2009 TRIP TO ENGLAND, by Colin L. Miller

Intro May 28 May 29 May 30 May 31 June 01 June 02 June 03 June 04 June 05 June 06 June 07 June 08 June 09 June 10 June 11 June 12 June 13 Expense Report

Introduction & Trip Preparation

After almost ten months since my last vacation (to the Big Island of Hawaii to see my father and tour the island), and since I had over three week's worth of vacation time, and since work has become quite a routine, and others in the office had also done big vacation trips, and because most of my family history has origins in the past few hundred years in England, and I had enough savings that the travel cost wouldn't be a burden, I finally decided to do a big trip & vacation myself.

The trip took a substantial amount of planning and preparation. I got a few travel books for England, and I went through a number of travel-related websites to get background info on travel. I also needed a passport, or my trip would be very short. After submitting the paperwork at the Cochise County Juvenile Detention office, I got my passport in the mail a month later followed in a few days by my birth certificate, which I submitted along with my application.

Supplies and Equipment

I needed to get supplies and equipment, from power converters and adapters to luggage and clothing. For electronic gadgets, I wanted to travel light, so I got a pocket-sized 10-megapixel camera (Olympus Stylus 1020, black) with two spare batteries and two 2GB xD memory cards for insurance as I wasn't travelling 5300 miles and spending thousands of dollars to run out of power or storage space. I tested it out at home and the pictures were good and the battery held its charge for a long time. Next, I needed a GPS to help me get around England. The Garmin Nvi 275T had recent US & Europe maps, so I got that with a protective case/belt clip. I also got the 2009 UK maps and put them on a microSD card for my hiking GPS (Garmin eTrex Venture Cx). With the extreme amount of map detail and points of interest, drawing street-level maps was quite slow on the Venture Cxs small processor. I was also warned to get an umbrella.

I expected to be able to do Internet access, process digital photos and do email. Netbooks were becoming popular at this time, and they were small and lightweight, so I got an easily upgradeable Lenovo Ideapad S10 netbook (laptop) with double-size battery, case, and carrying bag. I upgraded the netbook to a 300 GB hard drive and added a 2GB RAM module. I then installed the netbook version of the latest Ubuntu free operating system, along with XP Pro, in case one operating system crashed, or one did wireless Internet better. For more insurance, I had two Sandisk Cruzer Micro 4GB USB thumb drives that could boot the laptop with Ubuntu or Knoppix, and also provide backup storage. I also got an 8GB microSD card with mini-keychain sized USB adapter. For the other gadgets (such as my iPod Nano 3G and Nintendo DS) I got USB cables so I could do recharges without having to take several AC adapters.

For communication, I learned from the travel websites and message boards about cell phones. I ended up getting an unlocked Motorola L2 Silver quad-band GSM for $55. That phone could be recharged by USB cable, and user comments said the battery lasted a long time. I would still have to get a SIM card to get on a local phone network and I would have to purchase minutes of airtime when I arrived in England.

Since I was planning on traveling with minimal baggage, I got a carry-on sized roller bag with backpack straps. That along with the computer bag would have to contain everything I was bringing.

Where to Go and What to See

Of course, my parents were interested in my big trip. My mother, who went to England 21 years ago, suggested York and Avebury. My father suggested visiting Stonehenge and requested postcards and emails of my progress. But I needed a plan for where to go and what to do in England.

I knew I wanted to do some family history research. There's no one central place to do that. The archives & history centers were mostly at the county level, so I would have to visit the ones for Wiltshire, Dorset, and Somerset separately. I visited the various archive websites, noted their visitor requirements, the days and hours when they were open or closed, and their locations with respect to parking and train stations. I gathered up map screenshots from Google and other services to take with me on the netbook. Google Street View prepared me for what parts of London and York were like, and would help me navigate on foot to the hotels, etc.

While in London, I would need to use the Underground subway train system at least to get to and from the airport or from one part of London to another. There was a proximity card that I could get called OysterCard that was half as expensive as paying cash while riding the Underground, so I would get one when I arrived.

I made a list of London attractions I could visit: Natural History Museum, Tower of London & Tower Bridge, London Zoo, British Museum, London Eye, Picadilly Circus & Trafalgar Square, and Big Ben & Parliament. For York, it was suggested that I see the wall, the cathedral, and the Viking museum. For Salisbury, there was the cathedral, Stonehenge & Avebury, and some streets and buildings from the Miller family history, including the parish church where 4th great grandfather & mother William Miller & Leonora Johnson got married in 1783. In Sherborne, there was the abbey, the ruins of an old castle, the cemetery, and the Somerset-Dorset History Center. In Bath, there was the Bath Archives, the Roman Baths, various city streets & buildings where various members of the Miller family lived & died over the past 170 years, and the Walcot Parish cemetery.

Setting the Itinerary

Eventually, an itinerary began to form, starting and ending with London. For the first week, I'd do London, then York, then Salisbury, and then Bath. In Bath, I'd then get a rental car and drive to the Sherborne area and then back up to the Swindon & Chippenham area before returning to Bath and then to London.

With the plan set, it was time to commit to a travel date. I'd heard that it gets more expensive and crowded in the summer season, so if I could finish my trip before the start of that, it would be better. So mid-June working back about two weeks put a departure date of Thursday, May 28. That would also mean a short work week before the trip, and a return date on the weekend so I wouldn't have to go to work the next day. I settled on Continental since they had several daily flights back and forth from England and the price wasn't bad: $868 roundtrip. Departure was set for 10:30 AM from Tucson to Houston, then from Houston to Heathrow (London). Return was on June 13, 12:00 PM, arriving in Tucson at 9:00 PM, booked via Travelocity.com.

The next step was setting up lodging and local transportation. The National Rail website not only had train fares and schedules for England & Europe, but also hotel reservations. I found one for London that was in the area of the zoo and Natural History museum, and not far from the other London attractions and the Underground, located on the north central edge of Hyde Park (which was also an attraction in itself): Corus Hotel Hyde Park. Three nights wouldn't be cheap, especially in London, but was tolerable: 283/$422.

After touring London, I would take a round-trip train to York (84/$126). I found a hotel within easy walking distance from the train station and the center of old York: Ramada Encore York, 1 night (84/$109).

In Salisbury, I found a hotel a bit of a walk from the train station but near the cathedral area: Legacy Rose & Crown, 2 nights (176/$264). It was a fancier place, but it had a decent location and good reviews. There wasn't a Google Street View in Salisbury, but I located it on the map from website photos & Google aerial maps.

I would then take the train to my next destination, Bath Spa (13.80/$20.70). Following a suggestion, I went with a bed & breakfast about a mile's walk from old Bath & the train station: The Pilgrims, 45/night for 2 nights.

On my way out of Bath, I would get a rental car (automatic transmission) from Hertz, which was about a mile from the bed & breakfast and train station, and head south to Dorchester. The hotel, Wessex Royale, was two or three blocks from the Dorset Archives and a short drive from Sherborne (4 nights, 284/$425).

Next would be Swindon, which had a hotel (with parking!) near the highway and a short drive to the Wiltshire Archives in Chippenham, as well as a short drive to Avebury. Swindon was also less than an hour's drive from Bath where the car would be returned.

After returning the car, I would take the train back to London (48/$72) and stay at a hotel near Trafalgar Square/Big Ben, the Strand Palace Hotel (1 night, 89/$133, breakfast included). That hotel was also close to some Underground stations so it would be easy to get to Heathrow.

Now, with the whole itinerary set, I only needed to deal with small preparations and research.

Intro May 28 May 29 May 30 May 31 June 01 June 02 June 03 June 04 June 05 June 06 June 07 June 08 June 09 June 10 June 11 June 12 June 13 Expense Report