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Spring 2005 - Southern England - Trip Planning and Itinerary

April 29 - May 29, 2005: Four weeks in England

Trip Planning

This vacation consisted of one week each in four places, all in the Southwest of England (Wiltshire, Somerset, Cotswolds, Devon). We switched between city and countryside each week. I had to find cottages with phones or internet access, so we could do some work while traveling (check email, etc.). Many cottages in England do not have phone lines that you can use with a computer (they have no phone, or a payphone, or a phone that accepts incoming calls only).

We decided to do this trip in December after Judy posted on the message board about a British Airway sale. We were able to purchase Club World seats (equivalent to business class) for just a bit more than we usually purchase upgradeable tickets with Delta. We wanted to stay in a few different places in the southwest. We were hoping to stay in one place for two weeks and then two other places for one week each, but the places we liked were already booked for part of the time and we ended up in four different places for one week each.

I did most of the accommodations bookings in December and January. The last thing I booked was our first week. I was looking for a place in Salisbury, but could not find anything that had a phone. Finally I found a place in Salisbury with a high speed internet connection, but no phone. We have our Virgin SIM card and Europe cell phone from our September 2004 trip, but on that trip we found the coverage for Virgin was not great, especially in the Cotswolds. (The Virgin phone worked great in Salisbury but not in the Cotswolds. We bought another SIM card, Orange, to use in the Cotswolds.)

Once the trip was booked, we went to Hawaii for six weeks. Then we were back home for March and April. These months were busy, so I was not able to plan the England trip as much as I would have liked. I did manage to order the Orndance Survey hiking books for each area we were going to.

The night before we were scheduled to leave, I came down with something and was very unwell. Thankfully, after a good night's sleep, I was okay and we managed to leave.

When I booked the sale flight, it was only available from Phoenix so we ended up with tickets from Phoenix to Heathrow, return. I was about to book Albuquerque to Phoenix on Southwest, when I realized that British Airways partners with America West. I phoned both America West and British Airways to see if we could check our luggage all the way through from Albuquerque and we could, so we were able to book a flight with America West that left us with one hour between flights in Phoenix. Otherwise we would have had to arrive at least two hours ahead on Southwest, to leave us time to claim our bags and then check in and go through security again.

For our flight back, I booked for the day after we arrived in Phoenix, so we could spend the night there before flying home. These long flights back are horrible for us. We usually arrive in Atlanta around 4pm, then have a later flight to Albuquerque, arriving at Albuquerque airport at 8pm, followed by the one hour drive to Santa Fe. That flight from Atlanta to Albuquerque is always a nightmare - we are exhausted and get off the flight like zombies. I have always wanted to spend the night on the east coast, but getting our baggage and going to a hotel and then having to go back through security the next day seemed equally awful.

But this routing through Phoenix is great. We know Phoenix because Steve goes there on business. The airport is good and is not usually crowded. Flying back will be easy because we are getting a 1:00pm flight from Heathrow and getting into Phoenix around 4:00pm, which will be 11:00pm England time. The next day we will have only the one hour flight and one hour drive home.


Friday, April 29: Departure

Flight: British Airways, Phoenix to London, left at 7:15pm. We took a short America West flight (booked separately) from Albuquerque to Phoenix. We were able to book our luggage straight through. We added an hour to the overseas flight by flying to Phoenix, then retracing out steps as we flew Phoenix to Heathrow, but the flight times out of Phoenix were good so it was worth it.

This was our first time flying out of Phoenix and our first time in years not using Delta. This routing was very good for us. Instead of leaving in the morning, then flying from Atlanta in the evening, and arriving in Europe in the early morning (as we did with Delta), we left from Phoenix in the evening and arrived in Europe after noon, and went straight to our first vacation rental.

Saturday, April 30: Arrival

Arrived at Heathrow at 1:05pm. We had a car service pick us up and take us to Salisbury. The owner of the vacation rental we booked recommended a car service and I contacted them by phone. We got to Salisbury in 1.5 hours.

Saturday, April 30: One week in Salisbury, Wiltshire

Vacation Rental: One week in an apartment in Salisbury. We rented the Brown Street Apartment from Hideaways (www.hideaways.co.uk). It is a loft apartment in the center of the town, with high speed internet access.

Hideaways is a large UK based agency with listings all over the UK. I could not find many listings for Salisbury and this was where we wanted to stay. Hideaways has several listings for Salisbury.

Car Rental: Picked up our rental car from Europcar location in Salisbury on the Tuesday (booked thru AutoEurope, they had a March sale with 15% off and a free upgrade).

Saturday, May 7: One week in Somerset

Vacation Rental: One week in a cottage on a farm in Somerset, 1/2 mile from the village of Hatch Beauchamp, between Taunton and Ilminster. We booked The Cider House - E70 from Helpful Holidays (2bed/2bath house).

Helpful Holidays, a UK agency specializing in the southwest, was recommended by WendyAsh on the message board, and they were very good to deal with. They gave me a good shortlist of places with phones and answered all my questions. We rented two places from them on this trip.

Saturday, May 14: One week in Minchinhamptom, in the Cotswolds

Vacation Rental: One week in a house in the small town of Minchinhampton, in the southern Cotswolds. We booked Acorn Cottage from Rural Retreats (2bed/1bath row house).

We know this area well (spent a month in Painswick in 2000). Jonathan, one of the message board moderators, lives nearby in Stroud. Minchinhampton is a pretty town on the top of a plateau and at the edge of a large public commons, that is like a hilltop moor.

Rural Retreats is a top quality, and expensive, UK based agency. I wanted to stay in the southern Cotswolds, near Tetbury or Malmesbury, and searched online but could not find a place that looked good and had a phone, so we decided to splurge and book a Rural Retreats place. We booked directly with Rural Retreats instead of using a US representative because we knew which places we wanted to consider, and only needed to know which ones had phones.

Saturday, May 21: One week in Devon

Vacation Rental: One week in a cottage on a farm, 3/4 mile from Mortonhampstead, on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon. We booked Hayne Cottage - A1 from Helpful Holidays (2bed/2bath house on a farm).

Saturday, May 28: Last night

Hotel: Inn on the Green, Maidenhead. We booked this hotel because they have a good restaurant and Wendy and Richard (from the message board) live nearby. We all met for dinner. It was a short drive from there to the airport in the morning.

Sunday, May 29: Departure

Flight: Dropped the car off at the airport (Heathrow) and took a 1:20pm flight from London to Phoenix, arriving 3:55pm. Spent the night in a hotel in Phoenix and flew home the next morning. This was a mistake. It was a long weekend and the hotel was full and noisy. It would have been better to just fly home that day. I thought it would be relaxing to have an overnight on the way home, but it wasn't.

>> continued - arrival in England

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