We’re back from our London trip and finally feeling like we belong in this time zone. We’ve already shared the highlights of our trip in our travel vlog as well as lessons we’ve learned from our second major trip abroad. Whenever we take big trips like these, we also like to do cost breakdowns that show how much the trip cost and where we spent our money.
If I’m being perfectly honest, looking back on this trip, it feels like we spent most of our time traveling from location to location than we spent enjoying the actually locations themselves. And our budget really does reflect that. More than half of the entire travel budget for this trip was spent on transportation costs. So let’s take a closer look at exactly how that money was spent over the course of our trip.
We paid for two sets of flights in this trip. The first were our flights to London, which cost $2,400. We flew Norwegian Airlines nonstop out of JFK airport in New York City straight over to Gatwick airport in London. We had initially planned to take the trip with my parents, who live in New York City. Otherwise we would have opted to fly out of one of the Washington D.C. area airports since they are so much closer to us.
Our Norwegian flights were Economy Plus so we were able to board the plane with the priority group and settle in early–which was great given that we were traveling with a toddler. The flight included meal service which amounted to one pretty good meal and then another meal that was basically just a roll.
The plane itself was new, which was nice. But the seats were pretty small and there wasn’t much leg room. All in all, I wasn’t as enthusiastic about my Norwegian experience as I was when we flew Japan Airlines to Singapore.
The second set of flights, which totalled $400 for the four of us were for a day trip to Paris. The flights left out of Luton airport and landed in AIRPORT in France. In our other posts about the trip we mentioned that we never made it to those flights because we were too exhausted. The tickets weren’t refundable so we were just out that money.
We flew to London out of New York City but we live in the D.C. area which meant we had to haul up the east coast to catch our flights. We’d done a similar trek before for Singapore so we knew the most relaxing and enjoyable option would be to hop on an Amtrak from BWI Airport. So that’s exactly what we did.
Having spent countless hours stuck in traffic trying to drive from D.C. to New York City, I’m a huge believer in Amtrak’s Northeastern service. The seats are spacious and comfy. The bathrooms are always clean (which is such a relief given our potty training toddler). And the fairs are pretty reasonable. I snagged these tickets less than two weeks before our flights and was still able to find good fares. Of course it would have been even cheaper if I’d booked 21 days in advance.
We drove from our house to the train station and parked the car in the garage for the week. In theory we could take a cab or Uber, but then we’d have the extra hassle of switching the carseat and even making sure that we get a driver with a car that’s big enough to handle all of our stuff. Since the cost is comparable anyway, we always opt to just drive ourselves.
PUBLIC TRANSIT: $460
We were all about public transit on this trip. We used the Long Island Railroad and NYC transit to get from Penn Station where Amtrak dropped us off over to JFK airport which is deep in Queens.
Then once we got to my aunt’s house in London, we used the Chilton commuter train and the London tube to get around. I’m still conflicted about whether we made the right decision staying so far outside of the city but there is no arguing with how much money we saved by doing it.
Renting an AirBnB would have easily cost us $1,500 and we would still have had to spend some amount of money on transit after that. Not to mention that my aunt kindly made us breakfast and snacks during our stay with her, which saved us money on food too.
So we saved at least $1,000 by staying with my aunt and taking public transit in and out of the city instead of renting a hotel or apartment in the heart of the city.
Even though we did use public transit for most of the trip, there were a few times when we opted to take a cab and it was incredibly expensive. We took a cab back to my aunt’s house from London after our 12 hour bus tour to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath. It had been such a long day that we couldn’t muster the energy to take a 90 minute train ride home.
I slept in on our last day and sent everyone else to London without me. I had to take a cab into London that night to meet up with my extended family for dinner. It was totally worth it to get in those extra hours of sleep.
And lastly, we took a cab to Gatwick Airport at 5am to catch our return flight home. Yes, we could have taken public transit. But we really didn’t want to. We’d been up pretty late hanging with family. And after a week of hiking back and forth on the train, we were all trained out. So yes, three cab rides cost us $250. Wowzers.
Given how much we spent on just transit, the rest of these numbers feel so anticlimactic. But here goes. We saw quite a few attractions while we were in London, though we didn’t actually get to everything on our itinerary. The biggest ticket items were:
- The London Eye – $233,
- Our 12 hour bus tour to Bath, Stonehenge, and Stonehenge – $550
- A two-day London Pass – $400
The rest was spent between several museums. The London Eye was a no-miss for us because we missed out on the Singapore Flyer when we were there. The experience was pretty pricey but we paid extra so we could ride any time and skip the line.
The bus tour was my favorite of our whole trip. We had a great guide that gave us lots of great information throughout the day. It was great not having to deal with the logistics of getting from place to place. Plus I got to sleep on the bus. Seeing Stonehenge has been on my bucket list since I was a child, long before I even knew what a bucket list was. Even though we weren’t able to get near or touch the stones, it was still a magical experience for me. I’d go back just to see the stones again and to get the opportunity to walk amongst them.
Lastly is the London Pass. In theory, it’s a great deal. It gets you admission to so many attractions. It ended up being a giant waste of money for us though because we only made it to one attraction in that two-day time span. One. The Tower of London would have cost $100 by itself. Skipping the London Pass would have saved us $300. But we had good intentions when we bought it.
We spent relatively little on food over our seven day trip. A large part of that was because my aunt plied us with delicious food any time we were in her house. We woke to a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, beans, sausage, ham, toast, and french press coffee. In the evening we had tea and whatever we felt peckish for.
We only purchased food while we were out and about in London. We typically went to a restaurant for one meal a day and had an array of snacks on the go. There was a sweet shop on just about every corner in London and we did our best to try as many of them as possible. The Red Lion Pub was a highlight. They have the most delicious meat pies.
We tend to be pretty selective when it comes to souvenirs. I usually don’t get any at all. But when our tour bus pulled into Bath there was a sign in the square for a pub that offered gin and tonics made with locally brewed gin. Being a lover of gin and tonics, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass. I ended up coming home with a lovely bottle of gin.
Alexis bought a few pins and keychains for herself and her friends. And Reeves came home with two new stuffed animals.
Of course there were also a few expenses here and there that don’t fit neatly into the above categories. We spent $120 on a dog sitter to watch Taxi while we were gone. They came and let her out three times a day while we were gone. We find that she prefers being home when we travel versus going to a boarder. Luckily we live in a neighborhood with lots of responsible kids looking to make some extra cash.
We also spent some money on toiletries when the airline misplaced one of our bags for a day. This taught us a valuable lesson about not procrastinating (and forgetting) to buy travel insurance and to always book with a card with good travel benefits.
So that’s it for the cost breakdown of our London trip. It’s going to be our last big trip for a while, since we’re hoping to have a new little one within the next year. But we’re also excited to focus on more domestic travel and get to explore all of the awesome things our own country has to offer.