How to Cut Costs on London Family Travel

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London is known for being a fairly pricey destination for visitors … especially when you have children in tow!  Although saying it’s possible to enjoy London on a budget may be stretching it a bit, there are, nevertheless, a few ways that you can make savings whilst enjoying the exciting city.

1. Find Free Stuff to Do

There are several free attractions that are good for the whole family.  By mixing free activities with some of the more expensive, yet incredibly fun and popular, things to do in London you can still fill your days with great things but spread the cost a bit more.

Some top things to do in London that won’t cost a penny include:

Museums

London is home to a wide variety of different museums, many of which have enough to keep the kids interested for a while, and, some of which are totally free!  Some good museums to check out include the British Museum, with its vast assortment of exhibits, the Science Museum with its numerous hands-on displays, the excellent Natural History Museum, the V & A Museum, the Horniman Museum, which is often said to be one of the city’s best museums for kids, the RAF Museum, the National Army Museum, the Museum of London, and the Foundling Museum.  If your kids like art, there are also several great art galleries, such as the permanent collections at the Tate Modern, that are free to look around.

Parks

St James's Park Lake – East from the Blue Bridge - 2012-10-06

London has a number of excellent parks, many of which have cool play areas for the little ones, and all of which are a great place for kids to run and play.  Some have lakes and ponds – feed the ducks and watch your children’s eyes light up!  There are lots of great activities related to London parks within the Kids’ Travel Guide – London.  Some top parks to visit for a free afternoon out include the huge and famous Hyde Park with is abundance of statues and interesting features, St James’s Park, Regent’s Park, the pretty Queen Mary’s Rose Garden, Kensington Gardens, complete with its statue of Peter Pan, Richmond Park, and Coram’s Fields.

Markets

A wander through the bustling markets can be quite the experience for inquisitive kids … and many also have some terrific street performers that you can stand and watch for a while.  The old market at Covent Garden sits next to some more modern boutiques and there is usually a selection of musicians playing sounds from different genres.  Borough Market is both historic and hip and funky and Columbia Road Flower Market is a riot of colours.  Other fabulous markets to peruse include Camden Market, Portobello Road Market, and Leadenhall Market with its interesting architecture.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

An iconic London sight, it is free to walk across the bridge and enjoy the views down the River Thames.  Several other bridges offer pretty views and are nice for a walk if you are in the area.  There include the Millennium Bridge and the Jubilee Bridge.

Changing of the Guard

Seeing Buckingham Palace is often high on the list of things to do when visiting London, and if you time your trip well your kids can also see the famous Changing of the Guard ceremony.  There is also a ceremony for when the royal guards switch places at Windsor Castle too.

Platform 9 and ¾

Kings_Cross_Platform_9,75

Take the kids to King’s Cross Station and they can see the famous platform from the Harry Potter movies.  It’s not a real platform, obviously, but there is a pretend entry that is popular with fans of the famous wizard.

Other great free things include admiring the abundance of stunning and interesting architecture and structures from outside, such as the Houses of Parliament, the Globe Theatre, Marble Arch, and Nelson’s Column, taking a peek at Number 10 Downing Street, strolling up Promrose Hill for great city views, and visiting the old London Stone, which was used historically mark the centre of the city.

2. Save Money on Attractions

Buying tickets in advance on online for paid attractions can often save money when compared to purchases at the door / gate.  There are also schemes that provide entry to several attractions for a set price – these are great if you plan on visiting a lot of the places that are included in the packages.  The London Pass, for example, includes admission to numerous places of interest, such as Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London, as well as a boat trip along the River Thames.

3. Cut Costs on Transportation

London Bus

With a little planning each day you will probably find that you can combine certain sights so as to make walking from place to place not only feasible but also fun!  With so many excellent things in close proximity to each other there is often very little need to pay for any transportation in the city centre.

There are various deals available on local transportation too, which can save you money if you will be using the services pretty regularly.  These include Travelcards and Visitor Oyster Cards.

4. Be Savvy at Mealtimes

Fish_'n'_Chips

London pubs can be a great way to enjoy filling food at reasonable prices … and there are loads of pubs that are family-friendly.  Smaller local cafes are often also pretty reasonably priced, and chain restaurants are usually easier on the wallet than independent restaurants.  Check out deals online too before your stay in the city – it is often possible to find coupons that give a range of incentives, such as buy one meal get one free, free drinks or deserts, or free kids’ meals.  Keep your eyes open for similar deals as you wander around too – many places have promotions on certain days and at set times, so it can be well worth making a note of places that you think your family would like and returning there for a meal at another time.  If you are planning on going to one of the lovely parks, why not cut costs a bit by taking your own delicious picnic?  You could also pop into one of the “chippies” for a traditional meal of fish and chips!

There are several ways to make a family stay in London a bit kinder on the bank balance!

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