The British pound sterling is in a slide and that can make a big difference in how far your UK vacation budget will stretch.
After the UK voted to leave the EU on June 23, 2016 the pound fell between 12 and 13 percent (as of August 10, 2016) against the US dollar and other currencies. And it continued to fall.
A tourism boom, fed by the sudden depreciation of the pound, followed close on the heels of the Brexit vote. Hotels, attractions, destination retailers and other attractions reported land office business in July. The Tourism Alliance, a lobbying organization for UK tourism businesses, surveyed its members and found that there were 18 percent more foreign visitors to the UK in July 2016 than in the same month in 2015.
On August 11, 2016, Airbnb boasted a 24 percent increase in bookings following the Brexit vote and several famous department stores reported visitor spending up by as much as 20 percent.
Obviously, some people were quick off the mark to realize savings. But it's not too late.
The Numbers Tell a Story
The exchange rates between the pound and other currencies is volatile and changes daily, but the general trend is downward. The best way to get a grip on what that means for you in real money terms is to take a snapshot of a moment in time to see what you might save.
The day before the Brexit vote results were in, June 23 2016, the pound was worth $1.4815. By the very next day it had dropped by more than 6 percent.
On August 10, 2016 (our snapshot moment) the pound was worth $1.3037, a drop of 12 percent.
At the same time, the average price of a standard double hotel room in London was £135. A 10-night stay in or near London in an average room would cost £1350.
Before June 23, the price of that room in US dollars would have been $2,000. On August 10, our snapshot moment, the same room would set you back $1,760, leaving an extra $240 or about £185. That's enough for an extra night at your hotel with £50 to spare
Let's see what else you can afford with the £185 you've saved.
Lunch for Two in One of the World's Top 50 Restaurants
Every year, about 1,000 foodie experts - chefs, restaurateurs, food writers, critics and well traveled gourmets - vote to choose a list published as The World's 50 Best Restaurants.
In 2016, two of them are in London and, with your extra £185 you could have a first class lunch with wine in either of them.
The Ledbury, number 14 on the list in 2016, specializes in modern British cuisine served in a sophisticated atmosphere. Besides being on the 50 Best list, Brett Graham, chef patron of the Ledbury also has two Michelin stars. For £50 each, the two of you could have the set menu of four courses (hand dived scallops, ceviche, cold poached salmon with basil cream, jowl of pork with kabu turnip, walnut miso and crackling) and still have £85 left over for some really special wine. Or, you could afford the set lunch with wine pairings for £90 each and still have £5 change in your pocket. The Ledbury, in Notting Hill, only takes telephone reservations (+44 (0)20 7792 9090) and starts taking reservations two months in advance.
At number 26 on the list, The Clove Club achieved the distinction of entering the list as the highest new entry in 2016. The restaurant started out as a supper club hosted in a London flat by its owners Daniel Willis, Johnny Smith and one Michelin star-chef Isaac McHale. Now it's in the impressive 19th century surroundings of the former Shoreditch Town Hall. The atmosphere is casual - with an open kitchen and diners left to pour their own wine without a lot of hovering by the servers - but the cooking most definitely is not. The restaurant aims to serve lesser-known British ingredients in interesting ways - roast Cornish pollock with carrots, seaweed and orange butter, Yorkshire suckling pig with South Indian spices, Amalfi lemonade and Sarawak pepper ice cream. For £65 each, you can lunch on the five-course set menu and have £50 left over for a special bottle of wine. Or - if you don't have a big appetite, you can spend considerably less on three courses from the a la carte menu. Booking is through their website and there is a ticketed charge that is deducted from your final bill. At lunchtime, you could take your chances and just show up as they still accept walk-ins when they are not too busy (though entry to the World's Top 50 list could soon put an end to that).
Several More Paid Attractions
London has so many free attractions that most people limit themselves to only one or two paid attractions. But with an extra £185 you could add:
- A visit for two to Buckingham Palace...£42
- plus a visit for two to the Tower of London...£46.20 (if purchased online)
- plus a flight for two on the London Eye...£42.20 for standard Saver Tickets purchased online.
- plus the View from the Shard...£51.90 when purchased in advance, online.
All of those, together, add up to £182.30, leaving you enough change for at least a couple of bottles of water.
A Special Out of Town Day Trip
If you've ever had a quickie tour and wondered what life was really like inside those chocolate-box pretty cottages you whizzed by, the Secret Cottage Tour is how you might want to spend your £185 windfall.
This is a six-hour custom tour of the Cotswolds in a seven-passenger (plus driver) minivan. The tour takes you to the villages, views and shops known only to the locals while the driver, also a local, shares all kinds of insider information and gossip. The secret cottage the tour is named for is actually the company owners' own home. And not only do you tour it, you stop there three times in the course of your day - for morning coffee with pastries, a buffet lunch and a traditional cream tea.
The tour costs £85 per person, including all meals and refreshments. You just have to get yourself to Moreton-in-Marsh station where the tour begins. The off peak advance fare (in 2016) could add as much as £98 to your day (£49 per person). But, if you use the National Rail Cheapest Fare Finder and you are flexible about timings, you could actually score a round trip fare of £12 per person (when purchased as two one-way tickets of £6 each), or just £4 over your £185 of found money.
If you do arrive early, Martha's Coffee House on the High Street, not too far from the train station, is a pleasant place to spend a little time.
A Moveable Feast on a Foodie Walking Tour of London for Two
Eating London Tours will introduce you to parts of London - and tastes of London - you might never explore on your own. The company's East London tour dips into some of London's oldest neighborhoods and introduces visitors to Jewish, Bangladeshi, French and very traditional London grub - best bacon sarnie in town, one of the oldest curry houses, fish and chips with London's seal of approval.
The company's Twighlight Tour of Soho takes you to sample Spanish, Basque, Chinese, Italian and Mexican food in London's most cosmopolitan district plus a stop at a real "gin mill" bar to sample London gin with a typical London pie.
The walking tours are small - no more than 12 people - and led by enthusiastic local guides who surround all that eating with terrific banter, behind the scenes stories and little known local history.
The East End tour is £146 for two and the Soho tour costs £168 for two. Either way, you'll have plenty to taste and remember with a bit left over for a few beers or some groceries to take home. You'd be surprised what food items you can bring back to the USA from London.
Some Posh Shopping
London has some of the most glamorous shops in the world. Your £185 of found money won't necessarily buy you an outfit at the famous Liberty near Regent Street, pictured here, but there's still lots you will be able to bring home from this wonderful store. Unusual European cosmetic brands, designer costume jewelry, lovely British knitting yarns and Liberty fabrics are all within reach. And the experience of shopping in a store founded by Arthur Lasenby Liberty in 1875 to resemble his dream of an Eastern bazaar is unforgettable for true shophounds.
Or head over to Piccadilly for a mooch around Fortum & Mason. This 310-year-old speciality store has Royal Appointments to practically everyone in the royal family. Their teas, honeys (from bees in London rooftop hives) chocolates, jams and preserves, mustards, shortbreads, crocks of Stilton are such post Brexit bargains that they've experienced a 20% increase in sales. Customers from the USA, China and the Far East have been dropping £2,000 to £3,000 in a single shop. Don't worry, you can leave Fortnum's with bags bulging full of gifts for friends back home with your £185 windfall. Fortnum's distinctive ceramic jars, packed with potted Stilton, start at £14.95.