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I am looking to plan a vacation going to London and Paris near the end of May so I can take advantage of the US Memorial Day Holiday which I get off from work to get more days out of my vacation.

I noticed that in the UK that the last week in May 2015 will be a UK School Holiday, with Monday the 25th a UK Bank Holiday. Sunday and Monday in Paris will be Whit Sunday and Whit Monday holidays. It looks like in the UK the Whit holidays do not have a major impact, but in France they might.

How much of an impact should these holidays have on my vacation planning? Does the UK break mean worse crowds or closures in London attractions or do a lot of people go to France? As a tourist who will not be celebrating the Whit holidays in France, will I find too many things shut down and be wasting days? I have some flexibility for about a 2 week trip and would like to utilize my American day off, spending 5-6 days in London and the rest in Paris. Am I better off trying to find a better time versus saving the "free" day off from work?

Would appreciate a local view on how these Holidays impact how the locals act and how it will impact tourists.

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I can't speak for France, but the London situation is this:

School half term holiday

Different areas and different types of school (state vs private) have slightly different dates for their half-term holidays (commonly just referred to as 'half term').

So the whole country doesn't go on half term holiday all at once.

Probable impact (as a Londoner this is what I'd expect):

  • Traffic: Outer London traffic will be lighter than usual in the morning rush-hour and in the mid-afternoon.

  • Public transport: Not much impact. Maybe lighter usage on outer London buses/trams but not anything that you as a tourist are likely to notice.

  • Prices: Prices for Brits going on holiday - either within the UK or outside - increase, in some cases doubling, during the school holidays. This applies to airline tickets, accommodation throughout the country (particularly 'family' options such as Center Parcs), etc. Cheap train tickets are likely to be sold out further ahead of time. So this would not be a particularly good week to explore the rest of the UK, if you have the option to do it at some other time.

  • Tourist venues (e.g. museums, palaces, castles, theatre): Busier than in the adjoining weeks, but only by a bit. Extra visits from families balanced by by less (or no) visits from school parties. The attractions know to expect extra families visiting in the school holidays, so many of them put on extra kids entertainment and activities for that week. So actually this is really quite a good time to take kids to these kinds of attractions. Look on the venue's website in advance to find out what special activities are on at what time.

Bank holiday

Same as a Sunday, i.e.:

  • Very much reduced number of people on public transport. No rush hour to speak of. Less frequent trains/buses but a lot less crowding. A good time to go on the Tube.

  • Tourist destinations very likely to be open, possibly with extra activities laid on (check their websites).

  • On religious festivals, churches/cathedrals are likely to be closed to tourists for big chunks of time, for religious services (although they'd be open to you if you want to go in as part of the church congregation and stay for the duration of the service).

Summary:

  • The biggest impact for you is likely to be on the price of airline tickets. You are going in the 'opposite direction' to holidaying Brits so you might be ok, but check prices for adjoining weeks just to be sure. If you're travelling London<->Paris then this cost issue could well impact you.

  • If you have kids then this is a good time to bring them to London because there'll be extra childrens' activities on at many of the major attractions.

  • On the whole a pretty good time of year to visit London. The weather isn't too freezing or too boiling and the tourist destinations aren't too packed.

  • Have fun! :) Enjoy your trip.

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    Thanks for the input, gladto get some responses from both the UK and France. – HelpEric Feb 2 '15 at 23:41
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The UK School Holidays may coincide with school holidays from other parts of Europe. This will mean there will be more crowds in general, and costs for flights, hotels etc.. will be higher during this period.

The UK Bank Holiday you mentioned is just a day off for a lot of people but all shops and tourist attractions will remain open. You may see a lot of people travel out of the UK, but also shopping areas like Regent Street may get but people coming out on their day off to go shopping.

Whit Sunday and Monday is the same, and won't affect most shops or tourist attractions either, but you may see more locals going to churches. edit: some museums and shops may be closed on Whit Sunday and Monday so it could be prudent to check the attractions you wish to visit first

But generally April/May is still relatively quiet compared with July/August which is the height of the peak season. I think this would be an ideal time to go. edit: Personally I haven't noticed these holidays causing much change to "everyday life"

  • Thank you, is this answer specific to UK part of the trip? I did notice that some hotels etc were actually a little higher than in the august time frame. Should I wait until the the Tuesday after Whit Monday to go to Paris? – HelpEric Jan 19 '15 at 20:44
  • @HelpEric I've edited my answer a little to help. I wouldn't be too concerned with the affect of the Pentecost on your trip, if you are planning to visit specific places, check their opening hours on those days. Or you could stay in London on the Sunday/Monday and go to Paris outside of those days. – EdmundYeung99 Jan 20 '15 at 10:07
  • @HelpEric In France, Tuesday is actually worse than bank holidays if you intend to visit museums. – Relaxed Jan 20 '15 at 14:26
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    @Relaxed In most of France, yes, but in Paris, more of the popular museums close on Mondays. – Gilles Mar 20 '15 at 20:12
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Whit Monday is still a bank holiday in France so schools and post offices will be closed, mail will not be dispatched, etc. but that should not bother you too much as a visitor. Shops in France do usually close on bank holidays but many supermarkets and shops in larger cities will open, maybe with reduced opening hours.

On the other hand, major attractions and especially museums will definitely be open. National museums close on Tuesday for the same reason: Many people do not work on Sunday and either Saturday (office workers) or Monday (small shops) so that museums are open on their day off.

Transportation networks will have a different schedule, with reduced frequencies and slightly different rules for card holders, like on a Sunday but (obviously?) don't close down completely.

  • Consider both UK and France celebreations and school breaks, does it make more sense to stay in London at the begining of that week and then take the train to Paris on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. It sounds good to wait on Paris until at least that Tuesday, but I am still concerned of lots of families from the UK coming to London with the week off (or if that not commonly what people do with this week?) – HelpEric Jan 20 '15 at 19:19
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    @HelpEric, a few people do that - family trip to London in half term - but not enough to make much difference to anything from your point of view. – A E Feb 2 '15 at 17:14
  • @HelpEric, except possibly for the price of accommodation, which might be higher than the neighbouring weeks. Best to check. – A E Feb 2 '15 at 19:42

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