Royal Wedding Hotels Sold Out? London's Secret Accommodation Options
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Go with a packager
Air-hotel packagers may have hotels available because they tend to buy rooms in bulk ahead of time, and their inventory is kept off the general market. Major airlines such as British Airways and Delta have their own vacation wings, but also check the indispensible Go-Today.com, which as of this writing is selling trips to London during the Royal Wedding, including flights and four nights' hotel with daily breakfast, for just $749. That's priced from New York City, but other gateway cities are available for a little more.
Investigate unfamiliar chains
Americans know all about Hiltons, Marriotts, and Holiday Inns, but they never think to check the affordable British brands because they don't know about them. Over the past decade, London's cheap hotel chains, which can charge a third what the familiar business travelers brands do, have exploded. Look into Premier Inn, Travelodge, Ibis, and Etap (which is cheapest of all, but often less well connected by public transportation), all of which have multiple locations around the city and are less likely to be booked out by your fellow Yanks.
Stay in Eastern London
Unnoticed by most casual American visitors, the eastern swath of London has grown in the past 25 years to be one of the busiest business districts in Europe, and with that distinction comes a bevy of affordable hotel rooms. Target searches around the ExCeL convention center and Canary Wharf, both of which are about 20 minutes from the City of London using the tram-like Docklands Light Railway.
Try out Olympics Hotels
More options are also springing up around Stratford, an area in northeast London that will be the hub of the 2012 Olympic Games, now under construction. Not all of the Olympics hotels are open, but some are gearing up, which means that for the next year, there will be a steadily growing glut of rooms in the area and not enough guests to fill them. Stratford is also connected to the City of London by the DLR, as well as by two additional London Underground lines.
Rent an apartment
Several companies make a business of renting "flats" to short-term guests, and many of them provide housekeeping services just like a hotel would. Check out Coach House Rentals, Outlet4Holidays (which has properties in Soho, near the Abbey), and Loving London Apartments. The French chain Citadines also runs hotel-like buildings full of mini-flats with kitchens instead of standard hotel rooms.
Borrow a B&B room
Despite the proliferation of hotel chains, the hospitality tradition is alive and well in London, and you can still find plenty of people who want to host you in a private room for a cut-rate price. These properties are generally in quiet residential neighborhoods easily connected to city by train. Some you'll have all to yourself, and at others, you get the added benefit of connecting with and being advised by a local who is excited to have you visit their home and their city. A few agencies with options to peruse: At Home in London (run by the personable Maggie Dobson), London Bed and Breakfast Agency (run by women and specializing in safe lodging for solo female travelers), and the upscale Bed and Breakfast Club (once known as the Bulldog Club). Prices drop steeply the farther you go from the city, so one of the cheapest options is Happy Homes, which finds visitors rooms for as low as $40 in the southwest of the city -- more distant, but always linked by London's public transportation system.