Post Trip Thoughts....

Published on 23 June 2023 at 15:14

     Now that we have been home and had an opportunity to rest, I thought I would share my 'post trip thoughts' as a wrap-up to this amazing trip. If anyone else is thinking of going to the UK or traveling abroad for the first time, or happens across this blog and would like some helpful tips, perhaps things we learned from our experience may help others to prepare for their own big adventure. I will attempt to provide my thoughts by categories... so here goes: 

WalkingStart walking to build up your stamina! And when you think you have 'trained enough' - train some more! I was walking a lot for the year before we went, but averaged maybe 1-2 miles a day.  NOT   ENOUGH!   Here is our trip totals for the two weeks:  
                                    Miles:  72
                                    Steps: 181,500

No wonder we were so exhausted!  

And DEFINITELY do the research for good shoes. As I mentioned in one of my early posts, I did A LOT of research on the best walking shoes and tried many pairs before the trip to find my miracle shoes. I am so glad I did, because good shoes are an absolute must! I can confirm my shoes were about as close to miracle shoes as you can get - they really proved to be amazing. The brand I got again were called 'Strole' and they are designed specifically to get people out walking as comfortably as possible. Let me state - I am by far not a representative of theirs but I can attest, they really really saved me.  The style of these is called 'mirage'.  **As a side note, the new ones they provided me with also started to squeak - so they apparently are just going to squeak - but I couldn't hear them when we were outside, so it's only noticable when I'm in my super quiet office environment. LOL!   

Also - as I previously mentioned, I really need a new left knee - but I've been powering through and it really has been manageable. Although I was able to manage - the last 3 days of our trip I definitely hit my wall and my knee said... ENOUGH! Unfortunately, this happened while we were out on the Culloden Battlefield. Greg wanted to leave me there like a downed soldier until someone could come with a stretcher. (While it wasn't that bad, it did require a lot more resting than our previous days). Voltarin to the rescue - it really did help me power through. I can say with positivity the following: 

     a) I'm thankful for the cortisone shot before I went;

     b) I WILL go through a knee replacement surgery before I travel overseas again (my right knee was a machine!); 

     c) Don't end a two week european vacation in Edinburgh... you won't have the energy for this city. Trust me! (more to               follow);

     d) Plan more rest days! (will expand on this more later). 


Travel Day 1:

Traveling this far will kick your butt! Do not think it won't, because it WILL! You can try to sleep on the plane, but even if you can catch a few winks, it won't be restful. If you can afford a better class ticket that provides you a bit more room to spread out - do it! Greg says he won't travel economy again if we go that far. Fine with me, but he needs to save his $$ to pay for the ticket. 


When we arrived in London, it was very overwhelming. Not because it was actually overwhelming, but because we were tired and cranky and trying to navigate our way in a new place when we were not at our freshest minds. And don't forget, you will be walking through a large airport, with luggage, and lugging your luggage on the train, or whatever transport you decide to take. We took the Heathrow Express which was awesome. Easy to navigate, not overly crowded, and very inexpensive. Paddington Station, however, is very crowded and large, and again, you will need to lug that luggage through the station to your next stop. We had found a luggage nanny location, which seemed a bit janky, but worked out fine. Once again, being tired and trying to navigate directions was a bit tricky.  I recommend having your directions, maps, etc all printed out and/or downloaded and ready to go for day 1! Anything that will help you because you will not be able to think straight!  

Power through the tiredness, however, DO NOT PLAN ANY TOURS or anything specific on this day other than general wanderings and getting acclimated. We were super glad we didn't have anything scheduled. Even the hop on/hop off bus wasn't quite what we expected - and the things we thought we would try to see on this day quickly got crossed off the list because in your exhaustion, the importance of them will quickly go by the wayside!  Trust me! So for things you REALLY want to see/do - don't plan it for the day you arrive.  

If you can check into your hotel/airbnb/vrbo early afternoon - I say do it. Get some rest and start fresh. Cody and I even went out for a midnight exploring excursion after sleeping for a bit, and it was most memorable. We then went back to bed and the next morning were raring to go! 



Unless you are in your 20's or 30's with a lot of energy, which I am not... plan rest days. Or days where you do not have to walk 10 miles a day. Ultimately, we would normally have planned more rest days, but given we were traveling 4,000 miles and don't know if we will ever have the opportunity to travel there again, we wanted to pack in as much as we could while we were there. However, if we are lucky enough to go again, we will plan more low key things next time, and more time in our favorite locations. The days we spent in the English Countryside or the Highlands were the best. We would have really liked being able to truly hang out in those areas and just relax for longer. We also discovered we are more country people than city people. I loved London and Edinburgh, but give me sheep and cows, wide open spaces and fresh air over bazillions of people any day.  If I go back to London, it won't be for more than 2-3 days max. Same for Edinburgh. Also, we were so lucky to stay in many wonderful AirBNB's/cottages/log cabins - and some of them we would have really enjoyed being at for longer stretches. 


So.... Edinburgh. I ended up with a love/hate relationship with that city, and I know it's because we were so absolutely exhausted when we got there. The driving was rough in the city, transportation didn't go our way, and it's far too hilly and full of steep steps for the end of a trip like this. Next time, I would start there (at least for our itinerary). Or go into it way more rested. That city absolutely kicked our butts. I feel bad, because it is truly beautiful and everything is so incredibly ornate and historic and amazing - and I know we just weren't in the right frame of mind to fully appreciate it. I do hope to go back there some day. I'd love to see the castle, and the views from the castle. I'd also love to tour the Royal Britannia ship, amongst many other spots. So Edinburgh, I hope someday I can give you a second chance... as I know you will be worth it! 


We purchased the international travel plan which provided us with a set amount of data, calls & text messages. Amount of calls/texts were fine, but data - not nearly enough. We ended up paying the overage - which was fine, but in my research, many travelers purchased a sim card for while they were there. Next time, I think that is a more economical way to go.  I would recommending doing your research on this option and think about doing this.  You seriously don't realize HOW MUCH you use your data (maps, looking up information on line, etc) when you travel, until you are trying to conserve that data. It would have prevented some 'directional challenges' we had if we could have easily pulled things up on our phones like we have all become so used to - and not given a thought to 'going over your alloted data usage.' 


Our decision to drive during our trip was an excellent one for us. I don't like to rely on a time schedule or specific itinerary schedule for transportation/activities. So many people said to me before our trip "I can't believe you are going to drive! I couldn't do it!" Even Greg was a hard NO about driving. Well, let me be the first to encourage you - DO IT! Do NOT be afraid to drive there. I would advise doing your research, study up on their rules of the road, their street signs etc. And I watched lots of YouTube videos of people giving 'driving tutorials' and having their passengers film so you could go along for the ride - these helped tremendously, as they got my mind thinking about driving on the opposite side of the road. I also took an online training class which helped significantly and was not very costly. It was through 'Tripiamo.' Totally worth it! For the most part, it was not that hard to adjust. True, you don't want to get too 'comfortable' in not thinking about what you are doing, because there will be times when you forget and fall back into U.S. habits. It helps to have a passenger who can give you reminders to 'turn right but stay left!' Keep in mind though, that some local drivers are not very forgiving to us tourists - so be prepared to have some of them get upset with you. That was probably the most challenging part of driving, for me. 

Highway driving is a breeze. Driving in the country is a little bit of a challenge. Roads are extremely narrow, sometimes only one car length wide, and locals drive pretty fast on them. Just take your time, driver slower if needed, and think of it as an adventure. It's worth it, trust me!!

So in conclusion about driving - DON'T BE SCARED TO DRIVE IN THE U.K.!   It is not nearly as daunting as you may feel like it will be.  YOU CAN DO IT!! 


First of all, I really thought I was going to need to use a travel agent of some sort to assist us in the planning. While they are certainly a good resource, if you want to create your own itinerary and manage your own pace/time - don't be afraid to make your own plans. It does require time and research, but is not overly difficult to do, and can save you a ton of money. There are so many excellent travel sites/apps etc. that you can use to get you the best deals. Traveling to Europe does not need to break your bank. I never thought we'd be able to do it, and trust me, there are many ways to save money, but not decrease your experience. 

Facebook has many groups for travel help when going to London or just UK in general. People will provide a lot of great recommendations and advice. Lots of information is out there. Also - many many posts on Pinterest can give you great ideas or best things to see in 'Scotland/London/Edinburgh/ etc...' that are also great resources. While they may seem a bit overwhelming, they can give you a lot of ideas so you can begin narrowing down your lists of 'want to sees,' 'must sees' and 'will sees.' 

AIRBNB's & VRBO's worked excellently for us! The only place we did not use those were in Liverpool (wish we would have) and London. For London, we wanted to have the option of asking for advice/recommendations/directions etc. from a hotel concierge, if needed. So decided it would be beneficial in this big city where we had never been before. If we go back, we will be staying in an airbnb or vrbo!!

Also - as a side note - I was very nervous about going to London because anyone I have ever spoken to has always said how 'expensive' London is. Oh man, London is the most expensive city in the world. We did not find that to be the case. We were shocked at how similar the prices were. We didn't feel it was any different than going to Chicago, or even out to eat locally. We did not find tours, souvenirs, food, transportation, drinks, or even parking (in UK - not London) to be any different than normal. So again, do not let that frighten you away from going to there. **Or maybe we just don't go to high dollar locations? 


Don't be afraid to use the Underground. It's easy! It will take you one time and you'll be off and rolling. We felt safe, and never worried about navigating which train we needed to catch to go to which place. It was very simple. Get an oyster card! EASY PEASY and saves you $$.  There is a cap on how much you have to pay each day for the train- again very economical!  However, I do recommend avoiding rush hour in the morning when everyone is heading to work.  Although it was fine, you'll be crammed in like a sardine and it's very hot!

Take the trains for day trips! Europe has a way better train system than the U.S. Use it! it's fun, convenient, relaxing, and you can see a lot of the countryside while you are sitting back not having to worry about navigating. 

Pre-trip recommendations pointed to 'not using Black Cabs'. We LOVED the black cabs. We did not find them outrageously expensive, and the drivers are phenomenal! They know so much about their city and will tell you tidbits of knowledge while you are riding, and they are extremely nice and helpful. Additionally, everything is cashless - so it makes paying for things very easy. We enjoyed the black cabs much more because they have to be thoroughly trained on where everything is in the city - so none of them needed additional directions on how to get someplace. We did do an UBER a couple of times, and did not have as good of an experience, for really not that much difference in price. 


Europe is primarily cashless now. And when I say primarily, I mean it! We only encountered one time that a cab (in Dover) did not accept cards, and wanted cash. We were so unprepared, because everywhere else we encountered only wanted cards. The pandemic has really changed how currency works. It made things very easy/convenient. We did get cash out - you can just use the ATM's - and have the bank do the conversion for you for the best rate. We wanted to bring a few paper notes and coins home with us just to have them, but we really did not need cash much at all!


Most travel advice indicates that you don't really need to tip in the U.K. While that may be true to a point, we found most of the restaurants and pubs we went to had a place to add tips, no different than here in the states. So, either they know an American and try to earn some extra cash - or tipping is becoming more common in this day and age of a tougher economy. It seemed much more prevalent to me, than how it was portrayed when researching information about traveling there. Just my experience...


If there is a pub or restaurant you definitely want to go to - book reservations. Most of them you can do this from online on their websites! This saved us multiple times to ensure we got into where we really wanted to go. They get booked up fast, so definitely book ahead. Even in a small town, we had one night that we could not get in anywhere... Also - don't be afraid to try different 'local' foods and drinks. Part of the experience of traveling somewhere new is to expand your horizons. If you don't like it, don't eat it. But be adventurous! You won't be sorry you were!


This is one item that really irks me, now that I have been across the pond and experienced this myself. So many times I have seen articles on-line: "10 signs you will stand out looking like an American!" Seriously, I'll admit it, I was a bit concerned thinking 'what should I be wearing over there?' Really, do they hate us when they think we are Americans? I thought - oh boy - we are definitely going to stick out like a sore thumb!   Well, first of all - THESE ARTICLES ONLINE ARE BULLSHIT/CLICKBATE!  Disregard them!  You could not tell who was American, British, Scottish, French, Asian, or Australian ... everyone is dressing the same overall.  Oh sure, there are always your people who dress in high fashion, but guess what - we have those people HERE! Dress for COMFORT! Whatever makes you feel comfortable - dress that way. You WILL NOT stick out looking like an American. And ya know what? Even if people realize you are American, YOU ARE! Why do we want to hide this fact?  That's absolutely silly! And people were more than friendly to us as Americans! So now I got that ridiculous point off my chest...

Do, however, follow recommendations for items to pack/bring along based on weather/climate. Example: raincoats, dressing in layers, etc. The weather changes a lot (normally) from morning to afternoon, to night, so you will want the layers. We got SO INCREDIBLY lucky with zero rain and sunny, clear, perfect mid 60's temperatures while we were there. Very unusual! We were very glad for our layers though - much needed. 

The thing I learned about our world is how small it really is: people are basically the same everywhere. Yes we have some different customs, different food, different languages/accents/words, different places to visit - but overall - we are all just human and all very much the same.  


My final 'words of wisdom'... Life is short! If there is some place you want to go, has always been on your bucket list, GO! Don't wait!  GO! GO! GO!  Do it while you can. Don't 'wait until later, or 'when we have more time.' And if you think you can't swing it, thoroughly investigate and looks for ways you can make it happen.  You won't regret it! There are so many economical options for people to travel - take advantage of them, or ask others who may have some ideas and can help you. Live life to the fullest - experience the world! Meet people, expand your horizons, knowledge, and ideas! We encountered so many wonderful people during our travels. People from all over the world - including crossing paths with other Americans. It was so fun to interact with others who were sharing a similar journey. What an immensely fantastic experience! 

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” 

                                                            “Dare to live the life you've always wanted."

                                                                                                                  “Adventures are the best way to learn.”

“I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list.”



**Continue to stay tuned as I organize my photos and share photo video montages... many many more to come.

**London Black Cab...

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