Planning a trip to London England, but don’t know where to start? In this article, I’ll share with you a complete guide on how to plan your trip to London, based on my 17 years of living in London.
London is a city everyone should see at least once in their life. Maybe I’m basis because I live there.
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It’s one of the top European cities to visit, so there is a lot to think about when you decide to plan a trip to London.
Like where to stay?
How many days should I in spend in London?
How much does a trip to London cost?
What is the best time to visit London?
Questions, questions, questions
If you’re looking for more on London or planning a trip to the Big Smoke then read my London travel tips guide.
If it’s your first time visiting this bustling metropolis that is London, it can all seem a little bit daunting.
Even before you arrive in London, the planning involved for visiting such an iconic city can be stressful. But worry not – by the time you’ve finished reading this guide to planning a trip to London.
You’ll have all your questions about how to plan a trip to London answered, with even some helpful hacks to be a super savvy Londoner on your visit to the UK capital, thrown in for good measure.
London has something for every kind of traveller and budget. Whether you want to see the city solo, visit with some friends or explore with your family. London’s got you covered.
Voted the third most visited city in the world in 2018, according to Forbes magazine, it’s not hard to see why. There is just so many things to do in London.
How to Plan a Trip to London England | Top Things to Consider when Planning a Trip to London
The Best Time to Visit London
London is one of those lucky cities (if you see it that way) which doesn’t get perishingly cold in the winter or overly hot in the summer unless you’re on ‘The Tube’, but we will get to that a little later.
With temperatures rarely going below zero in winter, and snow seldom appearing, winter in London is grey, reasonably mild and very rainy.
As with most places in the northern hemisphere, the summer months of July and August are the busiest travel times and is peak tourist season for the city.
Hotels and attractions are also at their capacity, so bear this in mind if you are planning to visit London during the summer months.
Mid-September through November, March through April (Shoulder Season): London’s mild spring and fall weather brings plenty of tourists, all though the city tends not to be as overrun as it is in the summer.
During the shoulder season is the best to book hotel, attractions and theatre reservations. Airfares also falls into a budget-friendly range. The weather can be extremely variable around these times, so pack layers of clothing and an umbrella.
January and February (Low Season): Expect heavy rains and cold temperatures during these months, along with a decrease in tourism.
If you don’t mind the damp and greyness of London, there are bargains to be had on airfare and hotel rates in the off-season months. Keep an eye out for the January airfare deals, and you can even pick up some Eurostar tickets during this time for a fraction of what they usually are.
What is the Cheapest Time to Visit London?
According to cheapflights.com, the best time for bargains on flights to London is during September and October.
November 1 to December 12, and December 25 through March 14 are other times to get the best airfare bargains as noted by Frommers.com.
London Travel Planner | Flights
Depending on where you are flying from, the main airport serving the city is London Heathrow. With 84 airlines serving over 200 destinations in 84 countries, over 80 million people pass through Heathrow on a yearly basis.
Aside from Heathrow, London has five other airports that you may want to fly into; London City, London Gatwick, London Luton, London Southend and London Stansted.
I’ll get to which airport will be best for you a little later, but a great tip for finding a flight to London is on a website such as Skyscanner.
Here, you are able to enter your departure airport and select ‘any London airport’ which will search for the best deals to all of the above. You can even select what time of day you would like to depart and arrive when visiting London.
London Journey Planner | How to Get From the Airports to Central London
London has six airports across the city, and a bit beyond, ahem, Stansted and Luton.
London Heathrow is by far the busiest and is 14 miles west of central London. The Heathrow Express takes you from the airport directly into London Paddington for around £25. Trains leave every 15 minutes and take about 20 minutes to reach the city.
There are deals to be had on www.heathrowexpress.com if you book in advance. The most cost-effective way to get to central London is via the London Underground, also known as ‘The Tube’.
For this, you don’t need to book in advance and, it will cost between £3 and £6 per person, depending on the time of day, and best of all, you can use your Oyster card.
London Gatwick is the second biggest airport in the UK and is actually located in West Sussex, to the South West of London.
There are several coach companies, such as National Express, that run regular services from Gatwick into central London from as little as £5.
There are also frequent overground (non tube) trains connecting the airport directly with stations such as London Victoria. Prices are usually around £10 one way and take about 35 minutes.
The Gatwick Express takes about 30 minutes and costs closer to £20. For the sake of five minutes and £10 in your pocket – take the regular train!
Gatwick trains are not covered by Oyster so you will need to purchase a paper ticket from a ticket office. (The National Rail tickets will come in useful, so hold on to those and learn why a bit later).
London City airport is absolutely tiny. Out towards the east of London, it is, funnily enough, the best connected for accessing ‘The City’ and indeed central London.
The Docklands Light Railway, which is a glorified version of the tube, costs £3 and feels very high tech because it’s driverless. You can get to and from this airport using your Oyster card.
With Luton airport in Bedfordshire and Stansted and Southend airports in Essex, you can see why these airports are not really ‘London’.
Even though they’re not quite part of the capital geographically, they still all have ‘London’ prefixed to their names.
From Stansted and Luton, there are lots of coach companies that run in and out of the city at all hours of the day and night, from about £5.
Trains also serve these airports, with Luton having a National Rail service into King’s Cross St Pancras and Stansted having the Stansted Express into Liverpool Street. Southend also has a train service into Liverpool Street and all of these links cost about £15.
Tickets are required as these journeys are not covered on Oyster. These tips will guide you on how to plan your trip to London.
London Travel Planner | Do you need a visa to visit London?
The best thing to do when you start to plan your trip to London, and before making any travel arrangements, is to check if you will require a visa to enter the UK.
With lots of confusing information floating around online, the simplest way to check is to visit the GOV.uk website and select your country from the list to get accurate and up to date information on what you will need to visit London England.
Check if you need this visa if you’re from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.
Most visas allow you six months stay in the UK.
London Travel Planner | Packing
You can experience all four seasons in London in the space of a few hours. The most important thing to bring with you on your trip is an umbrella and a few layers.
Regardless of when you visit London, there is often a high chance of rain, and an umbrella does not go amiss in the famously wet city.
In winter, you need to wrap up warm, but you do not need to dress for the Arctic. A warm winter coat, with a scarf, some gloves and a hat would keep you cosy, with long-sleeved t-shirts, jumpers, jeans/leggings also coming in useful.
In summer, jeans will also be great for the cooler days, with shorts, skirts and short sleeve shirts advised. It is also a good idea to bring with you a waterproof jacket or lightweight upper to properly prepare yourself for the changeable weather.
Whatever time of year you visit London, comfy shoes are a must, London is a very flat city which makes it perfect for exploring on foot. A top tip for shoes would be to avoid flip flops or open shoes in the summer.
Although it can be tempting, the city dust can turn your feet black within a few hours of walking around, and flip flops are a bit of a hazard when you’re in a crowd anyway. Avoid like the plague.
Aside from clothing and an umbrella, make sure to bring your camera as there is a lot to see and many memories to make on your trip to London.
You guys can already see from this blog that I take a ton of photos of London, as the city is beautiful no matter the weather.
So, pack a travel camera to capture your time in London.
How to Get Around London on Public Transport
A top tip for getting around London is to invest in an Oyster card. They cost £5 to purchase, online, airports or at any train station.
The card can be topped up with reloadable credit for pay as you go travel, and used as a contactless card at ticket barriers to trains and getting on buses.
London is split into six main zones, all of which are covered by the Oyster card. When you take a train, you ‘tap in’, by touching your card on the usually yellow reader at the barriers, and ‘tapping out’ when leaving.
The screen at the barrier will tell you how much the trip cost and your remaining balance. Do monitor this as you might need to top up before making a journey.
When it comes to buses, you touch your card on the reader at the front of the bus and regardless of how far you travel, it will only cost £1.50.
You can even change buses within one hour of your first tap, and still, only be charged £1.50. Winning.
Download the TfL Oyster card app to track your journey history and get notified of when your oyster card balance goes below £10.
You can also use a contactless payment card, but you might want to check if your provider will subject you to fees, before using it abroad.
In general, these cards are more expensive unless you plan on making three or more journeys for six days or more.
Once you start using your Oyster card, make sure you use that all day to benefit from the journey cap limit.
The price ceiling, or daily price cap, of an Oyster card, is:
Zones 1-2 – £7.20
Zones 1-3 – £8.50
Zones 1-4 – £10.40
Zones 1-5 – £12.30
Zones 1-6 – £13.20
These are off-peak fare prices. Travelling outside of peak hours (between 6:30 – 9:30 am and 4-7 pm) is more affordable and a great way to save money.
More information on fares and zones can be found on the Transport for London website.
The balance on an Oyster card never expires so you can keep it for your next trip to London, or get it refunded when you leave from a ticket desk in a train station.
When it comes to planning London sightseeing, do pick up a map, which should be available at your hotel, download the Visit London app, or have a look on Google.
Many of the attractions you will want to see in London are within walking distance of each other, for example, Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden to Leicester Square and on to Piccadilly Circus. Getting around on transport is a top thing to consider when planning a London trip.
How to Navigate the Tube with Luggage
In short, just don’t try. It is not the most practical, and it’s already pretty warm down there and is often very crowded, (particularly at peak times), so lugging multiple suitcases will only make this worse.
Sometimes, it is necessary but packing onto a crammed train (London has its own style of full when it comes to public transport) is not fun.
The service costs around £40 and can be arranged on your return journey.
Failing that, make sure you take the lifts when possible at stations. If an escalator is the only option, make sure you stand on the right, with your suitcase in front of you, so you do not block the walkway on the left side.
Avoid travelling with your luggage at rush hour, at all cost and protect your stuff with these anti-theft travel items.
Budgeting for London trip | How much does it cost for a trip to London?
A typical budget for a 7 day trip to London is £2,000 for a solo traveller, £3,250 for a couple, and £5,500 for a family of 4. This includes airfare, accommodations, public transport and daily expenses.
This is the average cost of a trip to London for a week. But depending on your budget and travel style this may vary.
Depending on what you want to see and do, a good, daily budget for a trip to London would be between £50 and £75 per person. Whilst it might seem like a lot, and if you book tickets to attractions in advance (more on that soon), you can end up saving a small fortune.
A great way to save money in London is to book a hotel that includes breakfast in the price. That way, you’ll be able to have a hearty meal before exploring the city, and will not be tempted by the overpriced tourist traps selling pretty measly breakfast and tasteless pizza – yes, Leicester Square, I’m are looking at you.
Plus you can pack some of the fruits from your hotel breakfast in your bag to snack on as you explore London, saving you additional money. Because every little helps.
You can read my guide on how many days do you need to visit London.
How to Plan London Trip | Where to Stay for the Best Experience
There is no collective ‘best’ area to stay in London as the city is simply too sprawling for that. Whilst some neighbourhoods are more practical than others, where you stay will completely depend on your needs.
For example, staying out by Heathrow in the West would not be ideal if you want to explore the East End.
One of the best neighbourhoods for sightseeing and excellent transport links would be around Waterloo and London Bridge, with convenient access to attractions like the London Eye, Big Ben and the Shard.
Central locations such as Soho and Covent Garden will put you in close proximity with the buzzing social scene, lots of theatres, the River Thames, Leicester Square, Buckingham Palace and plenty of top-notch places to eat out.
South Kensington, Earl’s Court and Hammersmith are great areas to provide all-around fantastic connections to the rest of the city and easy access to countless museums and galleries, as many are located in West London.
These areas are generally much quieter than the centre of the city and are the best for families.
Hotels around Hyde Park and towards Notting Hill would be where you should look if searching for something with a spa and a touch of luxury.
Meanwhile, if you are looking for something typically London, head to the North or East of the city towards Camden or Shoreditch for a super trendy stay in the capital.
Here ia a detailed guide on the best places to stay in London.
What Top London Attractions to Book in Advance
Essentially, anything you know you are going to want to see in London that involves a queue, book in advance.
We all know that booking in advance can save you a lot of money, but in London, it can also save you literally hours of waiting in line to get tickets on the day.
Buying the London Pass can be a great way to get an instant ticket to over 80 attractions across the city.
From Westminster Abbey and the view from the Shard to Kensington Palace and St Paul’s Cathedral, the pass will also get you into Windsor Castle. With entry to many attractions being over £20 per adult, the pass can quickly save you time and money.
The pass can be purchased online and can be valid for 1, 2, 3, 6 or 10 days at a time.
Other Attractions worth booking in advance are:
The London Eye – A trip on the London Eye is truly captivating and is one of the top things to do in London. This attraction is one of the world’s tallest observation wheels and has been London’s number one visitor experience for over a decade.
Book Here | The London Eye
Westminster Abbey – This should be an essential part of your visit to London, Westminster Abbey is one of the city’s most iconic buildings. With your ticket, explore a thousand years of history and marvel at the exquisite Gothic architecture and beautiful stained glass.
Royal States Room At Buckingham Palace – Take a tour of the royal State Rooms, which lie at the very heart of Buckingham Palace. Venture past the gates to admire many of the greatest treasures from the Royal Collection, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and porcelain.
Book Here | Buckingham Palace states rooms entrance ticket
Tower Bridge – Experience 2 of London’s must-see attractions with this combined entrance ticket to the Tower Bridge Exhibition at one of the world’s most famous bridges, and the Monument to the Great Fire of London, where you will go to the top to enjoy panoramic views over London.
Book Here | Tower Bridge exhibition and the Monument
Tour of St Paul’s Cathedral – Enjoy discounted fast-track entrance to the one of London’s major landmark St Paul’s Cathedral. Explore the cathedral floor and crypt, climb its three galleries and view panoramic London from the top of the dome. Multimedia guides and tours provided.
Book Here | St Paul’s Cathedral fast track tickets
The Shard – Admire the sprawling skyline of London from the 72nd floor of an iconic landmark, The Shard. You’ll enjoy 360-degree panoramic views of the city from inside or, if you’re feeling brave, venture outside onto Western Europe’s highest viewing platform.
How to Save Money in London
Aside from the obvious things like avoiding the tourist traps around big attractions, there are few particularly devious ways to save money in London.
One of the best ways is through the ‘Days Out Guide’. This offers two tickets for the price of one on key attractions from the London Eye to London Zoo, and it can make for some great savings.
You can obtain the voucher you need online or from a train station in London and with that you need to have a physical train ticket from National Rail (thinking back to the Gatwick ticket earlier), showing your journey from A to B.
Simply follow the steps and fill out the form to benefit from the great savings.
If it is a show you want to see during your trip to London, on the famous West End stage, try downloading an app such as Today Tix as they offer daily tickets to some of the biggest shows for £25 each or less.
These tickets can be purchased from usually around 10am on the app, on the day you want to see the show and are often much better than picking up last-minute tickets at one of the street vendors. The seats are often much better too.
With so many high-end restaurants to try in London it can be hard to know where to start. But with apps such as Groupon, you can get up to three courses for a fixed price at some of London’s finest restaurants, for often less than 50% of the regular cost.
Getting around London can also be quite costly, so booking train tickets in advance can save you a lot too.
You can even buy an Oyster card in advance and have it sent to your home with the balance credited, so you are ready to go from the second you land.
First Time Trip to England | Free Attractions in London
One of the only things better than saving money is getting something for completely free. In London, it might come as a surprise there are quite a few free things to do and see.
Many of the museums in London are completely free, including the British Museum, Natural History Museum, National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Away from the museums, take a trip to M&M World, one of the biggest candy shops in the world, in Leicester Square, or stop by Covent Garden and catch one of the weird and wonderful street performers putting on a show in the piazza.
From fire eating to juggling and crazy contortionists, it can actually be pretty impressive.
There is also the changing of the guards outside Buckingham Palace. Known as ‘Guard Mounting’, the ceremony happens every day in summer and every other day in the winter and takes about 45 minutes.
The Queen’s guards work in groups, with each person taking a two-hour rotation. The ‘changing’ marks the switch over from one group to a new set of soldiers.
Trip to London Itinerary Planner | First Time Trip to London Suggested Itineraries
London trip planner 5 days – This is a detailed travel guide for a 5 days trip to London
London trip planner 3 days – This is a 72 hours London trip itinerary
London 1 day trip planner – This is a 24 hours whistle-stop tour of London for the time, poor traveller.
Best Day Trips Out Of London By Train
When visiting the UK, you might want to pay a visit to some of the other attractions, far enough out of London to feel like you can see more of the country, but close enough to do as a day trip. These include:
A visit to the iconic Stonehenge
Lunch in the Cotswolds,
A day in the university city of Oxford and of course
A day at a seaside town Whitstable
Day Trips to Europe From London
If you are planning on staying in London over 4 days, I’d recommend hopping on the Eurostar and, doing a day trip to Brussels, Bruges or Lille France.
As they’re only approximately 2 hours away from London and compacted enough that you can see the major attractions in one day.
Plan your London Trip: Final Take Away For Your London Trip Planning Guide
Take your time when planning your trip to London and you will have a holiday of a lifetime for sure. A few final things to note:
Do not take a rickshaw in central London – they often charge ridiculous amounts of money
Do not eat anything smelly on public transport. It will not go down well.
Do walk from Leicester Square to Covent Garden instead of taking the Tube, it is one stop and takes about 6 minutes to walk it.
Remember, coaches, are different from buses in London. Coaches are bigger and are often used to get to and from the airport. Buses are big and red and all over London.
Do stand on the right and walk on the left when taking an escalator anywhere in London.
I hope these tips help you in preparing for a trip to London.