The Best of London in 24 Hours

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A city as iconic and fascinating as London deserves a weekend stay or more. But, connecting flights are common through this famed capital, so extending your trip from another European city for a bonus day in London is a wise choice.   

So how do you see all the incredible landmarks of London and get a good taste of the culture in just 24 hours? Here’s an overview of the Best of London to give you a good start. Whenever you happen to arrive, grab your walking shoes (and an umbrella wouldn't hurt) to be prepared for a big day ahead!

Walk or Ride in Westminster

Westminster is where you want to be - it's the heart of London with many tourist staples. Explore on foot or opt for the Original London Sightseeing Tour bus. This red double-decker will allow you to see double the sights in half the time, while having a live guide explain the landmarks and history.  

You’re able to hop on and off wherever you like at places like Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Royal Albert Hall, Piccadilly Circus and the British Museum.

Cruise the Thames

With this sightseeing bus ticket, you’ll receive a free ticket to cruise on the River Thames. We always love a reason to see cities in a variety of ways, so this is a great way to do so. While you're on the water, make sure to spot the Tate Modern Museum with its incredible architecture. If you have extra time before lunch, a stop at this modern museum is also worth the visit.

Lunch on the Strand

You've now walked, bused and cruised, it's time to dine! Head to one of London’s best known roads, The Strand. You’ll find various high street chain restaurants, charming cafes, and fast food outlets perfect for relaxing and whetting your appetite.

Stroll through Marylebone

After a morning of historically-rich sights, head north on the tube to Marylebone (pronounced mar-le-bone), for a taste of classic London living. This area is an affluent, walkable residential district filled with white terraced Georgian and Edwardian properties. You’ll pass the beautiful Regent Park and grand homes, many of which are still single-family. Nearby is also the Sherlock Homes Museum and Wallace Collection.

Afternoon Tea

When in London, take time to relax and engage in the centuries-old tradition of afternoon tea. Typically between 3-6pm, high tea is made available, often served with savory and sweet snacks. The Marylebone area offers no shortage of options, or head back towards the Thames to find a unique tea venue, like the Swan which is attached to the famed Shakespheare's Globe Theater. Ah tea time, it's quite lovely, isn't it?

An Evening in Leicester Square

After recharging at your hotel, get a little dressy and head to Leicester Square to enjoy a lively night on the town. This area just west of the main sights in Westminster is a pedestrianized square with a fun vibe. Restaurant options are endless so have your choice of Italian pasta, English pub grub, Indian curries, or wherever your cravings take you.

Catch a Live Show

The Leicester Square Theater is iconic for its live performances. Grab tickets in advance to experience it in person or check out other great venues in this area, like the Sam Wanamaker Theater (next to the Tate Modern Museum). One of the best shows we've ever seen is the all-candlelit Othello at the Sam Wanamaker Theater.  The smaller setting and lack of bright light provided for a unique and intimate performance.  

Ride the London Eye

Before you call it a (most delightful!) day, enjoy a final nightcap and ‘champagne flight’ on the London Eye. It’s a breathtaking way to see London at night, and you’ll also find yourself in one of the capital’s best bars.

Where to Stay

When in London for a short time, the best areas to stay are in South Kensington or Bloomsbury. Both are on the direct tube line from Heathrow Airport. If you are arriving at Gatwick airport, then the London Bridge area or Victoria would be most convenient.

Before you head back to the airport, fill up on a big traditional English breakfast. It's delicious and you'll be glad you did for your travel day ahead!

 

Amsterdam: Your 3-Day Guide

It's the bike capital of the world, and with more canals than you can count. Our 36-hour trip proved it’s a fun city to navigate, with friendly locals and craft beer set under high windmills. Here’s what you need to know for maximizing a 3-day trip!

Getting Around

Take a Tesla Taxi - Surprisingly, you’ll be greeted at Amsterdam’s main airport by dozens of electric Teslas. The city is progressive and has enlisted these upscale, fuel-efficient cars in a bid to reduce its carbon footprint. It’s fancy, inexpensive, green and a great ride!

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Ok, the airport models don't have these fancy doors, but they're still real nice. Justin started the trip with a free transfer thanks to the good people at booking.com.

Hop on a Bike - You just so happen to be in the bike mecca of the world! Since there are more bikes than people, pedaling around is an essential Amsterdam experience. Simply grab one for rent (they’re available all over) and explore the city streets. You’ll be able to see more in a day, while also blending in with the locals.

A wooden shoe ON a bike - it doesn't get more Dutch than this.

Cruise the Canals – Being on these waterways provides a stunning backdrop for seeing the sights and attractions. Choose from one or two-hour guided tours that feature interesting city facts along the way. With 165 canals, you could also opt for a cruise with hop-on-hop-off services while you explore areas of interest. For a unique and intimate experience, try an evening dinner cruise.

Try Out the Tram – Get a daily tram pass for less than $10 and easily explore the different neighborhoods and attractions of the city.

Eat & Drink

When in the land of delicious Dutch baked goods, make sure to try both sweet and savory. Local favorites include bitterballen, small bites filled with beef and spices; stroopwafels, chewy waffle-like cookies and the infamous Dutch pastries.

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When you need a little pick-me-up, there’s no shortage of coffee shops. Just note that your visit will likely include a slight marijuana smell as its legal in Amsterdam and can be sold along with coffee.

If you prefer a beer, you’re in luck as Amsterdam’s craft beer game is strong. Check out the brews at the popular Brouwerij ‘t IJ with its iconic location underneath the city’s tallest windmill.

For dinner, a Dutch meal is traditionally hearty, so many restaurants offer meat and potato selections on their menus. Seafood is also common with the city’s close proximity to the water. When in Amsterdam, try the herring with pickles and onions.

Stay

Have your pick from well-kept canal houses, boutique bed & breakfasts and luxurious apartments, among many hotel options.

The Old Centre is a popular area for tourists to stay. We enjoyed staying here as it’s a short walk from the main sights, with plenty of great restaurants, shopping outlets and nightlife. Here you can find an abundance of accommodations from cheap to fancier; just keep in mind that some may find the proximity of the red light district off-putting.  

Grachtengordel West is the neighborhood just west of the Old Centre and is beautifully lined by the canals. It’s pricier with five-star hotels and retreat properties. Head to the street of Raadhuisstraat which is a bit busier for less expensive options.

Grachtengordel South is an increasingly popular area to stay with many restaurants, bars and clubs. Several hotels line the surrounding canals offering both budget-friendly and luxury options.

See & Do

Check out trendy hotspots by walking around the canals and the River Amstel for its famous ‘skinny bridge’. The Canal Ring is a must-see area with majestic canal houses. 

Take a walk through the Jordaan neighborhood for a look at charming cafes and great shopping. Outdoor markets are also popular where there's no shortage of Dutch food and flowers.

Amsterdam is also home to multiple world-famous museums.  Its Museum District houses the Van Gogh Museum, works by Rembrandt and Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum, and modern art at the Stedelijk.  Also popular is the Anne Frank House, the Rembrandt House, the square of Musemplein and the Royal Palace.

Amsterdam is a compact city so in just a few days you can get a good feel for the culture and see all the major attractions!

8 Reasons to See Iceland by Camper Van

If driving and camping in a foreign country sound a little out of your comfort zone, hear us out.  Iceland is an adventure playground and a camper van is a great way to explore it. 

Why rent a camper:

1. You’ll see more.

Since you won’t have to shuttle or drive back to a hotel, you’ll have more time for taking in the sights. With a camper van, you can travel farther each day than you would otherwise be able to. That's more time to take in the beauty of glaciers, geysers, boiling mud pools and more.

2. Save money.

Instead of paying for a hotel and booking day tours, you can sleep and explore at a fraction of the cost. You’ll also have a built-in kitchen for when you don’t want to eat out for every meal. In Iceland, even a fast food meal can cost $15.

3. You’ll feel a world away, in the best way.

Fall asleep with the Northern Lights swirling above. Wake up to the sound of a nearby waterfall. Open your door to a view of a glacier. You get to appreciate these awesome moments before the crowds arrive.

4. The roads are great.

Iceland’s Ring Road (Hwy 1) is the main path that leads you to Iceland’s best glaciers, hot springs, waterfalls and more. It’s all paved making an easy and safe way to get from one spot to the next.  

5. Camp sites make it easy.  

Rarely will you need a camping reservation. You can often just show up, park for the night and use the modern and well-managed facilities.

6. The landscape is ideal for a road trip.

Iceland has a small number of people per square mile and hardly any trees. Drive the open road and soak up the scenery without having to worry about traffic. Your camper is also easy to spot with such open terrain.

7.  Convenience is key.

The weather in Iceland can be unpredictable. With a camper van, you decide how long to stay in each location rather than relying on transfer schedules.

8. Adventure is good. 

Sure, you may have to be the navigator and could have a windy night or two, but having an adventure to remember is certain. In a place as beautiful and remote as Iceland's land of fire and ice, you'll be glad to stay among the beauty while exploring it to the fullest.

The Perks of TSA PreCheck

If you fly a few times per year and want to skip the long airport lines, this is for you.

Imagine getting to arrive at the airport later, breeze through the security line and not have to spend time removing your jacket and shoes. This is your reality when you have TSA PreCheck.  Here’s what you need to know to see if it’s right for you.

What is TSA PreCheck?

It's a program that allows low-risk travelers to enjoy shorter wait times and better service at airport security checkpoints. Eligible travelers skip the long line and instead ease through security without having to remove shoes, belts, liquids or laptops from carry-ons. Wait times are typically under 5 minutes and most U.S. airport locations offer PreCheck for domestic and international travel.  

So, what's the catch? There is a cost to participate: $85 for a 5-year membership. There's also the option of adding Global Entry for $15 which allows you to expedite international customs when traveling back to the U.S. 

Our Experience - Is it Worth it?

Justin started using TSA PreCheck in June.

"I never would have guessed how efficient and awesome this service would be.  At first I was reluctant to pay the $85 but I fly about once per month and almost missed a flight because of long lines.

My first time using it was at Midway airport. I walked up without waiting and put my bag on the conveyor belt. I proceeded to walk through the metal detector without taking anything off. The whole process took literally less than a minute.

I now arrive to the airport about 20 minutes later than I normally would, which is especially helpful in my home airport of busy Atlanta. The only time I've noticed PreCheck to take a little longer is when security picks passengers at random to go through the PreCheck line. They seem to "know the drill" of no shoes, belts etc, so they remove them even though it isn't necessary.

I also opted for Global Entry, which I used recently traveling to the Dominican Republic. I simply checked in at the kiosk - scanned my passport, answered 5 questions that were all 'no', it took my picture and I was done. I also got to skip filling out a customs card and waiting in the immigration and customs queues when I returned to the U.S."

How to Apply

You can apply online directly through TSA: www.tsa.gov/precheck. (PreCheck gets you expedited airport security for $85. Global Entry gets you expedited immigration and PreCheck for $100.)

An online application takes about five minutes. You’ll then schedule a ten-minute appointment at any of the 380+ enrollment centers. The appointment will be in-person and includes a background check and fingerprinting.  Once approved you can immediately start using PreCheck and are good to go for the next five years.

How to Find a Cheap Flight

Although the days of $39 one-way flights seem to be behind us, there are still ways to save when booking airfare. Often times, flights can be one of the most expensive (and stressful!) parts of a trip so finding a deal is not only important, it can be the determining factor in going at all.  When searching, your time is also worth something so we compiled this list to save you time so you can book comfortably and feel good about it.

Here are our 6 tried and true tips based on a decade of travel and hundreds of flights flown around the world.

1.  Be Flexible with When You Travel

If you're looking to go to Mexico over spring break or Europe in the middle of summer, you're going to see higher rates. Same with weekends - they tend to be pricier since the demand is greater, so consider a weekday flight when possible. Also, those early morning and late night flights aren't most people's first choice so discounted rates can be found then.  Cheaper flights are offered when fewer people want to travel. Changing your schedule by just one day can mean hundreds of dollars in savings.

When possible, book the flight first, even before accommodations. This way, you'll know you have a good deal on the airfare and can budget more accurately for the remainder of the trip. There are many great resources for getting a quick visual of prices for a whole month. Consider Google Flights, Travelocity or Orbitz. You can easily compare what days are cheapest for your specific route.

2.  Avoid Cookies in Your Web Browser

Have you noticed after web searching several times for a flight, the price seems to go up? It's not in your head, flight prices can actually increase when a particular route is repeatedly searched based on the cookies in your browser. The site is enticing you to book as quickly as possible. Avoid this by changing your browser to private browsing mode or incognito. Just follow these steps:

When using Google Chrome & Safari: Hit Command or CTRL, Shift, “N”.  For an older version of Safari, click "Safari" in the menu bar, then "Private Browsing".

When using Mozilla Firefox & Internet Explorer: Hit Command or CTRL, Shift, “P”.

This will ensure you aren't 'remembered' while searching and can avoid seeing inflated fares.

3.  Use Budget Airlines

This may seem obvious but often times budget airline flights don't show up on searches like Priceline, Kayak and Expedia. Many offer significantly reduced fares and sales, we just need to go directly to the airline website for rates. In the U.S., consider Southwest, Frontier, JetBlue, and Allegiant.

When flying internationally, we've found Europe's EasyJet and RyanAir to be great options for price and service. For a complete list of airlines, see Low-Cost Airlines by Continent.  When booking, confirm if checked baggage is included or if there are add-ons, so you aren't surprised by hidden fees. Also, you may want to double check the arrival destination for your trip's convenience. For example, a "North Paris" airport may require a separate transfer into the city itself.  Those additional costs may add up, making your deal a not-so-great deal after all.

4.  Book Multiple Legs of a Trip

For longer and direct flights, it's worth checking to see if separate bookings can save you money. This can mean purchasing legs of your trip separately or even using different carriers to get you from point A to B.  This can mean not flying direct even though it's an option. You can also find a return flight to be cheaper when booked on its own rather than with a round-trip fare.

5.  Consider When is Cheapest to Book

Many studies have been done to determine the best time to book, ranging from months out to just weeks before departure.  In reality, airlines often don’t actively start monitoring domestic flight prices until about three months before departure and about six months out for international departures.  It's then that price cutting typically starts. So, you can plan to start your search within those parameters without feeling like you've missed out on a good rate. But don't book too close to your departure - when you find a price that you are comfortable with you should take it. There's nothing like waiting too long only to find out the best rates have passed.

In regards to what days of the week is better for cheap fares, here's a good rule of thumb. Try to avoid booking flights on a Friday unless you know it's a deal.  Studies have shown that airlines may start price hikes then as leisure travelers search heavily on the weekend. 

You may have heard Tuesdays offer the cheapest rates and although there are conflicting theories, this could be due to airline executives reviewing weekend sales and trying to offload remaining seats starting on Tuesdays. Early weekdays may be a good booking time, however, keep in mind that other studies reveal that most business travel bookings happen during the week so rates may fluctuate to maximize airline profits. Overall, consider that when you travel is often more cost-saving than when you book.

6. Buddy Passes

This may not apply to you today, but it is worth knowing in case you have or may someday have friends in the airline industry. Employees of airlines often receive a handful of flight passes that they can willfully give to family and friends. These passes allow travelers to fill empty seats on aircrafts for a fraction of the flight cost. This can include flying anywhere in the world so long as the flight isn't full and you are willing to have a flexible schedule as flights can fill at the last minute. Wouldn't it be nice if we all knew a buddy in the industry!

Follow these steps and be on your way to happier bookings. At the end of the day, you want to feel good about your purchase, so monitor flights occasionally, book when comfortable and move on to the more exciting parts of your trip!