UNIGLOBE Donaldson Travel Cambridge's Blog

 

 

3 Children, 3 Countries, 15 Days!  by Kathy Pettit

 

 

 

Part 1

A friend planted a small seed in the mind of my eldest daughter…”Tell your parents to bring the whole family to England for a visit…” We came up with a myriad of reasons why we couldn’t, shouldn’t, or wouldn’t – but by that point, even we were feeling the urge to explore our lovely planet. Quietly, after getting some advice and recommendations from a travel specialist at Uniglobe Donaldson Travel, we decided we could, should and would do it. The kids were thrilled at the end of their clue-filled scavenger hunt on Christmas morning to discover the news! Visiting three countries in 15 days with 3 kids in tow meant that having a professional help us with our decisions and offer suggestions on getting around to each country was a no-brainer. It’s their job to know what is happening in the industry, what could potentially impact our plans at the destination – and the best work-around to make sure we could do everything we hoped to. Plus – if you get stuck for whatever reason while abroad – you have someone to call and get assistance from, versus the stress of trying to figure out unexpected problems on your own. (I will share in a later blog entry, the two issues that arose from my friend using an online booking tool that almost left us without accommodations during peak season!) Getting around the UK is fairly straightforward as trains and buses are frequent, quick and affordable. Depending on where you are going, it is a good idea to research an overview of the local transit system, and make notes of where you want to go, which routes you need to take to the destination and back to your home base, as well as any transfers in between. From our experience, an itinerary runs smoothly and on time when you have allotted the correct amount of travel time between the places you want to go – especially if you are planning on doing what we did and squeezing every minute out of our adventure. Cabbies are a safe, easy option, but keeping in mind the high value of the British pound, it can be a costly addition to repeatedly add your budget. Also, if you are travelling with more than 5 people in your party, you may have to pay extra for a larger vehicle. Before hiring the cabbie, verify if there are any costs associated with your luggage. Most have a small limit, and charge per piece anything over that limit. Our journey began in York, where my friend luckily calls home. It is one of the most historically rich and, I would argue, beautiful areas of England. Although still a huge airport, we opted to fly from Toronto into Manchester, as it tends not to be as crowd-challenging as Heathrow. This was the recommendation of our friend in York, as well as the travel agent at Uniglobe Donaldson Travel who knew our preference for a smaller city feel. Manchester airport is very easy to navigate, and we followed clearly marked signs that lead to the train station right from the airport. The ticket agents are very helpful in getting you the best price – so we followed their recommendations and bought a Family and Friends pass, as it was actually cheaper than buying one-way tickets for all five of us. The trains will accommodate all of your luggage in the open, so you can keep a watchful eye on it. Be prepared that trains leaving the airport are quite busy, so there is a chance there may be standing room only at the start of the trip. All of our future rail tickets for our trip we purchased in advance, and actually reserved our specific seating so we could all sit together. This is especially important during rush hour or when headed to popular destinations – plus you can book the seats that face each other and have a table in between for eating, or playing cards (a fantastic time-passer when travelling with children). Typically, there are small carts offering food and beverages on the trains – but their prices are inflated. You are better to purchase your desired items in the train stations prior to departure, as it is permitted to bring your own food and drinks on board. The ticket agents are very helpful when you are unsure of what trains to take where. Don’t be afraid to ask them. The trains almost always run on time. So if you have pre-booked your seats, be certain to arrive at least 20 minutes prior to boarding so you don’t miss the train! That can really mess up a well-planned itinerary!

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