We just spent a month driving around the UK and Ireland with a teen and a tween. We learned a lot, made many mistakes and discovered some great secrets. Here are my best travel tips for the UK and Ireland:
- See London but save most of your time for the rest of country. Go Slowly – no matter how long we planned for each town, it was never enough.
- Look both ways before crossing the street – Locals drive on the left, tourists drive on either side.
- Taking the car ferry to and from Ireland (like we did) is a waste of time and money. Fly and get a car in each country.
- Find free walking tours – it’s easy and they are great! We went on fantastic free tours in London, Oxford, York, Edinburgh, Inverness, Dublin and Bath. Don’t forget to offer a tip to your guide. We found them by searching in Google, “Free City Tour Dublin”
- Harry Potter fans can find fun everywhere in England. Top three Harry Potter destinations would be Alnwick Castle, Oxford, and the new Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour.
- We love castles and ruins, so we were given great advice (thanks Ally) to get an Overseas Visitor English Heritage Pass. It is good for either 9 or 14 days. Ours paid for itself in the first two days.
- If you want reasonably priced, clean, consistent accommodation, Premier Inn is all over UK and a few in Ireland, and they are all the same. Nothing to write home about, but if you want a family of four in one room, they are a deal and kids (under 16) eat free breakfast.
- Opposite travel tip in Ireland. Thanks Linda for suggesting we don’t book anything in advance, but rather driving until we found a town we loved (this doesn’t take long) and then finding a local B&B. This worked great in May.
- You can drink the water in the UK, so be sure to ask for tap water at restaurants.
- Cheap airline flights may not be that cheap – watch scheduling times. If you come in too late to take the train into town, the taxi is hideously expensive.
- Don’t miss the Scottish Highlands. Of course we were lucky and the weather for us was fantastic.
- Looking for some less expensive shopping – for groceries we were advised that Tesco has the best prices (thanks Ally). However if it is clothing you want, Primark (called Penneys in Ireland) was referred to by a mum we met as the “Yes” store, as mum is more likely to say yes to a purchase from there. Keep in mind, you do get what you pay for so don’t go if you are looking for quality. Also, if you are going to the one on Oxford street in London, the queue for the women’s dressing room is massive so wear leggings and a tank top under your clothes . . . you know what to do next.
- If you don’t want to spend all your time planning, find a great travel agent. I use Trish at Manly United Travel, a tip for my local NZ friends.
A few travel tips just for London:
- Enjoy London without a car. The tube/subway is quick, clean, frequent, easy and fun for the kids. If you are not in a hurry it is much cheaper to get an offpeak weekday pass which starts after 9.30 but does let you ride all day, even through the evening rush hour.
- We purchased a 3 day London Pass which was a great deal financially. Be advised that transit passes which are included with the pass don’t start until 9.30 on weekdays, which was fine for us as we don’t generally get out early.
- Go early to see the changing of the guards. If you show up at “show time” you will probably be in the back of a crowd and see nothing.
Things to carry around with you – more travel tips for the UK and Ireland:
- We purchased one of those insulated food bags (buy the soft ice packs to keep weight down) and a picnic basket. This allowed us to stop at random beautiful spots and enjoy a sandwich, piece of fruit or what ever else we picked up for the day.
- Bring an umbrella or raincoat with you everyday, you just don’t know which way the weather will g0.
- If you are an optimist, bring sunscreen.
An added tip from our girls:
- Caution, when you read “The Sun” as standards are a bit different than we were used to and the girls were quite surprised to see a full length photo of a topless girl on page 3. Sorry guys, no photos.
Travel Counter: We are in the third month of our 250 day overseas adventure.
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