Everyone talks about how easy it is to travel from London to Europe.  And it is.  And, yes, you can get cheap fares and accommodations.  But I’m really talking to people who are past the dusty backpacker hovel stage, have children that they don’t want cockroaches crawling over, or have worked some years and don’t mind a little “luxury”.  If this is you, then read on.

Let’s talk about averages, because I think that is more realistic from a budgeting perspective.  Set aside at least 100 pounds for a return fare.  (I so have to learn to find the pound symbol on my Australian-bought laptop.)  You can get a fare less than that, though how much less depends on when you travel and how fare in advance you book.  Sometimes you pay more, especially if the destination is popular.  I recently searched for tickets to Athens and Prague, and they were definitely past the 100 pound mark.  NB. It could have also been the time of year I was searching.

By the way, remember to work in the cost of getting from your home to your airport of choice.  You might travel out of Luton, but you could spend 3 hours travelling to Luton, or having to pay for overnight accommodations, because that really cheap fare you bought flies out at 6.30 am, and there’s no way you can catch transport to get there in time.  (By the way, I have heard Luton Airport is a real hole, so don’t travel out of Luton if it’s not convenient.)

In terms of fares, we recently paid 16 pounds one-way to get from Richmond to Gatwick Airport by train, and two pounds one-way to get from Richmond to Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 by bus.  This is for the three of us.  By the way, with our train fares, we get it cheaper because we also bought a Family and Friends rail card.  Otherwise, the fare is 11 pounds per adult one-way to Gatwick Airport.  So, for two adults and one child, it’d be around 25 pounds.  What about things like the Gatwick Express, or Heathrow Express?  Well, you’ll need to do your research on its cost benefits.  It is convenient and makes it simpler to buy a ticket, and you do get to London fast. But I do think it’s a bit more expensive than the alternative cattle-class public train version.

Budget for accomodations at about 100 pounds a night, and up to 150 pounds if you have 3 travelling.  Again, you could get less, but we are talking about setting a working budget. And, also remember you do get what you pay for.  So, if you don’t like living in hovels, don’t look for accommodations that are priced too cheap.  It will either be dirty, noisy, or located very far away from touristy areas.  Remember your demand and supply curves.  Good value bargains are available, but remember “bargain” does not always equal “cheap”.

By the way, when you travel with three people, it’s also harder to find accommodation, as most places cater for two people only.  If they can cater for more, there will be a third person supplement charge, or you have to book into a triple room, which costs a lot more.  Doesn’t matter if it’s a child travelling.  As a result, I’ve taken to looking at the large hotel chains for accommodations.  They usually have bigger rooms, and have a house policy that children under 12 stay free.  The accommodation still isn’t any cheaper, but I get a better grade of accommodation.

Of course, the cheapest accommodation is someone’s sofa, so if you can get that – good on ya!

What about breakfast?  I am in two minds about it.  On the one hand, I like ducking out and sorting out my own breakfast.  Sometimes I feel it’s cheaper than what I get in the hotels.  On the other hand, if it doesn’t cost that much more, and you get a good hot and cold buffet (not just the continental stuff), it makes a very good substitute for lunch, and you can save money that way.  So, what I’ve done is eat a very big breakfast, a very light lunch and then a big dinner.

Ok, what is it going to cost for us as a family of three to our upcoming weekend trip in Paris?  About 600 pounds (AUD$1,200), not including spending money for extra meals and sightseeing.

So, cheap is cheap, but it does add up.