Tuesday, October 15, 2013

London Part 2 - Budget and Spending

Last week I shared with you my Top 10 favorite London destinations and this week I will be sharing with you not only my budget but what I actually spent!

It can be difficult to come up with a budget in the first place and even more difficult to stick to it. It also depends on how fancy you want to get, what is important to you when you travel, and how susceptible you are to the YOLO effect.
(The YOLO, You Only Live Once, effect is when you are traveling and you find yourself going over budget and buying things you probably shouldn’t be because, well, you only live once.  Some examples of the YOLO effect are: “When is the next time I’m going to be Paris, I should definitely buy myself something from Chanel, YOLO!” or “But Gordon Ramsey’s fancy new restaurant is right there and we’re in London for the first time! YOLO!)
For me, I usually skimp on the accommodations and spend a little extra on some nice dining. But on this trip I was budget all the way because I was traveling alone so I had no one to split the lodging costs with.
Before I left I had wanted to spend under $2,500. And can you guess what happened? That’s right! I went over budget!
London is particularly expensive and the exchange rate will kill you if you are using US Dollars. I thought I did a pretty good job until I got home and calculated my actual expenses and saw this:

Dining Out
London Pass
Groceries for Flat
Oyster card
Travel Insurance
Train Tickets
Grand Total

So what did $3,288 get me?
My flight was on British Airways in Economy class from Boston Logan to London, Heathrow. I had been watching flights and when the time came to book, this was the cheapest flight I could find. It was a little more expensive then I had seen in previous weeks but still a pretty decent deal. I had no problems on the flights, drinks were free, there was a personal entertainment system, and everyone was very nice.
7 nights in a budget flat in the Bloomsbury area near the British Library. I’m a big fan of vacation rentals especially on longer trips. They are usually much less expensive then hotels, roomier, and most have some sort of kitchen which saves you big bucks on food. I rented this flat through Euracom and I can promise you that it was cheapest place I could find in a decent area with a private bathroom. And the bed was surprisingly comfy!

I bought some food and wine to keep in the flat and was able to have breakfast and coffee at home each morning and a snack and glass of wine in the evenings.

In the interest of full disclosure I did spend a good chunk of my Dining Out money on beer, which we all know can add up fast! But sometimes you just need a break between museums and cold lager in a pub does the trick!

Obviously while you are out and about you have to dine out and I found that all the walking I was doing just made me hungrier. I had some street food and popped into a couple local pubs but also ate at several museum cafes. They are not the cheapest option but they are certainly convenient.
I’m a huge fan of magnets as souvenirs, I know it’s a little cheesy but they are cheap and easy to pack. And no I didn’t actually spent $108 on magnets!

You might have noticed the steep price of the London Pass. But the truth is, it actually saved me money. You simply need to calculate the price of admission of the attractions you plan to visit and compare that to the price of the London Pass. In my case, since I saw so many things, the discount I received from London Pass saved me money and time waiting in line for tickets.

There were a couple things I could have eliminated (as side from the beer!). Instead of taking a $54 round trip on the Heathrow Express, I could’ve taken the subway for just a few Pounds. But the Heathrow express takes about 15 minutes to get you from the airport to Paddington Station as opposed to an hour on the Tube. I didn’t need to attend $50 show but it was a pretty fun night out! And I guess I didn’t need $90 travel insurance but I’m a worry wart and never travel without it.
I took this trip in September 2013. September was a good time to go because the weather wasn't too cold and the lines were very manageable. And since it is approaching off season so you can find some deals on flights and lodging. 
So there you have it.  It’s pricey to visit to London. But if you plan ahead, book flights and lodging early, and travel during the off season, you can benefit from some savings.

If you liked this post and found it useful, or want to share your thoughts about London, please leave a comment!

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