England is a good option if you are interested in trying an overseas touring vacation. There are no language barriers and the flight is relatively short (from NY about 6 hrs.) Also there are day flights available so you don’t have to spend the night on the plane. We chose the day flight option which arrives in London around dinner time. The trip from the airport to downtown London is long (because of traffic) and can be expensive. Public transportation is available; however if there are 5 of you the cost of one of the large cabs isn’t prohibitive and after a flight is certainly more comfortable than taking a bus or a train. England is generally expensive however there are options for a variety of budgets.
Oxford–day visit on way to Cotswold region
Heathrow–night before morning flight home
We based our itinerary on covering major sites in London and then renting a car and heading to the countryside. Below is a detailed list of the sites we covered in each area.
We chose a hotel near Victoria station to have the option of using public transportation while in the city. However while we were visiting the Circle line was under construction and it turned out that we either walked or took cabs everywhere. The Park Plaza Victoria provided accommodations that worked for our family of 5. There are many apartments available to rent as well as short term suite hotels if you prefer that route. Book early as these fill up fast especially during the summer months.
We visited the following sites in London:
Buckingham Palace: the tour runs on timed intervals; tickets sell out fast and must be booked well in advance. http://www.royal.gov.uk/
Churchill War Rooms: walking distance from the palace — self guided audio tours are included with admission (this was really interesting and a must see)
Tower of London: London Walks is a great option for seeing the Tower–no advanced booking; meet at one of their designated spots for the tour you want–their fee includes entrance to the Tower and there is no waiting on line.
Double Decker Bus Tours: there are a number of tour companies that do these tours–we chose one that also included a boat ride; this is a good way to see the city and get acclimated although if the weather is bad it is difficult to see the sites from the lower level of the bus.
Parliament & Westminster Abby: Long lines so go early–we chose a London Walks tour which took us around the outside and toured interesting sites and neighborhoods in this area of London.
British Museum: there are so many museums in London, we only had time for one so chose this so we could see the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles.
An easy drive from London we toured Oxford on our way to the Cotswold region. Book one of the many walking tours available so that you are able to venture inside the many beautiful courtyards and some of the building interiors. Note: you have to park outside of Oxford and take a shuttle bus into the city center. This is easy to do and there are ample signs regarding the parking area.
English countryside is beautiful and fun to drive through, even during rainy days! We used Bourton-on-Water as our base to travel north to Stratford-On-Avon where we visited Shakespeare’s home and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage.
We also saw one of Shakespeare plays at the Royal Shakespeare theater in Stratford which is fun to do if you book ahead.
We stayed at the Chester House Hotel in Bourton-on-the-Water. www.chesterhousehotel.com
On our way to Bath we visited Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchill’s birthplace. This is a spectacular palace with beautiful gardens and lots of history. http://www.blenheimpalace.com/
We also visited Hidcote, a beautifully restored home with wonderful gardens. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hidcote
In Bath we stayed at the Dukes Hotel www.dukesbath.co.uk
This is a small hotel within walking distance of the city of Bath.
The main attraction in Bath is of course the “baths”. Before entering the baths be sure to do one of the free walking tours. Meet just in front of the entrance to the baths–there is a sign which notes the times for the tours. This free walking tour was amazing and very interesting. The very knowledgeable tour guide takes you all over the city–and it’s free!
A trip to England wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Stonehenge. We traveled there on our last day as we made our way back to the airport.
Also on route to the airport we stopped at Salisbury Cathedral
Our last night we stayed at Heathrow Airport at the Sofitel London Heathrow.
This hotel is located in terminal 5 which makes catching an early flight easy–it’s literally a short inside walk from the hotel directly to the terminal. While a bit pricey the convenience factor can’t be beat!