Shocked? Yes, I admit it. This was my worst planned trip ever. On paper, everything looked perfect but reality was far from it. We planned a trip to London as part of a stop over and allocated 2 1/2 days for the trip. It was a short trip and the goal was not to see everything, but, we did want to see enough to get a flavour of London and England. There was only one main item on my list: Stonehenge. Rest was gravy. That thinking was our downfall.
Since we were staying for two nights, we picked a hotel close to the Tower of London. The location was amazing. We were located right next to the Tube, which meant easy travel within the city. We were also close to some of the main tourist attractions, so booking tours was a snap. But, things did not go as planned. Here is what happened:
Day 1: London
We reached London around 7 am. The arrival timing was supposed to be perfect… we had the whole day ahead of us to explore London. We arrived at our hotel and checked in. As we were starving and breakfast serving time was almost over, we ate breakfast and then headed to our room. Then it happened – the kids and I saw the beds and that was it. We woke up 6 hours later and it was 4pm. We then had to scramble to figure out what to do next. Since Stonehenge was on my must see list, we managed to purchase tour tickets for the next day.
I mistakenly thought that the London sightseeing tour bus would run frequently and made the incorrect decision to skip the Tower of London tour and head to the tour bus starting point instead. By the time we got there, the day trips had ended but the night tours would not begin for another hour. We hung around the area, had an early dinner and waited for the tour to start. The tour itself was very nice. The night tour of London gave us an opportunity to see all of the famous sights illuminated. In addition, it was around New Years, so the streets looked absolutely marvellous!
Day 2: Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and City of Bath Tour
This tour was a good idea even though we did not realise it at that time. We boarded a tour bus and our first stop was Windsor Castle. There we had an opportunity to tour the castle and its treasures. Afterwards, we were given about 45 minutes to grab lunch at a nearby food court.
Next we headed to Stonehenge. It was a beautiful journey through the country side. The light drizzle made the meadows look lovely. The visit itself was fairly straightforward. One place off the bucket list!
Finally, we headed to the City of Bath. I had not done any research on the Roman baths located here and so, it was a very nice surprise. After spending some time there, we headed back to London and reached around 8pm.
Without realising, we managed to see three UNESCO World Heritage sites in one day!
Day 3: The last minute scramble and travel day
Determined to salvage the trip and see whatever we could, we hired a taxi to take us around London. We stopped at the various sights (London Bridge, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street, SIS Building, Trafalgar Square, etc.) on the way to the airport. Unfortunately, we were not able to go inside the Tower of London or the museums.
We finally reached the airport as it was time to go to our next destination — with a promise that we will be back once again another day.
- Jet lag – It is a real phenomena 😉 and can really throw off your schedule. It would be wiser to allocate time for recovery. Better yet, plan to land at your destination late in the evening so that your sleep cycle is not affected… we will definitely aim for it going forward.
- Understand your priorities and plan accordingly. For example, museums and places like the Tower of London have specific opening and closing times. Research ahead and plan accordingly.
- The Tube is very easy to use and a nice way to get around. The cab drivers are also extremely nice and are willing to help you out (like showing us all the important spots on the last day).
- Carry change with you as public restrooms often require a payment for use.
- Food – plenty of restaurants, but most are small. Families may have a harder time finding a table quickly.
- UNESCO World Heritage sites in England are easily accessible. The three UNESCO World Heritage stops bus tour was the best decision we made on the trip.
- Allocate at least 2 to 3 days to explore London. It will be worth it… we plan to do it the next time!