Martha Ainsworth’s England Travel Tips

Budget Planning

If you travel modestly but comfortably, your trip cost will be

  1. Airfare
  2. Car rental
  3. Daily expenses, which include:
    • Lodging
    • Meals
    • Petrol (gasoline)
    • Admission to attractions
    • Shopping

Daily expenses, London: If you stay in a B+B outside the center of London (more info), plan $200-$250 per person per day for daily expenses (see above) while in London. Double that amount if you must stay in a hotel in central London. Add more if you plan to stay on weeknights.

Daily expenses, outside London: Outside London, plan $100-125 per person per day for daily expenses (see above).

A typical budget for a modest but comfortable two-week trip to England is $3,000 per person including airfare, car rental and daily expenses for three weekend days in London and the rest of the time in the countryside. If you like to shop, adjust that number upward as needed.

How to save money

  • Plan your trip for April or September for lower rates.
  • Fly on a Monday through Thursday.
  • Most people fly to and from London: Heathrow (LHR) or Gatwick (LGW); but if you know you will spend time in the north of England, compare airfare to and from Manchester.
  • Check the websites of specific airlines for specials; you are far more likely to find specials on the airline’s own website, than on “cheap fare finder” websites. Check British Airways and Virgin Atlantic especially.
  • Monitor airline websites for reduced fares, and for deals that include car rental—but not hotels. Airline specials that include hotels are usually not a good bargain, because you have to stay in London for your whole trip, making everything more expensive.
  • Stay in B+B’s, not hotels. (more info)
  • Don’t stay in a London hotel. Travel agents make money by encouraging you to stay in an expensive London hotel and see the rest of the country on day trips from London. Lodging in London is outrageous—three to four times more expensive than anywhere else—and far less convenient. Only stay in London if you want a stressful trip. Otherwise, stay elsewhere, and take day trips to London, not from London.
  • When you do visit London, stay in a B+B out in a suburb. (more info)
  • When you do visit London, if you must stay in a hotel, plan to visit on a weekend and take advantage of hotel weekend specials. When you call the hotel to make your reservation, be sure to ask if there are any special rates.
  • Eat a good breakfast at your B+B (it’s included in the price of your room). At lunch, pub food is often a bargain. For the cheapest lunch, get packets of sandwiches at a supermarket. Save money for a nice restaurant dinner. (Note that it’s far easier to get a cheap lunch than a cheap dinner.)
  • Buy a Great British Heritage Pass to save on admissions to attractions.
  • Buy some travelers checks in British pounds before you leave. Although you can usually use ATMs you cannot rely on their availability. Do not buy travelers checks in American dollars. Do not attempt to convert American cash in England; fees are outrageous.

Sample Budget

Below is a hypothetical budget for a modest but comfortable two-week trip to England. This budget is based on the following assumptions:

  • Travel in April; depart and return on Mondays
  • Party of two adults sharing a double bed
  • 3 weekend nights in London; 10 nights outside of London
  • Economy car, manual transmission, no a/c, 600 miles (more info)
  • £1.00 = $1.72
  • Petrol = £0.88/litre
  • Prices effective 1/1/06

Your per-person expenses will be higher if you travel in the summer; if you fly on weekends; if you need a car with automatic transmission or air conditioning; if you travel alone; and if you spend more nights in London. Bargain-hunters can find further savings if you are willing to compromise on comfort. Obviously your personal preferences in accomodations, dining and shopping will influence your expense.

  rate £ per person $ per person $ party of 2
Airfare   £133.14 $229.00 $458.00
Car Rental* £314.00 £157.00 $270.04 $540.08
Shopping & theater £185.00 £185.00 $318.20 $636.40
15-day Heritage Pass £52.00 £52.00 $89.44 $178.88
Daily expenses below £986.00 $1,695.92 $3,391.84
Petrol £0.88 £100.00 $172.00 $343.99
TOTAL   £1,613.14 $2,774.60 $5,549.19

Daily expenses while in London:
Bed & Breakfast** £60.00 £180.00 $309.60 $619.20
Lunch £10.00 £30.00 $51.60 $103.20
Tea or snacks £2.00 £6.00 $10.32 $20.64
Dinner £25.00 £75.00 $129.00 $258.00
Attractions £25.00 £75.00 $129.00 $258.00
Total days in London: 3 £366.00 $629.52 $1,259.04

Daily expenses while outside of London:
Bed & Breakfast £25.00 £250.00 $430.00 $860.00
Lunch £5.00 £50.00 $86.00 $172.00
Tea or snacks £2.00 £20.00 $34.40 $68.80
Dinner £15.00 £150.00 $258.00 $516.00
Attractions £15.00 £150.00 $258.00 $516.00
Total days out of London: 10 £620.00 $1,066.40 $2,132.80

Car rental

In winter 2006, car rental rates for two weeks ranged from:

  • $335.68 - subcompact, no a/c, manual transmission (Thrifty), to
  • $540.90 - small full-size, a/c, automatic transmission (Enterprise)
  • $772.48 - midsize, a/c, automatic transmission (Avis).
A hefty charge for VAT and insurance will be added which can be £90 or more. Your rates will vary depending on the company and type of car you choose. Thrifty generally has the lowest rates. Enterprise has good prices on cars with a/c and automatic transmissions.

London Small Hotel B+Bs

Two excellent small hotel B+Bs may be found in Hampstead, on quiet tree-lined residential streets, just 3 miles north of Oxford Street, and only 10 minutes by Underground from the West End. Both are highly recommended and rates are very good.

  • The Langorf Hotel (20 Frognal, Hampstead, London, NW3 6AG) is a full service small hotel. All 31 rooms have private bathrooms (“en suite”) and there is an elevator, 24-hour room service, and a full staff. There are also a few 1- and 2-bedroom apartments if you are staying at least 3 days, which can be a bargain for 2 couples traveling together. £98 double; £75 weekends; call for other specials. Telephone: +44 (0)20 7794 4483.
  • The Buckland Hotel (6 Buckland Crescent, Swiss Cottage, London, NW3 5DX) is a charming old Victorian house with 15 bedrooms, most with private bathrooms (“en suite”), and a friendly small staff. One-person room with shared bath is a bargain at £29 as are two-person rooms with private bath at £59. Telephone +44 (0)20 7722 5574.

Next: Miscellaneous tips on everything from food to showers to driving >>

Intro  |  Planning  |  Cost  |  General tips  |  What to see, what to skip  |  Helps