IT'S arguably the best city in the world and a great destination for a weekend away from the hum-drum of everyday life.

But a weekend in London can be frighteningly expensive and can easily cost more than a fortnight in the Med.

The lure of the fancy restaurants, quality shops and array of entertainment venues can leave us counting the cost of our extravagance.

And many of us would be put off a return trip when the bills flood in from the last one.

But, fear not - a bit of forward planning and financial common sense means you can enjoy a fab time in the capital at a fraction of the price.

Accommodation is usually the biggest outlay and this is where the wonderful budget chain Travelodge comes in.

It has an impressive collection of 32 hotels strewn across the capital, in many areas ranging from Waterloo, Euston and Southwark to Kings Cross, Bank and Marylebone.

But we couldn't resist two nights at its popular Covent Garden venue, situated in Drury Lane, no less.

The hotel is in the heart of London's theatre land, a stone's throw from many of the top theatres.

The centre of Covent Garden is just around the corner with Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Street all within easy walking distance.

You can see the hotel from the fascinating British Museum and Covent Garden tube station, for access to the entire city, is less than 0.2 miles away.

Our room was situated on the ninth floor, from where you can see part of the London skyline, including St Paul's Cathedral.

It wasn't a huge room, but what do you expect for just over a hundred quid a night on a weekend in the middle of the busy summer season?

The room had a very comfortable king size bed, plenty of space for our clothes, an en suite bathroom and plenty of tea and coffee.

Anyone who's been to a Travelodge before will know it was sparking clean, with crisp bed sheets and fluffy white towels.

It was surprisingly quiet, giving us a good night's sleep to prepare for breakfast the following morning.

This Travelodge has a Bar Cafe where you can get unlimited breakfast for just £7.95.

Tuck in to a range of cereals, fruit, pastries, coffee and tea before moving on to the main event - a delicious cooked breakfast.

Bacon, sausages, hash browns, eggs, mushrooms, beans - it was all there and very nice it was too.

The Bar Cafe also offers meals and snacks at various other times, including the middle of the night for those who have been out enjoying themselves.

Public transport links are great but those of you who wish to drive can arrange parking in advance, though at an extra cost.

Budget and Me don't usually get on very well but I was on a roll and spent the rest of the weekend eating courtesy of supermarket vouchers, wafting around free museums and travelling on a coach - booked well in advance obviously for the cheapest fare.

Even when we went to the theatre I looked around smugly, quietly confident that we had paid less for our tickets than most of the assembled audience. It's surprising what bargains you can find if you can be bothered to search the internet for long enough.

So now I've saved so much money, I'm going again! Perhaps I'll stay at a Travelodge in Wembley when I've found myself a cheap ticket to a concert.


Travelodge Covent Garden 10, Drury Lane, High Holborn, London WC2B 5RE

Telephone: 0871 984 6245


Facilities: Bar café, cash machine, wifi (free for 30 mins or £3 for 24 hours) early check-in, late check-out, chargeable parking nearby Cost varies from less than £100 for a double room to around £175 depending on dates