Britain may end up being the most popular vacation destination this summer, and there’s no bigger event happening in the U.K. this year than the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. While it’s still months away, if you’re not actively planning your trip by now, you bloody well should be. So here are some tips to getting to the Olympics and back with your credit rating intact.
Where to Get Your Tickets: Think Outside the Box (Office)
Sole U.S. ticket distribution rights have been handed over to a company called Cosport and, as you might expect, the majority of tickets that are left (they’ve been on sale for nearly a year now) are about as costly as a marriage to Kris Humphries. The few reasonable offers are exclusive of flights or accommodation. A two-day package of beach volleyball and basketball plus hospitality starts at $1,278 per person while the equivalent package for volleyball and men’s boxing finals starts at $2,452. But unless you fancy paying more than $10,000 for Cosport’s ticket and accommodation packages, then it you may need to look elsewhere.
Many Brits are finding that they overstretched themselves in the ticket bidding process and are looking to sell them back. With a $31,600 dollar penalty for selling Olympic tickets on the open market, Brits are unlikely to be broadcasting their intentions on eBay. However, there’s a loophole that allows tickets to be sold to friends or family. Sounding out any U.K. contacts you have should be the first port-of-call, followed by regularly scanning the U.K. sections of Gumtree and Craiglists for potential opportunities. Some tickets are on offer already, and with a 1.3 million more British tickets to be released in April, more are likely to appear.
Where to Get Your Flights: Compare or Fly Elsewhere
Travelsupermarket.com (a site that compares flights from hundreds of companies to find the cheapest prices) shows Virgin Atlantic offering the best deals on flights. A round-trip from Newark to London Heathrow, leaving on July 26 and returning Aug. 9, came to just $804.44 (including taxes) while the next cheapest offering was $1069.60. It goes without saying that prices are only going to rise between now and the Olympics, so it’s best to book ASAP. If you do find yourself staring at prices of biblical proportions, then it’s always worth remembering that both Britain and mainland Europe are incredibly compact, so widening your flight search to say, Paris (where a Eurostar train to London takes just over two hours), could well pay dividends.
There are also numerous alternative U.K. airports you could try flying into, while nearby Brussels is less than two hours away on the Eurostar. Wherever you end up landing, be sure to make use of the handy London 2012 journey planner tool to find the best route to your final destination from anywhere in the U.K (and surrounding countries).
Where to Stay: Do as the Cockneys Do
Follow the example of London’s former natives and stay in the surrounding suburbs. Leafy areas like Essex and Surrey are less than 30 minutes away on the train but offer an aesthetic antidote to London’s concrete-clad landscape. And many hotels in the area are offering early deals. And for those absolutely determined to party away in the capital, there are a range of accommodation options. Websites like Crashpadder or Holiday Rentals, which boasts a special section for Olympic visitors, are great for finding spare rooms and apartments, while you can liberate a tourist-fearing Londoner by hooking up a house swap at HomeExchange.com.
And If You Can’t Get a Hold of Tickets: Go Anyway!
Several of the most exciting Olympic events, including the marathons and road cycling races, are free to watch. Plus, there will be huge screens (and even bigger parties) showing all the action at iconic London landmarks including Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park and Victoria Park. There are even events you can experience before the games begin (starting around mid-May) when the Olympic torch arrives on British shores, while early June promises to be a riot (the good kind this time) as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee sparks a raft of royal celebrations, including concerts, parties and an aquatic extravaganza on the Thames. Throughout the summer, dozens of free art and music festivals are scheduled in conjunction with the Olympics, providing the cherry on top of what promises to be a summer-long London party.