Last-Minute London Olympics Trips Don't Have to Cost All Your Gold

Jay Jones and other performers rehearse for the welcoming ceremony for the 2012 Summer Olympics. (AP)
Jay Jones and other performers rehearse for the welcoming ceremony for the 2012 Summer Olympics. (AP)

The 2012 Olympic Games in London are just around the corner, and tickets are starting to pop up on the black market. But you don't have to pay inflated prices -- or meet a shady character in an alley -- to partake in the festivities, either firsthand or at community viewing sites throughout the city.

With some know-how and advance planning, you can still hop the pond like a gold medal contender without spending all your green.

Didn't Plan Ahead? No Problem

Don't have your airline tickets yet? It's not necessarily a problem. If you're seeing fares a little higher than you're comfortable with, look a few days on either end of your desired travel date to find a better deal.

"As an airline, we really want you to travel with us," says Simon Talling-Smith, executive vice president of British Airways. "And if we've got a day where we've got more empty seats, and lower prices, then we really want to tell you about that. It's not something we want to hide."

Before you go, make sure you're taking advantage of the many free tools to help you plan and get around in London. Check out a free online tour book, or download a free London tube map app or PDF to your phone. And look into buying a London city pass for more savings.

Watch Larger-Than-Life Events

Unable to score tickets to see a particular event? George Murray, head concierge at the Four Seasons Hotel at Park Lane in London, suggests visitors take advantage of the large screens that are set up in Olympic Park. Plus, many of the pubs will also be showing televised coverage.

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You'll have several chances to see the Olympic torch. In the days leading up to the event, the torch relay will be under way. It will pass by many of the city's biggest attractions and be free to view (though there is a small admission fee for the finale torch concert).

A Team Sport

If you're traveling with kids to London for the Olympics, make sure you're getting the most value for your dollar by choosing a hotel that caters to the needs of families. Don't forget to let the hotel know, as you're making your reservations, the ages of your children, and any special needs you might have, such as a crib, or outlet covers, and ask if they provide entertainment packs for older children.

If you think you'll want to enjoy London's nightlife, ask about babysitting. Some hotels offer it free of charge; others will need additional notice. (Here are some other tips for traveling with the little ones.)

Learn a Few Key Translations

Lastly, Talling-Smith offers this advice to foreign visitors: Don't sound like the country cousin when you're visiting London. "Brush up on the Queen's English before you go, and understand what people in England say when our cousins in America say the same thing with a different word."

%Gallery-158812%For example, calling the sport "soccer" is a dead giveaway that you're an American. Instead, refer to it like a Brit and call it "football." A few other important ones to remember: "bobby" instead of "cop," "crisps" for "chips," and "chips" for "french fries."

Now, let the travel games begin!

Motley Fool contributor Molly McCluskey does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned. Follow her travel and finance tweets @MollyEMcCluskey.