As with any trip you take, the first thing we decided on was when to go. When Farrah went on her semester abroad she did most of free traveling in May. From what she recalled May was a good month to travel, just avoiding people getting off of school and the family summer vacation rush. We chose the first half of May to travel. A basic sketch of our plans are:
- Four day in Bath, UK
- Six days in London day
- A day trip to Paris
- Three 1/4 days in London before heading home
If you want to see how our trip is playing out in a day-to-day view, check out our Yahoo! Travel page to see the sites we are planning to visit. This page will change of course.
Transportation and Lodging
We started with the first major expense: airline tickets. In an effort to obtain the best price, we first tried a service at Farrah's work - a concierge service. The service is mean to conduct all the footwork for you. You simply need to supply the service with what you want and they will try to find the best prices for you. I always thought they would get decent discounts, but when we compared what the service had to offer versus an Internet service like Kayak, the difference was minimal. I was even able to direct the concierge service to a better discount using Kayak!
We chose our dates and airline (Virgin Atlantic) and booked the flight via Virgin's site. We also booked our bus tickets from Heathrow to Bath and back to London. We'll be staying in Bath for our first four days, then the rest of the time in London, with a long day trip to Paris.
We used several resources in planning our trip. Of course we used the Internet, but also sought advice from friends and co workers, and of course good ol' books. Plenty of research can now be done on the Internet, foregoing the purchasing of books. But it is nice to have and carry a tangible reference guide on the trip.
After looking through several books, we found what we believe are three good choices:
The three books bring different views on what is must see in London. The Rick Steve's book takes a historical approach, offering tips on what historical sites can't be missed and what you can live without visiting. Pauline Frommer's book brings a woman's perceptive to traveling in London (e.g. places to shop), but also offers frugal places to stay and eat. Time Out London stays with the hip and cool places to stay and see, just like the newsstand magazine.
The Internet has changed much since 1997 when Farrah was planning her semester abroad. At one point back then, she was wondering what to pack and wear in Europe. I said to her, Let me post the question in a newsgroup. I found the old Usenet posting I submitted doing a search on Google. Nowadays you don't need to use newsgroups, but message boards are the thing. I'm sure there were some travel sites on the Internet back then, but nothing really known. Nothing like the ones we used on this trip. The most useful sites have been:
I am on Tripadvisor daily and find it the most helpful site of the two. We looked at lodging reviews there making our selections based on reviews and community photos.
I managed to get a hold of the passport office. They confirmed they received the paperwork, but they confirmed they won't do any expediting until there are only 14 days before the trip! So you know what I'm going to do on that 14th day - I'll be on the phone dialing.