If you’re looking to take a family trip to London on a budget, the prices of this city can be especially daunting. A London family vacation is more difficult to accomplish on a budget than in smaller cities, or even other parts of Europe. But it can be done!
I’ve lived in London a long time, and I have 3 children of widely different ages. I know firsthand how hard it is to stay on budget in this city. So here’s my ultimate guide on a family trip to London on a budget, and the very best ways to save money.
London Family Vacation: Setting a Realistic Budget
It’s important to begin with a realistic budget for a family trip to London. Not only is London one of the most expensive cities in the world, but costs can add up exponentially when you have children (or teens, who are basically just adults) in tow.
Let’s go over what you might expect to pay for everything from food to attractions to hotels so you can begin to set a realistic budget.
Accommodation: How Much Should I Expect to Pay for a Hotel in London?
The biggest expense you’ll have for a London family vacation, other than flights, is a hotel or another place to stay. And when you have kids, that means more money for more bedrooms or hotel rooms. Ouch!
Here’s what you can expect to pay for hotels and Airbnbs in London.
For this data I did my own research and aggregated random sample data from current listings on Airbnb and Booking.com for future dates. The average prices listed on other travel websites seemed low to me. And I was right! I’m not sure if they’re sampling ALL of Greater London in these figures, but as a tourist, you generally want to stay closer to Central London.
You may be able to find those lower prices if you’re booking your London family vacation a year or more out, but it’s not realistic for trips within the year.
Family Trip to London on a Budget: Saving on Accommodation
- Stay further out from Central London. The further out you go, the cheaper accommodation will be. Yes, it means a bit more time on the underground to get to the major attractions, but in the long run you’ll save a lot of money!
- Check out budget hotels like Premier Inn. These are usually in prime locations, and though they’re not fancy, they will absolutely be a clean place from which to base your London family vacation. I haven’t stayed in one (because I live here), but visiting friends in them, I can tell you they’re just like an American Hampton Inn or similar.
- If you’re renting with Airbnb or similar, make sure you calculate the total cost. The nightly rate might be lower than a hotel, but sometimes the fees (cleaning, service, etc) add up to way more than a hotel stay.
Transportation: How Much does Transport Cost in London?
My number one tip for London on a budget with kids? Use public transport. London’s public transport is world class, and will get you from point A to point B very quickly.
For private transport, Uber is the cheapest bet. Black cabs are very efficient– and sometimes you get a Cockney driver who is hilarious –but they’re crazy expensive.
Ways to Save:
- Get an Oyster Card or use contactless. You need one contactless card for each member of your family, and you must tap in and tap out with the same card for each journey to avoid overpaying.
- Get a discount on your kid’s card (11+). An agent at any station can input the discount for children ages 11 and over (under 11 travel free- use the family gates at each station. On the bus they will just wave children through with a paying adult).
- Download Citymapper. This is the best transportation app for London and it tells you exactly how much each fare will be. It even suggests step-free routes (for strollers or wheelchairs), air conditioned routes, and time-saving tips.
- Walk! So much of London is walkable. There’s no need to pay for the tube when you’re only going a short distance.
- Consider bringing a buggy (stroller) for kids, even when you don’t regularly use one at home. You’ll do A LOT of walking in London and it’s best to have a stroller for everyone’s sanity and energy (and so you don’t end up splurging on a pricey taxi because you’re tired).
Attractions: How Much do London Attractions Cost?
A London family vacation can add up quickly when you add attraction tickets! Looking at some of the ticket prices for London attractions can be shocking, especially when children’s tickets are not that much less than adult tickets.
Here’s the cost of the most popular London attractions.
London on a Budget with Kids: Ways to Save on Attractions
- Get a London Pass that bundles multiple attractions into one lower-priced ticket. Prices start at £79 for adults and £39 for kids.
- Take advantage of Free and Low-Cost Attractions. There are so many free museums in London, you could take up your whole trip just seeing incredible things for free. Not to mention the incredible parks and gardens, galleries, free events, and all of the London landmarks you can see for free. Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, and so much more can be seen for free!
- You don’t need to pay to go to the top of the Shard for epic photos. Visit any of the free viewpoints in London for an incredible family photo.
Dining: How Much does Eating in London Cost?
How to eat in London for families on a budget? That’s easy.
There’s a wide array of dining options available in London, from super fancy to hip food halls to cool street markets. If you want to stay on budget, just avoid the super fancy restaurants! Let’s look at some of popular family dining options and the average prices.
London for Families on a Budget: Save on Food
- Explore Local Markets. Popular markets like Borough Market and Camden Market have affordable and diverse food options. Everyone can get what they like; it’s picky-eater heaven!
- Take Advantage of Discounted Dining Options. Several restaurants offer lunch specials, early-bird menus, and pre-theatre dining deals. Do a bit of research and you can have a nice meal out without breaking the bank.
- Picnic in a beautiful park! London grocery stores offer so many prepared food options that you can easily grab a full meal and go sit in a beautiful park anytime of day.
London for Families on a Budget: Final Tips
London is hard for families to visit, especially since post-COVID prices have gone crazy. But you don’t have to blow your budget if you do some careful planning! Use all my tips above to save on everything from hotels to attractions, book everything ahead of time for the best price, and ultimately: have fun! You’re going to London!
Is 1000 pounds enough for a week in London?
If you’re visiting London with children, maybe not. It can be done, but you’ll need to utilize budget hotels or hostels, use exclusively public transport, and keep your dining options cheap.
How much money should I take to London for 3 days?
Use my example prices above to calculate how much you’ll need for your family. You generally do not need to carry cash in London, unless your credit card charges foreign transaction fees.
Is the London tube free for children?
Children under 10 ride London transport for free with a paying adult. Children ages 11-15 can get a discount put on their Oyster Card: speak to a TFL agent at any station to have the discount added to your child’s card (50% off the adult rate).
How many days in London is enough with kids?
This all depends on your personal preference, your budget, and what attractions you want to see. Personally, I think you can effectively do most of the major London landmarks and attractions in 3 days, but if you have small children or are just a tired adult (like me), it may take longer.
Is 10 days in London too much?
If you have an unlimited budget, not at all! I’ve lived in London a long time and I still haven’t seen it all; you can spend as much time here as your bank account allows. But if you’re looking to stay on budget, try for fewer days in London.
What is the busiest month to visit London?
Personally, based on how crowded London gets in the summer, I think July and August are the busiest times of year with the most tourists. You’ll never totally avoid crowds in London, but you can try to go off-peak. Don’t travel during European school holidays, bank holidays, or summer to avoid the worst crowds.
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