I had a list of eighty-six possible locations in my spreadsheet, plus there were a number of places we wanted to see that weren’t on it for various reasons. For example, I wanted to see Abbey Road, and Minay wanted to visit the Victoria & Albert Museum (both in London, and we planned to save London for our last decision session). Here’s a screenshot of a small section of the spreadsheet.
When it came to planning a possible itinerary, the spreadsheet let me sort it by region and county. That way I could see at a glance which sites were close to each other (to better schedule sites we could possibly see on the same day). It also listed the cost for two people (which might help us choose between one site or another), and contained notes and codes (maybe notes to remind us why that item was siteworthy, codes to tell us whether the cost was covered by the English Heritage or the Overseas Visitor’s passes). We were still trying to decide whether purchasing one or more of the passes would be a cost-saving measure or not.
To decide where to go, we started with a simple premise (and I have to give credit to Rick Steves for this suggestion). We were going to be flying into and out of London’s Heathrow airport. Rick Steves said in his 2010 England book that most travelers fly into London and spend some time there first, but he suggested “a gentler small town start in Bath (the ideal jet lag pillow).” We knew we were going to be wiped out after our flight, and this sounded like a sensible plan. He suggested that we take a bus from the airport to Bath and rent a car there after we had spent a few days in the city. We rented Flio at Heathrow instead, which might have been a slight financial mistake (but then we wouldn’t have ended up with Flio, would we?). I searched for car rental places in Bath, but when I did my first search I had difficulty finding an agency that would let me rent the car in Bath and return it to Heathrow. After I had arranged for the rental, I found out that wouldn’t have been a problem.
After some discussion about the things we most wanted to see, other than London (which was a given), we came up with a plan that we thought would work, but would still be flexible enough to let us modify it to some degree. The basic plan was: Drive to Bath from London, spend a few days in Bath and nearby (maybe seeing a little of South Wales too), drive into Cornwall and spend a couple of days doing King Arthur research, then drive into the Midlands (probably Stratford-upon-Avon) and spend a few days doing Shakespeare stuff and seeing the Cotswolds, go from there to Liverpool (do Beatles stuff and maybe a dip into North Wales), then to the Lake District, from there to Scotland, then back down to London for the last five days (possibly stopping twice on the way, maybe at Newcastle or York the first night, then maybe Cambridge or Oxford the second night).
That was a general enough plan that we could fill in the details later (by deciding how many days to stay in which area), or make changes, but we could now make our flight arrangements and book a few accommodations (maybe our first location and our last one — Bath and London). We still didn’t know exactly where we were going to go, but we had a framework to make further choices from.
Have you done a similar route through the UK? How did it work for you?
Next up, How Much Could We See?