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Pre-Planning Late December UK trip

Atlanta, Georgia
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Pre-Planning Late December UK trip

It has been +20 years since I traveled outside of the USA and the world has since changed greatly. I presume nothing applies from my one-off travel to Europe back in ~1991. Questions include the following as part of early planning ...

Money. We are Amex users but are thinking of bringing a second major CC. Not sure what is widely accepted in the UK, and whether or not we should see a card issuer from the UK itself. Additionally we (just me and the wife, nearly 50-ish) recognize the need for actual currency as some places will probably not take plastic. Suggestions beyond looking at cards with zero foreign transaction fees, NVM chips?

Communications: During this 2.5-3 week trip the wife (my bookkeeper) needs to address home economics remotely. Thinking of a tablet or network, with VPN service, registered with our banks' networks. Also, the safety need for a couple of inexpensive cell phones (not bringing our iPhones). The equivalent of Prepaid options?

Photography: Bringing my Canon 5Dmk3 and a couple of lenses. Purchased a pair of 64GB Sandisk Extreme CF cards and will be buying a pair of SDXC for in camera mirroring. Thought about the out-of-camera backup, though. Maybe something gadget-wise using the tablet/network mentioned above.

Accommodations: Some of the first hotels we looked at didn't take reservations 6-months out. In fact, many would only go as far as 60-days out. Since we are planning on arriving on or about 16th of December this means we need to make those hotel plans not before October 16-17th. Any better approach? Maybe calling or emailing them?

OK, that is it so far, but there are a lot more questions swirling about our heads.

Manchester, United...
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1. Re: Pre-Planning Late December UK trip

<<Money. We are Amex users but are thinking of bringing a second major CC. Not sure what is widely accepted in the UK,>>

Amex isn't accepted in many smaller shops/restaurants etc due to their higher fees. Mastercard & Visa cards are accepted virtually anywhere that takes cards (most places), BUT you may encounter a minimum spend (say £10) in smaller businesses again due to the fees.

Timing - arriving 16 December and staying 2½ - 3 weeks means covering Christmas and New Year - that may be part of the issue with hotels. In England 25 and 26 December, plus 1 January are public holidays and may people have the whole period from Christmas-New Year off, so with school holidays, "January sales" etc it can be busy. There's virtually no public transport on 25 December and most museums, galleries etc will be closed on that day. Restaurants that are open tend to offer celebration meals at much higher prices that also need to be booked well ahead. Here are some links from 2013:




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2. Re: Pre-Planning Late December UK trip

1. AMEX is not widely accepted in UK - higher end places take it but loads of places (especially more interesting independent shops, restaurants and pubs). Visa and Maestro are widely accepted - or go with cash.

2. Can't help with comms/photography

3. Hotels, look more! There's loads of hotels open for reservations. Try tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotels-g186338-London_Engl…

I put in some dates for a few days when you arrive and loads of availabilty - and may excellent offers too. Westminster Interconitnenal for less than £100 per night for example on Expedia. Which hotels were you looking at?

Bucks, UK
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3. Re: Pre-Planning Late December UK trip

Not sure why you would spend money buying a tablet in preference to using your Iphones. Iphones are 10 a penny here (as everywhere) and if you have travel insurance (which you should anyway) and back them up before you go, there shouldn't be a problem.

London, United...
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4. Re: Pre-Planning Late December UK trip

1. Do you have a Citi card? That would work i think, or cash is the next best option if you dont wish to incur charges

2 If you want to make inexpensive calls back home, you can buy an international calling card from a post office in the UK


Where were you thinking of staying? - which part of London?

Las Vegas, Nevada
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5. Re: Pre-Planning Late December UK trip

My daughter and I are also arriving 16 Dec. I made reservations at the Grosvenor Victoria 2 months ago.

Use your ATM card for cash.

Capital One has no foreign transaction fees and Chase British Airway card has no fees and is also a chip and signature card.

Be sure to notify your bank and credit card company that you will be traveling out of the country.

Pickering, United...
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6. Re: Pre-Planning Late December UK trip

HariGaai, you should not be having problems booking hotels. All the hotels I have looked at are booking well into 2015. Are you trying to use a booking site such as booking.com rather than trying the individual hotel chain sites? If so that might explain it as hotels are probably not releasing their Dec rooms yet. There are always good deals to be had in the UK between Christmas and New Year.

I have just had a quick look and www.trivago.co.uk is showing wide availability at a wide range of hotels in London.

Atlanta, Georgia
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7. Re: Pre-Planning Late December UK trip

CheresX, thanks for those links. I'll check them out this weekend. Dates are pretty much fixed as my wife's job (Chemistry teacher at local college) limits her time off. She was willing to tolerate December in South UK, but I wasn't willing to tolerate August (I like the cold and snow).

We were thinking of the Chase Sapphire or Barclay card (VISA or MC) for those places without Amex acceptance and minimum isn't a problem (at £10 or so). I dislike the dangers of having and using an ATM card, but I may look into an ATM card I can deposit limited funds into so there isn't a direct access to any of my checking accounts in the USA.

LondonFlare/safarifiend, I think it may have been that I was visiting certain hotels corporate websites and not looking at 3rd party sites like bookings.com and hotels.com. The problem with using 3rd party sites is that some of the places we are looking into are not represented.

Raven108: We were looking at spending three nights in Shangri-la (inside The Shard) for panoramic views of London. We know this is going to be expensive, but we can afford it. In fact we've adopted the notion that money is better spent on accommodations than the flight itself. So, we're flying Premium Economy instead of Business/1st class.

The entire trip isn't in just London, but we'd be taking time out for 2-3 nights in Wales, a two-day rail trip into Paris, etc. We expect to stay in more than one place even while in London.

PoolLounger, the wife and I are not pygmies. We don't like doing much on our cell phones as we don't have rat-like paws. Doing the home economics (paying bills without a scheduler) would be difficult to do by iPhone vs. a 10-12" tablet or netbook.

Raven108/littledickens: All CC will have zero foreign transaction fees. I presume this means I could find an Amex (or Chase or Barclay) office and draw cash on the local currency.

Vail, Colorado
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8. Re: Pre-Planning Late December UK trip

For your camera backup you can always get a portable backup drive that you can pop your sd card into to for an insurance policy. If you use iCloud for your photos you can also purchase extra storage and load the photos onto iCloud if the hotel has a good connection via a tablet or laptop.

Destination Expert
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9. Re: Pre-Planning Late December UK trip

All CC will have zero foreign transaction fees. I presume this means I could find an Amex (or Chase or Barclay) office and draw cash on the local currency.


Not all do have zero transanction fees no, you need to check. And you should not use CC for cash withdrawals anyway as it will be treated as an advance and you will be charged interest on the 'loan'. Best to use a debit card preferably Chip and PIN in ATM's and CCs for bigger purchases - like the Shard!

You should see hotel booking rates for hotels direct or on third parties by now. Be aware that public transport is completely closed on the 25th both here and the rest of the country and there can be closures and limitations from the 24th right through the holiday period till after the New Year on various routes, as this is a big time for engineering work so you would need to check that a couple of months out.

Cant help with phones/tablets but I would not do any financial transactions/paying bills on an unsecured/unprotected connection.

Atlanta, Georgia
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10. Re: Pre-Planning Late December UK trip

parkandwalk: Sorry, I meant to say I will only consider CC that have zero foreign transaction fees. I was suggested a couple issues by Chase and Barclay, and I already know my Delta Skymiles Amex has none.

And thanks for reiterating what CheresX said about holiday closures. Does this include the rail service as well? If the 24-25 though the end of the year is semi-closed then we may need to completely rethink this trip. Bummer.

By the way, I was planning on using a tablet/network in conjunction with a VPN service back to the USA. This is to better insure privacy/security while using registered devices with our banks. I cannot imagine this method being less secure than using the cell phones.

Emptynester44: I do not want to use an online approach to backups. That would incur a lot of charges when talking about a potential data amount in the neighborhood of >125GB. Since I'm bringing the 5Dmk3 I may also shoot some video. I'm aware of the backup devices but wanted to explore all of my options.

Maybe instead of a tablet/network I should consider an inexpensive laptop with the one outstanding feature of a large hard drive. I wouldn't have to carry it around day to day, but might have to from hotel to hotel.