Many wonder how Denis and I travel "so much"-laugh. After a few years of practice you get pretty good at this. It's difficult sometimes to make the sacrifices you have to make- like missing birthdays, holidays and other "traditional" days that you'd share with your family. But while everyone is with their families-generally-the world's travel prices drop drastically.
Rick Steve's is a good reference for any of you new to this. He's my primary resource-then I use Trip Advisor, and google the location in general. It's helpful to try to find people who have traveled to where you are going- often they have money saving ideas- so get the word out that your trying to make the trip happen.
We spent 5 nights in London. We did make a business meeting there-but unfortunately it feel through.- So here's how we spent the week.
1)We visited the Christmas displays and when we saw people singing Christmas carols we'd stop and listen.
2) We stayed in a small nice but inexpensive hotel- this is often the most challenging booking part of the trip. We stayed at: http://www.gardencourthotel.co.uk/ and loved it! Breakfast and internet access were included in our room rate. The internet access was slow -but allowed us to check in with home in the morning and evenings and answer any business related questions-etc- with out being completely disconnected. Our rooms were huge too! Very Unusual for Europe..laugh.
3) We bought a 7 day train ticket for the tube instead of a 5 day because it was cheaper. We took the train and walked everywhere.
4) We stuck with going mostly to the free museums and free activities.
5) We ate the holiday "street" foods and shared or ate less when we went into a restaurant or pub. (Try to always get non-touristy family owned recommendations from your hotel lobby or pop into places that look like family owned stores and ask where to eat. You'll often find gems that will cost you half of a bigger, known restaurant. We'll snack during the day- so that we eat less during dinner too).
6) Decide on the expensive things you are going to do - and stick to it-but leave a little wiggle room in-case something unexpected Dazzles you. Don't upgrade things-stick with the basics. (We went to two pay museums, saw Chicago and Les Mis-(buying tickets at half price and not caring what plays we saw in advance) and took a group day trip to Stonehenge). Going on the group trip was going to be less expensive than renting a car and trying it alone in this case-but often we do the opposite. DONT get caught up in Shopping-and stay out of the gift shops as best you can!
7) Don't plan so much that you can't change your mind-but plan enough that you use your time wisely. If you want to see 3 big things that day- try to do them in an order - start with the one farthest from your hotel and work your way back- or go in order based on location if you can- so that you are not running around town getting from place to place all day. Remember to eat early, and take some breaks. Don't starve yourself-snack instead-hungry tourists are grumpy tourists.
8) We'd end our days with buying a bottle of wine and drinking it in the community area of the hotel or in our room vs. having wine with dinner-this saved us a bundle and allowed us some planning time each evening!
One of our itineraries looked like this:
- 8am ish - eat breakfast - if you miss it -grab a croissant from a little cafe with a coffee. Watch people go to work.
- 9am walk through park and enjoy the street artists work.
- 11am -go to half tix booth and buy cheap theater tickets for evening
- Walk by Buckingham palace and ogle through the gate.
- Watch the horses change guard.
- Go to Churchill War Cabinet Museum
- Hang out at the Christmas Festivity area in the park -Eat Fair type food while there -drink milled wine or hot cocoa and shop a little bit for Christmas. Watch the hand made crafts- or watch the kiddos playing/families ice skating. (if you ice skate-now would be a good time to go and do this).
- Head over to see Les Miserable
- then head home (hotel)-stop at the convenience store and or the liquor store and grab a snack-and a bottle of wine. and plan the next day. (next day planning does not work at night for group tours-plan those on your first or second morning in town).
Ohh- something new we did this year-we purchased a visa gift card and put some of our "spending money" on it - this doesn't work for more remote locations but was perfect for someplace like London. We used this spending visa card- to book our day trip to stonehedge, our theater tickets, it payed for the london eye and for the 2 museums. When the money was "gone" we knew we had to stick as close as possible to the free stuff. This card was our christmas present to ourselves- so to speak. The total value on the card was 500.00. (this did not include food and hotel). I bring this up because it might be a great way -if family wants to give you gifts- to suggest they buy you one of these. Then you can use it on your trip (sure wish we had thought of something that for our honeymoon-laugh).