Is traveling internationally on your bucket list? Don’t let the dream slip away. International travel is life changing. It’s an adventure. Faraway places, new cultures, different accents, not to mention the food. There is no way around it you will come home different. Broadened horizons, great memories.
The first wagon train crossed west in 1841. That’s 175 years ago. No original wood structures are still standing. In Europe 175 years of age is nothing for a building. You can stay in a castle built in the 11th century, or an inn built in the 1700s. Look and you will find evidence of people living there for over 2000 years.
Stonehenge is the most famous of the standing stones. Other standing stones are much older. Some date back to the Neolithic age and you can walk freely among them with no fences or restriction. Hidden gems you can seek out.
Right now, it’s a great time to visit Britain. The rate of exchange from dollars to pounds is the best ever. British pounds have always been worth more against any other currency. Right now instead of being nearly $2.00 to 1£ it has been hovering around the $1.33 range. That means your dollar goes a lot farther.
Two other benefits? They speak English. And more Americans have British ancestry than any other group. You can trace your roots; walk the soil of your ancestors. Or, just enjoy the people and places.
A little planning will help your trip be a success and memory maker. Do you want to stay in the big cities? It’s easy to take the train to get between them. In 4-1/2 hours, you can get from London to Edinburgh. Or maybe you want to focus just on one city. Public transit can get you around like a local.
Maybe you want to get out into the countryside. Meet the locals. Experience the charm of the villages. Just like in the US, get out of the big cities and you will find the people more friendly and relaxed. Visit castles, standing stones, manor houses, quaint inns. Stop into a pub for a cup of coffee, tea or brew. They are happy to share their stories, their history.
You could take tour buses, many people do. You and a group of 40 are loaded up and shuttled off to see the sites. Going with a crowd not your idea of fun, you could rent a car. Renting a car in the UK is a bit of an adventure. You will be driving on the opposite side of the road. It’s easiest done with a driver and a navigator. The driver can focus on the road and the navigator can guide the turns.
Country maps are handy but often they don’t give you road detail. A good sat-nav is helpful. Rent a car with a sat-nav, or take a device like a Garmin with you. Smart phones have navigation ability but it is going to be using your data feed. Prices for data in foreign countries can be steep. Investigate before you go. You may only want to use your device where there is free Wi-Fi.
Do you want to get the flavor of the country? Maybe this is a family heritage trip. Maybe you want to try hiking. Traveling Hadrian’s wall, in the beautiful Lake District or the Yorkshire Dales are popular with the locals and visitors alike. Do it for a day, or take one of the routes that include overnights along the way.
Horse lovers can do day rides between bed and breakfasts and see the country in a unique way. Identify your goals and you are a giant step closer to getting the experience you want.
Plot out where you want to visit and pick destinations. For the best prices, check Trip Advisor or other online booking agency. Other traveler’s reviews can help you select the place that meets your needs and budget. Once you have your list, contact the property directly. Ask about their specials. Hotels and inns have to pay those booking companies a commission, up to 15% of the room cost. Typically, if you call direct, you will save.
Save money while making international reservations with a Skype account, it’s free for computer-to-computer calls. To call landlines, add a few dollars to your account with your credit card. Instantly, you can call internationally for pennies.
Peak season in the UK is August. Loads of locals take their vacations then. If you can avoid it, you will save money and find your destinations less crowded. You won’t typically find that much difference in weather from spring to summer. Many people claim that like Oregon, autumn can be the best. If you are interested in winter sports like skiing, winter is the season for you.
England, Scotland and Wales are bigger than they seem. Yes, you can take the total square miles and put it inside the state of Oregon. But the island is longer and narrower. The route from the traditional extreme end points of Land’s End to John o’ Groats is 814-838 miles depending on which roads you take. Driving time without traffic just under 16 hours. There will be traffic, count on it. Also, lots of interesting places in between. Don’t miss them.
Selecting one or several areas to focus on. Stay several days. Explore from your base camp. It’s more relaxing than living out of a suitcase. Castles, manor houses, Inns and Bed and Breakfasts all across the UK offer accommodations. Chain hotels with names you will recognize are also available. They may not look like the ones back home. Camping, yurts, glamping and recreational vehicles called Caravans are popular with the locals. Pick your experience.
If driving, allow for the roads. Going a distance of 135 miles in a day sounds easy. It is on a freeway. But if is on two lane roads they will curve more as the cross the undulating lands. A two-hour freeway trip can easily take four on secondary roads. Take time for photo opportunities. They will be around every bend.
Judith Culp Pearson receives three top honors
at the annual Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals in
Ft. Worth, Texas - October 7-9, 2023