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So you’ve chosen London as the destination for year’s family trip! Even if it isn’t your first time (you might have travelled there on a budget, or checked out all of London's stadiums as a football fanatic), coming again with the kids will put one of your favourite cities in a whole different light. Here’s a guide on making it fun and easy ?
1. On the move: Keeping the energy up and the stress down
Hooray for strollers! London is a walking city and you won’t regret bringing the pushchair onto its super stroller-friendly streets. Not only will it let you work around naptimes as the kids can sleep on the go (more time to sightsee!), it also means you can go completely hands-free from all the souvenirs you’ll be picking up along the way! Do expect a little wear and tear from London’s cobbled-stoned roads but it will be well worth it.
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Kate Middleton gives Princess Charlotte a Royal Stroller Ride to her christening[/caption]
Skip the Tube and take the bus. Some stations aren’t completely step free and carrying strollers up and down stairs or escalators will be nothing short of a nightmare. Bus stops are way more convenient picking you up directly from the front steps sving you the hassle of going through the stations. Most buses have ramp access and parking spaces for up to two strollers at a time. They only take slightly longer than the train but you’ll rarely need to switch and it’s a great view! Plus the kids will LOVE the novelty of getting on the iconic red double decker bus!
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The world's most famous bus[/caption]
Credit: londonbusmuseum#HHWT Tip: Download the Citymapper app for the ultimate stress-free travel planning! It provides real time options for walking, biking or cabbing with routes for trains and buses. (Sometimes it has a sense of humour and recommends you teleport or jetpack ?). It also tells you how many calories you burn, travel costs and rain safe choices as well as any delays or closures.
2. Something fun for everyone
Did you know that London is the city with the most museums in the world? With so much Arts and Culture in the capital, you’ll find that learning is super accessible even for the youngest history buffs. Let your little one express their curiosity at the Science Museum’s fun exhibits and dedicated children’s galleries; go back into time to discover British Museum’s amazing Egyptian gallery with real mummies and tombs for the budding Indiana Jones; or geek out at the Natural History Museum’s jaw-dropping dinosaur exhibit that will excite any T-Rex loving little (or big) kid – a real dad-pleasing bonus!
If you’re looking for someone more interactive, then the Transport Museum comes highly recommended! Explore the vehicles through the ages with three floors of life-sized transport models. From getting to drive a model bus; climb into boats, taxis, planes and tube trains; push along trains and buses on a model city or a soft play all aboard centre, there’s something for kids of any age!
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The model city at one of the 13 stations of the museum[/caption]
Address: Covent Garden Piazza, London WC2E 7BB
Opening Hours: 10.00am – 6.00pm Monday to Sunday
Admissions: Kids go free; Adults £16; Concessions £13.50
Closest tube station: Covent Garden (Piccadilly Line)
Bus: 6, 9, 11, 13, 15, 23, 24, 29, 87, 91, 139, 176
Follow the map below for a short walk to the London Transport Museum.
Parks and Playgrounds
London’s green spaces are truly one of a kind. Many of them are equipped with award-winning playgrounds unlike anything you’ve seen anywhere else in the world so pack up a picnic and enjoy a day out on the rolling green.
My favourites are Regent’s Park which houses the London Zoo, the Marylebone Green Playground and the Open Air Theatre and Coram’s Fields which is rich with indoor and outdoor activities including large sandpit areas, farm animals, several jungle gyms and a wading pool in the summer. But if you had to choose one park to visit, then definitely go to Kensington Gardens because toddlers will absolutely love the Princess Diana Memorial Playground (also known locally as the pirate ship park) which features a large wooden pirate ship, jungle gyms, a sensory garden and water play on those hot summer days. If you fancy a little exploring, you’ll also find the Sunken Gardens, Buck Hill Playground, the Flower Walk and the Peter Pan Statue all within walking distance.
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The Pirate Ship Playground[/caption]
Credit: royalparksAddress: London W2 2UH
Opening Hours: 06.00am – 9.00pm Monday to Sunday
Admissions: Free, adults are only allowed in with children
Closest Tube: Queensway (Central Line)
Bus: 9, 10, 27, 28, 31, 49, 52, 70, 94, 148, 274, 360, 390
Follow the map below to get to the Princess Diana Memorial Playground.
#HHWT Tip: Always check the weather report before leaving. London weather is fickle and you’ll be quite clever to invest in splash boots, umbrellas and a rain cover for the stroller!
Arts and Culture
If your kids are older than 4, it’s a perfect time to introduce them to some theatre! You’ll be spoilt for choice on the West End with world-class sets and performances like Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Billy Elliot and Cats. But for that really special night out, the Lion King will blow you away with their incredible costumes and spectacular live interpretation of the songs you and your kids will likely know by heart. For the best deals, try and get day seats from the box office on the day of the show or at the half price TKTS building in Leicester Square. Theatremonkey.com gives great reviews and tips on which seats are the best value for money in the Lyceum Theatre.
Address: 21 Wellington St, London WC2E 7RQ
Show Times: 7.30pm from Tuesday through Saturday, with matinees at 2.30pm every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Running time is 2 hours 45 minutes including a 15-minute interval.
Ticket Prices: From £35
Closest Tube: Charing Cross (Bakerloo and Northern Line) and Covent Garden (Piccadilly Line)
For buses to Aldwych use: RV1, X68, 1, 6, 11, 13, 23, 59, 68, 87, 168, 171, 172, 188, 243
For buses to the Strand use: 4, 9, 15, 26, 76, 91, 139, 176, 34
Follow the map below to find Lyceum Theatre.
What’s a visit to London if not for some shopping? If you’re looking for something special for keepsake, then head out for some lasting, one-of-a-kind toys from Benjamin Pollock’s Toy Shop, Honeyjam or Puppet Planet. But the real treat for the kids will be none other than Hamley’s, the oldest and largest toy shop in the world. Every child’s dream store, every corner of every floor is filled wall to wall with toys, encouraging you to play! For a sugar high, the top floor features decadent displays of chocolates and candy with a milkshake bar to boot!
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Demonstrators let you have a go![/caption]
Credit: claudineimeldaAddress: 188-196 Regent St, London W1B 5BT
Opening Hours: 10.00am to 9.00pm Monday to Saturday and 12.00pm to 6.00pm on Sunday
Closest Tube: Oxford Circus (Victoria, Central and Bakerloo Line) and Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly and Bakerloo Line)
Bus: 3, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 23, 25, 55, 73, 88, 94, 98, 113, 137, 139, 159, 177, 190, 390, 453, C2
Find Hamley’s on the map below.
3. Fuss-free eats
You can never go wrong at Tinseltown – an American diner with a great kids menu and a colouring pack to occupy them while the food is being prepared. There’s a branch right off Oxford Street so this is perfect if you’re just coming out from the shops.
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Chicken nuggets with chips and baked beans[/caption]
The portions are quite large so if your kids are small eaters, then skip the kids’ meal and share from an adult portion which will be enough for those small tummies. The Sharing Platter which comes with Onion Rings, Nachos and four BBQ wings provides a fantastic sampler from the menu and is great value for money for families.
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The sharing platter[/caption]
Credit: tinseltownAddress: 35 Great Portland St, London W1W 8QQ
Opening Hours: Monday to Thursday, Midday – 1am, Friday and Saturday, Midday – 1.30am, Sunday, Midday to Midnight
Price Range: Expect to pay around £20 for a family of four
Closest tube station: Oxford Circus (Bakerloo Line)
Tinseltown on the map.
Nothing shouts TREAT quite like ice cream lunches. And the absolute best ice cream in the world has to be the Italian artisan gelato at Gelupo. The Ricotta and Sour Cherries is creamy and indulgent while the Fresh Mint Stracciatella is lightly refreshing and the best mint choc chip flavour you’ve ever had!
Note: There are some flavours that are infused in alcohol but the boozy flavours will be clearly stated.#HHWT Tip: Ice creams are 50% off on rainy days!?
Address: No 1 Cambridge Circus London, WC2H 8AP
Opening Times: 11am – midnight, Monday to Saturday, 11am – 11.30pm Sunday
Price: Starting from £4 per scoop
Closest Tube Station: Leicester Square (Northern and Piccadilly Line)
Gelupo is housed within Vico which you can find on this map.
Go easy on your usual healthy eating rules and don’t stress over the occasional fast food meal because it’s fast, convenient and cheap. Some familiar chains like Nando’s and KFC, offer halal options so be sure to check for one near you for those last-minute go-to choice which we parents are all too familiar with.
Credit: Nando's UK#HHWT Tip: If you’re coming with the family, chances are you’ve chosen to stay in a flat instead of hotel rooms which means you’ll be able to cook and save oodles of money! While you can find your regular eggs, breads and cheese around every other street corner shop, skip Little Waitrose, Tesco Express and Sainsbury Local if you’re looking to stock up for the week. Instead, head to the larger supermarkets for a range of halal or kosher meats. Tesco Metro provides great value for money and they’re always located near the major train stations.
Hope you’ve found these tips useful to make the most of your holiday and one to remember for a lifetime! If you need more motivation, here's 10 reasons why starting a family shouldn't stop you from travelling ?