Thursday, 28 January 2021

Tips for Planning a Long Weekend in London

Tips for planning a long weekend in London post covid-pandemic. How to ensure you have the best value and most enjoyable stay.

{This is a collaborative post}

January is my bookings month, it is when I make plans for the year ahead. Where will the family go on holiday? Will I treat anyone to a weekend away for a special occasion? Should my hubby and I have a romantic getaway? It's the same every year, the minute Christmas is out of the way I am on my mission; it is as if the next year feels better for having some trips away planned. 

Of course, last year turned out to be a series of disappointments on the going away front. I can't even begin to tell you how many wonderful occasions and trips were cancelled but I am feeling far more optimistic for this year ahead and being able to have some amazing times away from home. 

The one trip I missed the most was my annual mother and daughter trip to London for Mothers Day. My Mum and I have chosen to spend our Mothers Day weekend together for a number of years now, and we've decided that this year has to be bigger, better and longer to make up for missing out on our 2020 break. Realistically we're not going to have our break in March this year as who knows what will be happening with lockdown and tiers but I feel confident to book for a July break to tie in with my Mums birthday too. A double whammy celebration!

Here are my tips for booking a long leisure weekend away in London. I think we are going to have at least 3 or even 4 nights this year -


Book your Travel about 12 weeks in Advance

Once you have your dates set, think about how you'll be getting into London. My Mum and I always use the train, as it means we don't have to think about parking and we can travel from different areas and meet easily at one of the stations. I think one of the 1/3rd off discount rail travel cards are worth it if you'll travel a few times in a year and look to book your tickets about 12 weeks in advance, as you'll often find advance or super-saver return tickets then and can bag a bargain. 

I look forward to my hour train journey as the start of my stay away. A time when I can read a book and shake off the realities of home and work. 


Image Credit: SITU


Book a Serviced Apartment rather than a Hotel

When Mum and I stay away we always want it to be somewhere a little luxurious and not just a functional but boring hotel room. I'd really advocate checking out serviced apartments as somewhere to stay in London. Not only will you have a comfortable bed to lay your head at night but you'll also have a lounge area, well-equipped kitchen, clothes washing facilities, Wi-Fi and so much more. Serviced apartments are a home away from home and depending on the length of your stay they generally have a housekeeping service too. 

I spent a happy hour on the SITU website planning where Mum and I might stay in June and I was really surprised at the great places that came up. I had a budget of £100 per night in my head and didn't really expect to find anything nice, but there was a good selection within that price range and I am booking The Gloucester Road Escape apartment that came up at just £332 for 4 nights stay.  I think that's a great price. 

I've been very pleasantly surprised and I'll be using SITU again to choose an apartment next time my family all go to stay in London as they have a very large range with many multi-bedroom serviced apartments, not just in London but all across the UK and further afield too. Do have a look at SITU Serviced Apartments if you fancy staying in a serviced apartment in London. 


Keep some Free Time/ Don't Over Plan

When you first start to plan your long weekend in London, let your imagination run free and get everything possible down on paper. Of course, realistically you won't be able to do everything but at least you'll be able to easily see all the options. Then you can make some decisions about what the most important things are to include in your weekend plan.

Look at how many nights you are staying and think about whether your arrival and departure days will just be about travelling or if you'll be making those full days of exploration and fun too. I normally try to plan for one main activity a day, as otherwise, you can end up feeling a bit ragged at the end of your stay as too much has been crammed into your itinerary.

I like to use Google Maps to plot all the places we fancy going to as it will then show me the proximity of places to each other and also to where we are staying. This allows me to make a realistic plan or how we might spend our time. The tube is a great tool for getting from A to B but I do love to walk in London. That for me, is an activity in itself to the enjoyed. 


Be Prepared for both Rain or Shine

We know that you can never quite tell what the weather will be like in Britain, so make sure you have plans for whatever the weather. If you're the kind of person who is happy to explore the zoo in the rain (and we did, it worked well) then it doesn't matter too much, but if you've had your hair done and want to stay looking pristine, then some wet weather alternatives are a good thing to have up your sleeve. 

The Sky Garden is free to visit weekdays between 10am - 6pm and you can capture the most amazing London skyline views whilst enjoying a cuppa or something alcoholic. You'll need to book in advance and the tickets are normally released three weeks prior to the date of your visit.

There are plenty of cinemas, theatres, museums and galleries to visit in London and these are all good options for if the rain won't stop. If shopping is your thing then head to one of the Westfield centres at Stratford of Shepherds Bush as you can spend hours in them. 

The London aquarium, the Royal Observatory, St Paul's Cathedral or a backstage tour of the Royal Opera House are all great fun too and you stay totally dry. 


Plan a mix of Paid and Free Attractions

London can be an expensive place to go out, but it doesn't have to be with some smart planning, so make sure you book a good mix of paid-for and free place to visit. My Mum and I always want to see a West End Show when we stay in London, that is our highlight and we treat it as a challenge to find a show for a great price. Probably the easiest way to do this is to turn up at the Official London Theatre Ticket Booth in Leicester Square and see what they have available for that day. There are, however, lots of ways to get good price theatre tickets, so check out my post that gives tips for getting bargain price tickets for top West End shows

When I visit London I love to walk and take in the atmosphere. In fact, I often choose to walk between venues rather than take the tube. The South Bank is a great area to go for a walk as you'll find loads of street performers, tasty food stalls, a large book market and a skate park where you can enjoy the street art and skaters skills. 

The Royal Parks are also great places to go for a couple of cost-free hours. Not only is it nice to have some green space in the big city, but each one is different and has its own unique charm. Kensington Gardens has a fabulous play park for children and so many smooth paths for skating, cycling or scooting. At St James Park we like to feed the ducks and see the pelicans and at Hyde Park, you can walk to the lakes and if it is a Sunday, brave Speakers Corner to see what is on the mind of some of London's most vocal citizens. 


Find the best Discounts in Advance

It's rare for me to pay full price for anything when I go to stay in London. I really enjoy the thrill of finding the best bargain. Sites like Groupon, BuyAGift, Wowcher and Red Letter Days are great to look through and sign up to their mailing lists as you'll sometimes receive extra discounts that way. My recent meals at Prezzo, afternoon tea at the Montcalm Marble Arch, trip around Kew Gardens and adventure up the Shard all came about with discounted entrance tickets/ meal vouchers bought via these sites. 

Often with train tickets, you can get 2 for 1 entrance to many attractions, especially ones that are part of the Merlin Group like The London Eye, London Sea Life Centre, Madame Tussauds, Shrek Adventure and The London Dungeon. 

Just basically have a good google before you go and make sure you have signed up to the mailing lists of any chain restaurants that you might visit, as they often send out discounts or incentives to download their app.

Happy planning friends. I hope you enjoy the process as much as I do and that we can all get away later in the year when things feel a little more normal again.  Mich x


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Tips for planning a long weekend in London post covid-pandemic. How to ensure you have the best value and most enjoyable stay.




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