“You’re going to London again?”
If I had a dollar (or a pound) for every time I heard that …
The impression is that it’s out-of-reach for the average person to travel overseas from the United States, but that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, you can visit the UK for the same cost as – or even less than – a Walt Disney World vacation.
Now I love Disney World, probably way more than the average person. But it is NOT cheap.
My family went for the past four years straight, but my cousin worked for Disney until very recently, so we got into the parks free. If we had to pay for park passes there is no way we would have gone for 7 to 10 days every year.
It sounds crazy but it’s actually cheaper for us to travel overseas than it is to stay onsite at Disney World!
Cheaper than Disney?
Out of curiosity, I priced a Disney World vacation for the same dates we’re traveling to England in May. Maybe I’m naive since I never had to pay for a full week or more of park tickets before, but I was shocked at how much it actually costs!
Factoring in flights to London, a hotel for the royal wedding weekend, an Airbnb in London for 8 days and London Passes to cover the cost of attractions, along with a ballpark cost for meals, ground transport, and souvenirs, we’ll spend about $1,000 less going to England than what a Disney vacation would cost my family of three.
This is compared to a package at the cheapest Disney hotel available for the same dates in May (Caribbean Beach Resort), plus park hopper passes, the Disney dining plan, Memory Maker, and airfare from Philly.
London for less
After Brexit, fares to London went down and the pound/dollar exchange rate improved (although it’s a bit higher this year than last). All in all, it’s still much more affordable to travel to England these days than it has been in the past!
Want to know my tips on how to travel to London for less?
Check fares at other airports
When my husband and I first started flying over to London, we’d go from our local airport (Philadelphia). But last year, I decided to check Newark since flights from PHL were more expensive than expected. I was surprised when I saw flights out of EWR were hundreds less.
In fact, we saved about $1,200 just by driving an hour and a half to Newark instead of 40 minutes to PHL.
If we’d been willing to go to LaGuardia (we weren’t – it’s a fiasco) we could have saved even more. Depending on the time of year, you can find flights for around $500 from LGA to London, and I’ve spent that to fly to California. We’ve consistently found flights from Newark to Heathrow in the $600/person range.
I realize if you aren’t living on the east coast of America it’s going to take longer and therefore cost more to fly to London. But always check for airports within a few hours of you to see if you can save some money.
Don’t go in summer
Like many destinations, summer is the peak travel time to visit London. You might want to travel when the kids are out of school and there’s nicer (well, sometimes) weather. But the difference between going to London in summer vs. the rest of the year can be thousands of dollars.
In 2016 we traveled to England in June. We’d never flown to the UK in summer before, but the dates were fixed because my husband was running a race there. The difference in airfare was staggering – almost $2,000 more for the three of us to travel in June versus the prices we paid in May 2017 and 2018.
You’ll see a hike in the cost of hotels and rental properties, too.
Traveling any other time of year will definitely save you some money. My favorite times of year to visit London are early April through mid-May and Christmas time. April and May are the perfect months to see London in bloom, and December in London is so fun and festive with all the decorations!
Keep an eye out on sites like Travelzoo, as they send emails with special deeply-discounted travel deals. I’ve booked many a hotel from Travelzoo, but they also feature flights and package vacations. You can check out their current London deals here.
Right now, for example, you can book a 6-night trip to London and Paris including hotel and airfare from $909 per person from select cities. Or, stay at a 4-star hotel near Regent’s Park from $108 a night (that’s REALLY cheap for central London!).
Stay in an apartment
Central London hotels are New York City pricey. You’d be hard-pressed to find a decent hotel in the middle of the action for under $200 a night without getting a special deal.
When I was pricing out Marriotts for my uncle who is visiting London for the first time, they were closer to $500/night (although I think that was in part due to royal wedding inflation).
Of course, you could stay in a budget hotel like a Travelodge. But if you’re traveling with kids, staying in a small room for a week or more isn’t necessarily ideal.
We started renting places back in 2011 and haven’t looked back. You can easily find a two-bedroom flat with a kitchen, washer and dryer, and all the amenities of home for under $200 a night. And if you only need one bedroom, it will be even cheaper!
Plus, you can save money by eating at home. For breakfast, we stock up on items like cereal and juice and eat before heading out for the day.
We’re a very on-the-go family and usually don’t go back to the apartment until after dinner. But having the ability to pick something up at Tesco and eat at the kitchen table is always nice.
I’ve stayed in flats from Homeaway.com several times and always had a great experience. We now use Airbnb most of the time. Just read tons of reviews before booking, always double check the cancellation policy for the specific property, and communicate the specifics with your host well in advance of your trip. You can use this referral link to save $40 on your booking through Airbnb.
Avoid the more touristy areas
This goes for both hotels and apartments, but if you stay in a neighborhood away from the areas like Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, and Covent Garden, you’ll pay less for your stay.
If you don’t mind a little bit of a longer hike on the Tube, Hampstead is one of my favorite neighborhoods in London. We stayed in a lovely little Airbnb right on the high street there a few years ago. If I ever move to London, this is where I’d live!
Areas across the river like Greenwich are always more affordable, and you’re still close to so many things to do.
Buy The London Pass
Lastly, this is one of my biggest money-saving tips: BUY THE LONDON PASS.
One of the great things about London is free entrance to so many world-class museums and things to do (I’ll post a round-up of my favorite free attractions soon!).
However, you do need to pay to visit the big attractions like Windsor Castle, The Tower of London, Kensington Palace, Westminster Abbey, etc. If you want to see all of the main sights, the entrance costs add up very quickly.
Most tickets are at least £20 per person, or around $27. For a family of three, that’s roughly 80 bucks to go to one attraction!
This is where The London Pass comes in. You pay one price and it includes admission to almost anything you’d want to do. It also includes selected tours, a river cruise on the Thames, and merchandise discounts at certain places. We’ve saved hundreds of dollars using the pass and will be using it again this year.
You can choose options from 1 to 10 days and even add a travel card to your pass to use the Underground and bus system. Keep an eye out for sales and promo codes, as they offer these quite often.
Do you have any tips on how to visit London for less? Share away in the comments!