London is one of those cities that once you’ve gone, you can’t wait to get back to. If you’ve never been, it can seem rather daunting to actively start planning a vacation there, as prices for everything seem sky-high. While it’s true that London is one of the most expensive destinations to visit, there are certainly ways you can save money traveling there. I believe that being on a budget shouldn’t hamper your vacation destinations, but rather alter your vacation style just a bit, so you can still do as much as possible while stretching your dollars to the max. Here are some of my tips on traveling to and around London for less.
Visit in the Fall – Fall is, by far, the least expensive time to travel to Europe and the UK. Compared to Summer airfares, rates run almost half at this time of year, which can keep hundreds of dollars in your pocket.
Rent an apartment – Not only will this save you money over a hotel, but also you can cook some, or all, of your own meals and make your food budget go further. You’ll have more space than a hotel, no noisy kids running up and down the hall and you’ll feel like a real Londoner going back to your “flat” after a long day out in the city!
Get a London Pass – This is your ticket to the city. You pay one price and this little card can get you into over 55 attractions in the London area. It allows you go straight to the head of the line and, since you’ve already paid, you don’t have to keep looking over your budget to see if you can afford to do something else on your trip. If it’s on the list, you’re covered. While not “cheap”, the London Pass is affordable and especially useful if you are spending a week or more in the city. You probably won’t visit all the attractions covered, but if you did you could save over $800. Even if you just visit half, you’re getting a significant savings on your trip.
Use a Travelcard – A Travelcard, which offers you unlimited transportation for the number of days you choose, can be added to the purchase of your London Pass or you can buy it separately. Using the public transportation system in London is a great way to save money, as taxis can really add up. I learned pretty quickly that paying for each trip on the Underground was going to send me to the poorhouse. Buying a packet of tickets can save you a lot, but buying a Travelcard is really the biggest money-saver of them all.
Go for a walk – London Walks has a variety of walking tours you can take any day of the week. Tours usually last for one to two hours and cost around $15 per person. You never have to make a reservation. You just turn up at the tour’s starting location, pay your money to the guide and enjoy a stroll around London, learning about the city’s history on themed tours, such as Jack the Ripper, Harry Potter, the Beatles, pubs, Westminster Abbey and more.
Make dining reservations in advance – Sign up for TopTable.com and search participating London restaurants that allow you to make online reservations through the program. The great thing about TopTable is that they often offer 50% off discounts at certain dining venues. You can find many other deals, too, including my favorite – the special prix fixe menus for TopTable users at many restaurants. The more reservations you complete, the more points you get. When you accumulate enough points, you can trade them in for a dining certificate. Even if you don’t earn enough on your trip, you will still save a bundle by booking your dining at the restaurants that take part in the program.
Enjoy the free things in life – Sure, London, like most of the world, wants your money, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do that won’t cost you anything. You can spend a whole day, or two, saving your money and visiting sites like Hyde Park, browsing vender booths at any of the many street markets, taking in the sights way above the city in OXO Tower, watching the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, marveling at works of art in Tate Modern or learning the history of the city through exhibits at the London Museum. The list goes on and on. Mix some freebies in with your other activities and your budget will stretch much further.
As you can see, there are many ways to make London affordable. With the money you save, you won’t have to try so hard to resist the calling to pop into the Lulu Guinness or Vivienne Westwood shops.
**This post was brought to you by Shereen of Shereen Travels Cheap. Visit her blog at :