Okay, we had now set May as our target month. When during the month, and for how long, became the next question.
Although we weren’t ruling out the possibility of ever traveling again, this was going to be a large expenditure, and it could conceivably be the last really large trip we ever took. At least, that was our assumption at the time. We wanted to see as much as possible, but not kill ourselves in the process. After it was over we wanted to be able to say, “That was fun,” instead of “Oh, my god, I’m tired.”
I looked at some pre-arranged tours, and ruled them out (I’ll say why in a separate post). At this point it seemed clear to me that we were going to this on our own. If we had only wanted to visit London, we could have done that in a week (barely scratching the surface, though). This was going to take longer if we were going to visit London and see more than just a few other sites.
How long we stayed was going to depend on how many places and sites we would try to see, and nearly everything else depended on knowing the duration of the trip. I couldn’t buy airline tickets, or make any of the myriad other arrangements without having a beginning and end date.
I created a spreadsheet, using the English Heritage website (and a few other travel sites), to list the places I thought we would most like to see. There were eighty-six locations on the spreadsheet when I was done. We would have to see three of them a day in order to see all of them in less than a month (and we would have been worn out within a week). It wasn’t going to happen, no matter how well we organized.
So, using some of the places mentioned on the guided tours, I set up three scenarios (one for an eight-day trip in the UK, another for a fourteen-day trip, and a third one for eighteen days). Adding two days to each of those (to account for flying time from Houston to Heathrow and back) made the total times ten, sixteen, and twenty days). I made some cost estimates, comparing estimates of the cost of the three guided tours to what I thought might be the cost to do it on our own.
For example, the eight-day tour would have cost just under $4,000 with the tour company, and we would still have had to pay for a few extras beyond that. I estimated we would be able to cover the same ground and see the same things (paying for our own airfare, car rental, admissions, meals, and lodging) for a little over $2,700. I was making a number of assumptions, of course, and I’ll go into more detail about my methodology later, but what seemed true at this point was that we could save a good bit of money over the cost of a tour. Essentially, it meant we could afford to stay longer by doing it ourselves.
After some more time with the maps and the spreadsheet, I ran all the numbers and possible times and dates past Minay, and (in between her coughing spasms) she agreed we should do twenty-one or twenty-two days, starting somewhere around May 5th. I wouldn’t actually buy the tickets for a couple more weeks (mid-February), so I could plan a loose itinerary and make sure I hadn’t forgotten something vital before we committed ourselves.
Next up, Where in the UK Should We Go?