Personally, if you’re visiting London and are keen to have a relaxing experience while also experiencing the best of the city, following one of the free London itineraries you can find online might not be the best idea. Here’s why.
They’re often written by visitors, not a Londoner
When I’m on Pinterest I quite often see itineraries like “48 hours in London” or “What to do in London in 3 Days”, and when I look into who’s written them, it’s often by someone who visited London once, for a few days, and it’s the itinerary they happened to somewhat follow.
The problem with that is that visitors who only spend a few days in London don’t know the ins and outs of the city like locals do. A local can tell you how to avoid Oxford Street (which gets STUPID busy), when you’ll need some change for a public toilet, and which location of a restaurant has a better vegetarian offering.
I’ve lived in London for many years, so I know all of the small details that visitors often glance over, and I pass this knowledge along to my community, and have done so in my 3-Day London Itinerary.
Honestly… you get what you pay for. Many free itineraries are pretty basic and just walk you through some of the most “obvious” London sights, with a plan that could have been made by someone who’s not actually been to London but is just decent at operating Google Maps…
They don’t account for different tastes and budgets
Free itineraries are very linear, they don’t account for the fact that you can’t eat gluten, are on a budget, or don’t like museums. How enjoyable could following an itinerary that takes you to the National Gallery for three hours be then? Even if the itinerary is free, you’ll still spend loads of time doing research to fill in the blanks of the things you don’t want to do, see or eat.
I did the opposite with my 3-Day London Itinerary, from the start I created it with alternatives, so that people with different tastes, budgets and desired travel paces could all use it to the fullest.
You’re not getting a local experience
If you’re keen to experience the more local side of London, free online itineraries might not help with that. Quite often, they recommend a ton of major sights to see, without anything unique, and they also don’t provide locally-loved food options.
This is a big point… if you want to eat well when you’re exploring London, you need to know of places to go ahead of time when you’re in very “touristy” areas like Westminster, Tower Hill, and Leicester Square just to name a few. Those areas are chock-full of chain restaurants that are either overpriced or serve terrible food (or both.)
In between seeing some of my London’s most loved sights, I’ve recommended smaller, locally-loved things to do, as well as provided tons of great, hidden-gem food options in the 3-Day London Itinerary.
They’re hard to use when on-the-go
Online itineraries, well, they stay in the browser. So you either have to save the webpage to your phone, or write down the recommended itinerary, in order to follow it when you’re actually in London. The problem is getting from place to place. It will take you quite some time to open Google Maps and figure out how to get to each place on the list. Then you have to get there, and that could take ages if the writer didn’t account for travel time between each spot.
Ideally you want to use an itinerary that has a digital map, or you can make one yourself. That way you can easily navigate from one spot to the next with just your phone, and if you decide to go off the general path a bit, you can easily get back to where you need to be.
My 3-Day London Itinerary has a Digital Map included, which helps you follow the itinerary each day, plus also shows you which of my recommended food spots are near to you when your tummy starts to rumble, and I’ve even pinpointed where public toilets are along the route.
Free London itineraries can be helpful, but now you know some of the pitfalls behind using them, and why they could hinder your London experience.
This article is part of my 3 Days in London series, here are some more tips to help you with your first few days in London.
10 Reasons to Follow an Itinerary During Your First Three Days in London
How to Prepare for Your First Three Days in London
5 Common Mistakes Tourists Make in Their First Three Days in London