Let’s Go To London!

Everybody is talking about London now that the Olympics have taken place there.   London is one of my favorite places to visit but it is also one of the most expensive cities in Europe.  A trip to London is not going to be a cheap trip but there are things you can do to cut costs so even if you are a budget traveler London is  still possible it just takes a little work, so let’s get started.
You can save money by traveling during the shoulder or off season.  It can get pretty cold in England during the winter so for the best price and decent weather I would recommend the shoulder season which usually runs from April to the end of May and September thru October. 

Los Angeles, Ca                                Dallas, Tx                                          New York, NY                 
May 21-28                                         May 21-28                                         May21-28
$1012 – US Airways                         $997 – US Airways                           $723 – Finair
Kayak.com                                         Kayak.com                                        Kayak.com

One way to save money on your accommodations is to stay at a Bed & Breakfast or a Guest Hotel.  These are less expensive than regular hotels and they include daily breakfast with the price of the room which will help out with your meal expenses.  Some people Bed & Breakfasts and Guest Hotels even have family rooms with private bathrooms so check around to find the right one to fit your family or groups needs.

Here’s a couple of great options, these hotels are in good locations for touring and are within walking distance to a tube station.

Holland Court Hotel
$34.02 per night

Holland Court Hotel London provides relaxing 3 star accommodation in the stylish Kensington area of Central London. The hotel has a beautiful patio garden where you can enjoy your breakfast before you head out to explore the local attractions. From here you’ll find Olympia and Earls Court exhibition centres nearby, and you could also take the short journey to the Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill. You’ll also find Kensington Tube Station close by, providing a route around this amazing city.  Just a short walk to Kensington tube station.
Ambassadors Hotel London Kensington
$42.81 per night

Ambassadors Hotel London Kensington offers you an affordable chance to stay in chic Kensington, close to Museumland and Kensington Palace. You can book a compact single, twin, double or triple room with ensuite shower and toilet (some have baths too). Your 24 hour access centrally heated room will be filled with facilities including a colour TV with news channel, complimentary tea and coffee making facilities and toiletries, a direct dial telephone, desk, hairdryer and WiFi internet access.  In fact, WiFi is available throughout Ambassadors Hotel London Kensington. The business centre with internet terminals and a fax and photocopying service will come in handy if you’re coming to London on business. If the reason for your trip is purely pleasure you will make the most of the comfortable lounge area, the soft drinks bar that offers snacks and the breakfast room. You will find lots of tourist information at the 24 hour reception; the staff can even book sightseeing tours for you. To get to Ambassadors Hotel London Kensington on the tube you should travel on the Circle, District or Piccadilly line and get off at Gloucester Road Tube Station.

You will need tube or subway tickets to get around the city.  The tube is very easy and safe to use.  You can order multiday passes prior to leaving the States.  By doing this you will get the best prices but you can also by single day or single use tickets when you get there.

Travel Card – good for use on the Tube and buses
Adult $83.84
Under 18 years old –  $41.92

Discounts for groups of 10 or more people and seniors.

Now that we have our airfare, accommodations and tube tickets we have to figure out what we’re going to do once we get there.  This is an area where you can get really creative and save some money. 

The Changing of the Guard
The changing of the guard takes place outside of Buckingham Palace daily during the summer months and every other day the rest of the year at 11:30 am.  The ceremony takes about 45 minutes and includes a band playing popular classical music.  It is pretty impressive to see.

The National Gallery
The National Gallery in London takes up the entire north side of Trafalgar Square. It houses one of the finest collections of Western European paintings in the world from around 1250 onwards.

Its masterpieces include artworks from Botticelli, Titian, Raphael, Michelangelo,Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Cezanne, Hogarth, and Gainsborough.

The British Museum
In my opinion one of the best museums in the world.  They have over 7 million objects in their collection.  The collection of Egyptian and Greek antiquities are without a doubt amongst the largest and best known in the world.

St. James Piccadilly Free Lunch Time Recitals
St. James’s Piccadilly in London is another church designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1684 and is often named as his favorite.  Recitals are at 1.10pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and last 50 minutes. All are free to attend but a donation of £3 is suggested.  www.st-james-piccadilly.org 


Kensington Roof Gardens
Not to be confused with Kensington Gardens, Kensington Roof Gardens is London’s equivalent of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.See Kensington Roof Gardens Photos.  In the unlikely location 100ft above street level, on top of a department store building in the busy Kensington shopping area, you’ll find a tranquil garden planted in the 1930s. It includes a Spanish garden, a Tudor garden, an English woodland garden and resident flamingos!

The Roof Gardens is located at 99 Kensington High Street, London, W8 5SA. Access to the building is via Derry Street which branches off Kensington High Street.
Poppy Factory Tour
The Royal British Legion Poppy Factory in Richmond, Surrey makes paper poppies and wreaths for Remembrance Day, 11 November. The factory workers, many disabled ex-Service and dependents, make poppies all year round and free factory tours are available.  The Poppy Factory was formed back in 1922 when disabled ex-Service came home from the war and found no employment. The factory moved to its current site in Richmond in 1933.

Groups of a maximum of 42 can take part in one of two daily guided tours at 10.30am and 1.30pm, Monday to Thursday. The tour takes about 1 hour 30 minutes and they even give you a cup of tea and biscuits at the end!

Tours run by arrangement so simply contact them to arrange for a group visit, or if it’s for individuals to visit just ask which tour you can join in with. Visits to the Poppy Factory are very popular and it’s recommended you book as far ahead as possible.  Incredibly, The British Legion Poppy Factory offer these tours for free.

House of Parliament
The Palace of Westminster, home of ‘Big Ben’ (or Clock Tower), is a neo-Gothic wonder from the mid-19th century. And it’s full of houses: namely the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Reserve ahead to watch antics during Parliament sessions.

 National Maritime Museum

Greenwich’s best attraction, this neoclassical building museum gets more interesting and fun the deeper you go in. The focus is on Britain’s seafaring past, including the bullet that felled Horatio Nelson, a replica of Ernest Shackleton’s life boat and plenty of kid-friendly interactive exhibits in the Your Ocean exhibit.

Speakers Corner
Any day of the week, there’s free entertainment to be had in the north-east corner of Hyde Park. You can even join in. Speakers’ Corner has existed since late Victorian times, and welcomes a motley assembly of orators who tend to cover political or religious subjects. Anyone can turn up and declaim on any subject, so long as they stay within the laws of free speech.
North-east corner of Hyde Park, near Marble Arch, W1

British Library
The orange-brick headquarters of the BL aren’t just for researchers and scholars. The titanic complex houses plenty of diversions that anyone can visit for free. First among them is the Treasures exhibition, which displays literature as diverse as Magna Carta and original Beatles lyrics. Two small galleries off the main foyer also present ever-changing temporary exhibitions on literary themes. A quirky bookshop and excellent cafe with free Wi-Fi add to the attractions. And don’t miss the sculptures by Antony Gormley and Eduardo Paolozzi in the forecourt.

Self Guided City Walks
This website lists a number of different self guided city walks.  You can printout the information and follow the instructions for the different walks.  They instructions include a little bit of information about each of the sites you will see, however I suggest you take along some additional information perhaps a small guide book  to give you a little more information about the sites.  www.londonforfree.net/walks/index.shtml

Picnic in the Park
London is full of beautiful parks so why not grab a couple of sandwiches from a local deli and enjoy lunch in the park.  If you are traveling with kids bring along a freebie or inflatable ball and let them enjoy some down time playing in the park.  It’s a great way to spend time like a local enjoying the city’s beautiful parks. 

There are a number of very old cemeteries in and around London.  You will often find them on the grounds of old churches.  They can be very interesting to walk around and look at all the old head stones.   Some of the gravestones will state how the person died or some interesting fact about them.  Some of the cemeteries themselves are beautiful and interesting dating back hundreds of years. 

National Theatre
Tap your feet to free music concerts in the National Theatre“Djanogly Concert Pitch” in the main foyer. Mon-Fri, 5.45pm; Sat at 1pm and 5.45pm; occasionally Sun at 1.45pm).

Southbank Centre
End the week on a high at one of the Southbank Centre’s free Friday evening music concerts. Other free music events include lunchtime concerts in the Central Bar of the Royal Festival Hallon Fridays and Sundays.

National Portrait Gallery
Enjoy free concerts in the National Portrait Gallery practically every Friday from 6.30pm.

Classical Recitals
Free classical recitals can be heard drifting through the majestic stained-glass windows of many of London’s churches and cathedrals. Don’t miss the lunchtime concerts at St Martin-in-the-Fields (Mon, Tues and Fri at 1pm).

Covent Gardens
If the weather’s good, head to Covent Garden, where everyone from busking guitarists to string quartets provide a great free soundtrack as you watch the world go by.

Roxy Bar and Screen
If you love cinema, you can enjoy the big screen on a little budget atRoxy Bar and Screen. From film-noir classics to futuristic video art, Roxy has an innovative programme of screenings catering for film buffs everywhere. Screenings are free, apart from recent releases and double/triple bills which cost £3.

London film festivals such as the Portobello Film Festival  are another good source of free films. 

Watch free outdoor screenings at The Scoop, Horniman Museum and Gardens and the BP Summer Screen at the Royal Opera House.

Theatre Royal Stratford East

The Theatre Royal Stratford East holds free comedy nights every Monday and on the last Sunday of the month.

Comedy Cafe
Catch the comedy stars of tomorrow every Wednesday at the Comedy Café and every Monday (from 8pm) at The Marie Lloyd Comedy Box in Hackney Empire.


Being part of a live audience for TV recordings is a great way to enjoy a hilarious night out without spending a penny. Get free tickets for top comedy shows on the BBC website or atwww.lostintv.com .

Arcola Theater
Every Tuesday evening, the Arcola Theatre sets aside a certain number of tickets for their “Pay What You Can” scheme. You can only get tickets on the night, but if you do nab one you just pay what you can afford.

Head on down to Brazilian bar Guanabara where you’ll find free dance lessons most evenings. Dance styles include Brazilian favourites such as gafieira, samba and forró.

Roller Skating
Pull on your roller skates and join over 5,000 skaters whizzing around the streets of London. The skate departs from Wellington Arch every Friday at 8pm. It’s a great way to have fun without the wheels coming off your bank balance! Visit the Friday Night Skate website for full details.

City Tour
If you prefer travelling by foot, why not go on a free London tour? SANDEMANs NEW London Tours free Royal Tour lasts up to three hours and takes in top London sights including the Houses of Parliament, St James’s Park and Buckingham Palace. Tours depart daily at 11am and 1pm from Wellington Arch.
There are many additional museums that are free as well so with a simple web search you can easily find more museums to add to your itinerary.

 So here is where we stand so far, 

May 21-28, 2013  – overnight flight arriving on May 22, 6 nights.

Los Angeles      $1012
Dallas                $997
New York         $723

1st option – Holland Court
    $34.02 per night   =    $204.06 for 6 nights

2ndoption – Ambassador Hotel
    $42.81 per night  =    $256.86  for  6 nights

Tube Tickets
Adult –  $83.84
Under 18 years old –  $41.92

Even though we have plenty of free things to do once we get to London you still should budget some money for some sightseeing that might cost some money such as visiting the Tower of London. 

You won’t have to worry about breakfast since it is included with your accommodations.  As far as lunch and dinner you should figure your budget the same as eating out here at home.   There are plenty of fast food places to eat such as McDonalds or Burger King as well as deli’s and small restaurants.  You can also stop by a grocery store and pick up something to eat.  Sometimes they will have readymade sandwiches and foods. 

So here how a trip for 2 adults traveling from Los Angeles a trip to London would look:

                 Airfare                                                   $1012 x 2   =   $2024
                 Accommodation                                                            $204.06

                Tube Tickets                                              $83.84 x 2 = $167.68

                Meals – Budget     $10 approx. per meal, per person =  $300.00

                Sightseeing                                                                      $100.00

                Shopping & Misc                                                            $400.00

             Total                                                                                 $3195.74

 For about $3200 you could spend a week in London, not too shabby!