Without a doubt, London is an incredibly expensive city to visit (and live in!). However, there are loads of things you can do to bring down the cost on your travels and having lived in London for nearly ten years, through most of which I’ve been broke, I like to think I’m a bit of an expert in it.
Here are a few tips on how to save money without missing out on any of the wonderful experiences London has to offer.
Warning: This blog post is super link heavy. Useful info though, I promise!
Make the most of free attractions
London is famed for the amount of free attractions it has to offer. I won’t go into too much detail here as there are so many blog posts and websites that give great summaries of the best ones, but what I will say is that a lot of the free attractions are more fun for kids than the paid ones! In my blog posts A one week itinerary for London with kids and 8 amazing places in London for kids- by a London Mum I’ve written about some of my favourite family friendly free stuff, so be sure to check those out!
Do some research before your trip and base your itinerary around experiences you can get good discount vouchers for. Littlebird consistently has fantastic deals and at the moment they have 55 offers for children’s theatre alone!
Did you know you can also get 2 for 1 deals on many of the big attractions if you choose to travel by national rail? For example, we once got a great discount on London zoo just by going overground rather than getting the tube.
If you visit Smartsave you can get 20% of a bunch of great attractions such as Kidzania just for visiting their website and of course, make sure you sign up to Groupon London a few months before your trip.
I know it can be really tempting to stay in the centre of London but be aware you will pay a huge premium for the pleasure. Check out hotels in zone two and so long as you’re easy walking distance to the closest tube or underground, you’re good to go. Obviously, Air BNB is always worth checking out and you’ll make massive savings just by having access to a kitchen.
Transport around London is notoriously expensive. There are a few things you can do to cut the cost. If your kids are under five then good news, they’re already free on the whole network! If they’re not, make sure you get them (and you) an Oyster card, which is what you will use to pay for overground, underground and busses. For kids Oyster cards you need to be organised and make sure you apply at least four weeks before you arrive in London but by doing this, your kids will either get free or child discount for travel, saving you a bunch of money.
Before you jump on a bus or tube, make sure you check with an app such as google maps, how long it takes to get to your destination by walking. For example, walking from Covent Garden to The Houses of Parliament takes just over 20 minutes, and is a much more interesting route!
Food in London can also take a large chunk of your cash. If you’re staying at an Air BnB, stock up the fridge with snacks and packed lunches that you can take out with you so you don’t panic buy a £5 cheese sandwich (I get so angry at myself when I do this). If you’re visiting in winter bring two flasks, one for adults full of coffee (or tea if you’re going super-Brit) and one full of hot chocolate for the kids. This could save you about £10 a day, plus it’s lovely to stop in one of London’s green spaces for a cosy drink without having to crowd the whole family into the closest soulless Starbucks.
Also, if you’re planning to eat at one of London’s many chain restaurants, make sure you do a quick voucher check first. You’re almost always going to get a heavy discount, a free drink or a kids eat free deal.
It’s who you know
Finally, if you have contacts in London make sure you ask them for any tips or any deals you and your family might be interested in! Some people get corporate tickets to attractions that they may be able to take you along to, or they might know another family that has an AirBNB they can get you at a discount rate. Locals know best and in my experience, most London locals love their city and are very keen to share it!
Thanks for reading! If you’ve come across any other money saving hacks for families visiting London please add a comment to help others out!