LONDON — London is a popular destination that is often found on many people's travel wish lists. It is a city full of history, culture, polite people and a classy elegance that draws visitors from around the world every year.
This city often goes uncrossed on many bucket lists because many feel overwhelmed with the associated cost; mostly due to the exchange rate of the British pound versus the American dollar. There are a lot of little things about a trip to London that you may not be counting on that can add up quickly and can inflate your vacation cost.
Recently, I visited London for the first time with my mother whose lifelong dream was to visit this historical city and its surroundings. As a travel writer, I have visited many places and don't typically consider myself to be a budget traveler but more of a value traveler. To me, I want to make sure I get as much value as possible without breaking the bank. I feel comfortable splurging when it's something important, but I try to be smart when allocating funds to various places.
With that said, visiting London does not have to kill your budget. There are many ways to enjoy this city and feel like you are on a luxury vacation, all while on an economy budget.
Here are five tips for doing that:
If you can plan on going to London with a group of friends or relatives from different households, you will be able to travel to London a lot cheaper. Oftentimes, there are discounts at various places for groups as small as three people. This is especially true if you plan on doing any day trips out of the city to see Bath, Stonehenge, Oxford, etc. Lots of tours offer discounts for groups of three or more and even long-haul trains will give you a discount.
Also if you are 55 or older, you are often eligible for a senior concession which helps take costs down a bit.
If you plan on using public transit as your primary mode of transportation while you are in London, which I highly recommend as driving is expensive, traffic is thick and parking is sparse, then consider purchasing an Oyster card for riding the Tube. You will save even more money if you purchase it before your trip and have it shipped to you. Plus, you will save on the convenience of having to wait in a line to purchase it there.
If major attractions such as the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, the Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast are on your list of things to see, then you really may want to consider getting a London Pass. A London Pass is a card that lets you prepay for attractions and get a discounted rate. Instead of paying for all of these attractions individually, you pay one price and you have the ability to visit all these places and so many more while saving money.
At first, I was skeptical whether or not it would actually save us money, but we did a breakdown of what it would have cost us without the pass, and we ended up saving over 20 pounds ($25) on attractions we would have gone too anyway. The pass also allowed us to visit other attractions that we wouldn't have otherwise, and some of these ended up being some of our favorites, the Churchill War Rooms, for example. It also helped us save time by avoiding the lines at some attractions. More time inside the attractions instead of in line at them is a nice added value.
If you are traveling with more people in your group, consider skipping hotel rooms and instead splitting a holiday flat. Not only will it most likely end up being quite a bit cheaper than a hotel, but you will have more space to spread out, as well as a common space to spend time together. This is a great option for families, friends or couples choosing to travel together.
Try to find a flat that is walking distance from a Tube station to make it easier to get around. It also helps you enjoy your London experience feeling more like a local than a tourist. Ask locals for restaurant suggestions nearby and enjoy an evening stroll.
Food is one of the biggest variables for traveling and visiting any new place. Tasting local cuisine and trying new restaurants is definitely a big part of the travel experience. However, this is also an area that you can be smart and save a lot of money.
Instead of skimping on eating out at restaurants, consider eating in for breakfast, particularly if you do end up renting a flat or apartment instead of a hotel. It's also helpful to pack some snacks to tide you over for the afternoon and then eat a nice dinner out. Or you can choose to indulge in high tea or an English breakfast and then visit your nearest Sainsbury's supermarket or Tesco and grab some of their delicious deli items for a very reasonably priced for dinner.
If you are on the fence about traveling to London because of budget restraints, consider using some of these tips to take that trip, enjoy a new culture and spend time reliving history and enjoying the culture London has to offer. A little advanced planning will go a long way but remember to be spontaneous and enjoy the adventure as it comes.
What are some of your money saving tips for traveling to London? Let us know in the comments.