Fashion magazines say it all the time: When building an outfit, find items to splurge on and save on the rest. The same can certainly be said for travel. If you have a pricey destination like London on your bucket list, don't be discouraged. When it comes to going on your dream trip, smart travelers know that where there's a will, there's a way.
When it comes to flights to London, you - and your wallet - could very well be in luck. Because London sees so much air traffic, it's easier to find a good deal on airline tickets. If your travel dates are flexible, consider making the trip outside high season, which can help you save even more.
Other than your flight, hotels in London will likely be your largest expense, so it pays to be a relentless comparison shopper. Luckily, the Web makes this easier than ever. With just a few clicks on sites like Travelocity.com, you can have a list of hotels, arranged by price, at your disposal - and you can be sure that you're getting the best available rates. Hotels are a particularly great place to find savings, if you're an active traveler who wants to spend most of your time away from the room. Not only will you be able to cut back on amenities like room service, but you can also look for hotels slightly outside the center of the city and find savings - just use London's famous Underground to get around.
Since hotels and flights generally take up the biggest portion of your budget, consider London vacation packages, in which hotel and flights are bundled to give you a discount. If you're looking for ways to stretch your dollar the farthest, the savings a vacation package offers can be a smart solution. It'll still be a splurge, but looking for ways to save on high-cost items will leave you with a bigger budget for enjoying the city.
Exchanging money in London is a necessity, but one you shouldn't take lightly. You'll put yourself in a better position to save money by researching ahead of time to find out where you can get the best rates. Many times, exchange bureaus in airports don't offer the best rates; downloading an exchange rate app to your phone will help you know the difference. If you plan on using your ATM card, make sure it (and your PIN) be compatible, and talk to your bank about international withdrawal and transaction fees.
London is a great shopping city, and there's little doubt that you'll want to explore the endless array of boutiques. Start out by window shopping, even making a list on your phone or in a journal of the items that you like. Then, on your last day or two, narrow down your selections so that you get items that you want without blowing the budget. This is also a great way to see if the fascination with a particular item really lasts.
Dining in itself is a splurge-and-save proposition. If you want to book reservations at the hottest restaurants, you've got a few options. Check to see if they do lunch - you might find lower prices during the day. Otherwise, if you want to go all-out for a deluxe dinner or two, keep your other food expenses low by doing a bit of grocery shopping and picnicking - Hyde Park makes a lovely backdrop.
A travel budget is all about balance. Know what's most important to you and splurge on those things, saving on items that you aren't quite so concerned about. With this philosophy in mind, you can travel almost anywhere and stay right on budget.