Side Street Style: How to do a REAL Budget Friendly Family Break to London

Side Street Style

A UK family travel and lifestyle blog

19/09/2018

How to do a REAL Budget Friendly Family Break to London


London Bus


London - one of the most expensive cities in the world but that doesn't mean you can't visit this incredible city on a shoestring with kids! Before becoming a parent I spent a considerable time travelling and working around Europe and became very savvy with regards to budget travel from couchsurfing to backpacking, working as you travel and how to make your money go as far as possible. Of course when you are travelling solo it is easier as you only have to think about yourself and your own needs and as soon as you have children there are many other things that need to be taken into account but doesn't mean you cannot travel on a budget and still enjoy everything that city has to offer.




1. Getting to London & how to score cheap train tickets

London is one of the most accessible cities in the UK which excellent transport connections across the country with a variety of ways to get there. I wouldn't advise driving to the city as parking is extremely expensive as well as the daily congestion charge of £11.50. Megabus and National Express however are great options although they do take longer than a train but if time isn't of the essence then you can grab some low cost tickets.

As we wanted to get the most out of our 1 night stay we decided to look into train tickets and we managed to get return tickets for the whole family at the cost of one person and this is how we did it - Firstly my toddler doesn't need a ticket as children under 5 travel free in the UK, then used our Family Railcard which saves 1/3 on adult tickets and 60% on children's tickets which is a huge savings, we applied these savings to off peak trains as trains getting into London before 10am are premium. Once we found the cheapest route we then used SplitMyFare.com website which splits your journey (without having to change trains) for an additional saving so on top of the railcard discount we saved another £27 while still staying on the same train!


train to London



 2. Where to Stay

As it was the summer holidays and we planned this trip very last minute it meant our usual go-to options for a quick break away such as Travelodge and Premier Inn were all booked up. All that was left in the city was either very expensive hotels or extremely budget friendly ones that didn't look that appealing so we decided to look into the boutique style backpackers and YHA type places that are very family friendly and often offer stylish communal areas, lounges and cafes as well as games etc. After researching a few different options we went with the Meininger Hyde Park - Urban Travellers home and offers accommodation for all ages, groups, backpackers and families with a variety of options. We went for a private family room with en-suite which has fast free wifi and TV and was perfect for our needs, plus is came in at under £80.

What we loved about the Meininger was the location as it's right next to the Natural History Museum and 5 mins walk from the Science Museum and Hyde Park, all free attractions. We also had a filling breakfast in the morning in the light and airy breakfast room and enjoyed playing ping-pong on their large open terrace overlooking Cromwell Rd. It's somewhere we would stay again for a short visit as it was comfortable and met all our needs.


Family travel London

Ping Pong terrace

breakfast room


Getting around London

Walk! Nearly all of Zone 1 is walkable if you have the time and it's a great way to really get to know London and see the sights. On the first day we used an Uber as we had some Uber credits to use up and this kept costs down, I also had done some research and had downloaded a few taxi apps which offered joining credit for first time users such as MyTaxi where I found a £10 credit code after searching online which was enough for a short journey. Of course also take advantage of the excellent Bus and Underground service in London although for a family of 4 even this can become pricey which is why we planned our itinerary around being able to walk and use free uber/taxi rides.


Paddington London



Take Advantage of Free Museums and 2 for 1 Discounts

During our one night stay we decided beforehand what we wanted to visit as there is so much to see and do I think it's best to have a clear idea of where you want to go beforehand as this will save you time and money. Firstly we had to visit the London Transport Museum which is a favourite with my youngest, good news is Children go free although the price for Adults is a little steep at £17.50 but allows return entry for a whole year so if you are going to be revisiting the city this is great. If you are only going to be in London for the weekend and you have travelled in by train then do take advantage of the 2 for 1 day out deals which covers the London Transport Museum meaning a family of 2 adults and 2 kids only pay £17.50


We also wanted to visit both the Natural History Museum and Science Museum located right next to where we were staying so on the first evening we took advantage of visiting the Natural History Museum later in the day with no queues and then the next morning we headed straight to the Science Museum. Both have cafes on site as well as area for picnics so you can save money by bringing your own snacks and I would put aside at least 2-3 hrs for both Museums as they are action packed with things to do. Other free museums include the V&A, Tate Modern, British Museum and Museum of London to name a few.


Natural History Museum

T-rex London



Take in the London Atmosphere for Free

London is a very colourful and vibrant place and you don't need to spend any money to soak that all in. When we visited the London Transport Museum its' located right in the heart of Covent Garden so we made sure to have a wander around the market as well as see some of the fantastic street performances. When we visited earlier this year we stayed in Camden and walked along the Canals one morning to Regents Park spotting all the canal boats. This time we walked from the Science Museum through Hyde Park to Paddington Station and it was lovely as we walked past the Princess Diana Memorial, the Peter Pan Statue and sat by the water fountains in the Italian Gardens before heading to the station and saying goodbye to Paddington Bear. Other lovely areas to explore and walk around are Portobello Rd, Notting Hill and Little Venice as well as seeing the Changing of the guard.


Family travel London


Eating for less

Food can be one of the most costly parts of a family trip as kids seem permanently hungry so having snacks on hand is key and I always advise to stock up at your local supermarket before each trip as food in the city comes at a premium. Also we always travel with at least 1-2 water bottles as you will pay around £2-£2.50 for a small bottle of water in London. If your a coffee lover then it's also worth carrying a reusable coffee mug with you as most chain and independent stores now offer a discount for those who use one. Also researching before you leave is a good idea as we found Honest Burger had s special for kids to eat for £1 meaning a big saving for us. Apps such as Vouchercloud and Groupon are also worth looking at. Also starting the day well and making sure you have a good breakfast so if your hotel offers breakfast included in the price of your stay do take advantage of it.


Beet Burger



No matter which was you go about it travel does cost money but how much money is up to you, taking time to research and look for discount codes and real deals (always double check comparisons) as well as  using some of my favourite deals online and combining these with cashback websites you really can reduce the overall cost leaving with more money to spend on your actually holiday or short break away and also meaning you can hopefully travel more often. Children are also very adaptable, we have stayed in self catering, hotels from 5 star to two star and YHA, backpackers etc and it really didn't matter to them at all, in fact it probably impacts adults more who want different levels of comfort but personally it's not something that puts me off when I travel as its all about the experience.








18 comments:

  1. Living so close to London and being a frequent visitor, i forget its a tourist city and has lots to offer. Need to visit some of tje museums again.

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    Replies
    1. The museums are so good and I have to say I never get bored of London, always something to see

      Laura x

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  2. I normally go into London for work but I'm only 30 mins outside of London via train or driving but London has so much to offer, think we don't take advantage enough

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    Replies
    1. It's always the same, people always look further afield than what is on our doorstep but London is fantastic

      Laura x

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  3. Great tips! London can indeed be expensive, but your YHA tip especially is great.

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    Replies
    1. YHA have all had good upgrades and moved with the times, have never had a bad stay with them

      Laura x

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  4. Such a great post, I've never heard of MEININGER, I'm definiately going to be checking them out. Mich x

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    Replies
    1. It really is and it's only about 1 minute from the Natural History Museum - it's literally right next door

      Laura x

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  5. It always surprises me how many free days out there are in London

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    1. For an expensive city there are plenty of things to do for free there

      Laura x

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  6. It is very possible to do Lonfon on a budget. Thanks for the tips

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    1. It really is if your willing to do a little research beforehand

      Laura x

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  7. There are quite a lot of free museums in London so you can spend a lot of time going round those, such a great deal at Honest burgers, I love the food there x

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    1. Yes! So many free museums and was lucky to that Honest Burger had a kids eat free deal over summer - saved a bunch

      Laura x

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  8. Oh wow a family room for £80 sounds fantastic!!!! It's good to hear you can get a room for that cheap in London as they are normally £100 plus!

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    1. Yes easily goes £100 for a family room - yes it was around £78 with breakfast and was such a great location

      Laura x

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  9. These are really savvy travel tips. The family railcard is brilliant I think and walking is the best way to see London anyway

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  10. I always stay in hostels when I stay in London, they're so good for a great price!

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Lovely comments

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