much to see there. I thought about doing Paris also for a few days however a few things made me change my mind. One was that it would be cramming too much into 9 days and I would loose a lot of time traveling an the other was that I have read and heard from friends over there that the Pickpockets and scams are worse than when I was there years ago. I didn't want to be looking over my shoulder every minute instead of enjoying my time. If you would like my itinerary, including the hotels where I am staying, just e-mail me. When traveling on vacation, and this comes from years of experience, I don't stay in more then three places. You can wear yourself out if you pile on too much in one trip.

Personal logo Sue Kes Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member29 Jan 2017 8:30 a.m. PST

I would miss Paris this time, as you're not used to European travel and you'd spend quite a bit of your limited time travelling from the UK and back. Plan to go there as part of a longer holiday another time – you really need to be there for more than a few hours.

As it's your first time travelling to the UK, don't dismiss an inclusive package tour of some kind – it's a good introduction to a strange country. You don't have to go for something with lots of trips laid on (although it's worth checking these out) – if you take one which just includes travel and accomodation, it'll give you a lot of security to know everything is arranged for you and you can concentrate on getting around.

London fills a lot of your interests, of course. Get the best guide books you can before you go, to the UK and to London, (Lonely Planet and RTough Guides are both very good). As well as the usual shopping places (Oxford Street, etc.) try to take in Gray's Antique Centre (, which is a great place to just window-shop! Lots of beautiful things.

Thinking of your son – London Zoo (probably a full day), and The Science Museum and Natural History Museum at South Kensington used to have interactive exhibits aimed at children.

Further afield, go to Bath, it's just over an hour from London by train. A beautiful city, full of Roman and 19th Century history, good museums (the Costume Museum is one of the best in the country), beautiful architecture, good eating and shopping. If you decide to stay there instead of London (it's cheaper!), it's a good centre to travel round that part of the country from, and you could get up to London from there easily.

Do some indepth research on all the places we suggest, and on special deals on rail tickets, etc, before you go. With only 9 days, you really need to work out a strict itinerary.

Hope this is only the first of many visits!

Personal logo T Callahan Supporting Member of TMP30 Jan 2017 2:15 p.m. PST

If you stay in London renting a car is not really necessary, public transportation is all you need. I'd recommend going to AAA or another travel agent. They can get you set up with an Oyster card for travel on the London Underground or buses. We took a day trip to Bath, Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral by bus. It was a great trip. All was set up by the travel agent.


Forager30 Jan 2017 8:58 p.m. PST

Thanks, everyone, for all of the great info. Very helpful, indeed!


Repiqueone02 Feb 2017 5:02 p.m. PST

Forager, having traveled to both cities several times, there are advantages to both. Personally, of the two, I'd take Paris in a heartbeat.


England is, on the whole, more expensive, and less for the money on lodging and food. This has been offset somewhat by the decline of the pound. Be sure to look for BnBs as an excellent option in London.

The food isn't even close! Even small humble bistros in Paris offer excellent meals at affordable prices, and the wine is good and can be inexpensive as well. The best British food is Indian, and British coffee is always a bad idea. French coffee is simply wonderful.

London has a number of excellent museums and the public spaces are very nice, but the city is, on the whole, dark and with close horizons. Paris is bright, wide airy boulevards, the best art museum in the world at the Louvre, and the incomparable Invalides for military buffs.

The main problem is that neither country speaks American, but the English are usually easier to understand for Americans. However, I've seldom had problems in Paris where English is often spoken quite well. However, even a little French will make it very easy. Rumors of French surliness are exaggerated, I've never found the French anything but helpful and civil. I would advise not wearing any political hats or t shirts in either city. Currently, a low profile is a good idea for Americans.

9 days is more than enough to sample both. 3-4 days in London, and the same in Paris. It's only a few hours between them, especially using the Chunnel or commute airlines. You've already spent the big bucks to get there, and you might not get back any time soon, so experiencing the contrasts and different cultures is far more interesting than just one stop. Very few cities require more than 4 days to get a good look-about if you do a bit of research and set a daily itinerary.

As for scammers and pickpockets, both cities are typical large cities. Use common sense, carry your wallet in a front pants pocket-not the back, and be aware of your surroundings. In short, be street smart and look like you know what you're doing. Lose the Bambi in the headlights look, and you'll be fine. No need for excessive fear. I've had few problems in either city. At the moment, both cities are extensively patrolled- safer than most USCities, I suspect.

Have a good trip.

Repiqueone02 Feb 2017 6:14 p.m. PST

PS one key bit of advice-"one person, one bag ." Each bag suitable for it user by size. Most of the problems I've seen that is a dead giveaway of a newbie is too much luggage. Other dead giveaways are a fanny pack, shorts,running shoes, and baseball caps. Lose them and travel becomes far less bothersome.

Asterix Supporting Member of TMP18 Feb 2017 3:28 p.m. PST

Lots of good advice here. The Rick Steves travel books (e.g. the one on London and the one on Paris) are very helpful. We remove the pages that we want to take with us and leave the remaining book home. As far as pickpockets are concerned go to Travelsmith's website. They sell pants and jackets with zippered pockets which go a long way protecting wallets. They have other security related products too.

one person, one bag – excellent advice!

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