If you’re planning a London Family Vacation, you may be curious about what attractions passes are available to help you maximize your time and budget. Today, I’m reviewing our family’s experience with the London Pass.
Is The London Pass Worth It?
My goals with travelling are to show my child the most I can about a specific country and it’s culture; doing the “typical tourist things” but also diving deeper into the culture, visiting great restaurants, hitting up local festivals, and immersing ourselves in the culture as much as possible.
I always try to grab an attractions pass for a city, as it allows us to hit up the majority of the popular tourist attractions at a set (discounted) price.
When researching London, I found that there were only two passes available and both were offered by the same company – so decision making was easy and I didn’t have to spend a ton of time comparing different passes.
The passes are structured completely differently, which allows you to pick the pass that best suits your travel personality.
The London Pass
The London Pass is best if you are a structured, itinerary-following traveller who wants more options and will maximize use of the pass in a set number of days.
You get 80+ attractions included and the price is determined by the number of days you choose to have the London Pass active for. Prices start at £75 for 1 day up to £199 for 10 days.
Keep in mind that some of the attractions (Windsor Castle, Royal Observatory Greenwich, etc) are located out of town so those options would be better if you opt for a longer pass. If you opt to buy the London Pass with a travelcard add-on, travel to out-of-town destinations is included in your pass, which is a big bonus.
The London Pass suggests an example 3-day itinerary here that shows you how to fit 10 attractions in (along with stopping for meals).
London Explorer Pass
The London Explorer Pass is best if you want flexibility with time, and have a set number of attractions that you want to hit.
You get 30 days from the first activation to use the pass, and the pass is priced at £64 for 3 attractions, £94 for 5 attractions, and £114 for 7 attractions.
We opted for the London Pass, but I think the London Explorer Pass may be best if you haven’t travelled extensively with your kids and don’t quite know what to expect!
Our Day with the London Pass
As we only had a handful of days in London before starting our UK road trip, we selected the one day option with the London Pass.
We set out to maximize the day by hitting the attractions that we were most interested in. We were able to fit 5 attractions into our day, starting out at 9am, stopping for a delicious lunch at Kym’s and finishing our day just after 6pm. We could have easily fit another attraction in after supper, but it was storming pretty heavily so the attractions we would have been most interested in checking out (Tower Bridge Experience or Hop-On, Hop-Off bus) wouldn’t have been that awesome in the rain.
We set out just after 9am and arrived at the Shard just before 10am. (Most attractions don’t open before 9:30am.)
We went through security and scanned our passes in exchange for paper tickets and were on our way!
Europe’s tallest skyscraper at 1016 ft high, The Shard (formerly London Bridge Tower) provides unparalleled views of the city. Your London Pass gets you standard entry but unlike many other similar experiences we’ve had in other cities, I appreciated that the Shard doesn’t make you wander through exhibit after exhibit before you can reach the elevators.
The best time to visit is between 10am and noon – and we had no lines! The crowds weren’t bad (as you can see in our pictures) and we were able to soak in the views and get our pictures quicker as a result.
Every single side of the Shard offered views of iconic London landmarks, so each side is worth a visit (and it’s not a pain if there are crowds because you still have good views no matter where you are).
There was a lounge area with open air that you could sit in and relax a bit before beginning your descent. They also had snacks and a full bar on hand.
The Shard is a short walk to many other must-see London attractions, including the Tower of London, which is where we headed next.
Tower of London
Here is where we started to experience the craziness of London lines!
Since most attractions make you go to the main ticket counter to scan your pass in exchange for a paper ticket, I thought that was necessary here. Learn from my 35 minute mistake! You can simply walk in to the Tower of London and show your London Pass on your phone.
There is so much to see at the Tower of London, but since I had been before I just let Ella and our friend Jen decide where we would spend our time. And they both agreed: they wanted to see the Crown Jewels!
The Crown Jewels area is photography-free and the line can get massive. If it’s a priority for you, definitely do it first when you arrive. When we got there, the line was about 10-15 minutes, but by the time we left around noon it was almost an hour long.
Other highlights of the Tower are the former royal residences and those infamous prison cells.
We had lunch reservations for 1pm so we headed out for Kym’s.
Lunch reservations are definitely highly recommended on weekdays as this is a busy business area, but I found that many of the restaurants that I wanted to eat in required a deposit along with the reservation, so if you don’t want to deal with that, there are plenty of delicious grab-and-go options. London has one of the best restaurant and quick dining scenes at the moment, so you will be spoilt for choice.
We had a delicious and leisurely lunch (honestly, some of the best Chinese food I’ve had outside of China) and were well restored to head back out to the next adventure!
However, if you really wanted to make the most of your London Pass day, I’d recommend a packed lunch and saving restaurants for your more leisurely days.
Thames River Boat Cruise
A great option after lunch (or to enjoy your packed lunch on), the Thames River Boat Cruise is a leisurely cruise down the Thames River with a witty guide and great photo opportunities. Some of the attractions you will pass by include:
- Houses of Parliament
- Westminster Abbey
- Big Ben
- The London Eye
- The Tower of London
- Tower Bridge
- Shakespeare’s Globe
- Tate Modern
- Cutty Sark
- Canary Wharf
- HMS Belfast battle-cruiser
- Millennium Footbridge
If you stay on board for the whole duration, it’s about 3 hours, but there are 4 locations (Westminster Abbey, London Eye, Tower Bridge and Greenwich) that you can hop off at and rejoin the cruise at your leisure.
Your London Pass includes admission to Westminister Abbey and Tower Bridge (a couple of experiences here) so we got off at Westminster Abbey and allowed my friend to take the tour as Ella and I stretched our legs nearby.
We finished off the day at this Royal Residence of Prince William and Duchess Kate. Ella is obsessed with the royals so this was a highlight for her, and it’s perfectly located beside the amazing Princess Diana Memorial Playground (hands down, Ella’s favorite playground ever).
Ella loved being able to see all of the royal history and exhibits, and the tour guides were incredibly fun and energetic. There were some hands-on exhibits that would be good for entertaining kids less interested in the royals.
After touring the residence, we hit up the very reasonably priced gift shop and there is a gorgeous pavilion nearby where they serve afternoon tea. (The pavilion was closed when we visited but we had afternoon tea in the temporary structure.)
After this, it would have been great to check out the Hop On, Hop Off Tour Bus, but we opted for supper and shelter from the rain.
Overall, I liked how the pass encouraged us to make the best use of our day and we were able to fit so much in!
Is the London Pass Worth It?
In retrospect, we probably should have brought a packed lunch and not spent over an hour of our day in a restaurant. We could have fit in the Tower Bridge Experience or maybe even popped into London Zoo had we not, but I 100% do not regret dining at Kym’s!
Doing the math, while obviously the one day pass is going to have the least value (or “bang for your buck”) I still saved £16 on my admissions and my friend saved £37.50 on hers! If we had done a longer pass and experienced more attractions, my savings would have been even more. I would definitely plan which attractions you use your pass with based on the admissions of the specific attractions you’d be visiting, keeping in mind travel times between locations.
If you’d want a less structured, or less busy day, the London Explorer Pass may be a better option for you!