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London Vacation

Thinking of a vacation in London?

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London Taxis

London Taxis

Photo by Susan Breslow Sardone

Thanks to affordable vacation airfares to London, this could be the perfect time to travel to London. Here's how to plan an utterly romantic London vacation that can save you both time and money.

1. Research London Vacation Deals Online. In advance of your London trip, become a fare watcher. Check a variety of vacation travel sites, such as Expedia. Rates to London change frequently, and it's important to understand the price range before you purchase your vacation airfare and hotel stay. The airport code for Heathrow Airport in London, England is LHR. Gatwick is LGW.

    Tip: Keep in mind that midweek vacation departures to London and returns are cheaper than weekend ones. As you fare-search, you'll find that the online travel agents don't all return the same flight choices but they do provide a good idea of what's available to London. Before you click a "Buy" button, also check the dedicated site of the airline you prefer to fly on your vacation.

2. Study London Maps. London was not designed to flummox tourists, but it can confuse first-timers on vacation. Before you go, check out London maps online to acquaint yourself with the various areas of the city and where the major attractions are located. Once in London, don't travel without a map.

    Tip: Don't waste money or vacation time buying a London map if your hotel can supply one free. You can also pick up maps and other free tourist information at the Britain Visitor Centre, 1 Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus.

    Tip: If you ever get lost in London, hire a taxi. Drivers study for years to learn every nook and cranny of the system, and it's a matter of pride for one to safely deliver you to your destination. London Tube and double-decker buses that run frequently are, of course, more inexpensive ways to get around on your vacation.

3. Choose a London Hotel in the "Right" Neighborhood. What's your passion? If the monarchy, tradition, and parliamentary system of England fascinate you, select a hotel in Westminster close to Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and the Houses of Parliament. Hope to see plenty of theater on your London vacation? Find a hotel close to the West End. Are you fashion-focused? Then a Kensington hotel nearby Harrods, Harvey Nichols, and the Victoria & Albert decorative arts museum can turn your London vacation into a shopping spree.

    "When a man is tired of London he is tired of life;
    for there is in London all that life can afford." —
    Dr. Samuel Johnson

4. Take a Scenic Tour. The best way to see all that London offers is to take a tour on a double-decker, open-air, sightseeing bus soon after you arrive on vacation. The The Original London Sightseeing Tour: Hop-on Hop Off (check prices) has stops all over the city. A ticket is good for 24 hours and unlimited hops on and off the bus are permitted in that period. At night, see the city by water on a romantic River Thames Dinner Cruise (check prices).

    Tip: Tour buses operate in one direction. If you're using one for transportation, understand that it may take up to three hours to reach an attraction on the other side of London.

4. Hit the London Museums. London features some of the world's finest museums and it would be a shame to vacation here without visiting a few. The biggest and the best are free to enter. Tops on my list are: The Victoria & Albert Museum, National Gallery, and the British Museum. The Imperial War Museum's Cabinet War Rooms (fee) show you the actual London quarters where Winston Churchill led England through World War II.

    Tip: Museum shops are great places to find gifts and souvenirs. Best buys include "mummy" cases from the British Museum, bone china from Buckingham Palace, and jewelry and art books from the Victoria & Albert Museum.

5. Pay Half Price for London Theatre Tickets. Tickets are available for a wide selection of West End shows on the day of performance at the Leicester Square TKTS ticket booth. While there are a number of competitors, this is the only official seller. Expect to pay exactly half price plus a 2.50 £ fee. Keep in mind that most theatres are dark on Sunday nights.

    Tip: Buy a copy of Time Out London to see what's going on during your vacation. Its calendar of events is extensive, and its theatre listings can help you make a choice you'll be happy with.

6. Organize Your Vacation in London. If you want to pack a lot of sight-seeing into a few days, plan an itinerary ahead of time. Use a map to locate attractions, and see those in proximity to one another instead of spending time racing all over London. Certainly allow time to stroll London's beautiful parks and gardens and linger over a pint at one of her many pubs on your vacation.

Next page: Itinerary for a Long, Romantic Vacation Weekend in London >

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