Where to start:
When I first started planning our Europe trip, it obviously started with a budget. You can find lots of information on how to prepare for any trip HERE! So at this point, I’ll assume you’re all caught up, and we can move on with Europe specific planning.
First off, you’ll need to set your time frame and determine your locations. Then you’ll need to plan your route and decide what types of lodging fit your budget and style. Simultaneously you should research flight options and activities and keep plugging all this info into your spreadsheet.
Obviously, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out where we were going to stay. Typically down in Central America, it’s all about the hostel. But if you’ve read my budget travel tips, when you’re traveling as a group, hostels are not always the best value. Think about it, if the going rate for a bed in a mixed dorm is $10, you’ve already committed to spending $40 and you don’t even have your own bathroom. So it’s best to expand your search to everything from traditional hotels to renting private homes. We never stayed in a hostel during our European tour. Mostly we used Airbnb and Booking.com with a few random sites here and there. All the prices listed include taxes and fees.
LONDON – Hotel – Premier Inn St.Pancras – $85 per night
It took me a while to find lodging in London. It is a very expensive city. First I started with hostels but I found that on average a bed was about $15 – $20 per person with a shared bath. I also checked to rent from a private party but these rates were high as well. Somehow during my search, I came across this chain, Premier Inn. They’re everywhere in London. In fact, it was a little hard to determine which location we were actually staying at because there are two within 5 minutes’ walk of each other.
Ultimately we chose the St.Pancras location. Only a 10-minute walk from St. Pancras International/Kings Cross. And leaving from Kings Cross you’ll be to all the sites of London within minutes using the underground. Plus we were able to take the Thameslink direct from Gatwick to St. Pancras Intl., the trip was only about 30 minutes. There are also many eateries and markets within walking distance.
We also selected this location due to it’s proximity to the Original London Hop on Hop off bus tour stop. We used this tour as a means of transportation but more on that later.
We did opt to purchase the breakfast option which I highly recommend. It depends on what kind of traveler you are, but for us, sometimes we just like things to be easy. And waking up in the morning, knowing all we had to do was walk downstairs and there would be unlimited food waiting for us, was awesome! They have everything from croissants and coffee to juices and what they call a “full English” breakfast. It was definitely worth the money. The total cost for breakfast came to $180. That comes to only $6.40 per person per day. And believe me, for London, this was by far our cheapest meal of the day!
The staff was very helpful, they even printed our boarding passes, and let us check-in early.
One of our major expenses was the London Hop on Hop off Bus Tour. We purchased a 3-day pass for $149, which covered all 4 of us for 72 hours. We opted for The Original Tour but I am certain all the lines are roughly the same. Our closest stop was only minutes away from our hotel and we could easily swap lines. We enjoyed the fact that it took you around the city offering views of many sites you may not see on the underground. They also offer the Thames river cruise, included in your ticket, and this was probably the highlight of our tour.
We didn’t have a very full list when it came to sightseeing in London, we were just happy to be there and see the sights, plus the activities in London seemed quite expensive and we were saving our budget for other things.
We did, however, love the free museums. CLICK HERE to learn about all the free museums in London
Our favorite thing we did in London was a day with friends. They took us out to Greenwich and we enjoyed a traditional London Pie and Mash. Easy to get to on the underground, or on the hop on hop off tour. If you do anything in London go to Goddard’s at Greenwich they have the most amazing prices on these yummy savory pies and of course you can’t leave without having some custard. A must-do whilst in London.
What can I say about the food in London? It is so stupidly expensive! My biggest suggestion is to load up at Breakfast and utilize the Tescos and Prets for their cheap on the go food. We also hit the market for things like snacks and treats, pretty reasonable prices.
Pret A Manger is great for sandwiches, wraps, fruit bowls, coffee, soups, and pastries. On average you can get a really delicious and fresh premade sandwich for around $3 to $4. Honestly, I wish more cities had this kind of grab and go food. Tesco Express has much of the same but it’s more akin to a convenience store rather than only serving food.
Otherwise, I can’t say much about the food in London. Now keep in mind we don’t ever go out to a nice dinner. It’s just not who we are. We like to eat street food and find cheap authentic local eateries. We found this to be quite difficult in London. When our friends took us to the Pie and Mash shop in Greenwich, we were sooooo happy! It was definitely the best food we had!
Like I said earlier we used the bus tour for a good portion of our transportation, but we also did a lot of walking, and of course, we took the underground. It did take me a while to find a direct route to our hotel. I don’t know about you but when I’m traveling to a new place I like to have my lodging set up and I like it to be as easy as possible, especially if arriving after dark. Departing is a different story, usually, you’re a little more comfortable with the area and feel a little more adventurous.
ThamesLink was a great find. One of the few routes that is direct from Gatwick. It was quite cheap only $70 round trip for the family.
Here’s where it starts to get complicated. Because the underground has designated zones and typically you’ll only be visiting zones 1 and 2 you will most likely need a dedicated train/bus ticket to and from the airport that you purchase outside your underground fare. For more information on the underground/travel cards/oyster cards CLICK HERE
I will say that the employees at the ticket office at Kings Cross were very helpful. She asked me how long we would be traveling on the underground and what locations we were going to. She then loaded a travel card onto an oyster card, and even set the children up with reduced rates, and put the appropriate amount of money onto each card. You can always top up your if you need more, and you don’t have to worry about putting too much on because they will refund not only your deposit but any remaining amount. You can do so at any underground ticket office, even at the airport.
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