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Old 05-04-2011, 02:02 PM   #1
tlbwriter
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London/Paris: To ABD or not to ABD?

That is the question...

We are tentatively planning a trip to England and France (mostly London and Paris) in June 2012, and I'm wondering whether to do ABD or do it on our own. There would be at least four of us (three adults, one preteen) and possibly two more adults. If the extra two adults come, one has been to Paris a couple of times but none of us have been to London, and if they don't, we're all complete newbies. So we're wondering if we should try to plan it ourselves or not.

One issue is that DH would really love to spend a day on a D-day tour of Normandy, and we would also like to attend a Sunday service at Westminster Abbey (I know they have services every day, but we want to attend the one held on Sundays), and I assume that means we'd have to break away from the group at some point, or stay longer and make a second trip into France. I don't know, I'm just thinking out loud at this point. Would love to hear your thoughts, and the pros/cons of an ABD trip.
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Old 05-07-2011, 09:57 PM   #2
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ABD London/Paris

We took our oldest son, age 11 at the time, on the ABD City of Knights & Lights trip to London and Paris last Easter. It was the best vacation we have ever been on in our lives. Totally first class all the way. We arrived three days early and were able to add on a few things that were not on the tour, like Windsor Castle which is a must-see. In Paris, we added on two days at the end of the tour and went to Normandy. We hired a retired British General to give us an all day tour of the American beaches and it was amazing. I cannot recommend this tour highly enough. The number on reason to go with SBD is the Disney "Fast Pass." When we arrived at Versailles there was a 4 hour line to get in but we went right to the front and were given a wonderful tour by two Parisian guides (in addition to our two Dinsey guides). You will never waste a moment - no waiting for food, your meals are pre-ordered and brought out quickly after you are seated in the restaurant whether it be in the gardens of Versailles or at the Eiffel Tower. Cannot recommend this highly enough. Worth every penny. Book it!
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Old 05-08-2011, 11:38 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Momof3ScottBoys View Post
We took our oldest son, age 11 at the time, on the ABD City of Knights & Lights trip to London and Paris last Easter. It was the best vacation we have ever been on in our lives. Totally first class all the way. We arrived three days early and were able to add on a few things that were not on the tour, like Windsor Castle which is a must-see. In Paris, we added on two days at the end of the tour and went to Normandy. We hired a retired British General to give us an all day tour of the American beaches and it was amazing. I cannot recommend this tour highly enough. The number on reason to go with SBD is the Disney "Fast Pass." When we arrived at Versailles there was a 4 hour line to get in but we went right to the front and were given a wonderful tour by two Parisian guides (in addition to our two Dinsey guides). You will never waste a moment - no waiting for food, your meals are pre-ordered and brought out quickly after you are seated in the restaurant whether it be in the gardens of Versailles or at the Eiffel Tower. Cannot recommend this highly enough. Worth every penny. Book it!
I've signed up for this ABD, and will be going in September. This makes me even more excited (even though I already know this about ABD!) I really agree they should book it!

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Old 05-08-2011, 12:23 PM   #4
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It depends on whether you want your trip to be structured and scheduled so it's pretty much no muss no fuss for you, or if you prefer to be spontaneous and have the ability to spend more or less time at the venues you really want to see. It's more of a personal travel preference, regardless of where you are traveling to.

I took my first trip to London a few years ago, and I went solo. I had a list of the places I really wanted to see, a few days to just "wing it", and I had a great time. Although I was there for a week, I could have used two weeks. But, then, I prefer my trips to be more on the spontaneous side. I don't want to feel forced to visit a certain place for a certain amount of time, or dine in a certain restaurant. I don't even like making ADR's at WDW because it gets in the way of being spontaneous! Don't feel intimidated just because you haven't been there before. There's so much information out there, especially on the Internet, that it's easy to do it on your own, if you want to.

I think if you prefer the structured and preplanned trip, then ABD is definitely the way to go. I think you get a lot more personal attention compared to other tour companies, and the quality can't be beat. Since London and Paris are so close together, you could do the ABD first, and then have a few extra days at the end to explore whichever city you enjoyed the most - best of both worlds!
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Old 05-08-2011, 12:45 PM   #5
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Both cities are very easy to do on your own. We much prefer it that way. There is so much to see and do, that I personally would feel constrained by a planned itinerary. You can always book a tour to Normandy when you get to Paris. My DH went here and it was the highlight of his trip. But then again, he is a history teacher.

Lastly, if cost is a consideration, an on your own trip is much cheaper than an ABD trip. You could even book a package trip through AAA or something for the flight/hotel/subway pass/ city tour of each city with breakfast every day and still come out cheaper and be able to stay longer. We love to catch some pub grub, cafe food or food from a street vendor in both cities so we can just eat when we are hungry and not eat when people tell us to. Just the way we prefer to travel.
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Old 05-14-2011, 03:11 PM   #6
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We were just in Paris and London for a week (along with other stops before them), all on our own. As the planner, I can tell you that if you take a tour it will be much easier on you. But we wanted complete flexibility so we went on our own.

Honestly, both London and Paris are easy to do on your own. In Paris, it was an easy 30-40 min train ride to both Versailles and DLP. And since we were on our own we were some of the 1st people into Versailles that day and we were able to see the Hall of Mirrors and the King and Queen's rooms with no-one in them but us (this is really unusual).

Also, we took the Eurostar train from Paris to London -- 2 hours or so and super-easy to do.

But, like I said, it's more work in the planning stages of the trip.

Good luck with whichever way you choose to go.
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Old 05-14-2011, 03:28 PM   #7
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Having done ABDs to other places, and Paris and London on our own, I would say....it depends.

You mention one preteen and the rest adults in your group. My only child far prefers the ABDs for the chance to be with other kids. On the other hand, some of my very favorite bonding moments with her have come when we were walking around Paris or London just the two of us, sharing the sense of discovery. But she was bored at mealtimes when DH and I would linger over drinks and she'd be stuck reading a book. So it depends on your kid.

Both cities are easy to do on your own just becuase there's so much to do. You can't really go wrong, no matter how little you plan. There's just great stuff to see and experience everywhere.

In Paris, there are wonderful private tours available to book for a day or a half day. The one we did, offered by Paris Muse, gave us an ABD moment in our trip without the structure of the whole tour, and we loved it. I'm sure there are similar tours available in London. The good ones cost big bucks, but so does an ABD.

If you are willing to be an early riser, you can get the "front of the line" experience just by making sure you arrive at the major destinations before they open. We toured Versaille in June, a very busy month, and walked right in because we were there early.

Having said all that, nothing beats the complete and total relaxation that comes on the ABDs. You just don't have to worry about a single thing. For us, this has meant not having any of the little trip agruments that sometimes can happen when we are tired, hungry, and not sure the best next move.

I know this doesn't really answer your question, but I think with these cities, you can do it either way. The only thing that might tip it is if you've never done foreign travel, you might be happiest leaving it to the pros.

Either way, I wish you a great trip!
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Old 05-16-2011, 08:10 AM   #8
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Thanks for the advice everybody! I think we will probably end up doing it on our own due to cost and flexibility.
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Old 05-17-2011, 02:43 AM   #9
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I am not a fan of packaged tours - especially in cities as easy to navigate as London and Paris. Read Rick Steves' London and Rick Steves' Paris guide books, buy a Paris Museum Pass for the length of your stay, and connect the cities by taking the Eurostar. If you really want a tour, you can do 6-night Rick Steves' tours in both London and Paris for about the price of one 6-night ABD London and Paris tour!
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Old 05-17-2011, 10:46 AM   #10
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I am not a fan of packaged tours - especially in cities as easy to navigate as London and Paris. Read Rick Steves' London and Rick Steves' Paris guide books, buy a Paris Museum Pass for the length of your stay, and connect the cities by taking the Eurostar. If you really want a tour, you can do 6-night Rick Steves' tours in both London and Paris for about the price of one 6-night ABD London and Paris tour!
To each his/her own! I'm not a fan of some packaged tours--have done the "if this is Tuesday it must be Belgium" kind of tour and it was exhausting. The ABD and other high end tours are expensive, but you do get value from them--for us, we like the blend of pre or post days on our own and the ABD; it worked well for our kids and for my own sanity in not having to worry about everything, plan everything (other than the "on your own" time and the pre/post days). I can do it--so that's not the issue--it is really about just taking a break from being the responsible one. Others like doing it on their own--I know folks who love to keep track of their every expenditure and enjoy finding bargins etc.--and I was more that way when I was younger. Now--I'll bite the bullet and pay more for a better hotel, for better seats at the theater etc! (I draw the line at ridiculous airfare costs for business or first class though! Have to wait to win the lotto first...)
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Old 05-17-2011, 12:23 PM   #11
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Use tour groups selectively

Stonehenge is difficult to do on your own from London unless you rent a car. However, there are plenty of tour companies that provide 1-day bus tours of Stonehedge.

I think it is best to use group tours *selectively* where they add the most value, rather than spend 2 weeks with the same 20 people.


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Old 05-17-2011, 12:27 PM   #12
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I suggest you look on viator.com for London and Paris. They have a number of "skip the lines" tickets. Viator is just a booking agent, but we have used them in Denmaark, UK for Buckingham Palace skip the lines tickets, Florence for Tuscan day trip and Barcelona bike tour. All documents, tours, customer service were great. When we go back to the UK, I would probably use them for the Stonehenge tour, for example.
We did 10 days in Europe on our own with kids last Aug. London is super easy. I did like having a day or two with a viator.com tour--sort of a "poorman's" ABD. On our Tuscan tour ($90 PP), we went to 2 hills towns with a walking tour and entrance to Catherdral, lunch at a winery, stop at Pisa (for which we could have ordered thru them admission tickets to climb the tower). It was a 10 hour bus tour. Putting a few of those day tour and skip the lines tickets makes a DIY trip even easier.
Also, for London, look up getting Ceremony of the Keys tickets to the Tower. It's pretty cool. You must write for tickets months in advance. You can get the required International Reply Coupon postage online (as few post offices have them anymore). It comes with a very fancy invitation.have fun. Elaine ps--we stayed at the Park Plaza Victoria hotel--very pleased--great rates if you book early (90 pds for a triple room in Aug). You can walk from the Tube--1.5 blocks. Easy double-decker bus connection to Westminster, Big Ben, etc.--or you could walk. Walk to Buckingham Palace. Loved the location.
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Old 05-17-2011, 12:43 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by ldo View Post
I suggest you look on viator.com for London and Paris. They have a number of "skip the lines" tickets. Viator is just a booking agent, but we have used them in Denmaark, UK for Buckingham Palace skip the lines tickets, Florence for Tuscan day trip and Barcelona bike tour. All documents, tours, customer service were great. When we go back to the UK, I would probably use them for the Stonehenge tour, for example.
We did 10 days in Europe on our own with kids last Aug. London is super easy. I did like having a day or two with a viator.com tour--sort of a "poorman's" ABD. On our Tuscan tour ($90 PP), we went to 2 hills towns with a walking tour and entrance to Catherdral, lunch at a winery, stop at Pisa (for which we could have ordered thru them admission tickets to climb the tower). It was a 10 hour bus tour. Putting a few of those day tour and skip the lines tickets makes a DIY trip even easier.
Also, for London, look up getting Ceremony of the Keys tickets to the Tower. It's pretty cool. You must write for tickets months in advance. You can get the required International Reply Coupon postage online (as few post offices have them anymore). It comes with a very fancy invitation.have fun. Elaine ps--we stayed at the Park Plaza Victoria hotel--very pleased--great rates if you book early (90 pds for a triple room in Aug). You can walk from the Tube--1.5 blocks. Easy double-decker bus connection to Westminster, Big Ben, etc.--or you could walk. Walk to Buckingham Palace. Loved the location.
Great tips, thanks!
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Old 05-17-2011, 01:21 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ldo View Post
I suggest you look on viator.com for London and Paris. They have a number of "skip the lines" tickets. Viator is just a booking agent, but we have used them in Denmaark, UK for Buckingham Palace skip the lines tickets, Florence for Tuscan day trip and Barcelona bike tour. All documents, tours, customer service were great. When we go back to the UK, I would probably use them for the Stonehenge tour, for example.
We did 10 days in Europe on our own with kids last Aug. London is super easy. I did like having a day or two with a viator.com tour--sort of a "poorman's" ABD. On our Tuscan tour ($90 PP), we went to 2 hills towns with a walking tour and entrance to Catherdral, lunch at a winery, stop at Pisa (for which we could have ordered thru them admission tickets to climb the tower). It was a 10 hour bus tour. Putting a few of those day tour and skip the lines tickets makes a DIY trip even easier.
Also, for London, look up getting Ceremony of the Keys tickets to the Tower. It's pretty cool. You must write for tickets months in advance. You can get the required International Reply Coupon postage online (as few post offices have them anymore). It comes with a very fancy invitation.have fun. Elaine ps--we stayed at the Park Plaza Victoria hotel--very pleased--great rates if you book early (90 pds for a triple room in Aug). You can walk from the Tube--1.5 blocks. Easy double-decker bus connection to Westminster, Big Ben, etc.--or you could walk. Walk to Buckingham Palace. Loved the location.
I'd vouch for Viator--we used them to see Stonehenge (did a sunrise tour--only a few are offered per year--and you get to walk among the stones which was pretty cool). We did that and Bath--very nice day trip!!
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Old 05-17-2011, 02:23 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ldo View Post
I suggest you look on viator.com for London and Paris. They have a number of "skip the lines" tickets. Viator is just a booking agent, but we have used them in Denmaark, UK for Buckingham Palace skip the lines tickets, Florence for Tuscan day trip and Barcelona bike tour. All documents, tours, customer service were great. When we go back to the UK, I would probably use them for the Stonehenge tour, for example.
We did 10 days in Europe on our own with kids last Aug. London is super easy. I did like having a day or two with a viator.com tour--sort of a "poorman's" ABD. On our Tuscan tour ($90 PP), we went to 2 hills towns with a walking tour and entrance to Catherdral, lunch at a winery, stop at Pisa (for which we could have ordered thru them admission tickets to climb the tower). It was a 10 hour bus tour. Putting a few of those day tour and skip the lines tickets makes a DIY trip even easier.
Also, for London, look up getting Ceremony of the Keys tickets to the Tower. It's pretty cool. You must write for tickets months in advance. You can get the required International Reply Coupon postage online (as few post offices have them anymore). It comes with a very fancy invitation.have fun. Elaine ps--we stayed at the Park Plaza Victoria hotel--very pleased--great rates if you book early (90 pds for a triple room in Aug). You can walk from the Tube--1.5 blocks. Easy double-decker bus connection to Westminster, Big Ben, etc.--or you could walk. Walk to Buckingham Palace. Loved the location.
Thanks for the info! I'll look up viator.com. I'm thinking of doing a day trip to Oxford from Winchester. It would be nice if I could have a tour while I'm there. I've already requested tickets for the Ceremony of the Keys. I guess I was lucky, because my local post office had the International Reply coupons! (Although they only had a few left because someone had cleaned them out of almost 50 just the day before! )

Quote:
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I'd vouch for Viator--we used them to see Stonehenge (did a sunrise tour--only a few are offered per year--and you get to walk among the stones which was pretty cool). We did that and Bath--very nice day trip!!
Cool! Good to know. As I said above, I'm looking for a tour of Oxford. I'll have to see what Viator has to offer.

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My Taming the Last Frontier ABD Alaska Trip Report! (2009)! 7 parts, pictures, stories, & more impressions!
Also check out my ABD/DCL Mediterranean Magic Trip Report! (2010)
NOW POSTING! My DIS Unplugged London/Paris/Disneyland Paris Trip Report! (2011)
Now posting my Greek Odyssey Trip Report (2013)
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