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UK Travel Logistics Recommendations

UK Travel Logistics Recommendations

Old Jan 7, 15, 1:11 pm
  #1  
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UK Travel Logistics Recommendations

Hello all,

I'm hoping for some recommendations and potential reality checks regarding an upcoming trip to the UK (and Paris) this coming September. Here are the basics so far:

1. My wife and I (22 and 27, respectively) will be flying LAX > ORD > LHR Sept 4-5. We are meeting my brother and sister-in-law and 10-month-old niece in ORD. We arrive very early morning September 5th to LHR. We are currently planning to freshen up in the Lounge, grab some breakfast, and then head to Kings Cross to take a train up to Edinburgh. Originally, we weren't planning to, but we had to shift some things around logistically. We would have just flown straight to Edinburgh, but there is no award availability at this point. Arriving so early, we couldn't check in to a hotel for several hours anyway, so we figured we'd make use of the time. This will be a LONG day of travel.
2. We'll spend 3 nights in Edinburgh, then book EDI > LCY |open-jaw| LHR > CDG with an 8-night layover in London using BA's 4500 Avios/$11 fares.
3. We'll spend 3 nights in Paris, and then fly CDG > YUL > LAX on Sep 19 (completely separate reservation from my brother).

I lived in London for 6 months while studying abroad in early 2010. I was 22, poor, and in college. A lot of what I did and experienced then has probably changed drastically, or is not applicable anymore.

A few areas I have some questions:

First, travel in London. I'm assuming we should just pay one-way tube fare from LHR to King's Cross, and we'll want to book the train to Edinburgh some amount of time in advance. But a pass of some sort makes sense for the 9 days we're there. When I lived there, my school provided me with an Oyster card (which I still have!) with unlimited Zone 1-6 travel. We're planning (currently) to stay at the Mercer through Club Carlson, so that's pretty conveniently located.

Second, travel in Scotland. With a 10-month-old, most of the "tours" I've found do not allow children under 3 years in most cases, 18 months in others. We're staying in Edinburgh, but would love to spend a day driving through the Highlands. I'm not sure how that would work with a rental car + car seat needed for the infant. Is that just not really realistic? My wife and I could do it on our own, and we are planning to do some side trips on our own, but we'd hate to jet off around the countryside for two days while my brother and sister-in-law are left in Edinburgh out of luck. We're planning (currently) to stay at the W=A Caley in Edinburgh, so that is also pretty central and allows easy access to trams/busses for travel to EDI when we're on our way out.

Third, cellphones in the UK/Paris. This is surely much different than when I was there in 2010. I had an old unlocked Google G1 that I got a pay as you go T-mobile SIM for. As long as I topped up £10 or more a month, I had unlimited data and texting, and 200/minutes a month or something along those lines. I'm not sure if it will be more or less complicated than that now, but that was pretty ideal.

I'm sure more things will come to mind and come to light, especially because my brother and sister-in-law will have their infant, so I'm just trying to get as many surprises as I can out of the way early!

Thanks,
roki is offline  
Old Jan 7, 15, 1:46 pm
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You are at Heathrow, so even on separate tickets the best option is to fly to Edinburgh.

From landing at LHR it will be a minimum of 8 hours before you reach Edinburgh if you take the train allowing an hour or so for "things".

Even with the hassle of flying and allowing LOTS of time between flights you would be in Edinburgh 3-4 hours before the train - plus you might strike lucky and not have to collect and recheck luggage at Heathrow.

Makes more sense to take the train back to London from Edinburgh, then after your stay take the Eurostar to Paris - under 3 hours even allowing time to check in - which means you'd be in a Paris street cafe before you left Heathrow
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Old Jan 7, 15, 2:17 pm
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Originally Posted by alanR View Post
You are at Heathrow, so even on separate tickets the best option is to fly to Edinburgh.

From landing at LHR it will be a minimum of 8 hours before you reach Edinburgh if you take the train allowing an hour or so for "things".

Even with the hassle of flying and allowing LOTS of time between flights you would be in Edinburgh 3-4 hours before the train - plus you might strike lucky and not have to collect and recheck luggage at Heathrow.

Makes more sense to take the train back to London from Edinburgh, then after your stay take the Eurostar to Paris - under 3 hours even allowing time to check in - which means you'd be in a Paris street cafe before you left Heathrow
Thank you for the reply. There is no flight availability (on BA at least) anytime 9/5/15 from LHR > EDI. Yes, the train schedule is just shy of 5 hours from King's Cross to Edinburgh. We arrive at 5:55am, so there's deplaning, customs, baggage, breakfast, tube to King's Cross, etc. Realistically, I'm thinking we could make a 9:30ish train, which would put us into Edinburgh around 3PM. Just in time for hotel check-in. I was debating having us take the Eurostar, but EDI > LCY - open-jaw - LHR > CDG for 4500 Avios seems unbeatable. I took the Eurostar last time I was in London, and it was wonderful. I haven't flown through CDG at all. I'm trying to balance cost and time, and without having done much of this before, I may be vastly off on my expectations.
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Old Jan 7, 15, 3:48 pm
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I am seeing availability for 2 on September on the BA1442 at 1140 to EDI. (It may be that my BA gold is giving me extra availability).

There is also Virgin Little Red VS3003 available at 0920 to EDI for £60.61 each from LHR T2.
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Old Jan 7, 15, 4:12 pm
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Originally Posted by antichef View Post
I am seeing availability for 2 on September on the BA1442 at 1140 to EDI. (It may be that my BA gold is giving me extra availability).

There is also Virgin Little Red VS3003 available at 0920 to EDI for £60.61 each from LHR T2.
Interesting. When searching that route (on September 5th), I see:

Sorry, there are no flights available on Saturday 5 September 2015.You can:
use the tabs or links above to check availability on another date
search again using another date or class
Must be your status. The Virgin flight might be worth looking into though...as the train tickets wouldn't really be much less than £60 anyway.
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Old Jan 7, 15, 5:32 pm
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National Rail checker does not go more than three months out, but Saturday morning now shows advance purchase on the Sat morning 0930 at £60 each. But you have to get from LHR to Euston rail, so no more than the VS flight.
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Old Jan 7, 15, 5:41 pm
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I don't see why you couldn't get a hire car with car seat to head up to the highlands for the day. Stick to the south, and it's not too long a drive (1.5 hours from Edinburgh to Pitlochry, and most of that is dual carriageway/motorway, so its pretty easy driving).
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Old Jan 7, 15, 8:48 pm
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Originally Posted by antichef View Post
National Rail checker does not go more than three months out, but Saturday morning now shows advance purchase on the Sat morning 0930 at £60 each. But you have to get from LHR to Euston rail, so no more than the VS flight.
I was noticing that. If it's the same cost, there's really no advantage to the train over flying. If we get into EDI at 10:40 AM and into the city by 11:30, is it possible/likely I could early check-in the W=A Caley around noon? If not, we could at least drop our bags, I'm assuming?

Originally Posted by Jenbel View Post
I don't see why you couldn't get a hire car with car seat to head up to the highlands for the day. Stick to the south, and it's not too long a drive (1.5 hours from Edinburgh to Pitlochry, and most of that is dual carriageway/motorway, so its pretty easy driving).
That's what we were hoping to do. Just a 6ish hour loop (another FT member recommended a route) with lunch in the middle, or something simple like that. It would be my first time driving in Europe, but when I toured the highlands in 2010 (on a bus) it seemed like pretty easy driving. Not having kids, I've never looked into renting a car with a car seat, though. Or what that does to insurance rates, etc.
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Old Jan 8, 15, 1:54 am
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You can find some very narrow, windy more difficult to drive roads but most of those are really in the back of the beyond.

The one advantage is that other cars are at low density.
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Old Jan 8, 15, 2:08 am
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The train ride on the east coast is very picturesque at the northern end, so it does have that going for it. If you book your train tickets ~3 months out when they go on sale, you can probably get an advanced purchase 1st class ticket for about the same as a virgin little red flight. East Coast first class is very nice, assuming virgin don't break it when they take it over in a few months...

Taking a virgin little red flight + tram/bus into the city is probably quicker and less hassle, but less interesting. Getting from Heathrow to Kings Cross to take the train to Edinburgh isn't too bad outside of rush hour - direct tube in just over an hour. Use your Oyster card for yourself, just top up some PAYG credit on arrival. If the others have suitable contactless credit/debit carsd, they can use those for the same price
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Old Jan 8, 15, 2:34 am
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If you want to get to Edinburgh from LHR, then it would be a lot less hassle to fly. I can see loads of availability on BA for 5 September (and I’m not logged in – no status), but prices are higher than I would expect. (Is there some big sports event at Murrayfield that day???)

If you do stick with the train. Getting to Kings Cross is straightforward – direct on Piccadilly Line. A single ticket on the tube (cash fare) is £6.00. If you use “pay as you go” on either Oyster or a contactless bank card, it’s only £3.10. So – if you’re going to need an Oyster for the London stay, you might as well use that from LHR and save.

For the stay in London. A one week zones 1/2 travelcard is £32.10. If you use PAYG (on Oyster or contactless bank card) you pay a maximum of £6.40 per day. If you know you’re doing a lot of travel every day, then the weekly season ticket saves money, but if you’re likely to have some low travel days, then PAYG may be cheaper.

The key message is don’t buy cash fares. A single for the tube is £6. A one day travelcard issued in paper form is £12. And to reinforce the point about avoiding cash fares – it isn’t actually possible to pay cash on the buses.

Using Oyster is generally the simplest thing. You can load a weekly season and/or “pay as you go value”. The only exception is if you want to use the “two four one” discounts. That is only possible with a national rail ticket – so to get that benefit you’d buy a weekly season on paper from a national rail station. It requires a passport size photo but costs the same - £32.10

For UK citizens, using a contactless bank card is even better than Oyster. No need to obtain a separate Oyster card yet same prices as Oyster for PAYG usage. If a weekly travelcard would be cheaper – the system will “cap” the charges to the equivalent of a weekly travelcard. However, overseas bank cards are not guaranteed to work (some do – some don’t) and you may be hit with foreign currency transaction fees by your bank.

Rail fare from London to Edinburgh.
A “walk up” fare (flexible – any offpeak train, which includes the entire weekend) is £125.70 single or £134.20 return.
The cheaper tickets are called “Advance” (it’s a specific ticket type) and can be as low as £20 single. There is no guarantee that the very cheapest fare will be available on any particular date – and indeed as September is still quite busy I wouldn’t expect any of the very cheapest fares to be offered. Other fares will be offered, as the cheapest “fare buckets” sell out, more expensive ones will be available. These tickets are non-flexible – zero zero zero flexibility – you can travel on the service booked. Travel on any other train and you’ll be charged a walk up fare.
The railway industry generally doesn’t release “advance” fares until 10/12 weeks before travel date.
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Old Jan 8, 15, 4:25 am
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Just a thought but why not do your 8 nights in London first then go to Edinburgh and then head to Paris?

You don't say who you are flying TATL with but if it's AA, I believe they will protect you if you miss the BA flight to Scotland even if it's on a separate ticket.

That tube ride from Heathrow to Kings Cross will take an eternity if you're tired.
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Old Jan 8, 15, 6:08 am
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Originally Posted by Swiss Tony View Post
That tube ride from Heathrow to Kings Cross will take an eternity if you're tired.
Surely if you're really tired, the tube ride from Heathrow to Cockfosters will pass very quickly! It's the 20 minute ride back to Kings Cross that'll go slowly... ;-)
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Old Jan 8, 15, 7:25 am
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Originally Posted by rcspeirs View Post
I can see loads of availability on BA for 5 September (and I’m not logged in – no status), but prices are higher than I would expect. (Is there some big sports event at Murrayfield that day???)
There is no award availability.
Scotland play a Euro qualifying game in Georgia on Friday evening (4th Sep.), possibly some of those fans returning? (And a home game v Germany on Monday, possibly also those fans arriving)
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Old Jan 8, 15, 7:26 am
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Originally Posted by Gagravarr View Post
Surely if you're really tired, the tube ride from Heathrow to Cockfosters will pass very quickly! It's the 20 minute ride back to Kings Cross that'll go slowly... ;-)
+1. I usually nod off around Osterley and am out for the count by the time I need to get off at Earls Court.

On SIMs the market is much more competitive than four years ago. The OP should check out 3 also and the virtual operators.
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