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How To Plan A UK Trip (Step-By-Step Guide + Tips)

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So you’ve decided to visit the UK? Wonderful! Not that we’re biased or anything (we’ve lived in the UK for many years), but we think you’re going to love it here! We also hope you find this step-by-step guide on how to plan a UK trip helpful and chock-full of information and inspiration.

But first, can we take a moment to appreciate all the amazing things you’re going to see and do when you come to the UK?!

Salcombe Hill, Dorset
There are so many beautiful places to visit in the UK!

From stunning landscapes and countryside walks to towns and cities steeped in history, there are so many places and activities worthy of any UK bucket list.

And we can’t wait for you to experience it all first-hand yourself!

So, to help you with planning your bucket list trip to the UK, here’s what you’ll discover in this UK travel planning guide:

  • A detailed step-by-step guide on how to plan your UK trip
  • Important things to know before visiting the UK
  • … with plenty of UK travel inspiration and travel tips thrown in for good measure!

Are you ready? Let’s go!

A Step-By-Step Guide To Planning Your UK Trip

How To Plan A UK Trip (Step-By-Step + Tips)

We think planning a trip to the UK involves 7 key steps:

  1. Determine what your budget looks like
  2. Decide when you want to visit
  3. Decide where you want to visit
  4. Choose which activities you want to do during your trip
  5. Create your initial itinerary
  6. Choose where to stay
  7. Book your flights, accommodation, tours and activities

Let’s take a look at each of these steps in more detail.

Step 1: Determine what your budget looks like

Okay, okay, so this step comes into play for any trip you’re planning. But it’s an especially important step when you’re planning a trip to an expensive Western European country.

(Yes, the UK isn’t in the EU anymore, but it’s still a part of Europe. But we won’t get into that one just yet!)

Anyway, back to your budget. Will you stay in hostels or comfortable 3-star hotels? Or will you splurge on a luxury hotel in the middle of the country or a big city like London?

Walton Park Hotel in Clevedon, England
A beautiful hotel near the British seaside

What about transport? Will you hire a car to travel around the UK? Join coach trips? Or will you use public transport like buses, coaches and trains?

The latter of which is probably best saved for those of you with a larger budget, by the way. Our trains are notoriously expensive – especially compared to other European countries.

These are all questions you need to ask yourself before planning your UK trip. Your answers will determine how long your trip to the UK will last and what you’ll see and do while you’re here.

Your budget may also help you decide when to visit the UK as – naturally – some times of the year are more expensive than others. Now for step 2!

Step 2: Think about when you want to visit

The peak travel season in the UK is usually during the summer months: June to August.

While I can understand why many people would think a trip to the UK is best in the summer months, I actually think it’s a pretty rubbish time to visit.

Yes, the weather is usually okay with the potential for temperatures to reach 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit) and higher. But visitor numbers and prices also reach record highs.

Instead, I think the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn are much better times to visit the UK.

Autumn is a great time to visit the UK!

Not only is the weather relatively good (temperatures are often in the high teens or low 20s Celsius while average rainfall is 4-5 inches), but you’ll also see fewer crowds and cheaper hotel and tour prices.

September is an especially good month to visit. You’ll often see summer-like weather, but as children have gone back to school, everything’s much quieter.

May and early June are also great times to visit the UK. The weather usually starts getting warmer, but it’s not yet the height of the peak travel season.

Sunset at Valley of the Rocks in Devon
Pretty sunset views in early May

That said, other times of year are also beautiful, such as during Christmas time. We have some of the best light displays!

Of course, where you visit in the UK also might help you decide when to visit.

Naturally, the south of England is much warmer than northern England or Scotland. While Wales is a notoriously wet country (but has incredible waterfalls to make up for it).

No matter when you decide to visit the UK, though, British weather is notoriously unpredictable. Be prepared to pack for almost all kinds of weather!


Step 3: Decide where you want to visit

As the name suggests, the UK (United Kingdom) consists of four different countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Unless you’re planning on spending several weeks or even months exploring the UK, you’ll probably only have time to focus on one or two countries during your visit.

Many first-time visitors to the UK try to visit both England and Scotland during their trips. While this is doable for 2 or 3 week trips, be mindful that you’ll probably spend more of your time in the northern parts of England than in southern England.

That’s not a bad thing, though! This part of England has some amazing places for you to explore, such as York, the Peak District, Lake District and much more.

Views of the Peak District from near Bamford Edge
The Peak District is an amazing place to explore!

That said, if you want to explore places in the south of England like London and the Cotswolds, then an itinerary combining England and Wales would be better suited.

As for Northern Ireland, it’ll probably make more sense for you to combine this with a road trip around the entire island of Ireland. Note: This would take you across the border into the Republic of Ireland, which isn’t part of the UK.

To help you make some tough decisions on where to visit, here are some of the most popular cities in the UK and why you might want to visit them:

  • London: Given London is the UK’s capital city, this diverse metropolis is the UK’s most popular city. Here, iconic landmarks, world-class museums, pretty mews streets and much more await!
  • Edinburgh: If your UK trip includes time spent in Scotland, then Edinburgh is a must. Especially to see Edinburgh’s iconic castle and the epic city views from the top of Holyrood Park.
  • Belfast: Meanwhile Belfast is a must if you find yourself in Northern Ireland. Here, an interesting museum about the Titanic is well worth a visit. Not to mention, Giant’s Causeway is an easy day trip from Belfast, while Belfast itself is an easy day trip from Dublin.
  • Oxford: Oxford is another iconic UK city where one of the world’s oldest universities and lots of centuries-old buildings await.
  • Cambridge: Speaking of iconic cities and universities, Cambridge is another top UK city to visit. This time, a wander along the River Cam and through the city’s charming streets is a must.
  • Bath: Infamous for its ancient Roman baths and Regency architecture, the entire city of Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is simply stunning.
  • Salisbury: Found near Stonehenge, Salisbury is another historic UK city whose cathedral houses one of only four surviving Magna Carta documents from 1215.
  • York: While in York, you can explore yet more historic streets and buildings.
  • Bristol: Bristol is quite possibly the UK’s trendiest city where Banksy murals, hot air balloons and a rich maritime history await!
Clifton Suspension Bridge
While Bristol is a trendy UK city, it also has historic landmarks!

Alongside the big cities, there are also lots of charming towns and villages, which really must be on everyone’s UK bucket list.

Some of our favourites include the prettiest Cotswolds villages, infamous Stratford-upon-Avon, pretty Henley-on-Thames and historic Chester.

Hall's Croft in Stratford-upon-Avon
Pretty and historic building in Stratford-upon-Avon

Not to mention the UK is well-known for its incredible landscapes – from sprawling forests and National Parks to traditional British seasides and country estates.

You’ll find many of our favourite nature spots mentioned within these travel blogs:

Blackwater Tall Trees Trail, New Forest Giant Sequoia Trees Await!
Scott admiring redwood trees in the New Forest

Alternatively, if you’d like to experience the best of the UK’s history and culture (another top reason to visit the UK!), then you might also like these travel blogs:

Step 4: Choose what you want to do

Once you know which countries, towns and cities you most want to see, it’s time to think about the activities and tours you most want to do during your trip.

To help, we’ve written a mammoth UK bucket list, which I’m sure is full of inspiration ahead of your trip.

But if you don’t have time to read that, then here are the experiences we think every visitor to the UK should try at least once:

READ NEXT: 100+ Incredible UK Bucket List Ideas & Destinations

Farleigh Hungerford Castle
The UK has lots of historic castles and palaces for you to discover

Step 5: Map out your itinerary

Once you’ve decided where you want to visit in the UK and what you want to see and do, it’s time to plan your UK itinerary.

We use Google My Maps for this as you can create “layers” for each day and see how everything looks on an actual map.

It’s helpful to see where places are in relation to each other, so you can make sure you’re not going back on yourself too many times as this eats into precious sightseeing time.

At this point, you’re only pencilling things in as you may need to make changes once you’ve booked everything and confirmed the dates of your flights and accommodation.

We usually go with the idea of having no more than two or three activities planned for each day. Of course, this changes dramatically if you’re booking full-day or half-day tours.

READ NEXT: How To Plan A Trip Using Google Maps (+ BONUS Tips)

Here are some of our most popular UK travel itineraries to help you with yours:

Discover more of our tried-and-tested travel itineraries >>

Scotland driving itinerary
Scotland is well worth a road trip!

You could even combine your trip to the UK with a trip to the Republic of Ireland and even continental Europe as well.

Thanks to the Eurostar, trips to Paris and Brussels are especially easy from the UK.

While within a relatively short 2-4 hour flight, you could be in the south of France, the Portuguese island of Madeira, Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Geneva in Switzerland to name just a few options available to you.

Need even more help? Do you know about our itinerary planning service? We can help you create your own bespoke UK itinerary! Find out more here >>

Step 6: Choose where to stay

Once you can see where you’ll spend most of your time within the UK, you’ll better understand which towns and cities are best for you to stay in.

If you’re not driving, then you’ll also need to consider what public transport options are available near your accommodation.

The Cleaves bed at Highcliffe House in Lynton, Devon
The UK even has historic hotels and places to stay in!

One thing I do want to call out, though, is that you won’t be able to stay in a central location within the UK and use day trips to get to places far and wide. You’ll quickly run out of time and spend most of your trip driving to and from your accommodation.

Instead, we’d recommend moving around the UK according to your itinerary, which might mean checking in and out of hotels. But you’ll enjoy much more sightseeing time!

As for choosing your accommodation, Booking.com has various guides to help you narrow down your search. Here’s what they’ve come up with for: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Or, if you’d rather try camping, then here’s a great website to help you find campsites within the UK.

Wild Camping
Camping by the side of a lake in the Lake District

RELATED: Where To Stay in Cornwall – Best Towns, Hotels + B&Bs

Step 7: Book everything!

So, by now, you should know:

  • What your budget is
  • When you want to visit the UK
  • Which countries, towns and cities you’ll visit
  • What you want to see and do during your trip (especially the amazing bucket list activities!)
  • What your ideal itinerary looks like
  • Where you’re going to stay during your trip

This means there’s only one thing left to do… book everything! And then patiently wait for your trip to start.

In case it helps, we use the following websites when booking our trips:

  • Booking.com for its wide range of hotels, B&Bs and other accommodation
  • Get Your Guide for tours and activities with free cancellation should your plans change!
  • Google Flights and Skyscanner for great flight deals and to see when it’s cheapest to fly to the UK
The Palladian bridge at Prior Park Landscape Garden
You’ll find so many historic places like this in the UK

Important Things To Know Before Visiting The UK

And finally, you might want to save this section for later because here are some important things to know before visiting the UK.

The UK’s currency is called Pound Sterling (£)

The UK has its own currency known as “the pound”, “pound sterling” or “GBP” (Great British Pound). Note: We locals refer to our money as “pounds” or “quid” (e.g. “It cost me a couple of quid.”

In today’s money, notes come in denominations of £5, £10, £20 and £50, while coins include 1 penny, 2 pennies, 5 pennies, 10 pennies, 20 pennies, 50 pennies, £1 and £2.

Check if you need a visa to visit the UK

Some of you will be allowed to visit the UK without a visa. For instance, you don’t usually need one if you’re travelling from most European countries or the US.

You’ll usually be allowed to stay visa-free for up to 6 months. But you can double-check whether you need to apply for a visa via the official Government website.

The weather here is very unpredictable

Views from the Eagle's Nest in Wales
Would you believe me if I told you I took this photo in Wales… in mid-October? It chucked it down the very next day!

When travelling in the UK, you can expect almost all kinds of weather, no matter what time of year you visit.

The weather in the UK has always been a notorious subject. Locals love to complain about it and it’s a great icebreaker!

But in all seriousness, the UK does have some contentious weather. It rains a lot and has been known to be very unpredictable.

“Microclimates” exist throughout the UK. Don’t be surprised if it’s overcast when you leave the house, sunny 20 minutes down the road and pouring down with rain 40 minutes later.

Our best advice is to pack for all kinds of weather – even in the summer!

But don’t let our touchy weather put you off. Because it rains so much, we have some of the most beautiful green countryside and landscapes in the world.

And I can tell you, we see plenty of sunny days throughout the year… so fingers crossed you’ll be lucky during your next trip to the UK.

Our UK holiday packing list is by no means an exhaustive list but should give you a good idea of what to pack for your UK trip.

READ NEXT: His & Hers UK Holiday Packing List – What To Wear in the UK

Driving in the UK is an interesting experience!

Driving along a narrow coastal road in the UK
Narrow coastal road in the UK

You may already be aware that we drive on the left in the UK.

Our roads vary considerably across the country, but you’re most likely to come across motorways, A-roads and B-roads when driving.

Motorways have a max speed limit of 70 mph. There’s no minimum speed limit, although the general rule of thumb is to stay above 60 mph unless there’s roadworks, heavy congestion or some other type of obstruction.

A-roads, such as the A4174 or A303 are another type of “main” road in the UK. They can be either single or dual carriageways, and the max speed is 60 mph and 70 mph respectively.

Some counties, such as Dorset, don’t have motorways at all running through them, which means you’ll be likely to drive along A-roads when visiting.

B-roads are usually known as the UK’s “minor” roads. You’ll often find them when driving outside of main towns or across the countryside – especially if you follow Google Maps!

Speed limits on these roads differ, so you’ll need to keep an eye on the road signs.

These roads can be tricky to navigate for drivers who aren’t used to hills, narrow lanes or hairpin turns. You can find an abundance of these on B-roads.

Trains in the UK are notoriously expensive

The UK’s rail system is one of the oldest in the world and has been running since 1825.

Although the network is mostly maintained by just one company called Network Rail, you’ll spot a number of different train operators running the actual trains.

Common names to look out for include South West Trains, First Great Western and CrossCountry.

Most major towns in the UK have train stations, but they’re not always found within town centres.

They’re usually on the outskirts, so you’ll probably have to combine train travel with a walk, or another mode of transport.

If you want to experience the great outdoors during your trip to the UK, then you may not be able to get a train the whole way. You may need to combine a train with buses, taxis and walks.

Note: Trains in the UK are notoriously expensive – especially compared to other European countries. Prices go up every year and we now have one of the most expensive rail networks in the world. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to purchase a rail card to save money. But travelling around the UK by train is still reserved for those of you with a larger travel budget.

Buses are a popular way to get around

Almost all UK towns, cities and villages have a bus network. Timetables differ across the country and across bus routes, so you’ll need to look online to find out which services you need and when they operate.

Common companies operating public buses within the UK include Stagecoach, First Bus and TFL (Transport for London).

You can also catch a coach to and from most large towns and cities with companies like Megabus and National Express offering some of the best routes.

Britain's smallest police station in Trafalgar Square, London
Sightseeing in London

The best way to get around London is via the “tube” (aka the London Underground)

The Tube (aka London’s Underground) is operated by TFL (Transport for London) and is one of the best public transport options in the country.

Tubes run fairly frequently, although some stations close earlier than you might expect.

While it’s possible to buy individual tickets for the tube, generally, it’s cheaper to buy a day pass than lots of individual tickets.

Alternatively, you can purchase an Oyster Card and top it up when you run out of money on it. You can also use a contactless debit or credit card in the same way as an Oyster card.

Travelling with an Oyster Card is usually cheaper than buying individual tickets, or even a day pass, especially if you plan on using the tube a lot in one day.

The TFL website is your best bet for all things tube-related – from planning routes to finding tube maps and operating hours.

Some – but not all – UK cities have trams

There are several trams operating across the UK, such as in Croydon, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle, Nottingham, Blackpool and the London dockyards.

As there are so few tram lines in existence, we Brits are still getting used to them as well!

You can catch ferries to various British islands

As an island nation, it should come as no surprise that there are a number of ferry options around the country.

Local ferries chauffeur us to smaller islands surrounding the UK such as the Isle of Wight, Isle of Man, Lundy Island, and the Channel Islands. While larger ferries can take you to Europe and even further afield as part of luxury cruises.

The Needles, Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is a popular island destination in the UK

The UK has a vast and rich history

History reveals that the UK became inhabited more than 800,000 years ago.

Many different groups of people have lived here over the years, including the Romans, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings. This means the UK has a very rich and diverse history.

You’ll see these influences in a number of ways and in a number of places.

For instance, did you know that towns ending in ‘cester’, ‘caster’, ‘ceister’, or ‘chester’ were originally built as Roman camps?

Caerleon Roman Fortress & Baths in Newport, Wales
An ancient Roman bath in Wales

The UK has a Constitutional Monarchy

The UK has a Constitutional Monarchy in place. Although new laws are created by Parliament, there are a number of traditions that ensure the monarchy has a say in whether Parliament can actually implement those laws or not.

When travelling in the UK, you’re likely to find a number of different opinions about the monarchy. These range from: “We love the Royal Family!” to “I don’t think we need a monarchy anymore” to “Whatever”.

With such a varying view about whether the monarchy is an important part of British culture or not, it’s best to avoid this subject.

You’ll find a number of other etiquette tips and things to know about British culture in this guide.

British food is very diverse, but traditional British food is a must!

As the UK is a highly multicultural country, you’ll find all kinds of cuisines available.

But if it’s traditional British food that you’re after, then your best bet would be to find a charming countryside pub.

That’s where you’re going to find some of our most traditional food, often referred to by locals as “pub grub”.

Here are some foods you must try during your trip to the UK:

  • Roast Dinner: Chicken, Beef or Lamb with all the trimmings.
  • Pie: Meaty, Vegetarian, Vegan, it doesn’t matter, just make sure it comes with mash and gravy.
  • Sausage & Mash: What it says on the tin, but can sometimes be called ‘Bangers and Mash’ on the menu.
  • Fish ‘n’ Chips: Best enjoyed by the seaside.
  • Full English Breakfast: This consists of bacon, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, sausages and fried bread or buttered toast. Best served with a cup of tea.
Breakfast at Highcliffe House in Lynton, Devon
Mmm… breakfast is served!

Some regions also have traditional local foods, which are well worth sampling while you’re there.

Well-known examples of these include haggis in Scotland, Welsh cakes, Cornish pasties, Yorkshire puddings, Bakewell tart and Cumberland sausages.

We talk about this more in our guide to traditional British foods.

Don’t forget to take some food home with you as a souvenir, too. Here are some ideas!

Take note of our emergency and medical information

Hopefully, you won’t need them, but just in case, emergency services in the UK can be phoned on 999. You’ll be asked to select whether you need an ambulance, police or fire service when calling.

For less serious crimes, the police can be contacted on 101. While non-emergency medical calls can be conducted when dialling 111.

The tweet shown below from the NHS is pretty good at explaining when it’s best to use 111. And this guide is great for showing the differences between each of the services.

The UK has a public health service known as the NHS, which offers free and reduced care to residents.

If you’re a foreign citizen holidaying in the UK and need medical help, then the NHS is free to use at the time of your appointment or hospital visit. But you’ll be sent a bill afterwards.

The UK also has many companies offering private healthcare.

A quick heads up about Brexit

While the UK voted to leave the EU (European Union) back in 2016, it took several years of debates and discussions to finalise everything.

We’re now fully out of the EU. However, only 52% of voters chose to leave the EU, so it was a very close vote and one that surprised most of us (including those who voted in favour of Brexit).

Since then, many people who voted in favour of Brexit have changed their minds. Quite simply, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows like many were led to believe.

Given all this, it’s probably best to stay clear of mentioning Brexit while you’re here. It’s still a sore and contentious subject and is likely to remain that way for many, many years to come.

Gentle Street in Frome, Somerset
I hope you’re ready for pretty cobblestone streets!

Read Next: Our Popular UK Travel Blogs

We have over 150 articles about the UK on our travel blog. You can find them all here, or use our search bar.

But if you don’t have time to scroll through all of those, then here are a few of our UK travel guides that we think you should start with:

Psst! Need help planning a trip to continental Europe? We also have a guide for that! >>

I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to planning a UK trip and that it was helpful. Should you want to ask us any questions about your trip, please drop us a line in the comments section below and we’ll reply asap.

Did you like this UK travel planning guide? Why not pin or bookmark it now so you can refer back to it later?

How To Plan A UK Trip (Step-By-Step + Tips)
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Justine Jenkins

Justine is one half of the married couple behind the Wanderers of the World travel blog. She lives in Bristol, UK and has travelled extensively within Europe and beyond since 2013. After her trips, she shares detailed travel itineraries, helpful travel guides and inspiring blog posts about the places she's been to. When she's not travelling overseas, you'll find her joining her husband, Scott on various day trips, weekend getaways and walks within the UK, which she also writes about on Wanderers of the World. Aside from travelling and writing, she also loves reading, crafting and learning about nature.

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