We did question our decision to take a family break in London over half-term. With two small children to entertain, the thought of dragging them on the tube and making them walk miles didn’t seem like a lot of fun. It turned out there was no need to worry. We all had a fantastic time so I thought I would share what I learned from our experience.
1. Book an AirBnB
After a full day in London, our children were exhausted. If we had been in a hotel, we would have been sat in the dark from 7.30 pm whilst the kids were asleep. We got a two-bed flat in Twickenham which was a perfect base from which to explore the city.
2. Stay near an over-ground station
We were a five minute walk from Twickenham train station which meant we could be on our way quickly in the morning. Yes, we weren’t in central London, but the overground trains are regular, and the trains are empty, meaning you can get your pushchair on easily without anyone eye-rolling.
3. Be prepared to carry pushchairs up and downstairs
Apparently, lifts don’t work in London! If you have a lightweight stroller, use it. It will sometimes require one of you to carry the pushchair down the stairs whilst the other one helps the older child walk. Only one person offered to help in the three days we were there.
4. Take reins for an active 2-year-old: We forgot ours. Big mistake!
5. The Science Museum toddler space is hell on earth. I think this was the only low point of the break. Don’t get me wrong, the kids loved it and it allowed them to burn off a lot of energy. However, make sure you have something on under your jumper. It’s hot and sweaty in there. And the noise! The noise is high-pitched and continuous. We were there on a rainy Saturday afternoon. It might be better to do first thing, but we won’t go again.
6. The Natural History Museum is not to be missed. We saw Andy’s clock (if you know, you know). In comparison to the Science Museum, it just has more to see, and the kids enjoyed it more. There are the dinosaurs with the moving T- Rex. But that wasn’t our favourite bit. There is a currently a replica moon exhibit which was amazing. Our 5-year-old also loved experiencing an earthquake and going up the long escalator into the middle of the world.
7. The British Transport Museum is fab. It is pricey at £18 per adult (under 5's go free), but if you live closer it is a pay once for a year’s admission. It is an interactive museum with lots to do. There were trails to follow and stamps to collect. We swept up horse poo, sat on an open-top bus and played in a fantastic role play area. I think it a definite must for families with younger children.
8. You can spend hours in Covent Garden. The singing, the juggling, the stalls. It is all free entertainment.
9. If in doubt, go to a park. I know there are many parks in central London, but we just went to St James’s. We walked around the lake and headed to the play park which is over-looked by Buckingham Palace. I am sure locals will tell me there are much better parks to visit, but we walked from Piccadilly Circus to Victoria train station and it was a perfect little park for little people to play in.
10. Don’t expect to do it all. Lower your expectations. The list of things to do in London is massive. But for little feet and adult sanity, it is much better to plan and decide exactly what you want to do before you arrive. We stayed in South Kensington on the Saturday which meant travelling time was minimal. On the Sunday we headed to Waterloo and walked over the Thames to Covent Garden. We then continued on to Leicester Square and headed home via Victoria Station. Again, we avoided busy tube lines, preferring the over-ground.
Overall, we had a fun time. The places we visited were varied and the kids didn’t get bored. It has given us more confidence to now do a city break in Europe and choose holidays that don’t revolve solely around the children.
Written by Becky Field
Becky is a freelance writer based in Stockport. She has a four-year-old daughter and a one-year-old son.