London Tips and Tricks!

I can honestly say I am no expert so take my advice with a it worked for me mayhap not you. I am the kind of woman whose idea of fun is camping in the woods for a week with no electricity so if your packing list starts with hairdryer and 20 step beauty routine….well yeah.

Also, keep in mind as we are currently in Pandemic things may change. We did this trip legitimate two weeks before it happened (not planned just bad or extraordinarily good timing).

Flights

Getting to London. I would 100% recommend British Airways. We booked directly with them and got a fairly good deal. Now if you live on the coast you can snag a ticket for as low as 300, here 500 has been the lowest I have ever seen.

If I was to do it again I would spend the extra for the Economy plus. Sheerly as I am not the young 20 something and those seats are tiny and my husband really needs the extra space. If I could I would go Business class for sure. Also, go direct, or at the very least avoid O’Hare on the return.

Bags and Other gear

We flew with the just handbag and cabin bag fare. Cheap but restricting. I used my camera backpack as my handbag stuffing my purse in the laptop compartment. The second was AmazonBasics Softside Spinner Suitcase Luggage with TSA Lock and Wheels 18″. I used packing cubes to help mush things down. And yes I got a week’s worth of winter clothing in there and a rain jacket (that I never wore…) If it had been summer I would have had even more room for a second pair of shoes! Or more books… yeah books, forget the shoes.

The size of the bag was perfect for navigating the tube stations too. There are lifts but being able to pick the bag up and carry it was nice. It also did well on the streets as they tended to be a little rough.

As far as key packing pieces I stuck with layers and things I could wear again. Honestly, I could have gone with less as we wore our jackets 90% of the time. I did, however, bring a lightweight winter jacket and a Hat is a MUST. I also had a pocket infinity scarf. I made it my self out of 1 yard of flannel and some scrap cotton and an invisible zipper. Perfect for putting my oyster card in, and on the way back I used it to hold my phone to watch Netflix. I also made sure to have good walking shoes as we did a ton of walking.

I had my Nikon a new to me D5200 and 2 128GB cards and a 32GB one. I didn’t fill any of them but having the extra space let me take photos at whim. We got a UK plug and that worked with the USB for our phones and the Camera charger.

We decided to leave the toiletries and buy them in the UK…I did end bring some back as I got travel ones. Soap & Glory makes an amazing smelling lotion…

I think the number one thing I would say was the foldable reusable bag. (Blue Blanket Stash It Reusable Bag from the Container Store) It saved us several pounds as shopping bags are not always free. That and it clipped to my bag and let me carry more goodies back to the hotel as my purse was full with a camera.

Hotel

Before I get into the hotel I want to point two very important things out about UK hotel rooms. In order to use the electricity, you must put a room key in what looks like a key card reader. Save face look right inside your door before going down to reception asking why the power isn’t working. My mother gave us that warning. Second, the light switch for the bathroom is OUTSIDE the bathroom. As Americans this is weird. We have bathrooms wired up to host a light show with DJ and holiday extravaganza in there. However, you will notice zero plugs or switches in the bathroom its self in the UK.

So I looked at a lot of places in London to stay. I wanted something with good distance to the underground but with a price tag that we wouldn’t have to sell kiddo to afford for a week.

Enter the Premier Inn a budget brand hotel. They also have Hub and now Zip hotels.

We had started looking at the Hub by Kings Cross but we must have missed a window and ended up seeing a 200-pound price jump. With quick searching, we ended up with the Premier Inn Southwark Tate Modern.

The room:

Overall nicely sized for 2 people. The room was older but clean. It came with closet space, a desk with chair, tea kettle and cups for tea. Small King-sized bed, tub, and as many towels as you could ask for. Build-in soap and shampoo.

The location was perfect! Set with two grocery stores, with a less than 5-minute walk to the Southwark Tube station, Tate Modern and Globe. Located on a side street it was less busy then say the one at Kings Cross and on the weekend it was even better as most of the foot traffic was business professionals.

Places to eat nearby:

  • They have an on-site restaurant. Fresh Thyme.
  • Costa Coffee- Located right across the street
  • White Hart- Pub right on the corner
  • Tessco Express- Budget grocery
  • Sainsbury’s Local- Budget Grocery

If you are ok with a 5-minute walk

  • numnum- excellent noodle place
  • Prince William Henry – Pub with the yummy pizza.
  • Preet a Manger- Freshly made food.

Those are just the ones we hit up. There is an Itsu, and several fine dining establishments around the hotel too.

If we did it again, I would probably look at a place with a kitchen or a mini-fridge. We spent a lot on food. I think we would have spent less if we could have stocked up on breakfasts ( or at the very least snacks from the market) But the lack of a fridge limited us and made me a little sad as we passed by tasty tidbits.

Transport

London overall is a very walkable city. And when we did venture the Tube and Overground got us where we needed to go. Mind you we are old people who go to bed and don’t spend all night partying anymore so we never ran into the last train issues.

We also got to Stonehenge without needing a tour bus. I did look at a rental car for a few moments but decided my marriage wasn’t worth the manual on the wrong side satnav or not. They offer a Stonehenge bus as part of the city bus, and when you buy entrance with them it is probably the best deal. Also, you can use the ticket on any of the city buses.

We did not buy the 7 day pass for the Tube as people had suggested and I am glad we didn’t. Oyster cards have a limit, 7 some pounds, and after that, you can use transport for free so spending 70 pounds on a pass was a bit over the top for us. We spent a day out of London, and most days we never hit that limit if we did use the Tube. And we came back with money on the card as we legit were 10 pence short to get back to the airport and the machine required 5-pound min to use the cards.

Now I will say if you have sensory issues the Tube is not your friend. The noise was horrible and I know if we come back with kiddo that his earphones are a must as loud noises tend to flip him out. So come prepared. We didn’t run into horribly crowded trains but we tried to time our trips off peek and if a train looked to cuddly we just waited for the next one as it usually had fewer people.

We never needed the cab/taxi or Uber, but I planned our hotel within walking distance of the Tube station. We also never came back past the last train.

What would I do if we did this again?

Walk more.

Oh my goodness. I knew going in I wasn’t in the best shape. Yay desk job. But a few more hours a day would have made the end of the day waaaay better.

Upgrade the flight seats. Getting older sucks. Being old with people stuffed next to you really sucks.

Get a room with a fridge, or a kitchen. Honestly there was so much stuff I wanted to try but we lacked a knife or a fridge. Food is expensive in London, and eating out three times a day plus tea really impacted our budget.

Go for the week. I can’t imagine going for less. There is so much to see and do and savor without rushing.

Get out of London. I like London but the countryside has my heart. I want to explore Wales (hello fluffy sheep) and get on the coast. The ocean is mesmerizing, I have grown up landlocked and can’t explain how much I enjoy the ocean. But don’t go jumping to Paris, or the rest of the EU. Save it and savor it with its own week trip.

Overall- If the chance comes up, go. It was worth it.

And with this pandemic, dream a trip so when we can go again you will be ready. Because lets be real the airlines will be ready with deals like none other.

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