Day tours from London are probably one of the easiest ways to see the some of the English countryside without having to change your reservations from London. Whether you want to book a trip through a company to have the whole day planned out for you or book a train ticket and plan the day yourself, there are so many options for the different nearby towns. While I was in London, I did a few different day trips with a few different companies.
Windsor Castle has been home to the kings and queens of England for over a 1,000 years and continues to be the preferred home of Her Majesty the Queen. The tour of the Castle takes about 2-3 hours to walk through so plan accordingly; you walk the grounds, parts of the castle (where you latterly go through 1,000 years of history and interior design) and the neighboring town of Eton. It is a 45-minute car/bus ride or an hour-and-a-half train ride.
Stonehenge and Bath
Personally, this is the coolest bunch of boulders you will ever see and I love them. Yes, they are a circle of rocks. No, no one really knows how they got there. They know where the boulders and stones originated from, but not how they got to Salisbury to become Stonehenge. That’s what makes them so fascinating. Or I just like the boulders in the middle of a field. The picturesque homes built out of the bath stones and cobblestones of Bath send you back in time, and with the help of the Roman Bath and Jane Austen, you do feel like you are in another time. It’s easy to wander around for the afternoon or the entire day in Bath. Stonehenge is about an hour-and-a-half drive out of London and Bath is about a two-hour drive out.
Bampton & *Highclere Castle
Bampton is most recognizable from the series Downton Abbey. It is the local town where fans flock to walk through the church, the hospital, and the homes/store fronts of some of the characters (I’m not much help on specifics, I’m only up to season 2.) Highclere Castle is a separate tour, mostly because Bampton and the Castle are a bit of a drive away from each other and there isn't enough time in the day to do both then, but you can tour the home made famous by the show. Bampton is an hour-and-a-half away from London and Highclere Castle is about an hour (Bampton to Highclere is about fifty minutes)
Blenheim Palace and Burford
Blenheim Palace is the birthplace and home to Sir Winston Churchill. If you are a history buff or a Winston Churchill fan, this is probably the best trip of all for you. The rooms Churchill lived in have been preserved/restored to as he left them and the collection of historical data fills rooms. The gardens are said to be designed similarly to the Gardens of Versailles and are worth an hour or two of wandering around. Burford is a small town in the Cotswolds just outside of Blenheim Palace. Burford is one of the many towns that tour companies will stop in for a lunch break or a break before the long ride home. There are a ton of unique shops, cafes, and shops to walk through along with the main road to walk up to the top of the hill to view the city. Burford is an hour-and-a-half drive from London and Blenheim is less than a twenty-minute drive.
Shakespeare. Oh, Shakespeare. Love him or hate him, you have probably read something by him at one point or another. Stratford-upon-Avon will plunge you right in the middle of the Middle Ages with the Tudor style homes (wooden panels on the outside considered “half timbered”). You can tour Shakespeare’s home in Stratford, but not Anne Hathaway’s cottage. Be sure to check your tours if you book one and see if they include her cottage. Some tours do not go to her cottage because it is farther away. Stratford-upon-Avon is about two hours from London by car.
Canterbury and Dover
If you have read The Canterbury Tales, the Canterbury is no stranger to you. In The Canterbury Tales, they are on a journey from London to Canterbury (in way less detail). The Canterbury Cathedral is stunning inside and out, and if you happened to be touring on a day that choir is singing, stop, sit, and listen for a while. I would strongly recommend taking a day trip itself on your own to the White Cliffs of Dover. You can’t experience them in an hour. Buy a train ticket on the National Rail, pack your walking shoes, and pack a picnic. You’ll have a relaxing day walking the cliffs, exploring Dover and the Cliffs historical past, and even take a boat out to see the cliffs from the water. The coolest part about Dover? On a clear day you can see the coast of France. Only twenty miles away.
Day Tours I Did Not Take:
*Highclere Castle, Hampton Court, Cambridge & Oxford, Brighton, Birmingham, York, etc. There are PLENTY of other options!
These are a few of the tour companies in London that have different day trip options and even weekend trip along with the National Rail for trains/transit to travel on your own:
Premium Tours UK
xx A Traveler’s Bliss
I recently decided to go New York City for a mini vacation/getaway/work on photography/just any reason I could think of to take a break really. I wanted to pack as much in as possible while I was there without feeling over loaded. While I intended to write a much more in-depth version of this post, I was pretty beat on Sunday when I got back to Chicago and sleep was calling my name (homework might have been calling too, but I sent it to voice mail). Here is an abbreviated version of my four days in NYC:
Places to go
Flatiron // Empire State Building // Chrysler Building
Empire State Building
Grand Central Station
Manhattan Bridge from Washington St // Brooklyn Bridge // SoHo
Washington St (DUMBO)
Views of the Manhattan Bridge
W 10th St (Between 5th & 6th)
W 8th St (Between 5th & 6th)
Top of the Rock (Reservation online & slip the line $32)
or SixtyFive Bar
*Photo Tip: Go a about 45 minutes to an hour before sunset to any observation deck to watch the sky change before, during, and after the sunset.
World One Trade Center // Westfield WOTC // World One Observatory
Liberty Island & Ellis Island (Reservation online & skip the lines, $25)
Ferry to Staten Island (Free view of Statue of Liberty before sunset)
World One Trade Center & 9/11 Memorial Fountains
World One Observatory (Reservation online & skip the line $34)
Me at Bethesda Fountain // Central Park // Something with NY on it
The Bethesda Terrace & Fountain (from Enchanted)
The Boat Pond
Alice in Wonderland Statue
Central Park "Castle"
Out the Plane Window (take Off, clouds/weather, landing)
Crossing from Brooklyn (get NYC skyline shot)
Top of the Rock
Statue of Liberty
Times Square during the day & night
Empire State Building
Grand Central Station
hot dog stand,
crowds of people crossing the street
Something with "New York" written on it
xx A Traveler's Bliss
The view from the Aon Building on the 71st floor
This weekend was The Chicago Architecture Foundation's Open House in Chicago. 200 houses, estates, and buildings were open to the public for forty-eight hours for free for everyone to wander though to see the best of Chicago's architectural history. A foggy Saturday morning did not stop us from getting up early, maybe some extra delays, and getting out in the city to all of the rooftops we could access. We made our way through the city, going building to building on our map to see which rooftops and high-rise floors had the best views of Chicago in the downtown area.
Aon Center // 200 E. Randolph St 71st Floor
The top of my list is the Aon Center. Although we waited in quite the line, and believe me we almost bailed, it was worth the wait. The Aon Center has the most amazing 360 views of the city: looking down at Millennium Park, Two Prudential Plaza barely below you with the Willis in the background, the John Hancock at the end of the northern skyline, and Lake Michigan.
Cite Chicago // 505 N. Lake Shore Dr 70th Floor
Okay, spoiler, I did not go to Cite Chicago on the Open House weekend, I went the weekend before. But since Cite was part of Open House Chicago, I thought I would include it. Until the meet up, I had no idea there was a restaurant at the top of Lake Point Tower. T has a different perspective of the Chicago skyline since it is the only building on the east side of Lake Shore Drive.
Left photo by @kaycreature
Marquee at Block 37 // 25 W. Randolph St
The Marquee at Block 37 is on the corner of Randolph and State Street, across from Macy’s (formally Marshall Field’s). Marquee is an apartment complex that opened in June. And while it may cost a pretty penny to live there, the views make up for it. Right below you from the 5th or 38th floor is the iconic Chicago Theatre.
Metropolitan Club at Willis Tower // 33 S. Wacker Dr 67th Floor
So, the Metropolitan Club falls in the middle of my list. The morning started off so foggy that there was no view other than our own reflections in the windows. As the morning went on, the fog cleared up a bit but it was still pretty thick. You can’t control the weather, so you just have to role with it. From the 67th floor you can see over most of Chicago, [edit and add]
Wintrust Bank at La Salle St // 231 S. La Salle St
Wintrust Bank’s roof wasn’t the highest roof, and I think that’s what made it really nice. It is right next to the Chicago Board of Trade Building and a few blocks in front of it is the Willis Tower. If you are daring enough, you can lean over the edge and get some pretty epic pictures of the Chicago Board of Trade Building.
Sky-Line Club // 307 N. Michigan Ave
Okay, I was slightly let down a bite when we first got to the Sky-line Club because I somehow got the idea in my head that it was on the river (I think I started getting locations mixed up at the end of the day). But when we got to the top, they had a pretty nice view of the Wrigley Building and the chaotic traffic below.
Chicago Temple “Sky Temple” // 77 Washington St
Ever since my first year in Chicago, I have always wanted to inside the Chicago Temple and go to the top. I didn’t even think it was a possibility or if there was even anything at the top of the Chicago Temple, it was just a wish in a way. When I saw that it was on the list for the open house, I was there. When you walk in and become surrounded by the Temple’s stain glass it transports you to another era, making it easy to forget that you are in the center of downtown Chicago. The Sky Temple itself was at the top of the building, but with a limited view of the city (but when you’re surrounded by the kaleidoscope colors from the stain glass, who cares!)
Other rooftops and views in Chicago:
Cindy’s Rooftop Restaurant
Plymouth Rooftop Bar and Grill
John Hancock - The Signature Room at the 95th & The Signature Lounge at the 96th
Trump Tower Terrance
& when in doubt The Skydeck and Chicago 360
xx A Traveler's Bliss
It’s so hard to visit some place new and not want to buy something to “remember” the journey. It’s natural. And with souvenir shops on every corner in major tourist destinations, it’s hard not to wander in and think, “Oh that is cute, maybe I need it…” When you know you don’t, but you have to have it. It’s okay, we’ve all been there and we will all be there again. When you are traveling to multiple countries at once, it can be hard to get something from each country and avoid tacky street while on a budget.
Here are six different ways to collect souvenirs, mementos, and keepsakes when you are traveling to multiple countries or destinations:
Postcards are an inexpensive way to collect a keepsake from each destination you travel to, and it is also a great way to catalog your day. Every day you spend in each city or country, write and date the back of the postcard. Write about what you saw, your favorite shop, café, or somewhere you didn’t make it to and want to go back. By the end of your journey, you will have the most beautiful collection of postcards that have your personal touch.
Art on the Street:
How many of you just read that and thought huh?!?! No matter where you travel, you will find the most amazing artist selling their work on the streets or in markets. Paintings, sketches, photography, and sculptures you name it and you will be able to find it. I strongly recommend having spare money in a pocket in case you come across an artist and you want to buy their work. They are usually local and always have great advice about the city.
Magnets are small and if you are traveling to multiple countries on one trip, they are a fun option to collect. When you return home, your refrigerator will be decorated like there is no tomorrow from all of your travels.
Spoons & Thimbles:
These were some of my favorite things to look at in souvenir shops. If you want to collect something unique, space friendly, and won’t take up a lot of luggage space you should definitely consider one of these. They are so different and you can find intricate ones at markets or street sales.
I think coins are an amazing thing to collect. They are small and you can keep whatever small change you have left over from any country you visit, and Pinterest has dozens of projects dedicated to displaying coins from around the world.
When in doubt, jewelry is always a fun route to go. Finding unique pieces of jewelry on your travels in markets or small jewelry stores is always a must. You will be able to wear a little reminder of where you have been and your jewelry will be a conversation started.
Tip: If you have a Pandora bracelet or want to start one, try collecting charms on your journey. You can find charms that fit Pandora bracelets in some souvenir shops, but most shops don’t carry them anymore. Most museums have charms in their gift shops, though. Part of the fun of collecting charms is being able to find them in each city, and when you do you are pumped.
Charms I collected in London // Paris // Florence
However, if you are visiting one country, or just a few, here are some country-based souvenirs that are definitely worth spending the extra money:
Twining’s Tea from the Original Shop
Lavender Soap and Fragrances
Tip: Buy Paddington early in your trip to London and then take him to Paddington station for a photo opportunity
Twining's Tea Shop // Paddington Bear // Postcards
Art from Street Artist
Mini Eiffel Tower (Yeah, do it.)
Delft Blue “Porcelain”
Pasta. Go for the Pasta.
Tip: The best leather is in Florence, but you can get leather everywhere in Italy, so don't sweat it if you aren’t going there.
Venetian Renaissance Mask
Ceramic Painted Tiles
A wool Scottish Scarf for every outing // Market In Venice // Tiles in Portugal
Opals / Opal Jewelry
Glass Greek Eye
Greek Mythological Sculptures, Plates, Vases, etc.
xx A Traveler's Bliss
@heydeniz lost in Venice
You put so much time, effort, and especially money, into planning your perfect adventure. Whether it is a vacation to sit on a beach or wander the streets of and ancient city, there is nothing worse than having something go wrong. And the worst part is, it always seems like you covered everything, right? After traveling around the world and having some pretty god days, and some pretty bad ones, Hopefully this go-to list for travel safety and travel prep will have you feeling at the top of your game and prepared for anything the next time you pull out your suitcases.
All tips can also be applied to study abroad students, as well!
My number one. This is a must have for any trip out of the country when you are traveling with your passport. You should have either the Hidden belt or neck pouch for all of your travels. Take it from someone who the one time they didn’t take it, got everything stolen and will forever look at their security neck pouch and go, “curse you.” Because it really is a lifesaver. The hidden belt pouch and the security neck pouch I like both for different reasons. I think the neck works for all purposes and you can easily access it when you’re wearing anything. The belt is a little complicated when you’re wearing a dress, so you do have to go to a bathroom every time you want to get something out.
Documents Folder // Folder on Phone
The best advice I got before going abroad was to keep a folder with me at all time with hard copies of stay, visa, and extra copies of personal information. When my passport and my wallet were stolen, I had enough on me to get by and prove whom I was and what was going on.
When you are traveling internationally, I would recommend the exact same thing to anyone. Make hard copies of your itinerary, where you are staying, credit cards, passports, driver’s license, visas, and birth certificate (study abroad students should also keep copies of their acceptance into their program from their school or independent program, letter of acceptance from university you will be attending, and letter to border agency, if you are given one). Another important tactic is keeping them on your phone. It’s faster than pulling out the folder, and if you’re ever loose or forget your folder, you always have another copy on you.
Having contacts already set in your phone is a huge life saver (and time saver) and written down on a separate sheet of paper and saved in your documents folder because you never know if/when something might happen to you or a friend you are traveling with. It is better to be over prepared than underprepared. The best numbers you are going to want to have are:
• Your Emergency Contacts at Home
• Your International Program at your University’s emergency number (if they have one) and email
• Your Program Coordinator/Advisor Abroad
If you are doing an Independent Program, you should have an Emergency Number, your Program Coordinator’s Number and email, and the Program’s email
• US Embassy or Consulate’s number and address in your designated country
Locks, Locks, Locks. Put locks on your luggage and on your purse/backpack when you are walking around the city. You should wear it on your chest (trust me, I know, not attractive at all), but the locks are very effective in the sense that it makes you less of a target. Is it full proof? No. But it helps.
Photograph Everything Before Leaving
It happens, luggage gets lost. Before you leave the house take a picture of all of your luggage (your checked bags, carry-ons, etc) and the inside. This way, if your luggage does go on an adventure of it’s own, you can show Lost Luggage a picture of what it looks like and it will make their job a whole lot easier.
Okay, this may seem weird, but it’s my favorite trick. If the weather is cool enough to get away with it, layer a lighter jacket under the jacket or coat you want to wear. Put your phone, money, and anything else you want in your pockets in the pockets in the inside jacket so your pockets on the outside are empty. This way, it looks like you have nothing in your pockets. Genius.
Side note, some outdoor brands make jackets/coats with pockets on the inside now especially for passports and travel. One brand I know does this is Eddie Bauer
Small Pocket Wallet for the Day
We all probably have really big wallets that hold everything we need in them for life. When you are traveling, keep your wallet with the majority of your money and credit cards locked up or in your security neck/waist pouch. Use a small pocket wallet or coin purse to hold a little bit of spending money for the day. That way when you do need money, you are only pulling out a little from the tiny wallet that can easily fit in the inside pocket of your jacket.
There are so many apps out there for traveling you could use up all of the memory on your phone just to store them. Personally when it comes to the brand specific apps for travel, like airlines, hotels, and car rental, are up to you based on your preference of the company. Each airline and hotel offers their own reward policy if you have membership so it just depends how much you fly through them if its worth it to you to have their apps.
Here are a few of my favorite travel apps that I have used while traveling, and they’re free:
Flight, Hotel, and Student Discount Apps: Kayak.com, Skyscanner, StudentUniverse, STAtravel
*Messaging Apps: WhatsApp, Tango, Viber
Maps: CityMapper & Google Maps
Banking Apps: *Venmo (great app to use when your traveling in a large group, you can pay people faster) & Currency Converter
Transportation: Uber, Lyft, & Any Public Transportation App for large cities (The Tube in London, CTA in Chicago, Metro in Paris, etc)
In Case of Emergency Apps: *US Embassies & Consulates Overseas App & MyTSA
*My best suggestion is if you don’t know what app you want before you go, download them all. When you are traveling you can’t always download some apps because they are US based apps. You can access them anywhere, but they have to be set up in the states.
Traveling can be stressful, but hopefully while you are packing and prepping you will feel the stress fade away with a few of the tid-bits. Hope they help you stay safe and enjoy your time abroad!
xx A Traveler's Bliss
(hey - hey you. click the bliss above... do it.)