Life, Travel

Budget Travel: London, Dublin, Keflavik

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It’s been about a month since we got back and I finally had a chance to write about our trip. Well, write period. Back in October, I got a new job. A job that keeps me very busy. On top of work, I’m still in school and taking extra coding courses. As of a few weeks ago, I’m back into training now that my wrist is almost 100% back to normal.

Anyway, Christmas was last year was fast approaching and I didn’t want to spend gobs of money on toys that my daughter would only play with once and forget all about it until I’m throwing it all in garbage bags to give to friends or donating to Goodwill. So I proposed the question, “Pick one. Gifts or Vacation.” And to my surprised, she picked vacation.

Even though we fly to Florida occasionally, it’s my home. So when we go we’re staying with family and living as locals. Now, I have been places, but for her… it’s always been Florida. And with the new job, it was a decent pay raise and I was able to afford a trip. Within reason of course. So after she decided on where she wanted to go, I began planning.

Originally the trip was only supposed to be Ireland. We’d go for a week and a half, drive around and see the sights. Then I realized it’s an hour plus flight from London to Dublin, so it turned into a week and a half in London and Dublin. With a nine hour layover in Keflavik. The overall cost of air, train, and hotel was just under $1,400. Here’s the breakdown:

                Flight from home to London: $376 total – WOW Airlines
                Flight from London to Dublin: $100 total – Flybe Airlines
                Flight from Dublin to Cleveland: $376 total – WOW Airlines
                Flight from Cleveland to home: $100 total  - United Airlines – Basic Economy
                Airbnb in London: $150 for 3 nights
                Hotel in Stansted: $77 for one night
                Train from Stansted to London: $40 total
                Hotel in Southend on Sea: $135 for one night (This was a last second splurge)
                Train from London to Southend: $40 total
                Airbnb in Dublin: $225 for 4 nights
                Taxi in Iceland: $50 total
                Museum in Iceland: $20 total
                Total: $1,349 total for 2 people

This was definitely an epic adventure for the two of us. One that started off extremely late on a Sunday. The flight wasn’t supposed to leave until about Midnight on Sunday. When we finally boarded, someone (not me) passed out the moment she sat down in the chair. I should have realized that was how the majority of the trip would look. Every bus, every taxi, every train. She fell asleep.

When we arrived in England, we landed at Standsted Airport. Which is about an hour from the City Centre of London. So instead of hoping on a train straight to the city, I booked a hotel right by the airport. The Great Hallingbury Manor Hotel. This was the first stop on our very long adventure. After travelling for almost twenty hours, we were exhausted. I needed a shower something fierce, and the kiddo was “starving”. Ok, in reality, she wasn’t. She ate a few hours prior but you know how kids are. After we freshened up we ate the on terrace of this hotel. Where the view was similar to home. Except, we don’t have a large pond in the back yard. Let alone a ton of ducks. The food was fantastic and the service, excellent. It’s a quick drive to and from the airport, which is where the train station is located. As we were checking out, I was talking with the hotel manager. Little things I found out about the hotel: it was originally a small house with a barn and it was built in 1646.

The next morning we got on a train to London. Now, I’m not going to lie. Carrying the luggage through the stations, up and down ungodly amounts of stairs, and walking long distances was not easy. It royally sucked. But we got through it without too many issues. Also, if you aren’t familiar with rail maps, it can be difficult. We made it to one stop and the map gave almost zero direction. Even the locals struggled with it. Once we got to the small hostel, yep it was a hostel, we freshened up and went out to explore. Stopping at Tower Bridge and wandering around from there. We even stopped for afternoon tea, thanks to Groupon.

Check to see if the country you’re visiting has Groupon. That’s how our lunches were paid for, I would have spent twice the amount if it wasn’t for Groupon. That includes tours as well.

By nine we were back in our room taking it easy. The place we stayed at was clean, tidy, well lit, and in a very convenient spot. Ten yards south was the bus stop, it was a five minute walk to the train, and there was a grocery store on the other side of the street. We didn’t meet any of the other people staying in the hostel, and the hosts lived in a different area. But were relatively close. Considering the price, it wasn’t horrible. Oh, and those going to England or Ireland for the first time, just so you know they don’t have air conditioning. After talking to locals, it’s really not necessary. They have maybe a few hot days a year, whereas we have months of heat.

The next morning, we were up early to hit up all of the stops on a tour bus. It started off at this amazing breakfast place called, The Breakfast Club. Best coffee and breakfast I had in ages! The owner was incredibly friendly and gave us some great tips. It’s a cute little place, not that far from London Bridge Station. Probably took us maybe fifteen minutes to walk to, mostly because we got lost. Thanks to the tour bus we were able to see Tower of London, Piccadilly Circus, Victoria Park, Kensington Gardens, and the Globe. Our last stop of the day was at Kings Cross. Someone is a bit of a Potter fan and wants something to remember the trip by. So, she got a Ravenclaw patch for her backpack.

Throughout the remainder of the trip in London we primarily took the bus. The moment we left the hostel, to Tower of London for the tour, Buckingham Palace, Victoria Park, and the London Eye. That evening, we were on a train to Southend-On-Sea. Where we stayed at the Roslin Beach Hotel. By far, our most favorite spot. Mine being the air conditioning as it was a bit hot that day, and chocolate biscuits for my daughter. When we arrived at the hotel, the water was missing from the beach. Boats were anchored but there was no water. Per the taxi driver, “the bay was unplugged.” Meaning low tide. Even the next morning during breakfast there was still no water. So we went out on a little adventure and walked across the street to the beach. If you end up going to this hotel, and do what we did, bring water shoes. The rocks kill the bottoms of your feet. Plus walking through seaweed doesn’t feel too hot.

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After breakfast and wandering around the local area, we made it to Southend Airport. Where we took a flight to Dublin. The airport is really small. I mean, really small. The planes don’t have actual terminals. I think there was maybe ten gates total. They had duty free shopping which really wasn’t that bad. We had to get some extra souvenirs for friends and family that we neglected to get while in London. I was honestly surprised that the prices were reasonable.

Flybe airlines was fairly reasonable in price. It was basic economy. Carry on’s were free, but if you sat at the back of the plane you risk the chance of your luggage getting checked in. The planes are small, like a Southwest plane. I mean, really small. And since there really are no terminals, you’re climbing stairs up into the plane. An hour later, we were in Dublin.

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Dublin Airport can be pretty hectic. When we had to go through customs, it was insane! The EU line was so long, it took at least twenty minutes to get to the end. But to get to the Non-EU line(because the US is non-EU), we had to get through part of the EU line. When we finally made it to the Non-EU line, we flew through.

If you travel with children and they have a different last name as you, make sure you have a copy of their birth certificates showing you are their parent.

Aside from the Roslin, Killbarack was my other favorite place we stayed. This was a house. A cute house, two blocks away from the train station. The best part was the family we stayed with. They were so friendly and helpful. Because of them we navigated the area really well. It was also because of them we discovered Howth. Growing up in Florida, I’m used to fresh seafood. Here, the prawns were amazing! The fish and chips even better. We had dinner here every night we were in Dublin. If you go to Howth, you have to go to Howth Summit. Eat at the Summit Inn and listen to their directions to the summit. “Take a left when you leave the pub and it’s a two minute walk up the small hill.” I’m telling you right now, it’s not a two minute walk up a “small hill”. More like a twenty minute walk up a monster of a hill. But the view at the top was wroth it.

Our time in Dublin felt short. But it was awesome. My daughter realized why I loved the city so much. It was no where near as busy as London, easy to navigate, the Irish are incredibly proud of their country and tell you all of the tales of what went on there. Her favorite tour guide was my favorite tour guide when I was there the last time. The last full day we were in Ireland we went over to Malahide Castle and the town of Malahide.

The next morning, the hosts helped us with our luggage and we were heading home. Both of us exhausted from the trip, we knew there was still another thirty hours to go. Nine of which were going to be spent in Iceland. The taxi we took, drove us past the Blue Lagoon, we didn’t have our suits or we would have tried to go in, then drove us to Viking World Museum. The museum is really small, but holds a lot of history. So if you stop in Keflavik and decide to go, you’re really only going to spend about an hour in that place. From there you can keep wandering around. Lucky for us, there was a small farm on the other side of the parking lot. Where we were stalked by a mamma goat and her babies. Almost got to pet the babies too, but then a two year old boy came out of nowhere and chased them away. A few hours later we were on a plane to Cleveland. A little recommendation. Don’t fly to CLE internationally. Getting off the plane is a nightmare! Plus the customs agents, not all of them, are incredibly rude. Made me realize we weren’t in England or Ireland anymore. Eight hours later, we were on a flight home.

Between England and Ireland, between food, souvenirs, transit fare, and taxi’s I spent about $700. Iceland was a different story. It’s so expensive there. I ended up spending way too much while we were there. For anyone who ends up going, if you eat locally it’s not nearly as expensive. But it’s still pricey.

Now that it’s been a month since the trip. I finally had some time to reflect on it. I wouldn’t change a single thing about it and I most definitely plan on going back. Especially when someone is a little older and not sleeping the whole time.

My entire teenage life, and part of adulthood, I always wanted to travel. And I don’t mind doing it by myself. But I was happy to share this adventure with my daughter. The cost of travel always derailed me. With a lot of planning you can make it possible. Here are my tips for cost savings:

  • Figure out when you want to go and when is the least busiest time. That way you can see more and not deal with lines. Wow Air has specials where you can fly anywhere and make a longer stop over so you can see the sights in Iceland.
  • Once the date and location is set, start looking into air fare. I purchased tickets about six weeks from the date we flew out. And the tickets to get home were purchased two weeks before we flew out. And always shop for one way tickets.
  • Take public transit as much as possible. London has a visitor’s oyster pass. Dublin has a visitor’s pass too. FYI the Dublin visitors pass can only be purchased at Dublin Airport. At least while we were there.
  • You will have to rent a room or even a couch to keep travel cheap. However, some apartments were available too. Where you wouldn’t have to share. Usually for $100+ more.
  • Make sure wherever you stay is close to public transit, less need for a bus.
  • Figure out what sites you want to see. Some cities have tour passes. Where you pay $100 for 2 days and you get into all of the sites. We used London Pass and Dublin Pass. Sign up for deals too. I was able to get 30% off total.
  • Utilize Groupon. Because of Groupon our lunches for the week were no more than $40. Afternoon tea came out to $30 for two days.

Now to figure out where to go next. Any suggestions?

* All photos were taken using my phone. Photos that are available for purchase will be posted in the shop at a later date. 


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Kristy Kronas is a Writer, Photographer, and Certified Personal Trainer in the burbs of Chicago. She is a single parent and author with a children's book almost finished! She has a passion for lifting, boxing, kayaking, and a hatred of running. If you have any questions, comments, or just want to say hi, shoot her an email!

* Looking for an artist. Please email kristy@kristykronas.com if interested.