Seeing London, finally.
August 12, 2013 7:58 AM   Subscribe

Asking for a friend: Older American couple is visiting London for the first time. They're having a hard time figuring out travel agencies / DIY internet bookings. Can you make some recommendations?

This is an American couple in their 70s. I don't think they've been abroad in some time, if ever. They're traveling in early to mid-October and looking for nice affordable places in London. They'll see a play and do some touristy things there, then head up to Scotland via train and stay up there for a while.

Can you make some accessible recommendations? They asked me because I went to university in England, but the only places I stayed in London were hostels that I can't recommend for them.
posted by mibo to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I used vrbo, and was very, very happy. We stayed here and loved the location. This apartment is probably too large for just two people, but for convenience and ease of transportation, it was perfect. Theres a tube station right across the street, and all the bus routes converge around the corner, or seemed that way. and a lot of what they want to see is within walking distance or a 10-minute bus ride. If they have smartphones, use the citymapper app and they can get anywhere they want with very simple instructions. We found London to be so easy and fun.
posted by raisingsand at 8:11 AM on August 12, 2013

We went through Monograms (part of Globus). It was excellent and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I'd link to them, but I can't get the page to load. Their number is (855) 587 7617.

We paid a flat rate and got hotel, airfare (don't use them for this, it was United and it was awful!) We got a half-day guided tour, tickets to the London Eye and transfers to and from the airport. Our hotel was the Hilton Metropole and we liked it a lot, mostly because it was close to two Underground stations and it included a full English breakfast which negated the need for lunch.

We had a contact at the hotel who could give us information on day trips (we did Stonehenge and Bath) and anything we needed.

We weren't stuck with a complaining group of old people, on a bus every day. We did what we wanted at our own pace, but we got the benefit of group pricing.

Seriously, look into it.

You can get discounted show tickets in Leicester Square TKTS booth the day of the show.

Memail me if you want more info.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:11 AM on August 12, 2013

They need to book their train tickets online ASAP, otherwise it'll cost a fortune on the day. A return from London-Edinburgh is about £70 booked in advance. is the best place to book. If they want to take the train anywhere, I highly recommend booking as far as 12 weeks in advance as train travel here is crazy expensive.

My mum and I stayed at The Thistle in Kensington Gardens, which IIRC we booked through It was about £130 for three nights in a twin room, and it overlooked Hyde Park which is lovely in the autumn. You can get a bus right outside to Oxford Circus, and there's a nearby tube station as well. There are budget hotel chains here - the main ones are Premier Inn (which have some fairly central locations) and

(Also, my boyfriend and I stayed in Edinburgh for my birthday a few years ago, and as Edinburgh itself was expensive, we stayed in a B+B in Joppa - Joppa Turrets - which is a bus-ride fromt he centre and is a quiet, seafront suburb.)
posted by mippy at 8:48 AM on August 12, 2013

I typically stay in youth hostels, so I'll focus on a London neighborhood they can look into - I actually quite liked the Fitzrovia neighborhood, because it was a pretty short walk to Regents' Park in one direction, and an equally-short walk to a couple major Tube stations in the other direction. It was also quiet and pretty. (I also found it to be walking-distance to the British Museum AND to the major theaters on Charing Cross Road, but I tend to walk a lot; it took me about 30 minutes to get to Charing Cross Road's theaters, and leave it to them to ascertain whether that's too far or whether they want to just take a tube - which was right in that neighborhood and would be only about 2 stops.)

It also looks like Airbnb has a number of rentals in Fitzrovia area, so that could be a place to start.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:53 AM on August 12, 2013

Depending on how fit they are, the Penn Club in Bedford Place (Bloomsbury) might be a good option. There's no elevator, and rooms might be a couple of floors up, but staff can help with luggage. I've stayed there; it's basic but clean and comfortable, and staff are friendly. My room was rather large for a London hotel room. Breakfast, which is included, was acceptable, though more meager than most full English breakfasts.

If by "accessible recommendations" you mean that they can't handle many stairs, they could try the Langham Court Hotel in Fitzrovia. I stayed there while in London for a conference, and the room was quite comfortable, though small. There are a few steps up to the entrance, but there's then a lift to the upper floors.
posted by brianogilvie at 9:15 AM on August 12, 2013

Oh, and if they like musicals, I highly recommend Matilda.
posted by brianogilvie at 9:16 AM on August 12, 2013

There was a whole thread a while back about hotels for someone's parents to stay in.

The County Hall Premier Inn, the 'best' suggestion is inexpensive by London standards and very central. It is also a short walk from the National Theatre, so if they wanted to see a more highbrow play with some strong acting they'd be perfectly placed to do so, have dinner on the Southbank and wander back. The Old Vic is also pretty close, although to be honest theatreland is just over the river anyway.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:38 AM on August 12, 2013

London Walks has all sorts of short walks in central London, as well as surrounding neighborhoods, that appeal to a wide range of ages and can be undertaken by anyone interested in London history and seeing the sights - the ones in the City are particularly recommended for people wanting a compact, fun, historical walk. They also do museum tours at the National Gallery and the British Museum.

The London Strollers are the short-walks-in-greater-London chapter of the Ramblers, and all of their club walks start and end at tube or rail.

The British Museum has highlight walks and other tours every day: they should pick a day when there's a gallery talk (Tues-Fri 1:15) that's interesting, and do highlights then, too. The gallery talks are one of the hidden gems of London - often in an out-of-the-way part of the museum, often with that room's curator or a similar expert, and usually with a very small group.

The first thing they should do upon getting to London is get an Oyster card and a small tube/rail map.

None of these has to be booked in advance, though.

Hotels are a possibility if they want to use something like Trivago or another comparison service: I've found that discounts are all over the place. visiting family have ended up in places for 1/3 the rack rate or less.

One tip is to expand out your search area to hotels near tubes in zone 2 or the outer edges of zone 1. There are several nice places near Finchley Road tube (met and jubilee lines), for example. Premier Inns are usually a solid, plain choice as well.
posted by Wylla at 10:59 AM on August 12, 2013

Regarding the issue of accessability: how mobile are they, and what are their restrictions?

In the past, I have used this book and found it extremely helpful, but there doesn't seem to be a recent edition, and this one is from 2007, so things may be out of date.

More recently, I see Time Out has a guide on the subject from 2012. I haven't read this particular guide, but I've always found Time Out London to be extremely knowledgeable and well-written, so I'd be inclined to trust them on this one. I assume it would have information on accessible hotels and such.

Buses in London are "kneeling buses" -- they can be lowered to make it easy for a handicapped person to get on. They also all have a wheelchair space, and ramps for wheelchair access. Some Tube stations are step-free and some aren't.

You (or your friends) can use the Transport for London Journeyplanner and select the appropriate mobility options, and it will tell you how you can get from one place to another with step-free access (or whatever you need.) Note, though, that lifts and such can break down; if your friends are computer savvy, they can do a Journeyplanner right before they set out on a particular trip, just to see if there are any broken lifts at a station they are planning on traveling through. If they aren't computer savvy, they can ask the staff at a Tube station before they set off.

(I know that, at this point, you're asking about accessible places to stay rather than transport -- but I would encourage you to include proximity to accessible transport in that decision. It's no good staying in a step-free hotel if they can't get from there to the sights they want to see!)
posted by yankeefog at 9:28 AM on August 14, 2013

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