Everyone knows London can be expensive, but with proper planning and a few money saving hacks, you can enjoy London on a budget!
A few weeks ago we had a family trip to London. We took Ollie’s big bro for his birthday. It was his first trip to the City and he’d been asking to go for a while, so we really wanted to make it special. Being a Tightwad Mama, I organised and planned the whole thing in advance to make sure we could have fun in London on a budget.
From getting cheap travel to free things to do, here are my top tips for a frugal family day in the city:
The first thing to do is plan how you are going to get to London. If you’re going by train, the cheapest tickets generally go on sale 12 weeks before the date you want to travel. The Trainline lets you plan your journey, then notifies you by email when the cheapest tickets go on sale!
We decided to drive, so I used Parkopedia to find the cheapest car park. You just type in your destination and it shows the car parks in that area, their prices and even reviews. We managed to park literally right next to the Tower of London and only paid £12.50 for the entire day! If we had parked in the first one we drove past it would have cost us £68.50 so it’s well worth using.
Once you’re in London, the cheapest way to get around is to walk or even hire a bike. If you’re going long distances or have young children, you may want to get the tube and use an Oyster Card to save.
Eating out in London can be pretty pricey. Even national chains will often charge more in London for the same dishes. But if you plan in advance you CAN eat on the cheap!
Tesco Clubcard give you up to 4x the value of your points when you exchange them for restaurant vouchers. So £2.50 of points will get you £10 to spend in places like Bella Italia, Pizza Express and Zizzi. Just check the fine print before exchanging your points so you know which restaurants it’s valid in and what it covers.
Just fancy a quick takeaway? Pop into a tube station and grab a copy of the Metro. Most of the time there’ll be vouchers for cheap food at Burger King or McDonalds.
Better still, if it’s a nice day why not take your own picnic? Find a nice park, relax and eat Al Fresco!
A Trip On The London Eye
A trip on the London Eye was something I definitely wanted to do as part of the birthday treat. It’s a great experience and a fantastic way to see the city for the first time. But…it is very expensive, especially when you’re buying tickets for a whole family.
If we had bought tickets on the day it would have cost a massive £71 for the 3 of us! Instead I managed to get 3 tickets for £30 using Tesco Clubcard.
You need to exchange £2.50 of Clubcard points for each ticket you want to buy. You’ll be emailed a special link and a code which allows you to buy a ticket for £10!
If you don’t have any Clubcard vouchers, you can save a bit of cash by booking your ticket in advance online.
London Zoo, Madame Tussaud’s and More
Speaking of Tesco Clubcard vouchers, there are actually tons of London attractions that you can get in for ‘free’ just by exchanging your points for vouchers! From the Tower of London to the Sea Life Centre, there’s loads of family friendly options.
Hamleys is a great place to take kids in London for free. There are so many toys, demonstrations and things to see that it could entertain them for hours!
Of course how expensive this one is, really depends on how much you can resist your kids’ requests for toys! Big Bro took his birthday money and was allowed to spend it on whatever he liked, so it didn’t actually cost us a penny – but he had a great time in there!
Boat Trip On The Thames
A boat trip on the Thames is a nice relaxing way to see the city. You’ll see a lot of the major tourist points and most of the big boats have onboard commentary.
Once again, you can use loyalty points to buy tickets, but we didn’t have enough left. You can save by buying in advance online, but we saved even more by buying the tickets through Virgin Experience Days who were selling them at almost half price. I used cashback site Quidco to earn some extra money back on top!
Platform 9 3/4s at Kings Cross
If you’ve got Harry Potter fans in the family, take a trip to Kings Cross and get your photo taken at Platform 9 3/4s.
Surely a trip to Buckingham Palace is a must do on your first trip to London? We just wandered down through Green Park as it was a nice sunny day. It’s an impressive site but won’t cost you a penny! Time it right and watch the Changing Of The Guard, sure to impress little ones.
Natural History Museum
Sadly we ran out of time to visit the Natural History Museum so it’s on our list for the next time we’re in London. It’s an amazing place to take the kids because there’s so much to see and do – and it’s totally free! There are loads of other free museums in London too so there’s bound to be something your family will love.
Watch The Street Performers in Covent Garden
Covent Garden is one of my favourite places in London. It’s such a quirky, vibrant place and there’s always stuff to see and do. Kids will love watching the street performers and you don’t need to spend a penny…unless you think their act is worth a donation!
Top Tips To Enjoy London On A Budget
- Plan in advance to save on travel and attractions
- Make the most of free museums and art galleries
- Enjoy the sunshine in one of the city’s many parks
- Never pay on the day for attractions like London Eye or Madame Tussaud’s. Use loyalty points to buy tickets or buy online in advance
- Check out Tesco Clubcard boost in advance and get up to 4 times the points value to spend on attractions
- Walking is a great way to save money and see more of the city