I’m going to share a little series of posts on our recent vacation. Whether you’re visiting here because you googled “London vacation” or “traveling with kids,” welcome!
London is a fantastic city, easy to navigate on public transportation and great for walking. Here are my tips for planning your trip.
- Choose your accommodations based on all your needs, not just the location. So much of London and the surrounding areas are easily accessible by foot. Do not rent a car, and do not feel you have to be right in Kensington in order to get around the city. We rented a flat in Fulham, just outside central London, about three and a half miles from Buckingham Palace. Looking at the London Underground map, you’d think it was further. We picked our flat based on its location within Zone 2, which kept our Tube fare down, and where we could afford a flat with enough space for the 8 of us to be able to sleep in beds. (Who wants to take a vacation with 8 sleep-deprived, cranky people? Not me!) We rented through Home Away (like AirBNB) and couldn’t have been happier with our flat or our host.
- Buy a pay-as-you-go Oyster card. There are weekly and monthly Oyster card options, but I recommend the pay-as-you-go option. It has a daily cap, which we regularly exceeded, and is super easy to use. Pay as you go Oyster cards are available from a machine at any Tube station. The cards require a 5-pound deposit, are refundable for up to 10 pounds of cash on them, and charge you based on your entry and exit points, and the time of day. For discounted youth Oyster cards for children 11-15, you have to go to one of the Oyster offices, but the discount is worth it. (We bought ours at Heathrow.) Children younger than 11 ride free with a fare-paying adult. If you are better organized than I was, you can order them in advance online and have them delivered to your home address outside the UK, but I don’t think that’s necessary.
- Be flexible. It’s easy to make a list of must-see sights, but if you’re traveling with children, the key is going to be flexibility. To that end, I recommend not buying all your passes online ahead, although many of them can be used once during a 7 day window. We didn’t make it to three of the sites on my list to visit, and two of my kids wanted to revisit sites, which also didn’t happen.
- Look at package deals. They’re not always the best option, but our family membership to the Royal Historic Palaces saved us fifty pounds, since we used it at two different sites on three days.
- For a short trip, consider adjusting bedtime for a week in advance, so your kids will have an easier time adjusting to the time change. London is 7 hours ahead of Denver during daylight savings, and going to bed an hour earlier each day for 2-3 days would have meant we were halfway onto London time.
- Plan to walk a lot. London is a great city for walking, and we covered 5-7 miles on foot each day. Often, we were walking on cobblestone streets. Make sure your kids (and you!) have good shoes, and spend some time increasing your daily mileage at home so that you don’t say No to something you really want to see just because your feet are tired.
- Carry water. Whether you bring a water bottle from home or buy one there, know that there are no public drinking fountains. Restaurants won’t bring you a glass of water when you sit down. Having a bottle of water (plus a snack) may save you from a pediatric meltdown in a palace you paid to visit.