Wander or Bust is an Elite Daily travel series that follows young women all over the globe to record their journeys as they experience the thrill of the far-flung and unknown.
They'll track their budgets, where they stay, where they eat and drink, and where they took that amazing Instagram that got them ~maximum exposure.~ The internet is full of travel advice, but none from women just like you. Read on for the tips no one else gives you, and when in doubt, get on the plane.
Here's Stacey Leasca's Wander Or Bust guide to London.
My Name: Stacey Leasca
What I Do: Freelance Journalist, Adjunct Professor USC
Where I Live: Los Angeles, California
Where I Went: London
How Long I Stayed: 6 days, 5 nights
My Spending Style: Occasionally indulgent. I don't throw money around, but I will definitely splurge on more than a few expensive things on a vacation. London can be a pretty expensive place, so watching your pennies (or your pounds) may be a good idea.
Where I Got My Recommendations:
This trip was planned in conjunction with American Express Travel. The local destination managers in London set up our itinerary, meaning it was all planned by an insider. Anyone with an American Express can access these fine folks to help them plan their travels too.
Exchange Rate At Time Of Travel: $1 USD = £1.2 GBP
What That Looks Like IRL: $50 USD = £60 GBP
Preferred Payment Method:
Mostly credit and debit. I tried not to take out too much cash while I was there so I could avoid foreign transaction fees. (If you travel often, I can’t recommend the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Preferred enough. Both come without foreign transaction fees.)
Phone Bill: $10 extra per day with Verizon’s data plan.
Mode of Transport: Airplane, direct from Los Angeles.
Price: $3,000 round trip — as I upgraded to first class on Virgin Atlantic.
Extra Costs: Taxis yes, but never extra bags. I refuse to check luggage. The two round-trips cost about $100.
Transport Total: $3,100
Accommodation: Ham Yard Hotel
Location: The Ham Yard is located in the Soho neighborhood of London. It’s fairly central and ultra-hip.
Extra Costs: None, unless you want to indulge in the hotel’s delicious room service, which I highly recommend.
Would I Recommend It To Someone Else:
Absolutely. The Ham Yard is in a great location, surrounded by trendy restaurants and shops, making it an ideal hotel destination.
Accommodation Total: $2,000
Breakfast-Lunch Cost: $50/day
Dinner Cost: $50/day
Average Total Cost: $100/day
Tip Situation: Yes I tipped, but make sure to check. A lot of places in London include a 12 percent gratuity, but you can always add in a few more pounds.
London is a food-lover’s mecca. On our trip we ate at Bocca di Lupo, Pollen Street Social, Hoppers, Duck and Waffle, and had tea at Sketch. Eating at any of these establishments is a must. Like New York, dinner and brunch are two great options, and of course, afternoon tea.
Favorite Restaurant: Sketch
While every single thing I ate on this trip was stellar, having afternoon tea at Sketch is something special.
Location: 9 Conduit St, Mayfair, London W1S 2XG, UK
Price: We went for Champagne Afternoon Tea, which runs around $97.
It’s a totally unique experience, highly British, and makes you feel like a princess. Having champagne, snacks, and an endless tea selection was certainly the highlight of the trip for me, especially because we happened to go on my 33rd birthday.
Food Total: $500
On our trip we went the bar route, but there are certainly clubs worth going to in London. My favorite bar was the Savoy, one of London’s oldest cocktail bars that also comes with a literal menu book a few hundred pages long.
What People Wear Out:
In London, it’s best to go a bit fancy. Go ahead and show off.
Average Cost Of A Pint: About $4-$6
Extra Cost To Know About: Taxis. There are Ubers available all over London, but be prepared to spend on them.
Last Call: ~2 a.m.
Average Total Cost Of A Night Out: $35
Cheapest Bar I'd Actually Go Back To: The Lyric
This was the cheapest bar I found that I loved; it was located directly next to the Ham Yard hotel. It was local, cheap, and exactly what everyone should experience in London.
Going Out Total: $120
What I Spent A Lot On That Was Totally Worth It:
The absolute coolest thing I did (which you can do too with a little help from Amex) was an after-hours tour of the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London. You can do this during the day, but getting to see all those gorgeous crowns at night with nobody else there was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
What I Spent A Lot On That Was Totally Not Worth It:
Nothing, truly. The itinerary only included incredibly cool things so everything was worth it.
What I Spent Little Or No Money On That Was Awesome:
I spent very little on a cab over to the Camden Lock market. It’s filled with food and clothing booths that are just waiting for you to explore.
Favorite Thing I Did, Regardless Of Cost:
My favorite thing had to be visiting Kensington Palace for a tour of the new Diana Exhibit, along with a tour of the castle itself.
Hidden Gem I Found:
There aren’t too many hidden gems in London anymore, however doing a street art tour in East London will yield some pretty awesome results, and some stellar Instagrammable moments.
The Photo I Took That Got The Most Attention:
This picture taken by Brian Cason on our East London street art tour. It was my first post ever to get more than 1,000 likes.
Excursions/Extras Total: $70
General Shopping: $130
Souvenirs: I brought back one of those very cocktail books from the Savoy I mentioned above. The bartender was kind enough to sign it for me and everything.
Souvenirs/Shopping Total: $130
Best London Hack:
If you’re new to London, make sure to download Maps.Me. It’s an app that allows you to use GPS locations without using your data. London isn’t the easiest place to navigate, but this app makes it easier.
Advice For Anyone Traveling Alone:
Go enjoy high tea alone. Leave your phone in your pocket and enjoy the scenery instead.
Total Trip Cost: $5,940
Worth It? Absolutely. London, and being fancy, is always worth it.