Discovering budget-friendly options for Tampa to London flights opened my eyes to new travel possibilities. Here’s how you can find great deals and even enjoy a London layover without stretching your budget too far.
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If you can structure your time just right, you may be able to squeeze in some sightseeing at some of London’s top attractions during a 24 – 48 hour layover. It could be hard to choose with only 24 hours in town, but there’s so many options from a quick Harry Potter tour to visiting a Christmas market or taking the hop-on, hop-off bus around town. The flight itself doesn’t feel too long, right around 8 hours or so. Ok, that’s a work day, I know, so pick your times carefully and maybe you can even get some rest on the way.
Tampa to London Flight Options and Tips
Discovering the best deals for Tampa to London flights can be the ultimate win for budget travel. A key strategy is comparing fares from both Tampa and Orlando, as flying out of Orlando might save you about $100. January offers the lowest prices, but consider late November for a festive experience at London’s Christmas markets.
Keep an eye on airlines like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, especially during bonus periods for point transfers, which can significantly reduce costs. Utilize points smartly; for instance, a Virgin Atlantic flight could cost you 12,000 points and $150, a considerable saving from the standard fare of $717 per person. Stay vigilant for these deals to make your journey not only affordable but also enjoyable.
If you choose to go with budget airfares from carriers such as Norse Air, keep in mind that you may be charged for seats and baggage which could make your flight costs considerably higher. Carefully compare all of the costs of what you really need for your travels.
Prices for hotels and affordable flights from Tampa to London will be easier to find but it will be wetter and colder during this time as well. If planning well ahead, I highly recommend a visit towards the end of November so you can enjoy the Christmas Markets and beat the chilliest part of the winter season.
A great way to book and save is if you use points. American Express has occasional bonus periods for transfers to Virgin Atlantic or British Airways that can boost your transfer costing you less. It happens once or twice a year so you have to pay attention and be ready to book when it does. That method does take some research and preparation in order to move points and book successfully, so I recommend joining Travel on Points Facebook group for learning more and getting help with it.
Even if you transfer and just book because the dates are right and everything aligns well, you’ll still save cash so I consider it a win. For instance, I booked 3 tickets on Virgin for a total of 36,000 points and $450. At the time of booking which was 3 months before the travel date, economy flight deals would have cost a total of $2,160 for economy light instead of the better valued point redemption of economy classic. This meant extra value in additional baggage included, seat choice, and food choices. Using points makes international family travel a lot more budget friendly.
Preparing for Your London Trip
There have been several announcements over recent years regarding changes coming for US citizens traveling to the UK. Currently, you do not need a Visa but this could still change over the next year or so. Always go straight to the source to verify, that would be checking on the UK government site directly.
You should arrive ready to show your valid passport. Go through as a family, when you have kids visibly under the age of 10, you may be automatically directed to lanes for families. I like to keep all of our passports on me in an easy to tuck RFID passport wallet for quick retrieval. Keep in mind when booking travels that passport delays can cause issues so always renew at least 9 months before your intended travel dates.
If traveling during winter, expect to explore in chilly weather. You will need hats, gloves, heavy coats, pants, sweaters, etc. Some members of the family are naturally colder than others so be sure to pack accordingly. I have one kid that could walk around in shorts in freezing weather and another that needs a sweater if it’s warm with a cool breeze.
Knowing that I’m leaving sunny Florida for colder weather means our carry-on needs to have our winter wear so we can put it on easily and not have to look for it. I use a compression bag to help make pillowy jackets a little more compact and use one backpack for all the jackets/gloves/hats. This keeps things simple and organized.
If I were going from cold weather to sunny weather, I’d bring an empty bag to hold it all on arrival.
Arriving in London: From the Airport to the City
Working out the transport options seemed to be the most difficult at first. There are several airports that you could fly into and getting from one airport to the next isn’t always simple. Luckily, there are just as many transportation options as there are airports.
When booking connecting flights in London, there are some flights that connect in a different airport. Be careful that you watch for this and allow ample time for your strategy in getting from Gatwick to Heathrow or vice versa as the ground transport on that combination flight is not included. For a family, this could be a costly mistake.
Getting to the city’s center is easy enough depending on your budget, baggage, and how much time you want to spend doing it. My preference when traveling as a family to a place that we’ve never been to before is to book a taxi, private car, or Uber/Bolt. I like to compare each one and then go with whatever seems hassle free and cost efficient.
On arrival, we did use the Hotel Hoppa which is a ground transport that takes you to the local hotels surrounding Heathrow airport. The family cost was about $25 roundtrip and it wasn’t hard to find the pickup area or make our way with our bags. We used both the hotel Hoppa and Uber for our return to the airport because we needed to be at the airport early the next morning. Navigating public transportation options at 5 AM with kids is not the most fun so Uber was just what we needed.
There were several ways to get to the city center from our airport hotel but the simplest was to head back to Terminal 3 on the Hotel Hoppa and take the Underground. Terminal 3 also has No.1 Currency which is a great place to order currency online and pickup for your next International stop if needed.
Exploring on the Underground is much more fun after settling into the hotel and taking a short nap. You can easily plan your journey on London’s transport site. One of the best features is that you don’t have to purchase a transit card. You can simply use your google or apple pay on your phone as you go through the turnstile.
As long as you use the same card each time, it will reach the max for the day, often costing you less than any other option and the kids are free. The daily anytime cap for an adult varies according to the zones you travel through but includes a mixture of rail, bus, and tram journeys in a 24 hour period. For instance zones 1 – 5 for us, cost about $15 ea.
Top Attractions in London
London overflows with both iconic sights and hidden gems waiting to be explored. Some of the can’t miss Iconic landmarks like the majestic Buckingham Palace and the historic Tower of London, or the awe-inspiring Houses of Parliament stand as testaments to the city’s rich heritage. But art enthusiasts might want to visit the National Gallery and Tate Modern showcase of priceless works, free of charge.
London has plenty of secret spots like Little Venice, a picturesque canal area where you can take narrowboat tours that pass the London Zoo and Camden Town. You can even enjoy a show on a boat at Puppet Theatre Barge.
For serene beauty in the height of tranquility, head to the Hampstead Pergola and wander overlooking the views of Heath and Hampstead Hill Gardens. You’ll find more free things to do in London in the form of free museums, like the British Museum, or strolling through the busy markets of Camden and Borough.
And if you happen to visit in late November to early December, don’t miss out on the Christmas Markets. Leicester Square is right in the heart of West End, near Chinatown and proves to be a lively walk filled with the sights and scents of Christmas splendor.
Where to Find Budget Accommodations in London
While you can find plenty of cheap flights to London, staying in London will give you sticker shock that makes you rethink those plane tickets you just bought for a steal. If you want to stay near those iconic sites in central London, prepare to pay a hefty price especially at peak travel times. A little bit of flexibility and an adventurous spirit will mean a lower price and possibly some public transportation adventures.
Staying near the airport works out great if you are doing a long layover but it might be worth it even when you plan to stay in town for a longer period of time. Heathrow airport has plenty of family-friendly hotels and budget accommodations nearby and even a hotel shuttle. The shuttle is NOT free but the cost is minimal or you can always use Uber or Bolt as well.
My recommendations for 3 of the best family hotels near Heathrow London airport are:
Hyatt Place Heathrow: Offers comfortable rooms with either twin beds or a king bed which does require a family of 4 to get 2 rooms. Each room includes air conditioning and a mini-fridge. Guests can enjoy meals at the on-site restaurant, which offers a kid’s menu and room service, and a convenience store for snacks and drinks. The hotel provides parking facilities and the Hotel Hoppa stops right outside it as well as a regular bus stop.
Renaissance Heathrow: This hotel features soundproofed rooms with views of the runway, free Wi-Fi, and flat-screen TVs. Amenities include a fitness center, beauty salon, and the Market Garden Restaurant. The hotel also offers meeting and event spaces, is across the street from a McDonald’s, and if you are a Titanium Elite Marriott member, you can enjoy access to the executive lounge. Again, a family of 4 will need to book 2 rooms.
Hilton London Heathrow Airport: Situated in Terminal 4, it offers various room types, including queen bed or twin beds, and two-bedroom connecting rooms. Amenities include cribs or high chairs upon request, babysitting services, and on-site restaurants with children’s menus. It’s ideal for family stays with convenient access to the airport. Make your trip even more affordable when you use your Hilton Honors points.
Rates at the above hotels can be found for as low as $100/nt during the winter season.
Budget Friendly Dining in London
DIning in London has a bit of everything to offer all ages but if you’re trying to stay on the budget-friendly side, you’ll find classic fish and chips or trendy street food markets offering flavor for less. When you’re ready for an upscale dining experience, take your pick from a long line of Michelin-starred restaurants, such as Launceston Place.
Affordable Day Trips and Excursions from London
Popular destinations for day trips from London include the historic city of Bath, known for its Roman-built public baths, and the historic Stonehenge. Oxford and Cambridge appeal to architecture lovers. WIndsor castle is perfect for a peek into royal history. It’s very easy to arrange an excursion to these nearby sites by booking a tour online. You can also make use of the United Kingdom’s extensive train network if you prefer to wander on your own. Don’t forget to make use of one of my favorite places to find a tour, freetours.com has some amazing tour guides well worth their tips!
Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, and Bath from London (Reserve now and Pay later) from $123.47 per adult.
Stonehenge and Bath Day Tour from London (Reserve now and Pay later) from $122.17 per adult.
Cultural Tips and Etiquette
Saying please and thank you should always be without mention but in English culture, politeness is key. Waving or yelling at a server should be replaced with more of a private nod upon eye to eye contact or slight raise of the hand. Punctuality is of importance as well.
Here are 10 British English words that Americans might find useful when visiting the UK:
- Lorry: Truck
- Flat: Apartment
- Lift: Elevator
- Boot: Trunk of a car
- Biscuit: Cookie
- Chips: French fries
- Crisps: Potato chips
- Queue: Line
- Rubbish: Trash or garbage
- Petrol: Gasoline
- Final Thoughts
Whether you stop in London for a day or more, there’s a way to do it on a fair budget, even when you have to get multiple rooms for a family. With a little flexibility and finessing some deals, not only will you sleep well but you’ll wander hidden gems and eat well too.
If you have some insights to make a trip to London more affordable, we’d love to hear it! Be sure to leave your tips in the comments below.