How to save money on a trip to London UK
London, conjures up the idea of skyscrapers and lots of expense. These are true (to an extent) but there are many gems to be found for the savvy, family traveller. This means that a fun time can be had by everyone, even those with a limited budget. So her’s some top tips on how to save money on a trip to London UK.
We visited London over Christmas in 2013 and stayed from Saturday 21st December until Christmas Eve. We however booked our hotel in the sweltering month of July and that advance booking really helped us to save quite a lot of money. We booked the Travelodge Covent Garden into 4 family rooms and were really impressed. The actual cost was only £168 per room for the 3 night stay, which given the location and time of year (school holiday across the UK) I thought was a bargain at just over £55 per night. We are hoping to book again for this Christmas and prices are again in the same price range.
Location, Location, Location
Look carefully at the choice of hotel and shop around. You may find a cheap hotel on the outskirts but once you add on the costs of travelling into the centre, attractions and the headache factor, sometimes the cost saving isn’t that great. The added bonus of staying centrally is that most major attractions are within walking distance and with little adventurers in tow, a walk around London can be fantastic fun. If your children also need to nap, being able to go back to the hotel helps to break the day up. Over Christmas, the winter area in Leicester Square for the Christmas decorations are great for an evening of exploration. I have also found that being out in the evening actually makes the holiday feel like a real holiday.
Our hotel was located between Tottenham Court Road and Holburn tube stations (3-5 min walk from either), 5 minute walk to Leicester Square, various theatres and restaurants literally round the corner, we couldn’t fault our choice.
Our family room was spacious, with 1 double and a sofa bed with a second pull out mattress. We had plenty of space for us all and pushchair etc. The hotel is a really good choice for budget travellers who want to be centrally located.
Tip: Always try and find codes and use sites such as Quidco and TopCashback. Travelodge recently had an initiative that if you download their new app, you can save 10% any hotel booking which is great if you are booking several rooms. Always have a quick google search before you book, you never know what will turn up, in terms of voucher codes, codes or freebies Also, sign up to the major chains newsletter so you are notified when they have flash sales and offers on!
Getting to London
Driving in London
We are from Lancashire so getting to London can be an expense. As there were 13 of us going and we would be travelling to see family on the last day, we decided to travel by car but then had the additional, potentially huge expense of parking. There is a car park to the back of the hotel but would charge a whopping £38 per night. After contacting Travelodge they confirmed that they have a few spaces for disabled guests and the car park would be reduced by 50% with our hotel confirmation. However, there was no guarantee that there would be parking available and prebooking a space would mean that we would not be able to get the discount. Add in the congestion charge on the final day we are looking at over £200, even with the discount. Luckily we managed to find this parking gem. Such a fantastic price, costing just £21 for 3 days parking and has a bus station, overland train and tube station within. Westfield, Stratford was the biggest bargain!
If you are arriving in London via the train there is some fantastic offers on at the moment which allows 2 for 1 entry to a whole host of attractions including 2 for 1 for London Aquarium, London zoo to name a few. If you have a single ticket to London, it is only valid on the date of arrival whilst a return allows you to use your tickets for any period between the outward and inbound dates of your journey.
Travel whilst in London
Walking is free and I have found that when travelling with children, walking is the best and most enjoyable way of discovering a new destination. London has an amazing amount to see and take in and whichever direction you walk, there is plenty to keep even the youngest of adventurers entertained. I adore this map below which shows the walking times between tube stations, showing that often it is easier to walk from attractions and taking in all the sites and sounds of this great city along the way!
With the introduction of the Oyster Card, single trip journeys are now, in my opinion, excessively priced. Given the size of our group and our desire to incorporate as much as possible, tying to keep the costs of travel would prove to be difficult. Luckily in my research I stumbled across group travel discount. If there are 10 or more of you, you are able to buy a day travel card for £4.50 for adults and £1.70 for children aged over 11, zones 1-5, for travel anytime of the day. It should be noted that this is only available on the underground so if you would be using buses it’s advisable to look at the normal travelcards.
The best things in life are free
London is expensive but you will be surprised how many things that you can see and experience for free!
London is jam packed with some of the worlds best museums and surprisingly the vast majority of them are free. You have something for all tastes, ages and interests from the likes of the Natural History Museum, budding scientists will love the Science museum, history lovers will be amazed by the fantastic collection at the British History museum, art lovers will be spoilt by options like the Tate Modern, the National Gallery and the V&A. We found this list really helpful when we visited in London, with details of all the free museums and more.
We love, love the parks in London. They are all stunning, with lots of things for little adventurers to see and do. Some of the picks would be Kensington Gardens with the fantastic Princess Diana Memorial, Regents Parks, Hyde Park or St James Park to name a few. The new one which has wowed a number of visitors is the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park which has a fantastic sounding Timber Lodge and Tumbling bay playground for little adventurers to enjoy! I would recommend that a visit to the park is timed in between some sight seeing to let little adventurers have a little run around.
View from the skies
Seeing the London skyline from upon high never gets boring and below are two of the best views of the London skyline you can have for free.
Tate Modern viewing platform, the floor of the new Switch House is an open viewing terrace. You can see the River Thames, St Paul’s Cathedral, and as far as Canary Wharf and Wembley Stadium. Access is free, however you might have to queue during busy times.
Sky Garden: I think this remains one of London’s best kept secret. The Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street is a unique public space and access to the Sky Garden is free of charge. Tickets are released three weeks in advance and can be booked up to one hour in advance. Tickets are only valid for the date and time stated on the ticket and have a time limit of 1.0 hrs from time of entry.
London is full of some of the UK’s most iconic buildings and I love the idea of doing a little bit of a treasure hunt of the major sites that we can see on a walk. There are some fab maps that are available online and you could have the children leading the way and counting how many you have seen. In addition, children will love to watch things like the changing of the guard (timings here), walking along the bridge and you can even check the bridge lifting times which will be lots of fun for little adventurers to see. Especially if they have just or then do on and walk the bridge. London has so many great sites that even choosing a few and concentrating on them will guarantee that you have a great time.
Two of my favourite shops and worthwhile attractions in their own rights are the fabulous Hamleys and Harrods. I would recommend a morning visit to Hamleys and to go to all the floors. We love the interactive displays put on by the staff and it really lets the children get a hands on with the toys. You can easily spend two/three hours in the shop. Doc and I usually have a better time then the children. Another favourite is Harrods. The first time I went, I was really apprehensive about the children touching anything but they have some fantastic children areas and the one thing I cannot wait to try out is the Disney Cafe in the store. That is top of my list for going to on our next visit and for our disney mad adventurers it will be a fantastic experience.
Looking for offers
Before you go, I recommend that you have a good look on the internet for offers. The last time relatives were going we managed to find offers on Groupon for 5D show in Piccadilly circus, Amazon Local had some great offers and even the companies own sites have great deals, for example, you can save up to 40% online for Ripleys Believe it or not by buying tickets in advance. You will be surprised at the bargains that are available and sometimes looking for deals paves the way to discovering new adventures that you may have not considered. My top places for offers are:
Groupon (check local sites near where you are visiting) also google groupon and where you are visiting as often other counties will have offers
The attraction own website / social media, they often offer at least 10% off for booking online.
Just a simple good old google search and you will be shocked at the results.
We have had our Merlin passes for four years and love them! The Merlin Pass are not cheap but there are loads of attractions included within the pass so it really ends up paying for itself. There are several attractions in central London, the London Eye, London Dungeons, Sea Life, Madame Tassauds and the new Shrek experience (Available to premium pass holders from September and standard passes from January 2016). The passes can also be used on the theme parks on the edge of London including Chessington World of Adventure, Thorpe Park and Legoland. Merlin have a number of sites throughout the country which are covered by the pass and then you can easily make short weekend breaks to visit these and combine them with a cheap hotel to make a great few weekends away throughout the year.
Food can be one of the things that can add up and end up costing you lots especially when you are travelling with children. We always have a packed lunch and even if you are staying in a hotel you can easily nip to one of the local express supermarkets and make a packed lunch and have plenty of treats on hand for the moments before a public meltdown. With little adventurers, we always pack our sandwich boxes and a picnic blanket and London offers some great places to have a break and a picnic. The last visit to London we had a picnic in the grass area near the London Eye near the fantastic playground. The children loved watching the Eye and also had a good run around to burn off any excess energy before we went onto the eye.
I hope that you have enjoyed the post. Have you got any tips to saving money in London, we would love to hear your ideas!
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