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England for a family of five

We are a family of five, two older teens,parents, and a grandmother, who areinterested in taking a trip to Englandnext summer. Sightseeing for a weekwould not be a first choice for allinvolved as the teens are looking fora little hang time or adventure time.Can you recommend a particulartour company that might keepeverybody happy? H.F., Needham

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April 2, 2006

The good news is that England, and London especially, is a playground for travelers of all ages. And summertime is a brilliant time to visit, when the days are long, the weather is right, and the outdoor markets (from Portobello to Camden to Old Spitalfields) are in full swing. But the thought of making everyone happy can be daunting and sightseeing drills will definitely not impress the teens (or maybe even grandma for that matter). Instead, what you need is a custom tour of either the city or the countryside beyond.

One reputable company that offers such a service is British Tours (www.britishtours.com; seven-hour day city tours start at $671 for a family of five; outside the city from $940). All you do is call, tell them what you're interested in, whether you want a single day or multiple days, and they'll find you the perfect guide and a personalized itinerary to match, be it a swing around Oxford's Harry Potter sites or your own Beatles Magical Mystery Tour in Liverpool.

On the more affordable side, you can't go wrong with hop-on hop-off tours like the Big Bus Company (www.bigbus.co.uk; $35 per adult, $14 for age 15 and under) because you can see the entire city at your own pace. A spunkier way to go is cruising down the Thames and along the streets in an amphibious craft from London Duck Tours (www.londonducktours.co.uk; $31 per person), the very same ones that ply the streets of Boston.

Before you depart, be sure to take a look at Londontown.com, an all-encompassing guide to the city, including restaurants (Wagamama, where ramen is king), theater (''Billy Elliot," twinkle toes himself), events (Manchester United versus Arsenal in the world's favorite football), and everything in between.

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