We were operating under the delusion that we would have five whole days in London, so some decisions were based on that. Actually, we later realized we would be there for five nights, but we really only had the potential for four full days of sightseeing. Our current total for purchases made before the trip was $2,537 (about what we normally spent for a twenty day driving vacation in the US). But we weren’t done yet.
The English Heritage Overseas Visitor Pass had seemed like a good idea (especially since we thought we might see so many sights it would save us money in the long run, right?), so we looked into the possibility of doing the same thing in London. I had seen an item called the London Pass which advertised “Free entry to over 60+ top London attractions and tours,” and we could get them with or without Travelcards. First of all, “over 60+” seemed a little redundant to me. It’s like saying “more than more than sixty,” but why quibble? The sights they mentioned were sights we wanted to see (Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle, the Globe Theatre, and a bunch of others), and we could skip the lines for tickets, saving more time. We looked up several of the attractions, and saw the prices weren’t cheap, but some were cheaper than others. For the two of us, Westminster Abbey would be £36 (or $55), the Globe Theatre would be £28 (or $43), Windsor Castle would be £36 (or $55). It sounded like that could add up quickly.
We took a risk and ordered two Six-Day Adult London Passes with Travelcards. Our options were to order 1, 2, 3, or 6-Day passes. Our rationale was we were only going to be there one day less than six days, but two days more than three days. The Travelcard alone was £54 ($82), making each London Pass £133 ($202), or £266 ($404) for the two of us. They also tacked on an insurance charge of £12 ($18), in case it got stolen before we got it, or we didn’t get it before we left, which brought the full total to £278 ($423). A $15 foreign transaction fee arrived in our bank account a few days later to add to the cost. Ouch. Had we made a mistake here? We were actually only in London for four sightseeing days. Could we have gotten by on a 3-Day London Pass and a 3-Day TravelCard (and saved £104, or $158)? Probably, but it wasn’t the only mistake I made.
Our plan was to each bring one suitcase and one backpack. I had one good backpack that I used for computer equipment and cameras, etc., and I had a few older ones lying around. Minay wanted something lighter. We ended up ordering a daypack, some money belts, a coin purse, and a travel clothesline from Rick Steves ($97). Also, Minay has had occasional bouts with stomach troubles on our driving trips, so she had her doctor prescribe some “just-in-case” medication ($20).
The only other purchase we made before the trip was for lodging in Scotland. We had continued to work on a possible itinerary. We had our first four days firmly established (flying to London, driving to Bath, and using Bath as a hub). We thought we would probably head down into Cornwall and Devon after that, but just for a few days. Then it would be Shakespeare Country, then maybe Liverpool, then the Lake District, then Scotland before heading south toward London again. We would be leaving Bath on May 10th, and arriving in London on May 22nd, so all the other stuff had to happen in twelve days. After reserving this room, were going to try to wing it, and not reserve any more rooms until we were there.
Edinburgh to London is a little over 400 miles. We could drive that in one day, of course (one long, tiring day), but we wouldn’t see anything on the way. If we split it into a couple of days we could make a few stops on the way. We knew we couldn’t do both Glasgow and Edinburgh, and I had been reading Ian Rankin’s wonderful Inspector Rebus series, which takes place largely in Edinburgh, so we decided to drive from the Lake District to Edinburgh, spend one day sightseeing there, then drive south, maybe spending the night somewhere in Yorkshire. So, working backwards from the 22nd, we searched for and placed a deposit on a room the AmarAgua Guest House in Edinburgh for two nights, the 18th and 19th (the deposit was just $26).
That brought our pre-trip monetary outlay to $3,123, but it did cover our plane fare (usually the biggest single travel expense), and everything else (we hoped) we would need to get the trip underway.
Did we do okay? At this point I was dreading the final bill, and we hadn’t flown yet. Have you had a similar experience?