A good Planning is the key for you to make a cheaper trip to London and even to other cities in Europe. Here are some tips for your trip to the old continent do not get you broke!
Phase 1 – Planning
When to travel? In my personal opinion as a resident and frequent traveller in Europe, the best months to be about in here are:
1. Between March and June (European spring – excluding holiday periods like Easter, for example, when everyone travels at the same time and all major cities get super busy)
2. Between September and November (late summer – early fall in Europe – also excluding periods of European school holidays – usually in the last two weeks of October, but always changing!)
Travelling within these two time-frames you can explore the cities more quietly without many queues, and still with good weather. Conclusion: You can do a lot more in less time, and enjoy better the places than you would in other months. That is why you can even afford to pay less for hotels, also save with fewer days of transportation and meals. Not to mention that usually the flight tickets are usually more affordable within these periods. During the European winter months is also good to be here, but you need to come very well prepared for the intense cold, which can jeopardise your pleasure of being in Europe if you are not prepared (physically and psychologically)!
How long to stay? – If you want to visit only major cities like London, Berlin or Paris, for example, I would recommend in each city at least 3 to 5 days to know the basics. This considering entry into about 2 attractions per day (lasting about 1h to 1.5h each visit). But it depends a lot on the pace of your visit, whether or not you will be following a local guide (as this will optimise your time in each city), if you want to visit nearby cities, and a few other factors. Other smaller cities such as Amsterdam, Madrid, Barcelona or Vienna requires at least 2 days for a basic visit, but there are so many options for exploring the surrounds which makes it worth spending more time. And other cities like Brussels, Edinburgh, Dublin, Zurich, Budapest, Bratislava, Prague, 1 day is enough to get you to know the place but leaving with the mouth watering feeling of wanting to explore more, so it is worth to stay a few more days so you can explore better and nearby areas. For example, in Switzerland itself I would recommend 7 to 10 days at least and still would not be enough because of its numerous magnificent scenarios … I didn’t even mention Rome and Italy as it is almost incalculable, and you will hardly have time to explore so many places in that wonderful country in only one visit … I’d say it would need at least a month of travel there. But if You want to see only in Rome, 3 to 5 days would be the minimum to have a very basic idea about the city.
Search and early booking of flights, trains or even buses
Travelling within Europe: In my travels in Europe, I prefer to make the longest routes on flights and I use the service of low cost carriers (like Easyjet or Ryanair, for example). Skyscanner is a great comparison site of airfare sites and helps a lot to buy flights within Europe. However, when travelling between nearby cities, I prefer to avoid “wasting time” in downtown – airport – 2 hours prior to boarding – 1hour to disembark at the airport – downtown. I always choose to travel by train or even by bus between cities. Some bus operators in Europe have buses as comfortable as first class air planes. I had a wonderful experience with the RegioJet company on my way from Vienna to Bratislava on a bus that cost me less than 5 euros. I arrived so fast in Bratislava (only 45 minutes!). I did not even want to get off the bus which had TV, free wi-fi, super comfortable seats, air conditioning and even on-board service with free hot drinks and water. It was Super Good! The GoEuro app is the one I use most when I plan trips on trains and buses throughout Europe, although they also show flight options. Travelling by train or bus within Europe most often saves you time and money. And if you have an open mind about sleeping on trains or buses while travelling a bit longer you still can save on hotel stays!
Search and reserve hotels
Location, Location Location… is everything! As a general rule: the more central, the better located you are! and the chances of having much more salty prices are greater as well … Although it seems a bit (or a lot) more expensive to stay in the city central areas, straight away you will save time on journeys. In many smaller cities you will not even need to take public transport to know the main places. And even in larger cities where your transport ticket prices vary according to the routes you make (like London for example), you will spend less per journey and as you will make fewer routes. So at the end of the day in my simple opinion, stay in a simpler hotel, but stay as centralised as possible. Unless, of course, you are travelling to Europe but you really want to enjoy the hotel (for this I have great recommendations for spas, resorts, etc … – to be explored in another post). Here are a few suggestions of Locations for a cheaper trip to London considering the 3 main criteria that I normally use for my travels (best value for money, best for walking nearby the main attractions, or easy access to other cities or countries)
Best value for money: Lancaster Gate, Paddington, Queensway, Bayswater – All these areas are very close to the Hyde Park. In this region there are hundreds of hotels that compete for their guests. There are hotels for all tastes and pockets. You will need to use public transport to reach some of the main attractions, but you will not lose more than 30 minutes on the longer journeys. And you will be within walking distance of other attractions such as Hyde Park, Kensington Palace, Notting Hill, etc … It is worth focusing your search in this region if you have this criteria as a priority for your stay.
walking about the main touristic attractions: Southwark and Blackfriars – Those areas are about halfway to the most interesting main London circuit along the river Thames. You can do a lot of walking – The London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London are within walking distance from this area. It is not so cheap, but you save with transportation and time on your city tours. Focus your search on this region if that is your priority criteria. Note: This area is also very easy to access St. Pancra’s international train station if you plan to depart from London to Paris, Brussels or Amsterdam by train via Euro tunnel for example.
Easy access to other cities and countries: Euston and King’s Cross are just in the neighbourhood of St. Pancra’s station and Euston station which are two of the main stations which take you to places like Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Warner’s studio Bros (Harry Potter), for example.
Type of hotels: Accommodation options in European cities are numerous, from a couch in someone ‘s house found on Couch Surfing, accommodation inside houses occupied by the residents themselves found on Airbnb, student accommodation – hostels, hotels B and B – bed and breakfast, international, regional or local chains hotels. I particularly, as I always travel with children, family or clients, opt for bed and breakfast or for chain hotels – these are especially recommended if you want to stay without spending so much, but also prioritises a certain standard of service (in the case of chains). My hotel chains recommendations for London – not necessarily in order of price or quality are: Premier Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Ibis budget, Comfort Inn. Some other networks for those who do not mind paying more are: Thistle, Park Plaza, Crowne Plaza, Marriot, among many others.
Tools to book your hotel: There are hundreds and probably thousands of sites with various accommodation options like Couch surfing, Airbnb, Trivago, Kayak, etc. But in my opinion Booking.com is still the most complete option, although Trivago is great for comparing prices. Many times I search on Trivago and book on Booking.com.
Phase 2 – Chosing your tour itinerary in London or in other cities in advance
Blogs are a great source of information on what attractions to visit in London or any other city of your interest. You just need to find out what attractions you’re most interested in and put in the right order to make your visit more efficient and economical! Bare in mind that there are many free attractions to visit not only in London but in all Europe.
Did you know that with itinerary planning and local guide services helps you save time and money?
As you may have noticed by the size of this article, planning a trip to Europe is not so easy, and it is a very time-consuming task with a lot of research, choices, decisions to make and purchases. And when you’re already on the road with everything planned, there are still situations where you get tired of looking at maps, apps, information on the streets, and you come back from your trip with that feeling of: “it was good, but could have been better” and you could have learned and enriched a little more culturally about the city you’ve visited, without having to go through the struggles in the middle of the crowd of that gigantic city, trying to find out what was the place you were in front of and wanted to know more, but you no longer had the time or the patience to look for your answer on the phone or tablet … What would it have been like to have everything planned for you in ONE document? To avoid this feeling you can count on us to plan your custom itineraries and additionally you can have the super valuable service of a local guides to show and to give you an in-situ view of everything you need to know about visited city
But anyway, let’s carry on with more tips on how to save on your trip to London and other cities in Europe:
Once you are done with all the previous steps and already have your script set, now it’s time to buy! Buy tickets for musicals, shows, events and some attractions, in advance (the most expensive ones and the ones you are sure to want to visit, regardless of weather, queue, etc). My tip is to buy tickets for a maximum of two attractions per day so that you have some flexibility of time and so you can enjoy the city in what is among the attractions scheduled and thus know the city for REAL! Attractions like sightseeing by bus or open boat, I always prefer to decide on the day, because if it rains is more like a suffering than leisure! There are several good deals websites with discounts and combos purchases. I often use 365tickets.com, Getyourguide.com or Viator.com in my price researches. There are also several city pass offers (LondonPass, IAdventure, 2for1), but there are advantages and disadvantages (I particularly do not recommend). In another post I explore this subject further…
Phase 3 – During your trip
Save with transportation – Walk as much as you can, use buses when needed and subway only if you really need them for longer distances or you are in a hurry to get somewhere. And make sure you make the best choice when buying your transportation tickets. In most European cities, discount cards, purchase of tickets for X consecutive days that gives you a better price per journey are available. In London, make sure you have an Oyster card to pay less for transportation (unless you need the Orange Travelcard to take part in the 2for1 offer). My general advice is that if you are in town for 3 consecutive days only in central zones 1 and 2, you should buy your card that costs 5.00 pounds, and add an extra 7.00 pounds available to be consumed daily . From 4 to 7 consecutive days in London, it is worth buying the card and adding in the weekly pass which costs approximately £ 32.00. At the end of the use you can refund the £ 5.00 paid for the card and the unused balance (if it is the first case). If you are planning to leave the central zones occasionally, you may have a separate credit on the Oyster card to cover these routes. When visiting other smaller cities in England, try to walk, you can do a lot on foot on the most of them, and in need use the local public transport. There are always offers of transportation tickets including return journeys (if you know you will need to return to the point where you are departing, that is usually the best option). To get from one city to another, the most practical way is by train, however if you have more time you can choose to take the bus route, but note that not always in buses is cheaper than in train, and is always a bit more Late. The RailEurope and TheTrainline sites are my favorites rail ticket purchases and the GoEuro application can help make price and travel time comparisons on the way between cities. National Express is England’s largest bus company, but there are also some really cheap lines with MegaBus. For bus travel in Europe, Flixbus and Eurolines are the ones I use the most, but it depends on where you are leaving from and what the final destination is.
Save with meals
Here are a few options for what you can do to save money on food during your cheaper trip to London, but also for other cities in Europe (with their own food chain shops – to be explored in the next post):
1. You can choose to arrive in London and as soon as possible look for a supermarket to buy all your meals and take in the backpack during the walks and dine the same meals prepared from the supermarket in your own hotel. Some well-known supermarkets with great ready-to-eat meals are: Tesco (Express, Metro), Saisbury’s, Morrison’s, M & Sfood. They all have sandwiches, salads, pastas, risottos and even sushi. Meal deals allow you to eat with up to 3 poundsfor a combo of a sandwich, a drink and a small package of snacks, for example.
2. If you want to eat out, make the most of fast food (noodles bars, McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Wasabi – my favourite for sushi), cafes such as Gregg’s (usually the cheaper you can find), Caffe Nero, Pret a Manger (another favourite), plus Starbucks are everywhere in London and in some of Europe’s largest cities.
3. But If you want make a point of having at least one more hearty meal, while in London, opt for pubs for a fish and chips, jacket potatoes, meats, etc … or Italian restaurants that are more generally considered cheap. Tip: Restaurants behind super busy streets usually have better prices than those in the middle of the attractions. So, take a break from the tourist focus at lunch or dinner times.
There are many ways to save money and make your own cheaper trip to London and all over Europe … Here are just a few of my personal recommendations, but this list is not exhaustive and I have a lot more to share with you! But for now I want to hear from you … Did you like the post? If you have already travelled to London or any other city in Europe please share the comments or your own economy tips!