Monday, February 18, 2013

UK 2013 part 7 - lodging and transportation

Tight budget
Because we travel on a super tight budget, price is a major thing we have to consider. many times we passed on great places because the price was just too high above our means. However, when there's minimal difference between the ideal place and the cheaper place - we go with ideal.
We have also learned that cheapest is not always cheapest if you consider distance and breakfast charges. If you are going to be too far from your attractions or if you will be paying ridiculous amounts of money for breakfast (if you eat breakfast), the cheapest place might end up expensive.
Also - be ready to get there, take the bite of the charge for a one night stay and say - "sorry, can't stay in this piece of junk." Your sanity is more important than your money.

Searching for transportation

Transportation is a big thing I consider. Car rental or public transportation? Which public transportation options do I have and how can I get deals for them?
Also are there sight-seeing tour buses? Is it worth it?

When we stay in big cities we forego the car. Driving in a place like London, Boston, NYC, Washington-DC, Salvador or Rio de Janeiro is a terrible idea for me. The terrifying thoughts of being stuck on mile-long traffic jams, lost in some dark street, and spending a lot of money on fuel waisted. 

When we were in London, we turned in the car and saved 4 days of rental. We purchased the Oyster card - which allowed us to travel on the Tube and on buses. The Oyster is rechargeable and we each put £50 in our cards, which gave us extra cash. 

We took the Tube a lot, and we also walked a lot. Many attractions are within walking distances, and walking also makes for finding little wholes-in-the-walls. We only took the Tube when the distance was too long to make a walk worthwhile. We also took a cab when we had no idea where to start - for instance, from the airport to the hotel.

In Dublin, Belfast, York, Liverpool, Bath, and Edinburgh, where we only spent a day each time, we found a cheap parking garage (in British is car park), and dropped the car there for the hours we stayed there. I had researched parking garages before I left home. I knew where they were and how much they cost. I also researched free street parking. Certain places are free at certain hours and days of the week. 

To NYC and Boston, I leave the car at a train station (some stations have free parking) and take the train in. When I was there with family, we took sight-seeing buses. When I go by myself I take the subway.

In DC I also take the subway and the sight seeing bus with my family.

In Rio de Janeiro, since the fam was with us, we rented a van with a driver/guide, and a sight seeing bus. But if it were only Dean and I we would have used public transportation.  

In Petropolis we had a driver/van and paid a city guide to come with us for a few hours, but we were not very fond of his work.

In Salvador, I take the bus. But if you are not a local, get a van with driver. Salvador's public transportation system is insane and makes no sense to anyone who has not lived there their whole lives.

In small towns we drive. We could have opted for the rail in England if we only cared about going from point  A to point B.
But the getting there is part of the experience, so we drive.

Car rentals
There are several ways we usually rent cars. We use:
the AAA website,
the airlines mileage website
the credit card website
 Kayak (my new favorite) searches several different travel agencies, general car rental agencies, and specific rental agencies. They found me a British car agency called Holiday Autos that charged my credit card as a local transaction.

Consider the  size of the car, as well as whether it is a manual or automatic. We always try for manuals and mini sizes. They fit anywhere, are more economical and fit our family size.

Hidden vs. disclosed fees - call first and get a better deal
Comparing rentals is very complicated. 
There are fees that don't always get disclosed. 
The cheapest rental might actually be the most expensive.

Tip: read the fine print, read the contract, read anywhere that says "fee", "included", "not included". In doubt - call them.

With Holiday Autos, I was not sure what fees were included in it. It sounded like the 3rd cheapest one (after autoeurope for $250 and rentalcars for $258 - they all quote in dollar)
But autoeurope had a £40 one-way fee, and rental cars - I found after a lot of searching in their website - has a £50 one-way fee, even though the first additional driver was already included.

I called Holiday Autos to inquire about a one-way fee. They assured me there was none, and even quoted me on $261 instead of $285.

Fees - These are the ones I learned about:
  1. prime-location fee
  2. mandatory insurance
  3. additional driver fee
  4. value added tax (UK)
  5. fire insurance
  6. mileage (limited or unlimited)
  7. one-way fee (different drop-off location)
  8. road fund fee (UK)
  9. any extra addition to your rental, such as baby seats, GPS, etc.
  10. airport fee
When you get to the rental agency and they charge you a lot of extras and you say, "But I didn't see any of these values", they will point to the part of your contract that says, "additional fees might be charged locally"

Searching for lodgingAgain, here are my websites where I have searched for B&Bs as well as Inns/Taverns:    (used it last trip) - I just found this one, but they don't have much. I actually just posted the two places I found in Cookstown there. is another good place - since it saved my life. I post reviews there too.
google maps (looking for icons of beds on the map) (typing key words such as "inns taverns England" or "inns taverns near _______")

The following is a list of some places I have looked into while trying to find a place to stay:

Costwolds  - We choose The Mouse Trap Inn for its best price and for being a tavern

In Bourton-on-the-water:
Dial house hotel (over £100 per night)(hotel)
The Mousetrap Inn  (Jul31-Aug2 -£122.00)(£61 per night)(breakfast included ) (tavern)
In Bledington:
The King's Head: - (start £95 night ) (hotel)
In Winchcombe:
The White Hart Inn:  - (£81 per night) (hotel)
In Great Rissington:
The Lamb Inn:  (£115 night)(hotel)
In Lacock:
The Thatched Cottage: (£80 to £90 night) (B&B)
Damson Cottage: (£70 night) (B&B)
In Stow-On-The_wold: - (£65 night) (B&B)

Oxfordshire - we chose The Crown Inn for being a cheaper tavern relatively close to the places we will go. The Buckingham Hotel was a better location and price, but for just £3 extra we chose a tavern over a hotel. 

In Dorchester-On-thames:
Crown Cottage  (£70 night)(B&B)
In Benson: (£50 per night - no breakfast)(£150)(tavern)
In Long Wittenham (start £60 per night) (B&B) 
In Wyncombe:
Buckingham Hotel (£47 night - no breakfast)

Scotland - we chose the Alvey House

In Newtonmore
Eagle view. (£72 night) (B&B)
Alvey House Hotel: (B&B) (£63 night)
The owners just recently retired but the new owners said they would honor the previous rate we quoted on line.   

In Glasgow
 - We are spending the night here bc this place is across the street from the airport and our flight leaves in the morning. This way we have a full day wherever we want to go and drive to the airport the night before the flight. ( £23night) (motel)

Lake district - we choose the Greenbank Country House. We were decided to stay at the Elm Tree, whose owner is an Everest climber and the place is just minutes away from downtown. But toprooms showed me this gem - a wonderful view in the country part of Keswick, for a lower price? What a find! Bye bye, Everest.

In Kewswick :
The Elm Tree Lodge -  £32.5 (pp/pn)
Little Town Farm - this is a farm Hotel (80.00 per night).
ivy lodge start @ £30 (person, night)
the inn £47.5 (person/night)
oakwaite house £33(person/night)
The GreenBank Country House (farm hotel) (£55 night)

Northern Ireland - we chose The Belfast House for being a Tavern.

In Cookstown
Fortview: (£60 night) (B&B)
Manorview: (B&B) (£50 night)
The Central Inn: (tavern) (breakfast incl.) (£50)
The Belfast house: (tavern) (breakfast incl.) (£55)

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