In lieu of any recent travels (such is the life of a final year student) and not posting anything the previous week (gotta keep my blog updated, at least for self-determination) let’s take a break from study, work, etc. and plan a day trip to London. Not everyone has the time or money to spend a weekend away and so day trip is the perfect way to keep that restless feeling at bay.
Step 1: Tickets
Weighing up the costs (longer journey) and benefits (cheaper tickets), coach travel to London isn’t my top choice when planning a day trip. Booking train tickets well in advance proves the best way to get a cheap seat, but to show the how ridiculous train fares are, here’s a little comparison: Nottingham > London £47, Nottingham > Cambridge, via London, £32.70 (same outbound and return times, prices w/o railcard). Do with this information what you will, but getting inventive with how you travel can help you avoid that strange London ‘tax’.
Step 2a: Timing
When you drop a small fortune on transport, you’ll definitely want to get the most out of your day in the big city. Arriving earlier is great, but can also be a bit pricier due to peak hours, so alternatively try getting a later return. If you strike lucky and are affected by those dreaded train delays, this at least won’t impact on your time in London and (un)luckier travellers may be able to claim your money back (although you’ll wonder if it’s even worth the £10 refund when you finally get home 2 hours later).
Step 2b: Plan
Once you have your arrival and departure times locked down, it’s time to start planning. Location and opening hours are essentials to go alongside your priorities of places to visit. If you go for a daytime showing of The Book of Mormon, don’t waste time after by browsing round shops – do that once you’ve made quick visit to Tate Modern! It’s easy to assume later closing times, but even London succumbs to the UK’s practice of shorter opening hours, (~too used to Hong Kong’s crazy late shopping hours).
Step 3: Plan B
You’re en route to Kew Gardens and you find that the end of the line is closed due to signalling problems. Google maps tells you it’s 1 hour away by bus and it’s already nearing 1pm. Flexibility is key, not everything will go exactly as planned and there’s no point in investing time, money and energy on something that’ll compromise your other plans. Although I’m sure Kew Gardens would have been great (one day I’ll visit), luckily there are a slew of great museums to choose from, back along the Central Line. This mind-set can somewhat extend to eating out. Instead of battling through cheap-but-mediocre sushi, we might have gotten a more enjoyable experience if we had been ruthless and headed elsewhere after the first plate (TripAdvisor, what’s good).
Voilà, three(-ish) simple steps to a great day in London based on my previous trips this past month. Let me know your favourite places to visit in the city and your tips on efficient day trip planning!