Monday, July 8, 2019

Planning for RootsTech London-Tips from Christine Woodcock

Christine Woodcock from Genealogy Tours of Scotland shares some tips on how to best prepare for your upcoming trip to RootsTech London!

Are you heading to London to attend RootsTech? If you have never been to the UK before, or if it has been a while since you were last there, here are some pointers to make your travel a bit less stressful:
International flights land in either Gatwick or Heathrow – not in London City Centre, which is the closest airport to the venue. Heathrow is HUGE and you will need plenty of time to navigate your way out. Plan on an hour, minimum. 
If you can, try to get your flight into Gatwick as it is much quicker to get to the venue than Heathrow. The Gatwick Express will get you to the city centre in about 30 minutes. The trains run from the south terminal and run every fifteen minutes. 
If you are connecting through Belfast, Glasgow or Amsterdam, you can fly directly into London City Airport. However, the layover time needs to be factored in as well as any additional fees. 
Taxis are available in long lines at most places where there are crowds of people – airports, bus stations, train stations, etc. Taxi protocol is to take the taxi at the front of the line. If you are hailing a cab from other than a rank, make sure their yellow “taxi” light is lit so that you know it is available for hire, and not already booked already. 
I would avoid taking a taxi from the airport to your hotel. It will take at least an hour because of the traffic in and around the city. Trains will have luggage racks and the staff will be willing to help you lift your luggage onto and off of the train if you ask. 
Tipping is not expected in Britain the way it is North America. That said, taxi drivers should be tipped. Generally rounding up to the nearest £ is sufficient. Roughly 50p or £1. Hotel staff do not expect tips. Nor do airport staff. 
If you are eating at a sit-down restaurant, you should tip. Make sure that this has not already been added into your bill, as it often is if you are with a large enough group. If you are eating at a cafĂ©, no tip is expected. At a bar/pub, rounding up is usually appreciated, but not necessary. 
Note: taxes are already included in the price, unlike in North America where they are added on to the price. 
PLEASE NOTE that the money in Britain has all been upgraded in the last two years and is now all plastic. PLEASE do not take old bills you have saved from a previous trip. It will be next to impossible for you to get them exchanged. Stores and restaurants WILL NOT accept them. Banks may not exchange if you don’t have an account in their bank. The easiest thing is for you to get the money switched at your home bank and take the new bills with you. Traveler's cheques you have lying around will be hard to get rid of as well. Take them to your home bank and get them cashed there.
Currency is Pounds Stirling. Notes come in £50, £20, £10, £5. Anything higher than £50 may be difficult to cash. Coins are used for £2 (a dual coloured coin), £1, 50p, 20p, 10p, 5p 2p and 1p. 
Credit cards are accepted at most places. Debit cards are not. You will need to use an ATM with a debit card and withdraw from there including whatever fees are charged. It is best to have cash on hand for taxis and tips.  
The weather in Britain can be quite changeable. In October, you may be running into high winds and lots of rain. Winds are that – wind. Not breezes. Umbrellas are often useless as the wind will turn them inside out.  The temperatures tend to hover about 10c or 52F. You will want a wind and waterproof jacket, sensible shoes for walking and it is always best to dress in layers. You may want to pack a hat and gloves for the evenings or early mornings. 
Most B&Bs, guest houses, and some hotels do not provide face cloths. You may want to pack a half dozen or so. Some people take baby washcloths since they are light and small and generally do the trick. 
If you are traveling from Europe or North America to England, you will not require a visa, just a valid passport. Make sure that your passport won’t expire while you are still in England. 
Access to wifi isn’t as abundant as it is in North America. It is generally available in hotels. It will be available in the venue. You can’t bank on it on buses, trains, or in restaurants/bars/coffee shops. 
You will want to ensure you pack your charging cords. These will be difficult to replace in Britain since their voltage is 220 and in North America is it 110. You will need a travel adapter for the UK. These can be purchased at the AAA/CAA
Washrooms or bathrooms are called Toilets
7 Up is called Lemonade
Pop or soda are referred to as Fizzy Drinks or sometimes Coke – even non-coca-cola drinks
French Fries are Chips
Chips are Crisps
Cookies are Biscuits
Desserts are Puddings (although most restaurants will offer “dessert”)
Cakes and Squares are Tray Bakes

Your time in England promises to be a wonderful adventure. Be sure to pack your sense of adventure and your flexibility. Be ready to have the time of your life. England is an amazing country with history that extends back several centuries. You will be in awe. Take pictures. Speak to locals. Look UP at the architecture. Enjoy the spontaneous things that happen like street buskers popping up. Plan to spend a few extra days either before or after RootsTech London and drink in the history, the architecture, the sounds, the smells. It will be a heady experience you won’t soon forget. 

Christine Woodcock is a genealogy educator with an expertise in the Scottish records. She began researching her family history following the death of her mother and grandmother who were the storytellers of the family.  When speaking to groups and societies about Scottish research, Christine recognized that a large percentage of the Scots Diaspora had never been to Scotland. To allow researchers the opportunity to research the records in their ancestral homeland, Christine began her business, Genealogy Tours of Scotland.

So many great tips! Thanks so much, Christine!
These will help me and others prepare our trip to London in October!
Who's joining me in London for RootsTech?

Thanks so much for stopping by!
Helping you climb your family tree,

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