10 ways to do London on a budget

London’s a great place to go with kids – but it can be pricey. Here’s our guide for a trip to remember that won’t leave a lasting impression on your finances…

1. Getting about

Kids under 11 go free on the Tube, buses and some of the train services around the capital. You can get the best fares with an Oyster card or just by using your contactless card to pay as you go.

But, if you fancy taking in the sights on the water, get the TFL river bus as a low-cost alternative to a river tour. Cruise up and down the Thames – there are stops at all the main points like Westminster and London Bridge, all the way to Greenwich – you’ll get a seat and the chance to grab a cup of tea. Lovely. And, if you’re travelling to London by train, you can get 2 for 1 on loads of the big attractions – the London Eye and London Dungeons to name a few.

What it’ll set you back: Varies. A single river bus trip in the central zone costs around £6.50, if you buy online (kids under 5 are free). Adult Oyster/contactless fares are capped at £8 (Zones 1–3, unlimited travel).

Useful links:
daysoutguide.co.uk
tfl.gov.uk
tfl.org.uk/river-fare

2. All change

Make your way to the Queen’s main residence by 11am (though check times and dates before you go) to catch the Changing of the Guard – the impeccably turned out guards and music bands make this hugely popular for the young and old.

What it’ll set you back: Zilch

Useful link: changing-guard.com

3. A spot of culture

A trip to London isn’t complete without taking in a museum or two. The good news is the Natural History Museum and Science Museum are neighbours – and both are ideal to capture imagination and delight, whatever your age.
Queues to get in are usually long when the kids are off school. Be an early bird and try getting there before it opens, or go later on in the day (but leave at least an hour before closing).

What it’ll set you back: Zilch

Useful links:
sciencemuseum.org.uk
nhm.ac.uk

4. A walk in the park

London is awash with great parks. Our picks? Hyde Park – it’s perfectly central and there’s plenty to see and do – just a simple stroll and you’ll see various types of wildlife, beautiful gardens and a hive of activity at The Serpentine, where the café/bar will be a welcome visit. Next, the kids can explore the Diana Memorial Playground, where they’ll find teepees, a beach around the pirate ship, as well as various play sculptures. You should also get the chance to give your feet a break, as there’s plenty of seating around the park.

Further east, of course, is The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Soak up the spirit of London 2012 and let the kids run wild in the Tumbling Bay playground.
If the weather’s not up to much, why not take a splash in the London Aquatics Centre!

What it’ll set you back: Zilch. But if you fancy a dip, swimming costs £4.95 an adult, and £2.75 a child.

Useful links:
royalparks.org.uk
queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk
londonaquaticscentre.org

5. Just looking…

Gawp at the splendour of Harrods, one of the most famous shopping stores in the world. A ride in the old Otis lift will whizz you up to Toy Kingdom – there are usually a few demos of the latest gadgets, as well as huge, life-like cuddly toys to bring out your inner child.

Before you’re tempted to splash out, if the kids are into motors, lure them away with a walk around the area and along nearby Sloane Street, where you’re bound to spot some high-end cars. Keep your eyes peeled!

What it’ll set you back: Zilch (unless you can’t resist a splurge!)

Useful link: harrods.com

6. Peace in the city

If you need to get away from the hustle and bustle, Coram’s Fields near King’s Cross is ideal with its seven acres dedicated especially for kids. Open all year round for children under 16 (no adult can enter without kids), with an adventure playground, and water play, a small animal area and even a paddling pool. For older kids, there are three football pitches and, of course, a café for that much-needed pit stop.

What it’ll set you back: Zilch

Useful link: coramsfields.org

7. Farm life

Not just for country folk, London has some lovely farms. Search for London city farms and take your pick. We like Hackney City Farm, in a great spot, with happy animals, a thriving café and a pottery studio.

Spitalfields City Farm is a good bet, too. And, you can do a spot of shopping in nearby Brick Lane afterwards. Result.

What it’ll set you back: Zilch, but the farms do rely on donations.

Useful links:
hackneycityfarm.co.uk
spitalfieldscityfarm.org

8. Feeling peckish

You’ll well and truly work up an appetite making you way around the capital. And, there’ll be plenty of offers and deals in kid-friendly restaurants. Check out the usual chain offerings online in advance and some restaurants let kids eat for free, so that’s worth a shot. And, if you’re around the West End, look out for pre-Theatre meal deals – you may need to book, and you don’t have to see a show to enjoy the discount. Tuck in!

What it’ll set you back: Varies

Useful links:
moneysavingexpert.com/deals/cheap-restaurant-deals
opentable.co.uk/promo

9. Showtime

Speaking of shows, if you fancy a last-minute deal, head to the TKTS booth in Leicester Square. There you’ll find half-price and discounted theatre tickets on the day. If there’s a particular show you want to see, try the ticket office inside the theatre itself. It’s a gamble that can sometimes pay off.

What it’ll set you back: Varies

Useful link: officiallondontheatre.com/tkts

10. Take in the sights on foot

Explore the streets of London taking in the art scene, skyscrapers and even where Jack the Ripper did his infamous deeds. Whatever floats your boat, there’s something for everyone. Try one of these handy sites and get your walking boots on.

What it’ll set you back: Zilch

Useful links:
freelondonwalkingtours.com
freetoursbyfoot.com/london-tours