Term Time Holiday Bargains #2: London

The Invictus Games is in full swing and the spotlight is on some of London’s newest (and thanks to London 2012 legendary) landmarks. That means this weekend thousands of people will be flocking to the capital to experience sport at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic park including the Aquatics Centre, the Velodrome (now the Lee Valley Velopark) and the Copper Box. Of course that might mean you’d be harder pushed to find a deal – but fear not – we’ve been looking at ways to save money – just in case you’re getting all hot and excited with an urge to experience London village during term time.

London’s never a cheap place to visit. So, whilst this is a look at off-peak holiday bargains in the capital, we should point out early that doesn’t necessarily mean budget. We’ve focussed on ways to get a good deal and make your money go further. From all inclusive package deals (you’ll remember those from Term Time Holiday Bargains #1 ) to ways to reduce travel costs and get discount tickets for attractions and entertainment – there are plenty of ways to knock some pounds off your bill – especially during term time. To keep it all nice and comparable where that’s relevant, we’ve used a 3 day trip, with 2 nights stay for 2 adults – travelling from Gloucester as our benchmark.

Travel costs

With over 24million journeys to, in and from London every single day, it’s no surprise that travel costs are a significant part of any visit. But there are ways to keep those costs down. The obvious golden rule is travel off peak – if you depart at 7.30am, not only will you pay top-whack for your ticket, but you’ll also have to endure a journey on a packed train full of stressed commuters.

We’ve focussed on Train and Bus – because driving in London can be scarier than an Alton Towers roller-coaster – not to mention the congestion and parking charges. Our primary rule is to be flexible with your travel times so you can travel outside peak commuter hours. Our second rule of thumb is to look at buying two single fares for the outbound and inbound legs of your journey. Third is to book for specific services – you’ll pay premium if you book an open return on almost all forms of transport – so if you can live without that flexibility it’ll pay dividends.

By Coach

Travelling by Coach can take longer than a train journey equivalent, but the trade off is that it’s significantly cheaper. Using National Express’ low fare finder tool we found you can down for £7 each – leaving at 0945hrs and arriving at Victoria Coach Station at 1315hrs. The return journey, leaving the big smoke mid-afternoon at 1515hrs (getting into Gloucester at 1730hrs) is the same price. That means two adults can get too and from London, midweek for just £28.

By Train

We used First Great Western’s direct booking service and found some off-peak bargains. Travelling in second class with similar departure times to our National Express example above will set you back £18.90 per person outbound and a return (departure 1430hrs) of just £13.90.

But if you’d like a bit of luxury, this where there are some real bargains to be had – in 1st class. With outbound costing £35 per person and the return leg just £26.70 – it’s worth remembering you can use the first class lounge (and snap up a whole host of drinks and snack freebies) and usually get free refreshments on board.

Bundled Deals: Accommodation and Entertainment

If you’re looking at catching a show or visiting an attraction whilst you’re in town then you might find some bundled deals that will help keep costs down. Phantom fans for example – over on hotelsdirect.co.uk theatre breaks specials – we found two tickets to an evening performance with two nights stay at the  fabulous 5 star Royal Horse Guards Hotel in Whitehall: all for a bargain £286, room only. Tickets to the show alone average £43.80 per person.

Free Exhibitions

London is packed with public museums, and if they’re public they’re usually free. That means there’s plenty to do that won’t cost you a penny (unless perhaps you fancy a special exhibition). The National Gallery off of Trafalgar Square is an obvious highlight (where you can ogle at the nation’s favourite painting – Turner’s Fighting Temeraire – for as long as you want) then there’s the Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Tate, V&A, Tate Modern… in fact you should probably look at Visit London’s list.