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She Enjoys London for Less

Evelyn Hannon

I've been to London many times over the years and have experienced all four of their seasons, each with its own unique personality. My absolute favorite time to visit is winter. Yes, it's cold. Yes, it's damp. But, so what? Being in Britain in January and February allows you to see the city as it really is, without the hordes of tourists that crowd the streets during the other three seasons. Londoners seem more patient about answering tourists' questions simply because they aren't being inundated with loads of questioners. Restaurants and pubs aren't filled to overflowing in January, wait staff has more time to chat, the shops are slashing their pre-Christmas prices and all the airlines are offering deals for mid-January flights.

This year my girlfriend and I booked an excellent five-day hotel/air package getaway on the internet. Our goal was to taste some of London's treasures in the most cost effective way possible. We were penny pinchers in some areas and extravagant in others. By journey's end we still had British Pounds left in our pockets and no regrets about how we had spent the rest of our money. And the weather? Pleasant but cool for four days, rain for one. We were lucky, indeed. Perhaps these Journeywoman tips will help other travellers save Pounds and have as much winter fun as we did.

Pack light, light, light...

Five days is a short time. You really need very little so take the smallest suitcase you can. Follow the wear-one, pack one method with shoes and pants. I packed one pair of stretch black pants and wore the other on the plane. Ditto for sturdy walking shoes. Three light wool long-sleeved sweaters are adequate and one fleece top is more than enough. Consider a pair of silk long johns just in case. Underwear and socks are washable. Throw in a bright scarf for dress up, wear your jacket (appropriate for dinner or theatre) and your lightweight winter coat on to the plane, pack your umbrella and basic cosmetics and you're all set. With this manageable suitcase you can be most mobile and not reliant on cabs if you don't want them.

Transportation can be expensive...

We avoided cabs wherever possible. You can take the tube into London from Heathrow Airport (inexpensive -- about £5 and takes about one hour) or the more extravagant Heathrow Express train that takes 15 minutes direct to Paddington Train station (£27 return). We opted for the train because we arrived in the early hours of the morning and were too tired to contemplate the tube. We also weren't sure if there were stairs, escalators or elevators to be negotiated in the tube. From Paddington it was a five minute shared cab ride to our hotel. We zipped from airport to train to cab quickly. Our bags were light and made it perfectly simple for us to get around.

On the days that we needed public transportation we bought a day pass (£4.90) that allowed us to scoot around town via subway or bus. That was great value as single fares are £3 each so two trips and our card was paid for. There are also Oyster cards available. These are like a debit card that you fill then simply swipe as you enter the turnstiles. With each entry your fare is deducted instantly and efficiently. When your deposit runs out just add more cash to your card and you're on your way again. To learn which method works best for you visit:

Getting started...

If you travel overnight you'll be tired when you arrive. We napped for a couple of hours and then set out to explore our neighbourhood, pop into the Tube station to familiarize ourselves, buy a phone card (rates for calls from hotels are exorbitant) and pick up our sightseeing material. We received a complimentary map and the magazine, 'WHERE London' from our concierge. At the neighbourhood newsstand we bought a copy of 'Time Out London', a fabulous magazine listing everything going on in London for that particular week. It was invaluable. Now we were ready!

Restaurants, theatre tickets, walking tours and more…





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