Spending Time and Money at the London Eye
When you consider common mistakes made in London travel, the London Eye comes immediately into the discussion.
The London Eye should not be at the top of your London to-do list.
A "flight" requires spending substantial money (the lowest single ticket price amounts to about $1 per minute of viewing as of this writing, and London Eye ticket prices rise from there. They also go up after May 31) and operates in a city where cloud cover can be a fairly common condition. In summer, when tourist season is in high gear, you will invest precious time as well as money for a chance to snap pictures of London from above.
If you're an avid photographer, budget for a visit here. But many others (especially those with families in tow) would do better to direct their resources in a number of other directions.
Skipping Free Attractions
In Great Britain, most museums that receive public funding offer admission either for free or at a greatly reduced price. That's no small statement.
Among the gems that are free in London: The British Museum (arguably one of the finest museums in the world), Tate Modern, National Gallery and the National Maritime Museum in nearby Greenwich.
Beyond looking for free museums, take time to consider other London experiences that are free and memorable.
For example, a stroll along the Thames drinking in the sights and sounds of the city does not involve any tolls or entry fees. Spacious Hyde Park is another example of a place where time is well spent but spending money is not necessary.
Paying Too Much for a Room
There are some lovely rooms in London, and some of the world's finest hotels operate here. But even an ordinary room can be quite expensive.
It's no secret that places considered expensive cities frequently acquire their reputations due to sky-high lodging expenses.
London lodging options include a wide selection of hostels, bed and breakfast accommodations that might put you in a Londoner's spare bedroom for the night, and even places that will find you an apartment (flat) to rent for your stay.
The price for these arrangements can be significantly less than what you'd pay for a hotel room, but it doesn't always work out that way. The key is to explore what might work for your budget and itinerary and avoid paying too much for a room.
Skipping Free Breakfast at the Hotel
English breakfasts tend to be hearty.
If you do wind up at a hotel or bed and breakfast establishment, chances are you'll be served a filling meal to start the day. Unless there is an extravagant charge for it, you should make it standard practice to eat up.
Here's why: other meals in London will come at a substantial price. Many budget travelers find it wise to eat their fills at breakfast and then perhaps limit lunch to an inexpensive snack on the go. This approach frees up money for dinner.
It's best to eat as locals eat as you plan your meal strategy. In France, breakfast is typically a pastry and some coffee. In Great Britain, if your innkeeper is offering a big breakfast, don't skip it.
Overpaying for London Taxi Cabs
Some visitors to London make it a habit to ride in the black cabs that traverse the city. At one time, they were much bigger and more luxurious than they are today. But many visitors continue to hail cabs because they are intimidated by the map of London's complex subway system (commonly called the Tube or Underground) or they prefer seeing the city above ground.
There are certainly times when taking a cab is prudent. Later at night in an unfamiliar neighborhood, saving a few pounds by navigating public transportation can be a bad idea.
But for most trips, cab companies will charge a great deal of money and frequently won't get you to your destination any quicker than the buses or subway trains.
Taxi fares in London vary by time of day, but always involve a minimum of £2.20 (about $3.50). There is a fare calculator that shows just how much you'll pay from point-to-point for the luxury of a taxi ride. Make a few test calculations and I think you'll agree that budget travelers should use taxis sparingly, if at all.
By contrast, you can travel the London Underground for about $11 with a one-day travel card good for unlimited travel in two London zones.
Navigating the Tube at Rush Hour
While it's advisable to use the Underground and other forms of public transportation in London, do your best to avoid rush hours.
I've seen people push their way onto trains that are already jammed with standing room passengers. I've witnessed long lines just to enter the stations.
Plan your travel times for off-peak periods when possible and save your time for admiring local treasures, not sweating out crowded platforms and cars.
Never forget: time is a resource to be conserved, especially in a place like London.
Buying Passes You Won't Use
For some travelers with days to spend in London, passes make a lot of sense. There are so many directions to go and quite a few attractions to experience.
But never buy a pass until you're sure it offers admission to enough places you actually want to see. Add up the standard admissions to those places and then consider your purchase.
It's tempting to buy the passes because they help you bypass ticket windows. That's a valid reason for considering them. But if you only make it to one or two attractions, odds are you'll waste your money.
Failing to Allow Airport Travel Time
London is served by six major airports. Among the world's destinations, few (if any) offer better air travel options.
But some people confuse one airport for another or greatly underestimate the amount of time it takes to get to the terminals. Missed flights can result in some nasty re-booking fees that will cut into your travel budget.
Although not the cheapest option, the Heathrow Express from Paddington Station can make the best use of your time and make the run in as little as 15 minutes.
Traffic around the airports tends to be heavy, and routes to-and-from are busy at most hours of the day. Do yourself a favor and allow as much time as possible to arrive.