Wondering how to do a family trip to London on a budget? London is an amazing city, but it can be an expensive one too! As a local London mom I have lots of way to do a cheap family trip to London. In this guide I will share all of my top tips for visiting London with kids while saving money.
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How to do a family trip to London on a budget
Airfare will undoubtedly be one of the bigger budget lines for your family vacation to London. However there are ways of saving money on flights into London.
Firstly do track flight prices and sign up to deal websites like Jack’s Flight Club that can alert you to cheap deals.
Secondly, try and arrange your travel for low peak times both in terms of time of year you travel but also day of the week. For instance London in July is going to be much more expensive in terms of transport and accommodation than London in January say.
Also there are traditionally cheaper days to fly for instance Tuesdays tend to, though not always, be cheaper than Saturdays.
And lastly carefully consider the airport you are traveling into. Heathrow is the largest airport in the UK, is the closest to London. However you can also easily fly into Gatwick, Luton and even further afield airports like Birmingham and Manchester. Just be sure to add in the cost of transfers before booking to make sure it is actually a cost saving.
To check flights to London, we recommend searching on Skyscanner.
Note: we do not recommend that you hire a car for your time in London. Parking is notoriously difficult and expensive to find. Therefore we recommend using public transport while in London.
Getting Around London on a budget
If you are doing a family trip to London on a budget then you simply have to use public transport. Parking is expensive in London, and add into that the congestion charge, cars are simply not the budget family travellers friend in London.
The London Underground is perhaps the most used method of public transport for tourists. However if you are traveling with a toddler, baby or kids you may be worried about using the Tube. But you shouldn’t be concerned.
The London Underground is very convenient and safe. Just be sure if you are traveling to London with a stroller that you look out for accessible stations (with the wheelchair sign) or use a carrier if you are visiting London with a baby or toddler.
London buses are also a very easy way to get around London, and some routes even rival the hop on hop off bus routes, more on that later.
London is also a very walkable city even with a stroller, so if you are planning on staying in one area, consider walking for the day rather than getting the tube or bus.
For more information on how to use the London Underground with kids check out this post.
Where to stay in London with family
After your flights, the largest expense for any family trip to London will be accommodation.
If you want to stay in Central London for convenience then you will pay a premium. If you are short on time or a central London accommodation is important for your family vacation we recommend looking into the Premier Inn chain of hotels.
These have some great central locations but also are a guaranteed standard which is very important when traveling with kids.
For more information on the best Premier Inn location in London check out this post.
However, if you have longer in London and don’t mind staying further out of the center or plan on doing lots of day trips we recommend staying in one of the further out London suburbs.
Some of our favorite further out boroughs are:
- Richmond – a 25 minute mainline train into Waterloo or on the district line (green underground line) that is home to some of the best parks in London, Ted Lasso filming locations and is convenient for traveling to Windsor and Hampton Court Palace.
- Greenwich – another leafy London suburb that is easy to travel into the center from. But also has attractions in its own right such as the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich Meantime, Greenwich Observatory, the Cutty Sark and more.
Also if you are doing a family vacation to London from the USA then you could also consider using credit cards where you earn hotel points which can be a really cost saving. My friend just did a week long stay at a 5* hotel near the Tate Modern by using credit card hotel points.
Where to eat in London on a budget
Food is always going to be expensive on vacation, especially if you do not have accommodation with kitchen facilities.
Where possible you could consider booking a hotel rate with breakfast included. However if this is not available do not worry as there are plenty of cheap places in London to get breakfast.
For instance, there are branches of supermarkets such as Tescos all round the city where you can grab cereal and milk for in your room or you can buy breakfast pastries. There are also lots of coffee shop chains where breakfasts can be done on a grab and go basis i.e. Pret A Manger, Costa and Nero. These are chains and not a local experience but can help reduce costs.
Supermarkets and large chains like Boots, also offer meal deals for grab and go picnic lunches and are the main stay of office workers in London. A sandwich, drink and snack will be less than £5 for most people and is one of the cheapest ways of having lunch in the city.
However if you want to experience some of Londons’s fine dining establishments a great way of doing so on the cheap is to book a lunch set meal. These are often better value and still taste fabulous.
Another way people are temped to save money on food in London is by using the local markets such as Borough. Borough is absolutely one of my favorite foodie places in the city, however picking things up at all the different stalls can soon add up.
If you want to visit Borough Market on a budget we recommend setting a budget per person before visiting and sticking to it.
Note: although afternoon tea is a traditional English experience and something on a lot of peoples bucket lists it is worth noting that this is not a cheap thing to do. Afternoon teas are a luxury and come with a high end price tag for traditional experiences. Either avoid this or do your research and find out the best London afternoon tea with kids for you and your family.
Although there are many fantastic and expensive restaurants in London, there are also some great cheap eats to be found in London. And many are very family friendly.
We love to visit a traditional British Indian curry house, especially on Brick Lane which can be good value. And there are many great chain restaurants that you won’t find abroad that offer great value dining such as Wahaca, Giraffe and Ping Pong to name just a few.
Just be sure to avoid anywhere with a tourist menu as this will not be good value for money. And finally try to get slightly off the beaten path and don’t eat at establishments right not to tourist hotspots – I’m looking at you Leicester Square. These places are overpriced and never serve great food.
How to save money on attractions on a family vacation in London
Perhaps one of my favorite things about visiting London with kids is how much free stuff there is to do in the city.
For instance, most of the museums in London are free – notable exceptions are the London Transport Museum but the Science Museum, Natural History Museum and British Museum are all free to enter (although a donation is suggested).
Parks are also a great thing to add to your London itinerary with kids and are free to visit too. And we also love going to watch the Changing of the Guard which is another free must do experience in London with kids.
However if you do want to spend money on some attractions i.e. the London Eye, the London Dungeon or Shrek’s Adventure for instance it is worth looking at combination tickets. If you know you are going to do several of these in your London itinerary it can really save costs by buying combo tickets in advance.
Another experience many people do in London with kids is the London hop on hop off. However this can get expensive quickly. If you are not bothered by the commentary and only want to see the sights, (we were in London with our toddler so commentary wasn’t important to us), we recommend getting one of the London buses on the route 24 or route 11 which go past some iconic landmarks in London.
Other ways to successfully reduce your spend in London with family include:
- taking the London Transport boats over Rib Boats or tour boats. You will see the same sights minus the commentary for a much lower price.
- take advantage of London theatre ticket lotteries and book last deals to save money on theatre shows in London. For more information on the best things to do in London at night besides the theatre check out this post.
- to get a cheap view of London from high check out the Sky Garden. Tickets to this must be booked in advance but are free. By comparison a visit up the Shard to its observation deck will cost $$$.
So there you have it! Our tip tips for how to do a family trip to London on a budget – but if you have a tip that we haven’t covered pop it in the comments below – we’d love to hear your experiences and hacks.