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Sunday, 21 August 2016

Travel Advice for Canadians going to England

I am not a world traveler. I have gone to the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, some of the New England States, Prince Edward Island, and various places in my home province of Ontario. This was my first trip to the U.K.

Flight Advice: The flight is about eight hours long (from where we live in Ontario to Gatwick Airport in England).  We booked using Expedia and flew with Air Transat. We did not travel first class because we can't afford it! Bring head phones / ear buds. There was a little screen (tv monitor?) on the back of everyone's seat with options to watch movies, tv shows, listen to music, play games, etc. This was a godsend because otherwise you will go squirrely. Our flight was an overnight flight. I did not sleep a wink. You should bring a light weight blanket that squishes up small so you can cram it into your very large purse (which doesn't count as a carry on!). The only way you get a blankie on the plane is to buy one! I would also recommend that you test drive your travel pillow (those u-shaped pillows that go around your neck) because the one I brought was far too densely stuffed and was actually quite uncomfortable. Take along chewable Gravol in your purse. If you are anything like me, you may find napping difficult, or you may feel queasy during turbulence or with the taxiing that comes with landing. I find that chewing one or two Gravol, it really helps with that motion sickness feeling and maybe, just maybe, I might nap (well, you might nap, I am a pathetic napper). If you sit in the middle seat, you will be cramped. You'd better be close friends with someone on either side of you because you will want an arm rest (or two) at some point in the flight so that you don't feel like a praying mantis. If you bring a book to read on the flight, make sure you don't buy the paperback version of the hardcover that you have already signed out of the library and read several months earlier. (I have a Patricia Cornwell's Depraved Heart sitting in my house that I'll be giving away to someone). (Duh)

Luggage Advice: For one week, you can easily exist with one carry-on piece of luggage per person and one extra piece of checked luggage. Nobody measured our carry-on to make sure it complied with some sort of size standard. Our carry-ons were, however, weighed to make sure they didn't exceed a weight limit (unfortunately, I have no idea what that limit is, but apparently we were fine). I don't bother to lock my carry-on. I'm the only person who is touching it and if you need to get into your carry-on for something quickly, you don't want to have to dig around in your already jam-packed purse (with useless paperback, earbuds, Gravol, important papers...) looking for the impossibly tiny key for your luggage lock. Remember to put your 100 mL or less liquids, including makeup, shampoo, moisturizer, etc. in a Medium size freezer ziplock bag in your carry-on. If you have larger sized items, just put those in your checked luggage, but be sure to keep them in zip lock bags in case they leak. When I bring jewelry, I keep it in little black pouches I received with some Home Shopping Network Joan Rivers items I bought years ago. They pull closed tightly and they are completely black, nobody can see through them which may deter someone from wanting to steal things. Of course, I would never bring my most expensive items anyway, unless they always stay on my body (e.g. rings). Our luggage is NOT fancy, it is soft-sided, vs. the hard shell kind of luggage. I would not bother to purchase expensive luggage because it really does get thrown around and beat up. As well, you might want very plain coloured luggage, but so does everyone else and when you are waiting for your piece of checked luggage to come around the merry-go-round of every piece of luggage that was riding in the belly of the plane, you will perhaps be thankful that your brightly coloured luggage stands out, ready for you to grab it and go. Our checked bag is red, and there are many red bags, so I have made sure to tie a bright orange ribbon to each one of our bags, easily spotted, as well as a Canadian flag that attaches to the zipper pull. (Even with those identifying features, I still coach my husband as he stands by the luggage carousel, ready to grab any and all red bags as they come around). I have seen pieces of luggage on which people have stuck large pieces of brightly coloured duct tape. If that works for you, great. I prefer the ribbon method.

Rental Car / Airport Advice: When my husband booked our flight through Expedia, he also arranged for a rental car. It cost approximately $600 for the week. The car was provided by Enterprise at Gatwick airport. The rental man tried to get us to rent a more expensive car which would be a little bigger, but had a GPS system. We did not wish to spend more money and believe it or not, we do not use GPS here at home. I'm 50. I use a map. (I'm a dinosaur). Here is what was good about that decision: a bigger car would have been a nightmare on those tiny, narrow Costwolds roads. Here is what was not good about that decision: we did get a big turned around on a couple of occasions and ended up having to use my cell phone to find where we wanted to go, so maybe GPS would have been handy. The little car that we rented was a Vauxhall Corsa. It was great for what we needed. A handy dandy feature that I would recommend when manoeuvring around hedges, stone walls, impossible tiny parking spots, and other quaint English encumbrances, was sensors which beeped and provided a lit up diagram on the dashboard to let you know how close you were getting to denting the car or ripping a mirror off (which would result in extra costs with the rental company!). We chose to fly into Gatwick because we had heard that London driving was very difficult (and after talking to the locals, even they don't drive in London!). Gatwick is south of London and we didn't have to drive into London at all to get where we wanted to go. We did however, discover that the "ring road" (M25) is insanely slow, but I've already mentioned that, so it's best to avoid it if possible. English rental cars, of course, have the steering wheel on the right hand side of the car (as you are sitting in it). This is pretty cool, but truly, we kept going to the wrong side of the car to get in. As well, my husband kept reaching to the wrong side to get his seat belt or put the car in gear. He purposely chose an automatic because he was pretty sure he could drive on the "wrong" side of the road, but didn't want to add shifting a manual transmission with his other hand to the confusion. A rental car was the best decision we made because we would have been extremely limited in where we could go if we just relied on walking, or public transport. During those first several hours of being a passenger, I was pretty tense and kept gently reminding my husband to stay a bit more in his lane (I felt like we were always too far to the left), but his skill grew considerably within just the first couple of days. The funny part was when we were back in Toronto and dropped off by the shuttle van where we had parked our vehicle, my husband had to concentrate to drive on the "correct" side of the road again!

I don't know if any of these tips will help anyone, or if you can relate to these. Chime in with your travel tips, too!

9 comments:

  1. I would guess these are very helpful comments. As to the M25, well everyone here avoids it it if they possibly can. Up here in North Yorkshire we try to always fly from regional airports (Durham Tees
    Valley, half an hour from home to our cruise ship in Amsterdam - door to door in under two hours - brilliant.)

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    1. Oh, that's amazing. Nothing is that quick here, just due to sheer geographic size.

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  2. Ireally hope your cream tea was a good one, they do vary so much. Scones must be fresh that day and proper clotted cream please! I do consider myself to be quite a good cream tea judge! I'm no longer afraid to ask if the scones were made 'today' before I make a purchase. After all if I'm going to consume oodles of calories they may as well be lovely tasting ones! Glad to hear you enjoyed your trip to the Cotswolds, one of my favourite places. I am a Devon Maid and here we have some really beautiful beaches, woodland, and if you ever come back over be sure to visit Lanhydrock a National Trust property in Cornwall...if you like old then you're in for a real treat in the kitchens. x

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    1. Thank you for coming to see my blog. In total, we had three cream teas and each was a little different than the other, but they were all good and I felt that all of the scones were fresh. Thanks also for the suggestion of where to try next. There are so many choices in England! -Jenn

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  3. I am so pleased you enjoyed your time in the Cotswolds, as you say the roads are so narrow. Did you stay at The Manor B. & B. in Eckington? I have not been inside but I have been told it is beautiful. Your blog has reminded me to visit The Fleet public house again. I have not been inside for many years, I will probably go when they have the asparagus festivals next year. At one of these there is an auction of asparagus for the funds of the Bretforton Silver Band. The M25 is, I believe, called the largest car park in England, a place to avoid.

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    1. We stayed at Manor Farm B and B, but not in Eckington. I did notice that there are many pubs with the same name. I think there was more than one Fleece, as well. That is funny that they have an asparagus auction, for a good cause I suppose. I loved the Cotswolds, but if and when we return, I might like to see other areas as well.

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    2. Ah.. I added 2 + 2 and made 5. Thank you for your comment on my blog. I am afraid I do not keep it up to date, although I might try again when I have more time.

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  4. All great tips! I've flown with Air Transat a couple of times. My first experience with them was better. Last year we flew with them to Cuba and it wasn't as good. The crew seemed less friendly, bordering on a little grumpy. Maybe we just got a bad batch :)

    And the ribbon idea is a very good one; I do the same with our luggage.

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  5. If I lived in the Cotswolds Id have called to say hello!

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