Why would anyone book “Self Drive” London theatre breaks?
It may seem self-explanatory but when you see the option “Self Drive” being displayed alongside rail, coach and even air theatre breaks, you may be forgiven for assuming that self-drive is only for those arriving by car. Now arriving by car into central London never seems like a great idea if you can possibly avoid it, and most Londoners do just that. They avoid driving in central London unless it’s in the middle of the night, or the city is deserted due to some mass evacuation such as that which happened during the 2012 Olympics. The problems with rush hour traffic jams, other traffic jams, parking and congestion charge fines have been detailed in articles about why you should go by coach or take the train, so why would anybody other than a petrol-headed masochist want to book a self-drive London break?
The answer you may well have guessed by now, is that “self drive” is only the name of the package. You don’t really have to drive yourself. It’s a term borrowed from other sections of the holiday industry where people wanted to tour around Tuscany, Andalusia and Provence in a car rather than being taken only to the main tourist hot spots. It could more accurately be called “Just the Hotel and Show” or ‘Make your own way” or even “no travel included” but self drive is kind of shorter and snappier so that’s the one that stuck as a general term for these kind of offers.
Three Good Reasons to book Self Drive Theatre Breaks
- You live near London anyway
You may live near enough to London that long distance coach or rail tickets are not necessary. You can just hop on a commuter train, tube or bus and get into central London by a variety of means. You may even have a season ticket or a lift in which case your fare is already covered. You’re going to love being able to stay in a central Hotel for once instead of having to make your way back out again though.
- Your travel arrangements are unusual
Not everybody lives a straightforward life with simple out and return travel requirements. I’m thinking of triangular journeys set up by people who like to make the most of their opportunities by killing two or three birds with one stone.
The person from Birmingham who needs to visit a relative in Plymouth one week and meet up with a friend in London for a Saturday afternoon show. An inclusive return journey back to Birmingham only to set off for Plymouth the next day would be impractical when you can simply book individual single tickets for each leg of the three-way journey yourself. In some cases you might also want to travel in one direction by train and the other by coach but I can’t think of a good reason right now, but getting a lift part way with a friend who is making a different journey could well be something to do with it.
- You are staying on in London before or after the theatre break
In the same way as a geographically skewed journey may rule out the usual theatre breaks packages, so might one which is complicated by time. You may be bolting a romantic weekend theatre break onto a working day conference during the week or something like that. You may be staying on in London for a few more days to do some more sightseeing, shopping and cultural activities with longer term accommodation sorted elsewhere. If this is the case you may still be able to book a theatre break by rail with an open return, but a coach break will be out of the question and self drive is most likely to be the option you will plump for.
The above are all reasons why self drive doesn’t necessarily mean self drive, but of course it can do just that. There are plenty of people for whom driving in London holds no special fear or problem. Parking is not necessarily impossible at all, in fact the hotel which included in the self drive package will usually have a private car park which you can avail yourself of1 and many people stay away from the congestion charge zones 6.00pm weekdays and all day at weekends when it doesn’t even apply!
Self Drive Theatre Breaks WITH a Car
If you do decide to bring your own car with you then you have all the advantages that can add. The comfort and privacy, flexibility, luxury and extra luggage space to name but five. All the complexities of three-way, five-way time and space distorted itineraries suddenly become a breeze, and you don’t even need to know what you want to do in advance. You can change your mind on Sunday, go somewhere else, stay an extra day, take a detour on the way home or simply do nothing at all out of the usual but be that little bit happier in the knowledge that you could have done if you had wanted to.
- an extra charge may apply [↩]