In our A Total Trip series, writers document what they spent on a recent getaway. In this edition, Lonely Planet Senior Director, Brekke Fletcher, shows us what she spent on a four-day London getaway... to see Paul Mescal (on stage).

It's slightly bonkers how much I love to travel and how much money I spend on travel. If you think Lonely Planet foots the bill for any of it, think again. But I'm a carpe diem kind of person, so even if a trip seems out of reach, I usually just do it and figure out the money part later.

If you haven't seen Normal People on Hulu or seen the brilliant film Aftersun, then the following probably won't make any sense to you. I traveled to London from New York in April to see Paul Mescal. His limited run as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire at the Phoenix Theater had garnered rave reviews, and I wanted to see it and to hear what an Irishman would do with a Southern accent.

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Outside the Phoenix Theatre in Covent Garden. © Brekke Fletcher / Lonely Planet

Three of my best friends were along for the ride. Since the play was in Covent Garden, and I had heard great things about the NoMad London in that area, I used my American Express Platinum Card to book a room through their Fine Hotels & Resorts portal (5x Membership Rewards Points), which got me a $200 credit, a room upgrade, and free breakfast for two. (Also, if you want to find out what travel credit is right for you, read this article.)

Pre-trip spending

Hotel $1,311 (for one): four nights at The Nomad London. We loved it! Upon arrival, we received a complementary split of champagne and fruit, a suite upgrade, and breakfast for two. The main restaurant is absolutely gorgeous, and the breakfast was terrific: omelets, fruit, granola, fresh pastries, you name it. The room is spectacular. The hotel has another adjacent restaurant with high ceilings and a bustling bar, a chic lobby/living area with plush seating and perfectly-arranged bookcases. There they serve light bites, coffee and drinks and to top (or bottom) it off, they have a speakeasy underground with a menu of specialty cocktails and a DJ.

Total: $1,311

The Nomad London in Covent Garden was once a jail that held Oscar Wilde. © Courtesy Nomad London

On the ground


Transport: Upon arrival at London's Heathrow Airport, I purchased a ticket on the Paddington Express for $30. Turned out that was significantly more expensive and not much quicker than taking the new-ish Elizabeth Line, which I did on the return. I transferred to Tottenham Court Road from Paddington.

Dinner: Sabor is a lively Spanish restaurant. Our four-top ordered way too much food, but it was all delicious particularly the croquettes. The vermouth cocktails were superb. My share came to $80.

Total: $113

Scenes from a divine dinner at Spanish restaurant, Sabor, near Regent Street. © Brekke Fletcher / Lonely Planet


Transport: About 40 minutes and one transfer to Highgate from Covent Garden ($3.75 on the Tube)That tube station, by the way, has elevators, but this pigheaded New Yorker decided to use the stairs. Did you all know this particular stairwell is narrow, circular and has 193 steps? Because I did not. 

Lunch:  We ate the tastiest fish and chips along with a few other dishes at The Flask, Highgate. We also indulged in beers, wine and dessert ($75).

Then it was time for another pint ($7). This one was consumed in The Gatehouse's leafy, sunny courtyard in Highgate.

Cocktail: On to The Savoy Hotel, where I enjoyed a $32 cocktail. (I know that's an insane amount of money to spend on a single cocktail, BUT the scene is divine, we were dressed for our evening at the theater, and we skipped dinner since we'd had such a hearty late lunch in Highgate. So, there.)

Theatre: On to the main show (the reason we were in London) - A Streetcar Named Desire at the Phoenix Theatre ($101 for a single ticket - purchased weeks in advance). Paul Mescal was absolutely magnetic. His performance was more Brando than Collum, very animalistic and intense and sweaty. The staging was high-concept, and the mostly British (not Paul!) did their best rendition of the New Orleans, Louisiana accent. Mescal, however, played it without the drawl – setting him apart a bit, which worked for me. To be honest, I paid much more attention to him. Also: you can snack and drink in London theaters? That would never fly in NYC. And the tickets were so much more affordable. London theater scene FTW!

Total: $130.75 (+ pre-purchased theater ticket @ $101) = $231.75

Highgate hijinks: fish and chips at The Flask and a pint in the garden at The Gatehouse. © Brekke Fletcher / Lonely Planet


Breakfast $23: for Keema Per Eedu and a cappuccino at Dishoom, a beloved Bombay-style cafe that has become a household name in London since its founding in 2010. We ate at the original location in Covent Garden.

Activity: This was followed by an iced coffee ($4.50) at Notes on St. Martin's Lane, which I sipped all the way to St. James's Park. The sun was shining and the flowers were blooming. We walked the length of the park, stopping to smell the flowers literally, watch people feed the birds (illegal!) and ramble all the way to Buckingham Palace before wandering into Mayfair. 20,000 steps!

Snacks: Negronis and nibbles ($60) in the absolutely divine (and yes, sunny!) courtyard of The American Bar at The Stafford Hotel. The courtyard is lined with carriage houses -- formerly stables -- transformed into hotel rooms.

Total: $87.50 


Activity: Started the day by seeing Hilma af Klint and Piet Mondrian exhibit ($25 ) at The Tate Modern. The exhibit was extraordinary. We also browsed some of the permanent collections. There is also a cute cafe outside along the Thames quay, so we sat there to people-watch, before and after.

Dinner: Our final meal at Jacuzzi in super chi-chi Kensington – where the room was a show unto itself. And as far as the meals on this trip went, it was a steal at twice the price. They had so many lovely touches, including a water pitcher shaped like a fish. We had garlicky focaccia, a margarita pizza like Napoli and many negronis. My share came to $64.

Total: $89

Brekke and friends enjoy a farewell dinner at the festive and fabulous Jacuzzi in London. © Brekke Fletcher / Lonely Planet

Airport transport: I learned my lesson and took the Elizabeth Line ($7) to Heathrow, instead of the Paddington Express, and that's how I'll do it from now on. 

Final tally (for one): Accommodation ($1,311) + on-the-ground spending ($528.25) = $1,839.25


We don't usually include airfare in our calculations as prices differ wildly depending on your point of departure, but in case you're curious, my roundtrip flight from New York's JFK airport to London's Heathrow Airport was $869. I booked two months in advance.

Cost vs value

London has something for all budgets, but if you stay in a posh hotel, go out to eat and drink the whole time, it'll cost you. You can do a version of this trip for a lot less by staying at an Airbnb and taking it easy on the fancy outings. It certainly was a lot to spend on a four-day trip, but to me it was worth every penny.  

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