Frugal things on a day in London with the kids

Picture of the theatre seats and curtain after buying cheaper tickets as one of our frugal things in London

Theatre tickets for less

 

Juggling work and childcare over school holidays is never easy, unless perhaps you have a ton of money to throw at it and co-operative children. So that’s me out.

Last week, I was asked to go to London to film a brief interview about investing. No childcare, no chance of shifting the date to term time. “Bring the kids!”, they said. I thought the option of “trek to London, sit in an office, trek back again” might be a hard sell, so we decided to make a day of it.

Now, we didn’t plan this as a budget day, more “let’s take advantage of being in London” while our travel costs were covered. But looking back, we did save here and there along the way.

Frugal things on a day in London with kids

Here’s a quick run down of thrifty tips and tricks from our trip to London:

Travelled with cheap children’s train tickets

We waited to buy our train tickets until we got to the station, which meant we could take advantage of a Greater Anglia offer, with children’s tickets only £2 each off peak return. By travelling after 10am, I could also use my Network Railcard to get a third off my own ticket.

Benefited from free tube travel for the children

Had you clocked that children under 11 travel free on the Underground? Head for the wider access gates in tube stations, so you can shepherd yourself and the kids through on an adult ticket. For older children, tube travel is half price from 11 to 17.

Packed snacks

Yes, it wouldn’t be a Much More With Less outing without taking a packed lunch and refillable water bottles. The trusty tuna and sweetcorn sandwiches, satsumas and Wotsits from a multi pack were pressed into action. Saves a ton of money compared to buying food and drinks elsewhere.

Snapped up discount theatre tickets

Klaxon alert: going to the theatre in London is hardly ever frugal. However, there are ways to make it cost slightly less of a bomb.

We rocked up at the TKTS booth in Leicester Square, which sells last minute and discount tickets for performances the same day, the next day and the day after. You can check out what’s on offer where on the website, but have to show up in person to buy. We ended up going to Strictly Ballroom The Musical, an explosion of sequins and high camp. The tickets cost £29.50 each way up in the stalls, but would normally cost £49.50 a pop. Saving money elsewhere can help free up the cash to splash out on occasions everyone will remember.

Top tip: don’t show up around 1ish if you want to avoid a queue, there’ll be loads of people trying for matinees that start at 2.30pm.

Ran off energy in a playground

Even at attractions with expensive entry tickets (London Zoo and Legoland, I’m thinking of you), my kids have always enjoyed running around like crazy in any playground and scrambling over all the equipment. So once the filming was finished, they were happy to let off some steam in a park we passed nearby. Total cost: 0p.

 

Picture of my children in Kingdom of Sweets one of our frugal things during a trip to London

More interesting exhibits than the British Museum. Allegedly.

Took advantage of free activities

Visiting London doesn’t have to break the bank with pricey activities like visiting Madame Tussauds, The London Aquarium or the Shard.

I suggested worthy-but-free activities like the British Museum or the National Gallery. The kids turned these down flat in favour of visiting stuff round Leicester Square like Kingdom of Sweets, Chinatown and the Lego Store. Kingdom of Sweets was a revelation, with every American sweet or cereal you’ve ever known and prompted a lot of exclaiming and pointing. In the end, we managed to steer clear of Harry Potter chocolate frogs for more than a fiver each, in favour of some distinctly cheaper but still novel chocolate-filled Hello Panda biscuits in Chinatown.

Nabbed a student discount at Forbidden Planet

My kids are both fans of the The Big Bang Theory, so I sold them on going to the Forbidden Planet megastore on Shaftesbury Avenue as like Stuart’s comic book store. This turned out to be a mixed blessing. They were way keener on staring at each and every item than I ever expected, but I do now have a lot of Christmas list suggestions. We even got to use my NUS Extra card to get 10% off the posters they chose.

Used a Nectar voucher for money off a meal

Faced with a picky eater, an “I’ll have the octopus” omnivore and a parent who dislikes McDonalds, we ended up at Pizza Express for our evening meal. This provided food everyone would eat, with the added bonus I could use a £15 off voucher from swapping Nectar points earlier in the year.

 

Our trip to London reminded me how even just walking around can be exciting when you’re a kid – fountains and statues, dragons on the side of a building and Boris bikes, weird and wonderful dim sum menu pictures and the shop windows at the M&Ms store. It was a long day, but we had a great time.

Now over to you – what are you favourite frugal activities in London? Do share in the comments, I’d love to hear!

 

I’m linking up with CassEmma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five fabulously frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky.

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Pinterest sized image of a London theatre with curtain and seats for my post on frugal things on a day in London with the kids

5 Comments

  1. September 7, 2018 / 1:27 pm

    Well gone on keeping your costs so low! The sweet shop sounds awesome actually

  2. September 8, 2018 / 8:01 am

    My (14 and 19 year old) daughters came back from a trip to London with my Mum full of Kingdom of Sweets! Youngest found a cinnamon breakfast cereal she fancied but said it was £5 a box :-0
    We love China Town too and we always have to look round the Loon Fung supermarket. If you’re east of the city or your children don’t mind a walk (we’ve made hours walk miles around London!) the bagels (beigels) in Brick Lane were huge and delicious and surprisingly cheap. We always take a packed lunch everywhere so they were a treat but at under £2 for smoked salmon and cream cheese and less than a fiver for salt beef I thought they were really good prices. There are two, and I think we went to the one on the right…

    • Faith
      Author
      September 8, 2018 / 10:28 am

      Glad it’s not just me who found the prices at Kingdom of Sweets eye watering! Top tips about Loon Fung and Brick Lane bagels, they’re fabulous. The Happening Bagel Bakery up near Finsbury Park tube is another one for great value smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels.

  3. September 9, 2018 / 5:20 pm

    Great stuff, you did well with getting the train and tube travel down! I’ve not been back to London in five years but when I do go I’ll be taking a leaf out of your book (especially with the packed lunch). 🙂

  4. September 12, 2018 / 9:16 pm

    I love that you are showing-by-example how to have a great time with little outlay. My eldest grandchild and youngest child (same age) were brilliant at doing this in their teens. They even worked out how to get free water from places like macdonalds, without actually buying anything. I also think that it is more empowering for kids to be able to do things without having to ask for money.

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