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Should we take a two day car trip after our London stay?

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Should we take a two day car trip after our London stay?

Hi, everyone!

We are traveling to London for seven nights at the end of this month. My husband is working some of that time and his company is paying for the first five nights of our hotel in the city, through Sunday night. Our flight leaves that next Wednesday morning. Sadly, we will not be back in the UK for a long time, and would like to use our time wisely.

Here is my question. If you were in my situation would you:

A. Rent a car on Monday morning and tour around, staying somewhere outside of the city (and therefore less expensive) returning the car on Wednesday morning before our flight? I have thought about the Cotswolds, Windsor, Stonehenge, Bath, etc., but would love other's opinions about where to go and where to stay. Would getting back to Heathrow on Wednesday morning be a problem because of traffic? Should we stay one night somewhere else and Tuesday night somewhere closer to the airport? If we weren't returning the car to the airport, what would be a good location to get to Monday morning and return the car Tuesday night?

B. Stay two more days in London and find a less expensive hotel for the last two nights? Would taking a day trip on the train be worthwhile for one of those days?

Anything else I might not be considering?

Thank you so much!

Vancouver, Canada
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1. Re: Should we take a two day car trip after our London stay?

'Rent a car on Monday morning and tour around, staying somewhere outside of the city (and therefore less expensive)' Given the cost of a hire car, petrol and parking, and that you will be booking 'somewhere outside of the city' at short notice, you will likely find this to be an expensive option.

What hotel has your husband's company booked for your stay? Let us know your travel dates as well, please, as with a stay in London in the next two weeks you will need to book sharpish to find accommodation.

Windsor is a 30 minute rail journey from London Paddington, so you could stay in London and have a day out to Windsor. Off Peak return rail fare is just £10.70 per person. Without knowing your dates it's difficult to say what a hotel in Bath might cost for a night; rail fares will range from about £33 to £55 per person.

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2. Re: Should we take a two day car trip after our London stay?

Thanks for your quick reply!

We would be traveling the 28th and 29th of July. I have been looking at hotels in various areas and have found a few options that still have availability, but have reserved the extra nights at our other hotel just in case. It is The Queen's Gate Hotel, which I know isn't super expensive, but I can save enough to make a hotel switch, especially if we decide to leave the city and explore.

I have found multiple two day car rentals for under 40 pounds, so it seemed like it might be a good way to see more than just one location for less than train fare, but as I have absolutely no experience to work with in the UK, I just don't know if my idea makes any sense.

I would love more feedback!

Vancouver, Canada
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3. Re: Should we take a two day car trip after our London stay?

Without knowing the rate you've found at the Queen's Gate, the other hotel booked and your budget (in pounds) for a hotel, all is speculation.

The base rate for a hire car will be the least expensive part of the journey. If you book inside the Congestion Charging zone and put so much as a single tyre tread in the zone, you will need to pay the charge. Petrol at about £1.35 per litre and parking costs will mount up quickly as well.

Where would you like to travel on your two extra days? Having a car in Bath is no joy, although you may explore the surrounding area. If you don't want to stay the night in Bath but would like to see that city and perhaps Stonhenge, then book a tour with International Friends, Evan Evans or Golden Tours, and let someone else do the driving.

Also, at what time of day does your flight depart on 30 July? We really do need to know more, please.

Manchester, United...
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4. Re: Should we take a two day car trip after our London stay?

You'll have had a fabulous time in London as I have Had many many times and I can understand why people tend to want to do the Bath, Cotswolds thing but if you have a few spare days then how about going north instead of south? this country is divided into many diverse areas and there's beautiful areas in the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, Peak District and Northumberland so think outside the box and Go North :)

Edited: 18 July 2014, 09:17
Bucks, UK
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5. Re: Should we take a two day car trip after our London stay?

I don't know where you got those car hire quotes from, but they seem too low. I suspect they are with no/minimal insurance, that you would get stung for "damage" on your credit card long after you have returned the car, that there is a minimal mileage allowance, and that it will turn out to be a much more expensive exercise than you bargained for, or than it would have been if you booked through one of the large international hire companies.

Windsor can be done as a day-trip from london so if your husband is not working on the Sunday you could do that then.

Oxford can also be done as a day-trip but it is a lovely city to explore and you could easily spend two days just wandering around Oxford; you could stay in Oxford for the last two nights and use one of the days to visit Woodstock and Blenheim Palace, which are half an hour from Oxford on the S3 bus service. To get to Oxford you just take the train from Paddington - it's a 1 hour train ride. There is a direct coach transfer service from Oxford to Heathrow

http://airline.oxfordbus.co.uk/

Otherwise, take the train from Paddington to Bath and spend two nights there. Spend one day looking around Bath, then the next day you could do one of the local tours

http://www.madmaxtours.co.uk/

or take the 15 minute train ride to Bristol and look around there

There is a National Express coach service from Bath to Heathrow, or you could take the train to Paddington and pick up the Heathrow Express, or take the train to Reading and pick up the RailAir coach to Heathrow (although this last option will take the longest and involve the most faff).

London, England
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6. Re: Should we take a two day car trip after our London stay?

Bath probably fits best into your departure from Heathrow, but do take the train.

However, another possibility would be York, which has a wonderfully medieval quarter and city walls to, at least in part, circle the city. Betty's in York is a fabulous place for lunch or afternoon tea.

This may help you work it out:

…nationalrail.co.uk/service/…search

Or stay in London and do day trips to Oxford or Cambridge. (Cambridge is prettier in summer)

Or stay in Cambridge.

USA
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7. Re: Should we take a two day car trip after our London stay?

I would agree with Pool that those car hire rates do seem a little low, but not dramatically so for a very small stick-shift. (A quick glance at Expedia, asking about hiring a car from Heathrow, shows quite a few options in the $30-$40/day range (plus taxes and fees) and one bargain-basement company (Fox), that comes in much lower, and does say it includes unlimited mileage.

Regarding insurance -- most credit card companies in the U.S. offer free insurance coverage if you rent a car using the card. So we don't have to buy a CDW if we have insurance at home.

But I would agree with most of the others that, whether a car makes sense depends on where you're going. If you mostly want to see other cities/towns -- the train is much more logical. If you want to explore the countryside, a car may be worth the cost.

If I can also chime in with my own experience driving in the UK for the first time. It wasn't immensely difficult, but It definitely does take a little getting used to. It helped me a lot having someone in the car with me who was familiar with UK roads, able to help me in the roundabouts, and able to help navigate in general. (And take over behind the wheel when I got tired....)

Roads (once you get off the motorways) are often VERY narrow by U.S. standards -- and with that rental car, a ding or scratch you wouldn't worry about on your own car does take on much greater importance. A and B roads are usually well signposted -- city streets much less so.

So -- based on my experience -- if you only want to see the countryside/small towns, do rent the car (and arm yourself with excellent maps or a GPS (which won't be included in the bargain-rental). But with only 2 days, I'd probably do a couple of city day trips or a circle route by train/coach and skip the car.

Horsham, United...
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8. Re: Should we take a two day car trip after our London stay?

I would return Tuesday evening if you are renting a car. Traffic in rush hour can be very heavy especially the M25. Returning a rented car can take an hour. If you travel by train, you could return on Wednesday depending on where you are and when the first train leaves. As trains are sometimes cancelled or late I would leave some extra time for delays.

9. Re: Should we take a two day car trip after our London stay?

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