Ten Ways to Make Your Vacations Extraordinary
How can you make your vacations extraordinary? Do you feel like your vacations are monotonous? Do you tell your friends where you are going or what you did and they say “me too”? Well, it’s time to customize your vacations. Yes, customization can add extra costs to your vacation. However, with strategic planning, you can add-on one benefit and cutback on another budgeted item. With or without VIP spending power, you can plus your travel routine! Your next vacation can absolutely stand out. With creative planning, you can even add special moments to your trip at no additional expense. By trying a new destination or just adding in a new activity, you’ll have a vacation that is personalized. Let’s check out ten ways to make your vacations extraordinary. Don’t be afraid to do something different.
1. Change Your Mode of Transportation
Do you always fly to your destination? Or maybe you like the adventure of a road trip? Think about how exciting it would be to change your mode of transportation.
Tour a foreign city using the underground metro system.
If the kids are used to piling into your vehicle for a road trip, try flying to this year’s vacation destination. This might mean cutting back on other costs — and that’s okay! So, instead of renting a large beach house, fly to Washington D.C. and tour the free museums.
Fly to your next destination.
You can also change your transportation at your location. Do you always rent a sensible car for a couples only trip? Try renting a convertible or a jeep and see how much fun you add to your vacations.
Rent a convertible for memorable fun.
Do you usually take Disney’s Magical Express from the Orlando International Airport (MCO) to your resort? Surprise the family with a car service; extra points if it’s a limo! If you use a car service on an airport trip, you’ll get that extra dose of “special” as soon as you land.
Reserve a limo!
From your port of call in Italy, is your first inclination to walk around the town or take a guided bus tour? Instead take the train to a place you’ve always dreamed about and travel with the locals.
Take a train to see a bucket list place — like Pompeii!
When you’re traveling to multiple locations, think how you can make the journey a little bit different. From Los Angeles to San Francisco, take the train. London to Paris? EuroStar!
2. Try a New Recreational Activity
Sure, you could go skydiving to really standout. But, you don’t have to go to that extreme. At the beach, take a surf lesson, go fishing, or go back-to-basics and fly a kite.
Wright Brothers Visit National Memorial at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina, then…
Go fly a kite!
Flying Kite on Sand Dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park, North Carolina.
On your next cruise trip, dance, rock climb, zipline, or ice skate. Learn a new dance routine to really shake things up!
Dance the night away! Dazzles, Royal Caribbean.
Many of us gear our Walt Disney World trips around the theme parks. On your next trip, spend a day outside the parks to enjoy playing miniature golf, boating, fishing, horseback riding, or learning archery.
Rent a Sea Raycer. Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
3. A New Destination or Time of Year
This one may seem obvious but many of us tend to go to the same destinations at the same time year. Of course, familiar vacations are memorable. Traditions are also important to families. Still, you can change your routine just a little bit to make your next journey extra special. If you usually travel over Spring Break, book this year’s trip for Thanksgiving. Try visiting your favorite location during the festive holiday season and see the locale in a whole new light.
Merry Christmas Slipper Dessert at Grand Floridian Cafe on Christmas Eve.
A new destination can sometimes be daunting. Will you enjoy it? Usually, the answer is yes. Ditch the beach and go to the mountains. Stuck on land-based vacations? Take a cruise.
Take a cruise!
Or just change beaches: Hilton Head Island instead of Myrtle Beach; Destin, Florida instead of Gulf Shores, Alabama; Rehoboth Beach, Delaware instead of Ocean City, Maryland; a West Coast beach instead of East Coast getaway, and so forth. Even if you return to your once familiar vacation for the following year, you’ll find yourselves reminiscing…
Huntington Beach over Thanksgiving!
Or think farther away and go to Europe. Sail the Mediterranean instead of the Caribbean. Head to Hawaii instead of Mexico. The possibilities are endless.
Sailing into the Grand Harbor, Malta.
Touring Colosseum in Rome, Italy.
Try a new-to-you vacation spot!
If you’re a Disney World fan that always attends the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, try visiting during the spring instead and tour the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. Or plan to attend the Halloween festivities in the Magic Kingdom.
4. Splurge on Amenities
Amenities are the little things that make us feel special. From chocolate-covered strawberries delivered to your cruise stateroom to balloons delivered to your Walt Disney World resort, added amenities are always memorable. And instagram-worthy!! 😉
Order special treats to enjoy during your vacation!
5. Tweak Your Traveling Party
If you always travel with kids in tow, take a couples only trip. Invite the grandparents and/or aunts and uncles. Take a parent-child only trip for special bonding time — this works for parents of grown children too. Try a guys trip to the Caribbean to scuba dive or a ladies trip to New York City to see a show. Imagine the possibilities!
Travel with family!
6. Make Your Trip a Celebration
From a destination wedding to a birthday getaway, your trip is the perfect time to celebrate. Don’t let those annual milestones go unnoticed. This year, take a weekend trip for your anniversary, go on a cruise for your birthday, or take your child to Disneyland Paris for graduation.
Our son’s January birthday celebration aboard the Disney Wonder.
For our 10th anniversary, we renewed our vows in Walt Disney World!
A splurge for our 10th anniversary vow renewal — riding in Cinderella’s Coach!
Whenever someone asks me what I want to do for my birthday? The answer involves travel. I’ve spent my birthday on a cruise ship, in Barcelona, in Paris, on a road trip heading home from Yellowstone, at beaches, and so on. Of course, I’ve been in Walt Disney World a number of times! Skip the gifts and make some priceless memories instead.
7. Take a Tour
You could take a guided tour for your entire vacation or add on tours during your trip. Some of my favorite tours: Stonehenge from London; Normandy from Paris; a cruise ship tour of the captain’s bridge; a plantation in St. Croix; a Magic Kingdom tour; Roswell, New Mexico; and Carthage and Sidi Bou Said in Tunisia.
A tour to Stonehenge.
Tours can often be pricey, however they add convenience and/or in-depth education that is usually not regretted.
8. Cross Off a Bucket List Item
On every single trip, you have the opportunity to cross off a bucket list item. Bucket list achievements come in all sizes.
Devils Tower Wyoming
Try one of these personal goals:
- Teach your child to ride a bike.
- See the Milky Way.
- Picnic in a beautiful setting.
- Watch a turtle crawl to the sea.
- See the Chincoteague ponies.
- Dine somewhere special; extra points if it’s for New Year’s Eve or another celebration.
- Get a tattoo.
- Learn to…. paddleboard, ski, golf, mix a delicious cocktail, make authentic pizza, etc.
- Swim with a dolphin.
Bike riding on vacation!
Proud bike rider!
Go exploring via bicycle!
See the Chincoteague Ponies in Virginia.
Horseback Riding at Bill Cody Ranch in Wyoming.
9. Take More Pictures
Hiring a photographer to take pictures of the whole family is an extra special way to commemorate your trip. Whether it’s a once in a lifetime adventure or an annual vacation, photographs will always keep the memories alive.
Take lots of photos!
And here are two important tips: * Give each child an age-appropriate camera. Some of the most touching or extremely hilarious photos that we have viewed were from our young child’s eyes. * Include the family’s photographer in photos. I’m usually the photographer in the family and well, there just aren’t a ton of photos of me. Do better than we did — you won’t regret it. Every now and then, have a photo watching night at home. Which vacations were your favorites? Take a vote on where to travel next.
Finally, there’s nothing like an upgrade to make your vacation stand out. Upgrade your accommodations (get a balcony stateroom or a Magic Kingdom view), meals, souvenir purchases, excursions, and other vacation components.
Concierge Room at the BoardWalk Inn.
Do you usually sail in an interior cabin? Next cruise, drive to the port instead of flying and upgrade to an oceanview cabin. Or try a cruise line (like Disney or Royal Caribbean) that is new to you. Not sure which one is right for you — read my Disney vs. Royal Caribbean Splashdown.
Magic in the Med!
Headed to Walt Disney World for a week of quick-service meals? Maybe try a few table-service meals instead of purchasing more Mickey Ears and other souvenirs.
Pizza at Epcot’s Via Napoli!
Of course, there’s something to be said for the familiarity and tradition of visiting the same location each year. Just change it up a bit. Make your vacation extraordinary!
How have you made your vacations extra special? Share in the comments below or join the discussion on our Facebook Page.
Surreal Places Series: Travel Locations You Must See
As you start narrowing down your next adventure, consider these surreal places and spaces. These are the first suggestions in our new series focusing on travel locations you must see!
Conjuring up visions of locations that you can barely imagine? Well, the ancient site of Pompeii, would fit that dream. As you take in the ruins, it’s difficult to juxtapose the tragic disaster that occurred in A.D. 79 with the peaceful, majestic Mount Vesuvius of today. While trying to grasp the magnitude of the volcanic eruption, you’ll also be exploring an archaeological site (with homes and streets!) that is so much larger than pictures portray.
Pompeii is a hauntingly surreal place.
This is one place that really messed with my mind. And I feel compelled to visit again — to try to take in the magnitude of this hauntingly, beautiful excavation.
I love traveling by train in Europe; it’s a convenient transportation option especially while traveling through a foreign country. The train stop nearest the excavation is Pompei Scavi-Villa Misteri. It’s a very short walk to the entrance, however you’ll want to wear comfortable shoes as you’ll be walking for the better part of your day, plus the surface is uneven so watch your footing.
United States Virgin Islands
A popular land and cruise based vacation spot, St. Thomas in the United States Virgin Islands boasts a stunning harbor near Charlotte Amalie. My favorite way to enjoy this view is on from the balcony of a cruise ship.
Blue turquoise water soothes the soul at St. Thomas, USVI.
On St. Croix, an excursion to Little La Grange will entice your senses. A 19th century plantation turned cattle ranch, the house is now the Lawaetz Family Museum showcasing family antiques. Spend time touring the impeccable grounds with tropical flowers and trees.
The gorgeous Little La Grange Plantation House and grounds on St. Croix.
The grounds at Little La Grange.
Headed to the U.S. Virgin Islands? Do not miss St. John for tranquility. In fact, swimming at Trunk Bay Beach is one of my all-time favorite memories. Add it to your vacation itinerary for playing in warm waters amidst an unspoiled setting. We took a boat from St. Thomas to St. John, however, I’m dreaming about an actual stay on St. John! How about you?!
Zion National Park, Utah
Experience the beauty of the steep, red cliffs of Zion National Park. Nestled in this surreal place are forest trails cut alongside the babbling Virgin River.
Zion National Park is a contrast of red steep cliffs and green forested trails.
Of all the parks that we have visited, this is my teen son’s favorite. From horseback riding to hiking, Zion offers a multitude of family activities.
Even teens appreciate the surreal beauty of Zion!
Plan to hike and/or horseback ride in the morning or evening. Avoid the hottest afternoon hours; the heat was brutal during our vacation in late May – early June.
Recommended Lodging: Desert Pearl Inn in Springdale, Utah.
Desert Pearl Inn, Springdale, Utah.
Stay tuned for our second part in the Surreal Places Series, plus watch for in-depth reviews of our recommended surreal places to inspire your vacation plans.
Have you been to any of these surreal places?
Where should we (and our readers) go next?
Paris Travel Theme
Bienvenue à Paris – welcome to our Paris Travel Theme.
An iconic landmark.
You’ll never forget your first trip to Paris. Steeped in romance and indulgence, the streets lined with bakeries and boutiques are sure to delight your senses. Around every corner, history and art merge in memorable architecture. And if you love the Eiffel Tower (and puzzles) as much as I do, try the Eiffel Tower 3D Puzzle!
Arc de Triomphe.
Paris will likely stop you in your tracks — countless times as you explore this very special city. From the labyrinth hallways at The Louvre to the awe-inspiring, sky-scraping Eiffel Tower, there are sights to take in all around you. Step inside the treasured buildings for jaw-dropping scenery.
Inside Notre Dame.
Paris captures hearts and makes you fall in love with architecture, history, art, food, and wine.
Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino
While the splendors of Paris are difficult to duplicate elsewhere, travelers can find a small taste of Paris while vacationing in Las Vegas. At Paris Las Vegas you’ll find the excitement of the City of Lights. There’s even a crepe stand inside. YUM!
A small dose of Paris in Las Vegas.
Full hotel review — coming soon!
France Pavilion in Epcot
Walking through Epcot’s France pavilion, Walt Disney World guests can sample Parisian food and wares.
View of France Pavilion in Epcot.
From the bakery to the ice cream parlor to the crepes on the street, Epcot’s France pavilion serves up plenty of sweet treats. Table service dining is a huge draw here too. Ever since Chef Bocuse first opened Les Chefs de France at Epcot in 1982 (it was the first and only Bocuse-affiliated restaurant in the U.S.A.), guests have been savoring the sips and bites at this family-friendly location.
We always start our meal with the French Onion Soup.
Baked to perfection!
Bonus Paris Travel Theme: LEGOLAND
Even built with LEGOs, Paris themes are recognizable.
LEGOLAND California features The Paris Las Vegas Hotel among the other hotels on the Las Vegas strip. Want to impress the kids? Take them to a LEGOLAND park!
Paris Hotel built from LEGOs.
Paris Las Vegas Hotel at LEGOLAND Florida.
Paris is love at first sight. Travel to Paris via France, Epcot at Walt Disney World, or Las Vegas!
What’s your favorite place to tour in Paris? Do you have a Paris themed travel idea to share?
Chops Grille – an Oasis Dinner Review
Nestled in Central Park on deck 8 of Oasis of the Seas, Chops Grille, a Royal Caribbean signature restaurant, has been serving up steakhouse specialties for over ten years.
We sailed on Oasis in January and June of 2017 and had the good fortune of dining at Chops Grille on both sailings.
Chops Grille is located in Central Park on the Oasis.
A beautiful Central Park location.
As a hallmark restaurant aboard Royal Caribbean ships, Chops impresses diners with a menu featuring hand cut steaks and other entrees with a contemporary flair. In fact, from the appetizers to the desserts, Chops Grille will surprise guests with a mix of traditional and non-traditional fare. There are also some unexpected items — um, tater tots, anyone?!
Entrance to Chops Grille.
Make a reservation for Chops Grille.
With its prime location in Central Park, diners can select from indoor or outdoor seating.
We had a voucher for a complimentary meal that required us to reserve a seating with the restaurant after embarkation. So, we stopped by Chops Grille after having lunch in the Windjammer and were still able to secure an early reservation for Tuesday evening — my birthday. Yay!
Celebrating birthday at Chops Grille.
Once inside the restaurant, the rich dark wood is complimented with jeweled tones in red and gold. Luxurious velvet padded chairs as well as banquettes encourage diners to sit and savor the ambiance during their multi-course meal.
Jewel tones add to the upscale feel at Chops Grille.
Upon arrival, we were quickly seated at a lovely table. The restaurant was empty, however it quickly filled up as our meal progressed through its decadent stages. Of note, service was impeccable on both of our recent visits. We enjoyed that our selections were served as requested (well-done steak for my mom; vanilla ice cream instead of coconut for me) and that our beverages were quickly filled upon ordering.
A welcoming table setting awaits Royal Caribbean diners when entering the restaurant.
Welcoming table setting.
White table setting.
Chops Grille Plate.
As the signature steakhouse aboard the Oasis of the Seas, this Royal Caribbean restaurant specializes in the usual fare of beef, seafood, and chicken, as well as dry-aged steaks and Maine lobster for an additional up-charge. Seriously, you’ll do just as well sticking with the Filet Mignon or other dishes included with the cover charge.
Soups, Salads, and Appetizers.
Chops Grille Menu Items.
We utilized our beverage packages to order drinks, and then our waiter began the meal with freshly baked bread and delicious whipped butter. A great meal always starts with memorable bread service!
For appetizers, three of us went with the Three Cheese Roasted Onion Soup blended with Melted Gruyere, Asiago, and Parmesan cheeses. My husband once again ordered the King Caesar. The soup was on point and the Caesar salad was “to die for”. Sorry, on both occasions, we dug in without taking pictures of our apps. 😉
My husband and son ordered the Filet Mignon, cooked to order — medium, for both of them. Both were extremely happy with their perfectly grilled, seasoned steaks. Both rated it as highly as the memorable filet mignon at Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian in Walt Disney World. For them, that’s saying this entree was exceptional.
My mom likes her steak well-done and as you know chefs are usually appalled by this request. Still, the waiter suggested that her filet be butterflied and thus, it was presented as ordered. She also enjoyed her meal with her steak cooked as she prefers it. Kudos to Chops for their accommodating nature.
Butterflied Filet Mignon, well done.
I’m the picky eater of the group, thus I once again ordered the Roasted Organic Chicken Breast. Tender, moist, and flavorful (that truffled chicken jus is scrumptious!), this entree wasn’t at all boring to my finicky palate.
Roasted Organic Chicken Breast.
Roasted Organic Chicken Breast.
Sides are served family style so we suggest discussing selections prior to ordering. We had Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Tater Tots, Salt Baked Potato, and Creamed Corn. We were pleased with all of these items. The Baked Potato was exceptionally good — probably because the waiter poured melted butter all over it right at the table!
And with a dollop of sour cream!
Baked Potato with Sour Cream.
Everyone at our table raved about this baked potato. We decided that we’d have to try adding melted butter to our at-home versions. 😉
Salted Baked Potato.
Sharing the sides was fun!
Yes, we did get two mashed potatoes!
Tater Tots, mashed potatoes, and cream corn.
I subbed vanilla ice cream in place of the coconut flavor with my Liquid Center Chocolate Cake. This dessert made me want to lick the plate. Every bite of caramelized banana and chocolate-y cake was amazing.
Liquid Center Chocolate Cake .
My husband and son opted for the Red Velvet Cake. With moist cake and hefty helping of rich cheese frosting, this choice is a sweet finish to your meal. My 17-year old son rated it a 9 out of 10.
Red Velvet Cake.
The grand finale was a cheesecake dessert served for the occasion — my birthday — complete with singing waiters.
Chops Grille Facts
- Reservations are recommended for Chops Grille.
- Dress is smart casual.
- Cover charge (currently $42 on Oasis) includes gratuities.
- Open for lunch on sea days.
- Consider purchasing a specialty dining package.
- Suite guests can look at menus while relaxing in the Suite Lounge.
Menus are available for Suite guests in the lounge.
To make reservations, call your travel professional or use the Cruise Planner on Royal Caribbean’s website as this restaurant books up quickly.
While the coverage charge has seen several increases in recent years, Chops Grille is certainly a voucher or dining package worthy pick. Even if we weren’t celebrating a special occasion, I’d pay out of pocket for this delightful and attentive meal.
Have you dined at Chops Grille on one of the Royal Caribbean ships? Share your favorite Chops Grille tips.
Five Cruise Activities for Teens
Having just recently gone on a cruise aboard the Oasis of the Seas, I came to the realization on the first day that I did not want to spend much time in the teen club area or doing organized cruise activities for teens.
Oasis of the Seas.
For one, at 17 1/2 I was one of the oldest at the first event in The Living Room. Also, I felt this cruise was just meant for me to enjoy some downtime and relax. I had just finished my Junior Year of high school with all of the stresses that entails — AP courses and exams, ACT exams, touring colleges, and so on. And I was TIRED and BURNED OUT.
The Living Room space is for teens only!
On previous cruises, I had spent time participating in the organized teen activities from early in the day until 1:00AM, which is usually the ship’s curfew time for under 18 cruisers. Those were some good times and I’d recommend you give it a try. On this trip, I was still out late because there was so much to do on the Oasis that I kept busy even without stopping by the teen club. Flowrider, Comedy Shows, Stargazing, Miniature Golf, Rock Climbing, Diving Shows, and more kept me entertained on the ship.
Try the Rock Climbing Wall!
This time, I wanted to have some fun on my own schedule. So without doing any teen activities, I found out very quickly how to have a good time on the cruise ship. The following list can also apply to those who are in that weird age gap (18-20) where you cannot be part of the teen group, nor can you take part in having a couple of drinks at the bars. For the casino, you’ll need to be 18 on all sailings, except Alaska where you’ll need to be 21. The adult night club requires proof of age (21) as well.
Find adventure aboard the Oasis.
So in no real order of importance, here are my five ways for older teens to have fun on a cruise ship.
There are plenty of shows to go see on board a cruise. Whether it’s a stomach cramping comedy show, a Broadway performance, or anything in between, there’s always a show going on for anyone’s taste. And the best part about it, they are all free. So, get some popcorn and enjoy the show.
The adult comedy show in the Opal Theater on Oasis were hysterical!
Come Fly With Me Show.
Go to the bar. Don’t worry, all bars can make any mixed drink without alcohol (otherwise known as virgin). Got a hankering for a fruity drink? Go up to the bar and order a virgin Strawberry Daiquiri, Lava Flow, or any others you can think of. In my experience, the Lava Flow is certainly one to try. Delicious! I also enjoyed quite a few strawberry daiquiri mocktails. Look for mocktails on the bar menus for more options.
Strawberry Daiquiri on Oasis. Teens can order it as a mocktail!
Get your favorite beverage at Starbucks and watch a sports game at On Air.
Starbucks Coffee on Oasis of the Seas.
Swimming and Other Activities
Most certainly, the cruise ship you will be on will have at least one swimming pool. So put on some swim trunks and cool off in the pool. Maybe you’ll be on a ship that has a slide or some other sort of water attraction, such as the FlowRider (simulated surfing) on the Royal Caribbean ships (Freedom class and higher) or the water slide (AquaDuck) on Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.
Go surfing on the Oasis!
The AquaDuck on the Disney Dream is amazing.
I’ve been on Disney Magic but not since they installed the AquaDunk, a thrilling water slide. And, it looks like other cruise lines like Carnival have some cool slides too.
Carnival Cruise ship with cool water slides.
If your ship offers rock climbing, ice skating, miniature golf, FlowRider, or ziplining, try them out!
Try ziplining on Oasis of the Seas.
On a cruise ship, there are no such thing as calories (it’s vacation!), so go exploring for some snacks. Whether it’s a small sandwich from a café, such as the Café Promenade on Royal Caribbean, or an ice cream cone that you can acquire from the free dispensers on most cruise lines, there’s always something you can find to eat.
These sandwiches were delicious for a late night snack.
And don’t forget to try new foods. At dinner, order a new-to-you appetizer. Don’t like it; no problem. You can order a replacement or move on to the next course.
Tired of dealing with your peers, exams, a busy schedule? Then take the time on your cruise to relax and enjoy being away from reality. Go up on deck and enjoy soaking up the sun (just be sure to put on sunscreen). Take a nap in your stateroom. People watch. Read a book. The possibilities are endless.
A great time to find a quiet place on deck 15 aboard the Oasis is in the late morning while in port. We like to go ashore after enjoying a crowd-free morning on the ship.
Find a quiet place to read on the Oasis, deck 15.
Oasis had awesome fixed binoculars that worked well for looking at the moon at night. You’ll find them by using the port side stateroom corridor and heading forward (not aft) on Deck 14. I think there were signs pointing to the Observation Decks.
Fixed Binoculars are mounted on the forward wings on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis, Deck 14.
Full Moon lights up the sky on Oasis sailing.
I hope you found this short list to be helpful to you in some way. On your sailing, you’ll discover lots of cruise activities for teens.
And as this is my first post on the blog, you can expect to hear more from me in the future. Have a great day and Bon Voyage!
Teens — share your favorite cruise activities. Parents — what do your teens like to do when cruising?
London Palaces and Castles
I absolutely love castles;they make my heart swoon. And I was thrilled when a trip to London provided a wonderful opportunity to theme our vacation around London palaces and castles.
Fairy tales, English folklore, and even Disney cartoons inspire us to admire these magnificent structures. While we dream of turrets and romantic ballrooms, castles were typically built as fortified structures. Yet, palaces were often grand but not fortified. No matter how you define them, these buildings are fascinating to visit and should be included in your London-based travel plans, especially if any of these sites are on your travel bucket list.
Let’s look at my favorite London Palaces and Castles so you can add them to your Palaces and Castles themed outing.
Of course the royal residences of the United Kingdom’s sovereigns are well known. Located within London and with 775 rooms, Buckingham Palace is not only a home to Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip but also the center of national celebrations.
Buckingham Palace Gates
Don’t forget to see if the Royal Standard is flying above Buckingham Palace. If it is, the Queen is home!
When the Royal Standard flag is flying, the Queen is home!
We wished we were the lucky occupants of this car getting to travel inside the gates!
Security checking a car outside Buckingham Palace.
To see the inside of this palatial building, plan a visit well in advance for the summer months and for select tours during December, January, and Easter. Unfortunately, we visited in late May when the Palace was still closed to visitors. I figure, it’s a good excuse for a return trip, right?!
Since our hotel was within walking distance of Buckingham Palace, we were able to take a stroll there on our first night in London. It was a perfect beginning to an incredible London vacation!
Tip: Before setting off to tour London, get a London Pass.
Designed by Christopher Wren, Kensington Palace sits on the western edge of London and is the current home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
South View of Kensington Palace
Many people will recognize Kensington Palace as it was home to the late Diana, Princess of Wales.
Kensington Palace Stairway
Our London Pass included entry to Kensington Palace so we toured during an afternoon including a stroll through some of Kensington Gardens.
Palace of Westminster
Big Ben is the focal point of Elizabeth Tower and part of the stunning Gothic architecture of the Palace of Westminster. Housing Parliament, the palace is situated on the north bank of the River Thames.
Palace of Westminster with Big Ben
I was in awe every time we got a glimpse of Big Ben while touring London. Of course, getting to hear the bells chime was also memorable.
The Tower of London
Steeped in history, this historic castle houses the Crown Jewels. However, the Tower of London is equally notable for the famous prisoners like Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, and Thomas More that were kept (and some beheaded) here.
Tower of London
Included in the London Pass, the Tower of London is a must visit for any history buffs. As such, it gets quite crowded so arrive early in the day before the tour buses roll in.
Tower of London
Hampton Court Palace
As a principal residence of Henry VIII, Hampton Court Palace is filled with Royal history. We arrived before opening and were able to explore the palace with no wait.
A rainy day at Hampton Court Palace
From Henry VIII’s kitchens to the Great Hall, touring Hampton Court Palace was a highlight of our trip.
Hampton Court Palace
Since we visited on a rainy day, we chose not to explore the garden maze but if you are there on a pleasant day you may want to extend your tour. We hear it’s extremely fun!
As a royal residence, Windsor Castle hosts throngs of visitors. So plan ahead, take the hour-long train ride from London to Windsor, and arrive early in the morning.
As this is a favorite residence of the Queen, I also recommend checking the website to make sure the castle will be open on your preferred touring day.
To enhance your London vacation options, stay tuned to The Castle Concierge for more in-depth reviews.
If you are looking for a fun outing and are lucky enough to live within driving distance of a castle, plan a day trip or weekend exploration. If you are planning to travel to an area that is known for castles, be sure to include at least one in your touring plans.
Want help with your own castle-inspired destination? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a no-obligation, free quote.
What is your favorite London Palace or Castle? Share your thoughts in the comments below or drop us an email.