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Tips for traveling to London with kids

davis, California
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Tips for traveling to London with kids

We have traveled to London 3 times with our children, first when they were 3 and 6 and more recently when they were 10 and 12 and again when they were 11 and 13. We have stayed in hotels and rented apartments, taken taxis, buses, and the tube, and we have eaten in a lot of restaurants. Here are some tips that might be helpful to others traveling to London with children.

1. Rent an apartment. You can find great 2-bedroom apartments in good parts of town for $250-$300/night (and even better prices if you stay for a full week). Decent hotels will be this price for a single room. Granted, you don't get concierge or housekeeping service, but you get space to spread out (essential with pre-teens and teens), a kitchen to prepare some meals (and save some money), and often a washer (and dryer) to do some laundry so you can pack light.

We stayed in Soho one year. It was convenient, but very noisy and crowded. This year, we stayed in Chelsea. I highly recommend any area of Kensington, if you can find something in your price range. It is convenient to central London, near museums, full of shopping and restaurants.

2. Don't be afraid of chain restaurants, but pick good local chains. London is actually a great place to take kids out for a meal--many restaurants have kids menus and the service for kids is great. Chains we depend on are Pizza Express (really very good pizza), Giraffe (all over Brittan), and Carluccios. This year, we also went to Maxwell's, which was great for comfort--and the food was much better than similar "American" chains such as Planet Hollywood or Rainforest Cafe.

3. Look for unique restaurants in your neighborhood or where you are going to spend the day. By mixing it up a bit between chain, comfort food places and more interesting places, we all were happier.

4. Consider where you will be visiting before you buy a London Pass. We skipped this because we weren't going to do many of the things you get with it. With kids, we found we were going to the museums (free) and that any paid attractions we chose to do (such as Legoland) were not enough of a deal to make the London Pass worth it. If your kids are interested in seeing Westminster Abby, St Pauls, and the Tower of London, then it makes sense. Our kids just wanted to be at the Science Museum, Victoria and Albert, and the British Museum--all free.

5. Take the tube and buy travel cards. Adults can buy Oyster cards (easy) and put 7-day travel cards or "pay as you go", which is cheaper than buying a ticket each time. You can only buy kids' travel cards one day at a time, so you'll need to buy them every day. But, you can buy them from a machine (which we only figured out part way into our trip). AND kids under 11 are free! The Tube is fast, easy, and fun--we usually got places faster than if we had taken a cab.

6. If you are going to be in London for many days (5 or more), consider going to a movie in the middle of your trip. There is something really soothing about doing something as normal as seeing a movie, and doing it in London--where it's called the cinema and the ads before the film are British--is fun.

7. See a show in the West End. We've seen Wicked, Spamalot, and Mary Poppins--and we've loved every one. During the first weeks of August (which are generally very crowded in London because all the kids are out of school) you can get a free kid's ticket for every adult ticket you buy to many shows. Look for them in advance, though, because they go fast.

8. Don't try to do too much in one day. This is another reason why having an apartment is great. You can sleep in, take a break in the afternoon, take a day off from sight seeing, cook dinner at "home".

I hope you have a great time. London is a great place to travel with kids.

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1. Re: Tips for traveling to London with kids

Lovely post with tons of common sense!

Glad your trips have been good ones!!

Well done.

England, United...
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2. Re: Tips for traveling to London with kids

AND.....you managed to avoid (or at least not mention) the largest candy store in the world that is M & Ms at Leicester Square!!

Naperville...
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3. Re: Tips for traveling to London with kids

I'm heading there tomorrow with 2 kids but ages 4 and 1. Since we will be having a stroller, I've been told to avoid the tube and just go for buses or walk most of the time. I plan on doing the HOHO bus our first day just to relax and let the kids nap whenever but my husband and I can still see some sights. Any must see toy/candy stores??? We will be staying in Soho as well.

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4. Re: Tips for traveling to London with kids

Hamleys is the place for toys, but it will be pretty crowded. Harrods also has a reasonable toy departrment which is usually a lot quieter.

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5. Re: Tips for traveling to London with kids

Barbara,

Toy shop - try Hamleys on Regent Street. It'll be busy. www.hamleys.com

6. Re: Tips for traveling to London with kids

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7. Re: Tips for traveling to London with kids

Stop spamming this forum. Reported.

8. Re: Tips for traveling to London with kids

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9. Re: Tips for traveling to London with kids

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10. Re: Tips for traveling to London with kids

I just returned from 8 days in London with kids ages 6 and 10. My kids had a great time and there was so much for them to see. We did not buy the London Pass since the museums are free and I really wasn't sure how much I was going to be ale to drag them around. Besides, this was a working trip for my husband, so it would just be me alone with them during the week. We pretty much did all the major sights-The Tower of London and Kensington Palace being the only two that we bought tickets for. They loved the Science Museum, the Natural History and even the British Museum. Portobello Road was fun for them as was walking around Notting Hill. They loved the street performers in Covent Garden and seeing a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the theatre was a definite highlight. We bought tickets the day of the show from the theatre directly. I went to the TKTS ticket booth in Leichester Square first, but they didn't have anything good, so I walked over go the theater and got lucky. The tickets weren't technically discounted, but they were cheaper (about 30£ pp)-high up, but still good visibility and a great experience. Definitely consider a show if you are going with kids ( or without).

We stayed in an apartment on Bloomsbury Place-rented through citybase apartments. It's managed through Acorn Properties-not bad. Good location near the British Museum. Beds uncomfortable though and the furniture very worn. This was a last minute trip though at the height of Summer so our choices were limited. The apartment made all the difference though and I loved shopping at Marks and Spencer for food! Such a great place and reasonable prices for a bit more gourmet. You must make a trip to Marks and Spenser for food-they have several locations throughout the city. I loved the big one on Oxford Street.

With younger kids I would consider a location as close as possible to a tube station or one that is very central for walking. Our apartment was 10 minute walk to Holborn tube, not bad, but kids get tired of walking and after 8 days-it was far for them.

Learn to take the bus. It is easy and my kids loved the upper deck! We took the bus a lot-even just a few blocks. It gave them a chance to sit down and see the city. We should have done the Hop on Hop off, but never did. I would suggest doing it right when you get there. I bought the Oyster card and just topped off as needed.

As for food-we ate breakfast in the apartment every morning and bought picnic food from Marks and Spencer to eat in the park for lunch. We ate out every night....kids had mussels and fries at Belgo in Covent Garden, Great Indian Food and Italian food, Wagamama noodles.

Overall it was a great trip and I look forward to doing it again.