Now that I’ve told you almost everything about our two weeks on the other side of the Atlantic ocean (except for, I guess, some of the lodging food, but that could still come up soon; not like, regurgitation, it’s long since digested, but like, I might still do a post on it), I want to give a little more information on how we made this trip work. We tried to find a balance between treating ourselves and pinching pennies, and one of the most common recommendations for visiting many major cities is purchasing some variety of City Pass that grants visitors access to multiple main attractions for a reduced price. I had used something like this in Chicago several years ago with my parents, and it seemed like a good deal then, but I was a poor college kid and my parents were paying for everything anyway, so it was all a good deal for me. Kalen and I decided to give the London Pass a try for our time in England’s capital.
Quick note: this is not an advertisement. Nobody’s paying me and nobody asked me to write this. I wondered about the cost efficiency of the London Pass and thought other travelers might be curious as well.
We purchased London Passes online well in advance of our trip after carefully looking through the list of attractions it included. A lot of the major things we wanted to see were included, and we also found several others that we either hadn’t known about or hadn’t been interested in before reading the description. Passes are purchased for a specific number of consecutive days (1 through 7 or 10) and while the pass is active, it can be redeemed for any of the attractions they partner with. We purchased the 7 day pass and activated it on the day after our trip to Stonehenge, so it was good for the remainder of our time in London with plenty of options to fill that time and enough wiggle room to account for weather and seeing things that weren’t included in the pass.
I’m not sure if Kalen had used a city pass anywhere else, but he voiced a valid concern before our trip: what if we spent a good chunk of change on this pass and everywhere we went, the venues just said, “That’s not a thing,” and we were out of luck? That would be pretty devastating. I’m pleased to report that that wasn’t remotely the case. Everywhere we redeemed our passes, staff knew exactly what to do without any hesitation and we didn’t have any problems redeeming our passes whatsoever.
The big question, though, was is the London Pass worth it? Seven-day passes aren’t cheap (catching one of their frequent promotions helped, but it was still a decent portion of our budget), and there were also things we wanted to see and do that weren’t covered on the London Pass. Every time we used our pass to get into an attraction, I did a little mental math trying to add up if we had broken even yet, or if we would. There were two major problems with this though: 1) I didn’t remember off the top of my head what we had actually paid for the passes, and 2) I’m pretty shit at math, especially the mental variety. So when we got home, I broke out the spreadsheet for some undeniable, indisputable data.
We ended up using our passes to see ten things, which I’ve listed below (and briefly reviewed here) along with the prices listed on each venue’s website for an individual ticket purchased at the door.
|Attraction||Price per Person|
|St. Paul’s Cathedral||£20.50|
|Shakespeare’s Globe Tour||£17.00|
|Tower of London||£29.90|
|View from the Shard||£28.00|
The regular price for a seven-day pass is £204, but they frequently run promotions for percentages off (we caught a 20% off sale) and actually paid £169 per person for the London Pass. If we had done our exact same itinerary but without the London Pass, we’d have spent £39.20 more per person. If we’d been less flexible with our plans and gone with the five day pass, we’d have saved closer to £65 per person. We also didn’t take advantage of the Big Bus tour that came with the Pass because other events in the city were disrupting the route. The Big Bus tour without the Pass would have been an additional £41 per person.
We also got a small discount in the Tower of London gift shop, but I didn’t include that in the calculations because reasons.
So was it worth it? In short, yes. For us, it was worth it. Because our trip was before tourist season really got into full swing, most lines weren’t very long anyway, but we didn’t spend much time in any lines. The London Pass does list a caveat for almost every attraction, though, that regular ticket holders have priority over London Pass holders, so if it’s spectacularly busy, you might not get in, or you might have to wait.
When I was in fourth grade, there was a lesson my teacher taught to the class that I don’t think was necessarily part of the formal curriculum, but it was one of the most important life lessons I learned in school, and it applies here: Even if something is massively on sale, if it’s not something you’re going to use, it’s not a good deal. So if you look at the list of attractions included on the London Pass and only one or two (or even none!) appeal to you, then paying for the London Pass (that you’re either not going to use or not going to enjoy when you use it) isn’t worth it, even if it’s half price.
For us, the London Pass definitely was worth it because there were at least ten attractions on it that we wanted to see (and most of them were more than just a few pounds). The value for any other given person is entirely dependent upon if the attractions included are attractions of interest to you. Luckily, these attractions all have very user-friendly websites where you can find ticket prices to put into your own little spreadsheet. And if it turns out that the London Pass isn’t for you, you can still save money by planning ahead, even just a little bit. For my spreadsheet, I listed prices for tickets purchased at the door. Almost every attraction has a slightly lower ticket price for tickets purchased online in advance, even if “advance” is 5 minutes before you walk up to the door. And even though we could have saved more by just booking a shorter pass, having a few flexible days to work around the weather and the cold that I ended up catching made everything less stressful and more enjoyable.
We also did things we might not have done otherwise, like Wellington Arch (such as we did), the Cutty Sark, or the Zoo. While Wellington Arch doesn’t charge much to visit, I might have been disappointed to pay for it and then not be thrilled about the current exhibit, but because it was included, it didn’t feel like a loss. Conversely, while I thought the admission price for the London Zoo was a little steep, I’m grateful that the London Pass sort of encouraged us to go anyway because I was so pleasantly surprised with it.
Have you used a London Pass or comparable city pass on any of your travels? Did you think it was worth it? Leave a comment and let me know!