I'm 26 & This Is How Much I Spent On My Solo Trip To London

Welcome to Travel Diaries, a Refinery29 series where we tag along as real women embark on trips around the world and track their travel expenses down to the last cent. Here, we offer a detailed, intimate account of when, where, and how our peers spend their vacation days and disposable income: all the meals, adventures, indulgences, setbacks, and surprises.
This week's travel diary: A 26-year-old project manager goes to London and a small seaside town in England to catch up with friends.
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Age: 26
Occupation: Project Manager
Salary: $98,000
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Trip Location: United Kingdom: London, Woll and Lulworth
Trip Length: 7 days
Annual # Of Vacation Days: I get 17 PTO days but these are flexible so I’m really fortunate to have a set up like this. However like all things, it does have its downfalls too, like having to work weekends occasionally.
Costs: On the way there I fly from JFK to London. This is part of a larger trip for me so I fly to France at the end of this trip instead of flying back to NYC. My flight was $444 roundtrip. I’ve now decided that 444 is my lucky number.
Total: $444
Costs: I stayed in a number of places this trip. In London I booked two separate Airbnbs. My friends yelled at me for this because I could’ve stayed with any of them for free. But I didn’t want to intrude on their space and I wanted some alone time. I also stayed at a hotel in the countryside for my friend’s wedding. The first Airbnb in London was $44.27 and the second was $304.29. My hotel in Wool was $218.
Total: $566.56
Miscellaneous pre-vacation spending: I am a frequent traveler so I didn’t have to buy much to prepare for this trip. I did get my eyebrows threaded and tinted to prepare for the trip. This only came to $15 with tip as I got them threaded for free. Thank you loyalty program!
Total: $15

Day One

6:30 a.m. – I get up after hitting snooze a few too many times and get started with my day. I leave for vacation today and cannot be any more excited. I don’t fly until 10:00 p.m. but I have a lot of last-minute things to do so I’m working from home today. I shower and throw some comfy clothes on then head to my kitchen to make a smoothie. Today I throw in some almond milk, spinach, flax seeds, honey, strawberries, bananas, and some blueberries and sip on that as I start up my computer.
10:00 a.m. – The morning seems to be flying already as I try to wrap up some work items and add to my handover document that I will review later on with my team. While working I start to review the stuff I have in my suitcase and start taking out some things as I am a habitual over-packer. I somehow convince myself that I’ll make two outfit changes a day. Ridiculous, I know, lol. I take out quite a bit and my suitcase is still so full. While doing this, I also create a pile of clothes that I will take to Goodwill when I get back. Whenever I do a purge of my closet I end up donating so many clothes. I am happy they are going to a good cause but I make a mental note to find local organizations that accept clothes. Multitasking is going to be key today.
2:00 p.m. – I skipped lunch for now and I jump on a handover call with my coworkers. I have a lot going on right now at work so my handover document is quite crazy. I always like to have a call to go over everything instead of just sending a long email for people to cover. It is the least I could do and will benefit me in the long run. I take some notes while on the call and then send out the final email and copy in my manager. I am very lucky to work with a team that I get along with really well and we always look out for each other without hesitation. This has not always been my experience.
5:00 p.m. – I put on my automatic reply and log off for the day. Now that work is over, I focus on triple checking that I have everything ready for the trip. Although I travel often, I am convinced that one day I will arrive at the airport and realize I forgot something like my passport or wallet. I get everything together and sit it by the door for later. My roommate comes home at about 7:00 p.m. and we chat about my trip for a while and catch up on each other’s week.
8:00 p.m. – I call an Uber ($37.57) and head to the airport. I should arrive about 8:40 p.m. which is perfect for me. I hate waiting around in airports so I try to get there with just enough time to drop off my bag, get through security, and board. My friends hate me for this and many of them refuse to go to the airport with me because I cut it too close. In my defense, I have never missed a flight. I get to the airport and there is a short line for the bag drop. I go through expedited security (thank you airline status) and stop for a bottle of water ($5.19). Does anyone know why airports charge so much money for water? I cannot imagine how much money I spend on water in airports per year. Hello capitalism. $42.76
10:00 p.m. – I board the flight and luck out with an empty seat next to me. I put on Aquaman and get comfy. I am one of the few people who doesn’t enjoy meals on flights so I kindly ask the attendants not to wake me for snacks and food. I barely remember taking off and I am off to sleep.
Daily Total: $42.76

Day Two

9:30 a.m. – I was in and out of sleep the entire flight but finally I’m up for good and there is just thirty minutes left until landing. I take a few pictures of the view to post later and start to get my stuff together. I have a travel blog that very few people know about and I post travel content on my Instagram. I get off of the flight and head to immigration. They have upgraded their technology and all you have to do is scan your passport, take a quick picture, and head to baggage claim. While I wait for the baggage to come, I go over to the ATM to take out some cash. I used to live in London and I kept my bank account open. I cannot for the life of me remember my PIN number so, no cash for me. Luckily I bought a flight with it a few weeks ago so I know I have the right card. I go get my bag and head to the train.
10:30 a.m. – Usually I’m not too worried about costs on vacation but the difference and convenience of taking an Uber versus the train doesn’t vary much. I buy a one-way ticket to London Bridge and head to the platform. The train ride is about forty-five minutes. I have phone service internationally with my plan so I send a note to my Airbnb host and let them know I will be there in about an hour and a half. I start chatting to a lovely older woman on the train and give her some tips on what to do while in town. I help her with directions to her hotel. A few more stops and I get off of the train. $17.81
12:00 p.m. – I get off at London Bridge and start walking to the bank that is near my Airbnb. I get to the bank and explain the situation. They tell me that they have a policy that they cannot tell me my PIN and they can only mail it. How unhelpful. This is super frustrating but luckily I can take out cash with them. I send my pin to a close friend’s house in London and withdraw some cash. I happen to be across the street from my absolute favorite market in London (Borough Market) and head to my favorite vendor and pick up a tomato and feta cheese focaccia bread. It is just as good as I remember! $2.50
12:30 p.m. – I get to my Airbnb and am greeted by my host, who carries my suitcase up five flights of stairs. I make a mental note to pick up a treat for him when I leave. I am extremely tired but I want to get myself adjusted to the time change as soon as possible so I stay up and make plans to meet up with some close friends that live here. I shower, get dressed, and I am out of the door.
2:00 p.m. – I head to the tube station and top up my Oyster card ($15.00). I get on the train and have a twenty-minute journey. I get off of the train and my friend is waiting outside of her car. It has been about a year and a half since we last saw each other. We get in the car and head to her house. When we get there, I am greeted at the door by her adorable puppy that she got last year. We hang out there for a while then head to a park to take advantage of the amazing weather. We are headed to Primrose Hill, one of my favorite parks in London. We play fetch and walk around for a few hours. Her girlfriend meets up with us after she gets off of work and we head to the pub for some drinks. They buy the first round and I cover the second round ($27.00). You know you are true friends when you don’t see each other for years and pick right back up effortlessly. $42
6:00 p.m. – We have a reservation at this amazing Greek restaurant. We order a spread of appetizers including hummus, olives, and tzatziki. I get a lamb and veggie dish and finish the meal off with a traditional pastry filled with cream and drizzled with honey. The bill comes and they cover it. My friends are so generous. They drop me off at the tube station and I head back to my place. I am constantly nodding off on the ride. How embarrassing… Thanks jet lag. I get off of the train and pick up some kombucha for the morning, a bottle of water, and some liquid soap. I walk ten minutes back to my room. I shower again and head to bed. I am asleep by 10:30. $6.36
Daily Total: $68.67

Day Three

3:30 a.m. – It is Friday, I am wide awake and am very confused about how it is only 3:30 a.m. I feel like I have been sleeping for such a long time. I drink some water and try to go back to sleep. After tossing and turning for two hours I fall back asleep.
9:00 a.m. – I wake up, shower, and get ready for the day. I head back to the market this morning and get another feta and tomato focaccia bread ($2.50), a brownie for my hosts ($2.50) and rosemary focaccia bread ($2) for my hosts. I also pick up a roast pig wrap ($7) and a fresh squeezed cranberry lemonade ($2). I walk back to my Airbnb and give my host the treats I picked up for him. He is very appreciative and we chat for a while. It turns out that he is a musician on one of my favorite Netflix shows. He has a show in NYC that I will go to. It can feel like such a small world sometimes. $16.00
12:00 p.m. – I head out and flag down a black taxi. I take it to Waterloo station to catch my train to Wool ($8.20 with tip). I go to the ticket kiosk and get a roundtrip ticket ($70.10). I catch the 1:00 p.m. train and it is two and a half hours. I fight sleep the entire time but really enjoy the countryside views. It is so nice to be out of the city and surrounded by nature, even if only while on a train. I am headed to my friend’s wedding in the south of England and I am so excited. $78.30
3:30 p.m. – I get off of the train and try to find a taxi. This is a super rural town so there is no Uber. A taxi driver says he will come back for me in 15 minutes. Half an hour later I decide to call another company. The original taxi driver comes back and apologizes for leaving me stranded. My taxi arrives and I am on my way to my hotel. I arrive to the most quaint village with absolutely no cell service. I am so excited to be here. I get my bag and start walking to my hotel. I literally walk next to this woman and realize it is one of my friends. We squeal in excitement and stand there talking for twenty minutes. I tell her I will meet her at the beach once I settle into my room. I go check in. This is the cutest boutique hotel with a great view of the coast. $20
4:30 p.m – I head out to meet my friend E, and I stop for some ice cream and get two scoops. This village has a gift shop, two hotels, one pub, and ice cream shops. I head to the beach. I make a rookie mistake and wear sandals. I spend ten minutes shaking rocks out of my sandals while walking to my friend. Rocks on beaches instead of sand is one thing I can never get used to. We sit on the beach for a few hours, take pictures and catch up. We head out around 6:00 p.m. $3.50
6:30 p.m. – I get a mango mule ($7) at the hotel and sit out on the deck. I look over and see some friends who are in town for the wedding too. I join them at their table and we catch up since we haven’t seen each other in at least three years. We have a dinner with the wedding party tonight at 7. We change and head to the restaurant. We realize there was a mix up and we don’t have a reservation. We talk to the staff and manage to get an area of the restaurant. We spend the rest of the night drinking and eating celebrating our dear friends. I order fish and chips, an aperol spritz, and lemonade for the bride ($15 with tip). My friends end up covering the bill for everything else and I’ll return the favor at some point this weekend. $22
11:00– We get kicked out of the restaurant since they are closed and we all head back to our hotel. I get in, shower and call it a night by midnight.
Daily Total: $139.80

Day Four

9:30 a.m. – Today is the wedding and I know my friend will be the most beautiful bride. I sleep in a bit then head downstairs for breakfast. I get apple juice, fresh fruit, a bacon sandwich with avocado and a piece of toast with strawberry jam. This is included in my hotel rate. I head back up to the room to get ready and pack a small bag for the day. Catch a taxi to the venue at 11:40. $10
5:00 p.m. – I am having the best time at the wedding. I reunite with so many old friends and I can’t help but cry when I see my friend walk down the aisle. Wow so many emotions, lol. They have the whole day planned for us. They have two multi-course meals, fireworks, a BBQ, cocktail hour, games for us to play, and a dance party. This wedding is epic! We dance and drink the night away and all leave the venue at midnight. My taxi ($10 with tip) arrives to take me back to the hotel. The stars are extra bright tonight so I spend the ride looking out the window in awe. I am in bed by 1:00 am. I’ve had such an incredible day. I am so thankful to have met such incredible people while living in London a few years ago. $10
Daily Total: $20.00

Day Five

9:00 a.m. – I wake up after hitting snooze a few times. I’m a little foggy after drinking so much at the wedding. I head down for breakfast. This morning I get a toasted English muffin with avocado, tomatoes, and a side of bacon, and orange juice. This is covered in my hotel rate. Why don’t more hotels do this?
12:00 p.m. – I get my bags packed because I head back to London today. I get a taxi back to the train station where I meet the most lovely lady from France and we chat about life until the train arrives. Halfway through, a family with two young boys get on. The boys yell, argue and cry the whole way. The parents say nothing to them despite everyone staring at them. No baby fever here. $20
3:00 p.m. – I get off the train and go to a grocery store inside the station. I stop for some snacks including chips, popcorn, and two cocktails in a can. These are my favorite and America really needs to catch up. ($7.23) I know cocktails in a can sound crazy but trust me they are good! I have a big bag so I get a taxi to my Airbnb. ($10) $17.23
5:00 p.m. – I make it to my new Airbnb and I am exhausted. Jet lag is hitting me hard. I go sit out on my balcony for a few hours and do some reading while nibbling on some snacks. I’m too tired to go get anything to eat so no proper dinner tonight.
9:00 p.m. – I rotate between reading, listening to music, taking in the scenery, texting and watching Netflix. I’m in bed before 11:00 p.m. I toss and turn for what seems like forever before finally falling asleep by 1:00am.
Daily Total: $37.23

Day Six

4:00 a.m. – I wake up at 4:30 thinking it must be noon and it most certainly is not. Jet lag is really getting me this trip.
9:00 a.m. – I go back to sleep and wake up at 9:00 a.m. I’m meeting up with some friends today so one of them calls me and we solidify our plans. At 10:30 I get ready and head out to meet them at 11:30. I take the train and I’m there in 35 minutes. I keep forgetting that the tube doesn’t have air conditioning and it is so hot on this ride. I get off of the train thankful for the crisp cool air.
11:30 a.m. – I wait outside of the station for N and K to arrive. I look up and see them waving at me from the corner. We go to a huge park in the posh area of town where you can see all of London from the top of the hill. Today is a bank holiday for them so the park is buzzing and everyone is in a great mood. I wore an off of the shoulder jumpsuit today and the weather is a tad bit cold so I throw on my jean jacket.
1:00 p.m. – After walking through the park and playing with their adorable dog we head to the pub for a drink and lunch. We all got burgers and fries and I got a Pimms and lemonade to drink. They pay for my lunch although I insist on paying for theirs. We sit and chat for a while. K has a sweet tooth and wants to go across the street to a bakery for a treat. She grabs a small pastry, I get a donut and I order N a tea while she grabs us a table outside. I pay this time. $4.64
3:00 p.m. – We part ways and I head to one of my favorite markets in London. Camden Market is full of food, clothes, jewelry, and souvenir vendors. I’m a bit overwhelmed by the crowds so after a few minutes I decide to head out. I’m meeting a friend at 4:15 so I head that way. On the way I stop by another one of my favorite markets, Old Spitalfield Market and grab a treat for later from this bakery I used to visit often when I lived here. $4
4:00 p.m. – I walk to the restaurant that I am meeting my friend at. It is so good to see T. We can’t stop hugging, it has been two years since we’ve seen each other. We get there at 4:20 to find out that they have closed their kitchen for the day and the bar too. Bummer. We head across the street to try our luck at a sushi restaurant in one of the tallest towers in London. We luck out and get a table without a reservation. We order a round of drinks and various sushi plates and lamb chops. Our friend J joins us. We chat while we wait and it is so good to see T and J again! We pay and head out to the terrace for some pictures and more drinks. $43.25
8:30 p.m. – After numerous photo shoots, laughs and drinks, we head out. We all go to the same station and reminisce on how much has happened since we all met four years ago. I meet up with a friend for a quick nightcap at a pub near my place. We chat for a while and he covers my drink. I head back to mine and end up back out on the balcony. I head in to sleep at about 10:30.
Daily Total: $51.89

Day Seven

10::00 a.m. – I wake up and finally feel well-rested. Today’s agenda is shopping. I get up and ready to go.
11:00 a.m. –I head to Nando’s for lunch. The weather is great so I plan to eat lunch at the park at the London Eye since I haven’t been there yet this trip. I order a spicy chicken sandwich and some chips. I get my food and head to the London Eye. I enjoy my lunch with the best view ever. It starts to rain so I take cover under the bridge. Once it lightens up I take some pictures and head to the train. $9.29
12:30 p.m.–I take the train to Harrod’s, one of my favorite stores in London. I pick up some treats for home including some jams for my grandmother ($15), some shortbread cookies for myself ($6) and some wallets that I’ll give as gifts ($75). I head out and take a long walk through Hyde Park. This is one of my favorite parks here so I walk at an incredibly slow pace and take it all in. I sit by the pond for a while and think about how happy I am to be back in London. Maybe I will move back one day. $96
2:30 p.m. – I head to the high street. I stop in a number of shops and continue for the next few hours. I stop at Kiko for some makeup ($47.23) and pick up some shoes, jewelry, a shirt at Debenham’s ($78.19). I don’t know where I am going to put all of this stuff. I told myself I wouldn’t shop too much in London since this is the first leg of my trip. Oh well, this is what vacation is for right? $125.42
6:00 p.m. – I head to one of my favorite Thai restaurants looking like a bag lady. I order a mojito, wings, and spicy green curry. Delicious! While eating, I spend some time writing my travel diary in my phone notes. It’s nice to track everything. It keeps me aware of how much I spend. I head out and catch the bus back to my Airbnb. $38.31
8:00 p.m. – I am back and I immediately start to puzzle piece all of the items I bought into my suitcase. I have to wake up at 2:00 a.m. so that I can head to the airport for a 6:30am flight. I’m heading to France to do a road trip from Nice to Marseille. I’m meeting my friend Z there and I am so excited for the next part of my trip. I head to sleep around 11:00. I am already cringing thinking about waking up so early.
Daily Total: $269.02
How did you prepare for this trip?
The only part of the trip that I planned in detail was the portion that I was in the countryside for my friends wedding. They provided a list of hotels to look into for booking. Otherwise, I made sure to visit all of my favorite spots in London.
Did you use credit card points or miles to pay for parts of this trip? If so, please explain further:
I used some miles via British Airways to book my flight to London. The miles saved me $60. Everything else was a direct cost.
Do you have credit card debt as a result of booking this vacation?
I do not have any credit card debt as a result of taking this trip. I used money from my savings account for this trip. I use the app Digit to help save for trips as soon as I know one is coming up. It has been a great way for me to travel without going into debt. I set what they call a goal and move the money I’ve saved into my bank account about a week before my trips. I put all of my purchases on card and paid it off in full when I got back home.
When did you book? Do you think you got a good deal?
I procrastinated so much for this trip so I only booked my flight mid-April. This is very unusual for me as I typically track flights and book them well in advance. Other aspects of the trip were booked in real time.
What was your favorite part of the trip?
My favorite part of the trip was spending the afternoon at Primrose Hill with my friends. There is nothing like being at a park when the weather is perfect in London. This is the perfect place to take in the skyline and get out of the city center. You are allowed to drink in public in London so it is the perfect place to have a picnic and enjoy a few drinks while taking in the view.
What was the best meal or food you ate while you were there?
Eating the feta cheese and tomato focaccia bread from my favorite vendor in my favorite market would have to be it. It is not fancy at all but I’ve been to that market so many times that eating that brought back so many happy memories from when I lived in London. It is a must-get if you visit.
What advice would you give someone who is traveling to the same location?
My advice would be to make a list of things that you want to see before you come so that you can use your time effectively. Be sure to visit one of the amazing markets around the city. Ask locals what their favorite spots are. They are really friendly and will always point you to some hidden gems. Avoid black taxis and use Ubers but public transportation is great there. Try taking the bus so that you can see more of the city in between destinations.
Where were you located in the specific city and would you recommend staying in that part of town?
I stayed in the London Bridge area during my trip and I would definitely recommend it. It is very close to two major train stations: London Bridge and Waterloo. You can easily get out of the city at both of these stations and you can also get the tube in both locations. There is a short walk to all of the major bridges and even the London Eye.
Is there anything you wished you had time to do, but didn’t?
I wish I had time to go back to my old neighborhood. I always feel so nostalgic when in that part of time but I didn’t have time to go on this trip. I love seeing what has changed in the areas I spent a lot of time in while living there.
Do you feel like you were there for the right length of time? Would you have come home sooner or stayed longer given the chance?
I think I was there for the right amount of time. There is always more to see but I was able to hit all of the places that were on my list. I would tell anyone: you could see enough of London in three days but you could also stay there for ten.
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