After six weeks of the school summer holidays being largely frittered away, thanks to a combination of work and bad weather getting in the way of halcyon days, I decided that the last day should be a doozie. The weather looked good, I wasn’t working, everyone loves a day in the capital: we’d go to London.
‘Feeling a bit flush are you?’ Husband snarked (unable to come too).
‘No, we’ll just do a cheap day,’ I reassured.
And that was the plan. Except then I made a fundamental mistake: I invited Eve along too. And she invited Indy. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t get to spend enough time with either of them, so it was nice. But it also made it so SO much more expensive.
The plan to do largely free things remained, but the train fares hoiked up instantly. I wanted to baulk when it came to £88.30! (£26.85 each for me, Eve & Indy, £7.75 for Boo. Thankfully Noodles and Teddy were free. And the cost covered return fares and unlimited travel on the Underground. But the individual will be important later.) And that was with a 1/3 off with a Family Railcard.
Total so far: £88.30.
First we headed to the Tower of London. Not to actually go in – it’s massively expensive and we went last year. But there’s an art installation of ceramic poppies around the Tower at the moment that I wanted to see. It was spectacular!
It was lunchtime, however, so we stopped for a quick bite to eat. A hot dog, bacon bap, cheeseburger and two ice creams from a stall: £14.50!
Total so far: £102.80.
There’s nothing better to do in London with kids on a sunny day than participating in some fountain splashing, so we headed to Somerset House. Except the fountains were switched off and the courtyard the scene for London Fashion Week preparations. D’oh.
The exhibitions largely seemed to be in a changeover phase, so we just made a quick stop at the gift shop. A birthday card for Eve’s boyfriend (which they charged me double for) and a couple of postcards: £9.50.
Total so far: £111.30.
The Underground and a buggy are not a great combination, as Eve was discovering, so from Somerset House we walked to Covent Garden.
Noodles wanted to go on a train though, whereas the rest of us were more inclined to shop. So we combined the two and visited the London Transport Museum gift shop. (We could have visited the actual museum, but again it would have been massively expensive – entry for a year is only good if you’re likely to make repeat visits – and again we’d visited about 18 months ago and it didn’t need a repeat visit.) Noodles chose a wooden Underground train for £7.99. No tantrum. Money well spent.
Total so far: £119.29.
Boo wanted to visit The Disney Store. Despite being 19, so did the twins! Boo chose a Sofia book and Eve coerced me into buying a Mickey Mouse for Teddy. £12.99 down (but the forgot to charge for the Sofia carrier bag – #win).
Total so far: £132.28.
At this point Eve realised she’d lost her train ticket!!! Luckily I had an Oyster card on me for the Tube back to Kings Cross. But it’d be another single fare to fork out for to get home. Argh!
Determined to splash in some fountains we then headed back to Kings Cross and visited Granary Square just behind it. Possibly our favourite place in the whole of London.
Boo and Noodles chased the fountains, getting caught out at times. (Unfortunate, then, that Noodles refused to change into his swimming things, so went home in soggy jeans.) But still the most fun hour of the day. And free to boot.
It was time to eat again before catching the train and Boo had requested a meal in Giraffe. One sandwich, two toasties, two portions of chips, four soft drinks, a fruit pot, two chocolate brownies and two milkshakes: £41.40! WTF?! Next time we’re en masse we’re sticking to McDonalds!
Total so far: £173.68.
And then there was the issue of the train ticket for Eve. Single fares are known to be a rip-off, so I was expecting to pay about £20. I may have literally choked when it told me ONE SINGLE FARE would be £33.10! We only live just over 100 miles away, not on the moon! I added the railcard…but I could only use it if I paid for a child too. Still, it brought it down to £28.45. Better. But still more than an adult return fare with travelcard! Shame on you, First Capital Connect!
GRAND TOTAL: £202.13!!!
So, really NOT such a cheap day out! Even when you do stuff that’s FREE, the word ‘cheap’ just doesn’t compute in London. Sorry, Eve and Indy, but next time you won’t be coming too. (I’ve calculated that the same day would have cost me around £85 without the twins.) Bank of Mum and Dad is going to have to get tough. If we want to eat or have a roof over our heads and all.
Yet in a way it was worth every penny. Go figure.