Welcome to the seventh and final post in our journey through Harry Potter’s England. See the complete list of other Harry Potter travel posts at the end of this post.
So what do you think? Was this trip awesome? This family’s consensus? It was absolutely awesome! Each and every one of these destinations offers a fun time for all, whether or not you are a Harry Potter fan. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get planning!
Where To Start? 3 Key Questions to Ask
So you’ve made the decision to plan your very own trip through Harry Potter’s England. Now the fun begins! So many places to see, so many things to do, so much fun just waiting for you and your family. But where to begin? How do you start putting it all together? Here’s three questions to ask yourself before you plan any trip, and especially a trip to Harry Potter’s England.
1. Which Destinations Should Be Included In Your “Must See” List?
So many film sites, so little time! Start your trip planning by creating a destination wish list with those places you think should be included in the trip. Then prioritize each destination, and focus on your top five choices. Consider mapping out each destination to help you visualize the overall trip, placing a number alongside that destination’s priority.
We initially had ten different Harry Potter film destinations in mind, but only ten days to explore. By mapping out each destination on a map of Great Britain, we were quickly able to eliminate three destinations simply due to travel logistics.
Check out the Resources section further down in this post for a list of handy Harry Potter travel planning resources. Use these resources to jump start your own destination wish list.
2. How Many Days Can You Dedicate To the Trip?
The ultimate limiting factor – how many days will you be exploring Harry Potter’s England? Don’t include your travel days in this number. Count only those days you will actually be exploring the area.
Another way to help visualize how many days you can dedicate to exploring your destinations is to set up a daily calendar, beginning with the first and last travel days. Once you have your “top five” destinations, you can begin filling in the rest of the calendar. Don’t forget to include possible travel days in the middle of the trip! We had to dedicate one of our days to travel from Edinburgh to London.
Creating a travel plan such as this will help you to quickly see if there are extra days to fit in other destinations. It will also help you adjust your travel plans accordingly. We wanted an extra day to explore Edinburgh and London, and the map and calendar helped us determine where to fit these days into our trip.
3. Book With Travel Agents, Professional Guides or Go It On Your Own?
What’s your travel style? Are you a more adventurous spirit, not daunted by going it alone? Or do you prefer the assistance of a travel agent, someone who can work out all the details for you? Should you book a guided tour, or do everything on your own? What about private guided tours versus group tours?
Your travel style, combined with your budget, how much time you can commit and where you want to go, will be key factors in how you plan your trip. Each option has it’s advantage as well as disadvantage. For example, private tours will most likely cost a bit more, however, that personal touch and knowledge might just save the day. Self-guided tours might be the most economical, but you may just find yourself missing “something.”
So before you make that leap, take some time to answer these three questions. You will be happy you did! And once you do, you will be ready to put this awesome trip together!
Resources For Planning A Harry Potter Trip
I’m a big fan of destination research before diving headlong into planning any trip. It helps me determine my own answers to the three questions. Where do I start my own research? My local library. Libraries are often stocked with a wide range of travel books.
Perhaps my biggest resource is the Internet. The Internet is a plethora of travel information. So much so that it can quickly become overwhelming. So I’ve saved you some time by finding eleven favorite Harry Potter travel related websites that you can use today in planning your own trip to Harry Potter’s England.
- Rick Steve’s Harry Potter Film Sites and Locations
- Visit Britain Top Ten Harry Potter Locations
- Lyncott Tour’s Harry Potter Englan Escorted Tours
- USAToday 10 Great Harry Potter Filming Locations
- Movie Location’s Film Locations for Harry Potter
- Muggle Tours Harry Potter’s London
- The Magician’s Harry Potter London Tour
- Celebrity Planet Harry Potter London Walk
- Private Taxi/Guided Harry Potter Film Tours
- Touring Scotland’s Harry Potter Magic Tours
- Visit Britain Top 10 Things To Do Harry Potter Studio Tour
I also recommend that you check reviews of destinations, tour guides and tours before you book. TripAdvisor is a great resource for reviews, as is a trusted travel agent.
Whether you book with a travel agent, hire professional tour guides, join a guided tour group, or go it completely on your own, a bit of planning can go a long way in ensuring your trip is as awesome as ours.
Find more trip planning tips at Your Seven Best Travel Planning Tools.
Don’t Miss It! Warner Brothers Studio Tour London
What’s the one destination we didn’t explore? The one destination that’s a “must see” for any Harry Potter movie fan? It’s the brand spanking new Warner Brothers Studio Tour London. Go behind the scenes to experience actual sets, costumes, props and animatronics, all used to create the wonderful world of Harry Potter.
The Warner Brothers Studio is in Leavesden, not far from London. Plan before you go, though! Tours must be booked through the Warner Brothers Studio Tour London website – you cannot buy studio tour tickets at the studio. Another reason to plan ahead? This is a new and very popular attraction, and tickets might be sold out for your preferred date.
Sadly the Warner Brothers Studio London wasn’t yet open when we were exploring Harry Potter’s England. Though I can’t provide any personal experiences, check out Trip Advisor’s reviews. Sounding pretty darned cool, huh! I know it’s on our list of “must see and do” on our next visit to England.
How We Planned Our Harry Potter Vacation
We booked everything ourselves, and used a combination of self-guided and professionally guided tours. Nearly every site we explored could be explored on your own, however, our time was limited so we opted to hire a professional guide for several destinations. We didn’t want to risk missing something because we got lost in the English countryside! Which, by the way, is quite easy to do. Not to mention they drive on the opposite side of the road than we do. Enough said. Our guide was worth it!
Here’s our Harry Potter’s England travel plan, with a self vs. professionally guided breakdown by destination:
Alnwick Castle – Self-Guided. We began in Edinburgh, which makes for an easy self-drive day trip to Alnwick Castle. Once there, we found Alnwick Castle easy to explore and experience at our own pace. Prior to the trip, I emailed the castle promotions department as well as used Alnwick Castle’s well defined website to plan our visit.
London – Self and Professionally Guided. If you can splurge on one guided tour, London is the place to do it! We splurged on a private, half-day guided tour. Our guide got us to where we wanted much faster than we could have if navigating on our own. We also spent two days exploring London on our own, including a walking tour of such notable Harry Potter film sites as the Millenium Bridge, The London Zoo and Platform 9 3/4, aka King’s Cross Station.
The Dursley’s House – Professionally Guided. I seriously doubt we would have found Privet Drive, aka Pickett Post Close, without our guide! It was an easy stop on our drive out of London to Lacock Village and Abbey.
Lacock Village and Lacock Abbey – Professionally Guided. Though a self-guided exploration of Lacock Village and Abbey is a viable option, we enjoyed our guide’s perspective of the Lacock area. There is so much more here than Harry Potter film sites, and without our guide, I fear we would have missed some pretty cool stuff. The Lacock area is steeped in so much history, and we explored sites that I doubt we would have if it weren’t for our guide.
Gloucester Cathedral – Self Guided. Since Gloucester was on same road as the driving tour, our guide did bring us here. However, we explored the cathedral on our own, and you can too. Pick up the Road Map at the gift shop and you can easily find all the Harry Potter film sites at Gloucester Cathedral.
Oxford University – Self or Professionally Guided. Oxford is an easy train ride from London, so self-guided exploration might be your ticket to discovery here. Due to our time constraints, we opted to included Oxford in our four-day guided drive tour through the English country side that also included the Dursley’s House, Lacock Village and Abbey, and Gloucester.
That’s A Wrap!
So there you have it. One muggle family’s journey to Harry Potter’s England. Will you and your muggle family be making a similar journey? Have you already? Let us know how you planned your trip, and what destinations you saw, in the Comments section below.
Images from C.Biederman (Map, Calendar), Muggle Tours, Wikipedia via Zementa, and Harry Potter Film Tours. Video from Warner Brother’s Studio Tours London.