Europe Winter Travel:

Great Britain in March by: Alison Shigekuni             Our trip to Great Britain was an impulse trip. My husband, Vincent, & I had been seeking low airfares to London for about a month before we decided that $445. to London was too good to pass up! We purchased our tickets from European Travel Service in Kaimuki at the end of Feb. and left for London in early March for 2 weeks. We saw the same fares offered by most major airlines but decided to earn more United miles. Cheap tickets have restrictions—one of ours was to complete travel by Mar. 31. Our major concern was loosing valuable vacation time to "bad weather air port delays" before we even started. To cut this risk, we routed through San Francisco rather than NY, since NY was more likely to have bad weather.

To keep this trip as economical as possible, we decided to use a rail pass to get around and stay in B&B accommodations. We purchased our rail passes from the best source—Travel Europe Resource Center— and received a bonus of a free Rick Steves' guidebook to Great Britain! What a deal! We used Ricks' guide book recommendations on B&B's to make advanced reservations from Hi for our first three nights. After that—and jet lag free— we booked the next night's accommodations by calling a day in advance. Only once—in York—we couldn't get into our first choice . They helped us find another B&B which was great. (TERC has this one on file now)

Our intended "travel-sightseeing & luggage management" strategy was to fit in a day trip to a city on our way to the one we were spending the night in. For example, from Bath to Shrewsbury, we planned to stop in Cardiff, Wales, leave our luggage in a locker at the train station while we toured Cardiff—then pick up our luggage and travel to Shrewsbury, where we would spend the night. To our surprise, all the lockers at the train stations were closed because of IRA bombings in London a few weeks earlier, so we had to modify this plan and go directly to the location of our next night's stay.

How to handle cold weather—take enough clothing, and still manage with one portable bag was one of our big concerns. After talking to a number of people and some research we did the following which worked well for us. We wore lots of layers. Silk long underwear, turtlenecks, jeans, pullovers, and jackets. Good gloves are very important because it's hard to do anything when you can't feel your fingers. Vincent used a Pantagonia "synchlla" pullover over his turtleneck and then a Gortex jacket over that. He felt it was sufficient for most of the trip. I get chilled easier than he does so used a "syncilla" pullover and a HEAVY quilted, lined Land's End jacket with a hood that buttoned partially over my face. It came down to my knees so when I sat my seat didn't get cold. I wore my jacket EVERYWHERE. We also got shoes that wouldn't get waterlogged, in case we had to walk through rain or snow (which we did). I got a great deal on a pair of boot-like shoes from Bass in Waikele Center, which held up well.

Throughout our trip the weather was overcast & somewhat dreary, with very few days of sunshine. Luckily, we ran into real rain only in York, It didn't slow us down because York is such a compact town and we were dressed for it.. In Edinburgh it started snowing during our walking tour, which made it very interesting and COLD! Fortunately, it didn't really start coming down until we had finished. We hopped on the Guide Friday bus and rode around for the rest of the day. One unexpected drawback of traveling at this time of year is that the days are so short—it gets dark really early, and after dark, it gets colder. I really wanted to join some ghost tours (of course at night) but didn't think I could handle the cold. That was disappointing.

PACKING

Vince and I really enjoyed our trip and have decided to travel during the off season from now on. Air fares are reasonable (I can't wait to see what they will be like this winter!), it's not crowded, and as Vince says, it seems like the locals are happy to see us since they aren't being overrun by tourists. The only draw backs were possible bad weather (But there are always museums to see) and the short day light hours. Another problem was that some attractions were closed during the off season. It's a good idea to research your sights before going so you don't waste time showing up at closed sights. Also, some transportation services are scaled back in winter. We always checked departure times a day or so before we traveled and sometimes made seat reservations when advised to. People at the rail stations were very helpful in assisting us with itineraries, reservations, travel suggestions, etc.

From this experience, we recommend winter travel. Do some advance planning and go with the right attitude. The right clothes in one portable bag will help you maintain a positive attitude. You will get a different perspective of things when its snowing or raining. There is nothing like seeing a castle in the snow and imagining what it was like to live in it so many years ago.

Thanks for your endorsement, insights, and great tips for winter travel. I know they will make a big difference to alot of travelers considering winter travel. Mele Fujiwara

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