How long is the program?
The program runs 11 days, from Tuesday, August 10 (the day you arrive in Edinburgh) until Saturday, August 19 (check-out by 10am). Please note that you will need to book your flight for the evening of August 9 to arrive on August 10. Limited activities are planned for arrival day, so you can rest from overnight travel. Participants purchase their own airfare: some may want to travel elsewhere in Scotland before or after the program. For those wishing to visit St. Andrews and Stirling Castle, or Loch Ness and the Highlands, the director is happy to help organize a 1-day tour that would coincide with the end of the program for a nominal cost.
What is the program cost?
$3,200. per person in a double or twin room. Single accommodation can usually be arranged, depending on the size of the group. Airfare is not included.
In addition to housing, the cost covers a curated theatre experience involving 17-20 ticketed performances, a castle tour, a Scottish Parliament tour, two group dinners, transportation from the airport when you arrive, and an international SIM card for your phone.
A deposit of $1,000. per person is deducted from the final payment and due before Jan. 15. The final payment is due by April 1. Because the program fills every year, your place cannot be guaranteed without a deposit.
What about other costs in Edinburgh?
Restaurants and grocery costs are similar to the U.S., even during the festival. Inflation is worse in the UK than in the US, but the dollar is currently strong. If you want to see additional plays, Jenny can help you book them in Edinburgh using her discount (the cost varies from $12 to $30.00 per ticket). The National Art Museum and Portrait Gallery, the Scottish National Museum, The Writer’s Museum, and the Scottish National Library exhibitions are all free. The Royal Mile boasts additional small museums as well as the castles on either end–with entrance fees ranging from $10.00 to $45.00. And of course, there are the pubs where it’s easy to drop a few for a pint or a whiskey.
Why doesn’t the program book our airfare?
Participants come from different places, and some come to Edinburgh as part of a longer travel vacation. Since there are no longer discounts for group airline bookings, letting everyone get their own air ticket saves you money. The shortest flights to Edinburgh are direct from Boston, MA or NYC to Edinburgh, but there are often cheaper flights available on other airlines that stop in Dublin, London, or Amsterdam. Bringing no more than ONE carry-on and ONE personal item like a backpack is highly recommended. Jenny can consult on flight options and is happy to book tickets if you would prefer her to do that for you.
When and how do I pay?
Payments can be made by check to Jenny Spencer or to Festival Getaway, LLC (see contact page for address). A $1,000. deposit (deducted from the final payment due) guarantees your space in the program.
What happens if something comes up and I am unable to attend?
Since most of the program costs (housing and tickets) are prepaid, deposits and final payments are not generally refundable. However, we make every effort to find someone to replace you in the program should you be prevented from attending because of medical or family emergency reasons. Should someone take your spot, your deposit and/or payments will be fully refunded. In 2020, all participants were fully refunded their money because the festival itself was cancelled. Trip insurance is always advisable.
What is the housing situation?
Jenny has found that shared housing is the best way to experience the fringe festival. We currently have booked 32 Gilmore Place in Edinburgh, a beautiful 5-bedroom, 5-bath, fully appointed Georgian house within walking distance to everything. Unlike a hotel room, your lodging offers a full kitchen, a washer, and large living and and dining room. Bedrooms are variable in size and assigned on a first-come, first served basis.
What happens when I arrive in Edinburgh?
You will depart from the U.S. in the evening of August 9, and be met at the airport when you arrive in the morning or afternoon of August 10. Transportation from the airport to the house is arranged (usually a tram to central Edinburgh and a taxi from Haymarket Station.) Once there, you will be encouraged to rest up for the evening activity. In the early evening, the group will meet for a catered dinner in our home before attending our first performance event.
What does a “normal” festival day look like?
In a “normal” day, your mornings are free to explore the city, visit tourist sites, shop, sleep in, or see an early show. [Shows generally start at 10am.] You will have tickets to 1 or 2 performances each day, usually scheduled in the afternoon and evening. The group will assemble at the scheduled venue 30 minutes before a performance. You will have access to a map and the Fringe Program, a list of recommended tourist sites and restaurants, and Jenny’s own theatre-going schedule if you want to add performances on any given day.
During the week, specific activities–a lunch, coffee or drinks after a show, a hike, a whiskey tasting, an exhibition, a parliament tour, the Scottish Museum–will be organized, but optional. We will gather on our first and last night for a dinner paid by the program. Otherwise, participants are on their own for activities, meals, and entrance fees. Jenny and returning program “alums” can help you plan your own adventure, whether alone or with others in the group.
What kind of activities do you recommend while in Edinburgh?
Visit the markets: St. John’s craft festival has dozens of booths featuring local artist’s wares; a farmer’s market takes place in the parking lot near the castle every Saturday morning.
Visit the museums: the small Writer’s Museum on the Royal Mile is free, and the People’s Museum on the Mile is also interesting. The Scottish National Museum is huge with everything you can imagine–worth visiting more than once. The Scottish National Library always has interesting free exhibits.
Visit art exhibitions: Edinburgh’s National Arts Museum is free to the public, but there are also interesting exhibitions at The Fruit Gallery Art Museum near Waverley Railroad Station and the Contemporary Art Museum near Stockbridge. The Fringe catalogue has pages of references to art exhibitions at other places in the city. In 2020, Art Curator and Historian Lori Friedman will be joining our group and can help us choose what to see.
Visit beautiful Bow Street: with its the artisanal vodka shop (Demi-John’s), Cheesemonger, and Harry Potter World. Wander on High Street and experience nonstop street theatre. Visit the food trucks and gardens on George Square near the University of Edinburgh. Experience a whiskey tasting, available throughout the city.
Experience nature: in Prince’s Gardens beneath the Castle, or the Meadows and Links, near the University. Take a 10 minute bus ride to the Royal Botanical Gardens or a 20 minute bus ride to the coastal town of Leith.
Visit the city’s two castles, but go early to avoid the crowds. The famous Military Tattoo? Only if your heart is set on it (let me know, and I can help you get tickets).
Take a bus to Leith to see the Royal Britannica Yacht or visit the small seaside town.
How do you choose the performances we see?
It’s easier to choose interesting work when you are familiar with the venues and can recognize award-winning companies and performers from earlier years. We will see some performances at the International Edinburgh Festival: these heavily subsidized performances have high production values and often sell out early. On the fringe, I look for new writing and socially relevant work in a variety of genres: physical theatre, political theatre, comedy, site-specific or immersive theatre, docu-drama, puppetry, and international performances.
Most recently, the best shows have been at the Traverse Theatre (the city’s year-round repertory space for new work), Summerhall (a converted school and community center housing several spaces as well as a gin distillery), and the Pleasance Venue at the University of Edinburgh George Square.
Jenny does not generally book stand-up comedy (there is just too much of it), work by school groups (less professional), free theatre (which you don’t need to book in advance), and musical theatre (with occasional exceptions).
The selection process for group shows is intense. When the full program comes out, Jenny reads through thousands of blurbs, check reviews, research interesting shows, and discuss recommendations from other faculty members who will be traveling to Edinburgh with a group of students in the study abroad program Jenny founded at UMASS. The final itinerary provides a mix of contemporary work in several genres.
How do I get around the city?
Edinburgh is a very walkable city, but you can always catch a bus, hail a taxi, or call an Uber. Expect to walk for about 20-30 minutes between most venues, and 40 minutes if you’re going from one end of Edinburgh to the other. The bus system is convenient for getting around the city. The Edinburgh Bus and Tram app can be downloaded on your phone (all busses have wireless) and you can use it to plan your journey and follow the bus as you ride. Taxis and Ubers are also reasonable, and a good idea if you get caught in a downpour or need to be somewhere faster than you can walk. The city is very safe, and no one should be concerned about walking on their own, even at night.
What should I bring?
Most people overpack on international trips; PLEASE pack as lightly as you can. We have a washer available in our house, and clothes hung up dry in a day. I bring ONE suitcase (that I check and can easily carry up staircases), a backpack (that I carry on the plane) as well as a small purse (that can fit in the backpack for international travel). Leave room for your souvenirs!
- Sturdy, comfortable shoes that can handle wet weather.
- A waterproof jacket and umbrella.
- A sweater, long pants, and layers for changeable weather. Pack for brisk weather (60’s during the day, 50’s at night).
- A smart phone that is “unlocked” to accommodate a UK sim card.
- An ATM debit and credit card: ATMs are everywhere and are the cheapest way to get pounds. Make sure your bank is alerted to your travel plans, or your ATM card may be blocked. Debit cards get better ATM rates than credit cards, but the latter are accepted everywhere. And even the busses take Apple and Google Pay.
- Most important: a current passport!
Participants will get a packing list and more specific information about our ticketed itinerary later in the spring.
How do I sign up?
Space in the program is limited, so the sooner you let Jenny know you are interested, the better. Email your interest to Jenny at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will follow up.