A day out in London with the kids doesn't have to break the bank. Enjoy free entry to some of the world's best museums and galleries, take advantage of free travel for kids, and eat in London's great value cheap restaurants, for a wallet-friendly, budget day out.
Morning: Enjoy London's Free Museums
There are a multitude of free and cheap museums in London, many of which are suitable for families with children of various ages looking to plan a family outing without spending unnecessary amounts of money.
Start with a walk down Exhibition Road to South Kensington's brilliant child-friendly museums. The Science Museum and Natural History Museum both offer free entry (apart from some temporary exhibitions).
London's Science Museum is packed full of fun family activities. The Garden, aimed at three to six year olds, is a multi-sensory area where children can explore floating and sinking, shadows and reflections, sound and giant building blocks. The Pattern Pod, a hands-on gallery full of multi-sensory exhibits, is ideal for older kids aged from five to eight.
Next door at the Natural History Museum, children can get up close to a terrifying T. Rex and find out how baby dinosaurs were born. Visit Investigate, the hands-on science centre for seven to 14 year olds, and touch geological specimens in the Earth Lab. Under-sevens will love the free-to-borrow Explorer Backpacks, which contain a safari hat, binoculars, drawing materials and an activity booklet. Choose from topics including birds, mammals, monsters, oceans and nature.
Afternoon: Explore London's Free Parks
London is well known for its urban green spaces and the free-to-use public areas make for an inexpensive start to your family day out.
Visit the popular Diana, Princess of Wales' Memorial Playground – which also offers free entry – where kids can climb the giant wooden pirate ship and explore the sensory trail, beach and teepees. If you have rollerblades, you are free to join skaters of all ages on the nearby Broadwalk.
Wander across Kensington Gardens to Hyde Park and the magnificent Serpentine lake. The Serpentine is home to a large number of birds, many of which are winter visitors to the park. You're likely to see ducks, geese and more exotic looking species such as Great Crested Grebes.
If the weather is nice and you're on a budget, take a packed lunch or picnic and eat it in the park. Alternatively, head to the Science Museum's indoor picnic area.
Evening: Discover Covent Garden's Cheap Restaurants
Catch the Tube to Covent Garden to watch the colourful street performers.
Mime artists, acrobats and bicycle stunt performers are among the regular acts that appear in the Covent Garden piazza and you can offer them your appreciation in the form of applause and small change.
There are loads of fantastic cheap places to eat in Covent Garden, from small cafes to classy restaurants.
Covent Garden is at the centre of the London burger boom, and kids will love American imports Shake Shack and Five Guys. Burgers here start at £4.75 and Shake Shack specialises in frozen custard shakes and sundaes, while kids will love the Coca-Cola machine in Five Guys, which has 125 soft drink flavours. UK burger chain Byron also has a Covent Garden outpost, complete with a kids menu of two courses for £6.50.
For the more adventurous child Wahaca offers Mexican street food in a lively atmosphere. Street food dishes start from £3.70, with main dishes from £6.85.
Travel Tips For Families On A Budget
Children can enjoy free or discounted travel on London's transport system. Older children may need an Oyster photocard. Visit the Transport for London website for more information. See our Budget London guide for more information on free London attractions, cheap eat restaurants and budget hotels to stay in.
- Dinner for two adults and two children – around £30
- Tube fare for two adults from South Kensington to Covent Garden using an Oyster card – £4.40, or unlimited travel for one day using two Zone 1 off-peak Travelcards – £17.80.
- Everything else – free!