With the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle about to recede in the rearview mirror, you probably think you’ve heard the last of wedding-inspired travel news from the U.K.
Don’t be so sure.
In fact, the nuptials may be a gift that keeps on giving, particularly for travelers from the U.S. (in case you have been remarkably out of touch recently, the bride is an American) and could extend beyond England’s capital, according to Gavin Landry, executive vice president, Americas for VisitBritain.
Noting London’s already established reputation as a popular international destination, Landry said: “This milestone event undoubtedly puts the global media spotlight on Britain, and with it a fantastic opportunity to promote all its destinations and to connect with U.S. audiences.”
Relying on a completely unscientific poll among my circle of friends, Landry’s reasoning makes sense. Sure, some people are die-hard enough to actually fly to London in hopes of a glimpse of wedding pageantry, but my friends and I admitted to each other that we’d get a better view of the proceedings on TV, although the idea of watching with girlfriends, either in a hotel — and not necessarily one overseas — or at home, had a certain appeal.
More importantly, we thought the televised spectacle could rekindle our interest in a destination we already know and like but had begun to take for granted.
It’s too soon to draw a straight line from the wedding to actual visitor numbers. VisitBritain is forecasting 4.1 million visits from the U.S. to the U.K. in 2018, slightly down from 2017 but a boost over the nearly 3.5 million visits in 2016. However, these figures are tricky to interpret, given such potentially mitigating factors as Brexit, shaky global markets, terrorist incidents and Twitter spats between the two nation’s leaders.
What we do know is that a surprising number of people love fairytale weddings, and the good news in all this is that travelers inspired to visit Britain but who are worried that they’ve missed all the fun can take heart. We found several specials that are ongoing, some through the month of May and others through the end of the year, as well as royal-themed activities that are good anytime. Following is merely representative of some of what’s out there:
• The Milestone Hotel, for example, a five-star, boutique hotel overlooking London’s Kensington Palace, is going all out with a Royal Engagement Package, good through Dec. 31, excluding Christmas, and subject to availability. The two-night package bundles in a horse-drawn carriage ride around London, a chauffeured Bentley ride to a Hatton Gardens jewelry store, a pink Champagne toast, Royal Afternoon Tea for two, a private tour of Kensington Palace and a photo session in front of the palace.
The package is priced at about $3,682. You can even take your vacation a step further and tie the knot at the Milestone’s Oratory Chapel, one of London’s tiniest wedding venues.
• Some charming but last-minute specials that are good through May include a posh two-night Royal Wedding package at the Arch London that includes accommodations in a two-bedroom suite, a gourmet three-course dinner, a Champagne breakfast, Royal Wedding Afternoon Tea, a tour of Windsor Castle, a Fortnum & Mason voucher worth about $135 and airport transfers. The package is priced at about $5,500.
Or, for something a little more affordable, book the hotel’s Royal Wedding Afternoon Tea, which features inventive desserts shaped like wedding dresses and royal crowns — not to mention profiteroles decorated with an American flag, all for about $38 per person.
• Also good through May is the Royal Wedding package at the newly renovated Royal Lancaster London, which features an overnight stay in the Royal Suite overlooking Hyde Park and the London skyline, a bottle of Ruinart NV Champagne, Royal Signature Afternoon Tea for two in the Hyde Lobby Bar, a full English breakfast en suite and a gift bag.
The special is priced from about $4,700 per night, double.
• You’ll have to hurry to take advantage of Rail Europe’s BritRail Royal Wedding Promotion, which offers a free additional travel day for bookings made by May 21, but passengers have up to 11 months to use the pass. Even without the free day, BritRail is eager to promote the Royal-themed sites passengers can visit anytime via its various passes.
In addition to such iconic London attractions as the Queen’s home in Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace, where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their engagement, themed locations outside London include Hampton Court, a royal residence of King Henry VIII and his many unfortunate wives; Windsor Castle, the site of the wedding and open year-round to visitors — when there’s not a wedding going on, that is — and even Holyroodhouse Palace in Edinburgh, Scotland, one of Queen Elizabeth’s official residences.
• Tour companies like City Wonders are also offering ongoing Royal-themed tours. The Best of Royal London Tour With VIP Early Access, for example, offers an early-morning tour of the Tower of London including the opening ceremony, complete with a crowd-free look of the Crown Jewels; scenic river cruises up the Thames; a walking tour through the Horse Guards to St. James’ Palace and viewings of the traditional changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
• European Waterways’ Royal Cruise aboard the eight-passenger Magna Carta hotel barge on the Thames was, as of this writing, nearly sold out, but its Classic Cruises itineraries offer similar itineraries that, among other destinations, sail past Windsor Castle.