Thoughts on Taking Kids to London
There’s something that thrills me about seeing my girls experience something new. I’m dying to show them the world, and to see more of it myself!
Watching their eyes in amazement at the London lights at night, as we all walked along the river together, people out, concerts playing, was just divine. They should’ve been in bed but instead they got to experience what Jeff and I love so much about traveling: how the locals do things. People coming alive at night, eating delicious food with a happy little buzz.
Everywhere we go, Ella makes little friends. I smiled watching her swim with little girls from Ireland at the pool in Portugal, and play princess in the sandbox in London with British friends. Everyone told Ella they looooooved her accent. I want her to remember these types of moments from our trips. I’ve always felt like it’s the people that we encounter that really makes a trip for us. I’m intrigued by the different ways people live around the world, aren’t you? I want Ella and Lola to know it’s a big world out there, and we can all go, do or be anything we want to.
Okay, so our time in London! We decided to set realistic (a.k.a. low haha) expectations for our daily activities. Our strategy was to tackle one or two things that were more ambitious in the morning, then break for a relaxing lunch (note: relaxing doesn’t exist at meal tables in our world but we pretend), and then take a slower pace in the afternoon. At least one ice cream break a day.
Below are a few things we learned that helped us! (Note: Our actual itinerary will be in another post - coming very soon - in case you're curious about what that looks like with toddlers :).
1. Choose your hotel wisely! Stay as central as possible for easy access.
Our hotel, the Mondrian London, was nicely situated in central London, right along the Thames River in the Southbank. Such a happening area, and so convenient with the kiddos. We did take Ubers probably 1-2 times a day, but mostly walked (and saved public transportation for another trip). We also sprung for a room with a dreamy outdoor ivy-covered patio, which was fab because Jeff and I could hang out there after the girls went to bed.
2. Consider a stroller even if you think your kids are slightly too old for one.
I went back and forth about this because Ella is five now. We had the Bugaboo Bee with a standing board, which allowed for several options on a little rotation system. Ella could sit in the stroller, ride on the standing board or walk. Lola could ride in the Ergo or sit in the stroller (but do take note: at least one child was usually whining, sleeping, needing something, or melting down in misery at any given time...sounds delightful, right??! But it really is. Strange, right?).
3. Keep lots of snacks and water on hand.
When I’m traveling I definitely don’t drink enough water, and I feel like my bottle is always running out. But plan ahead and stop by a market when you see one, so everyone stays hydrated! We use the Pura stainless sippy cups for the kiddos.
4. Ask your hotel concierge to make dinner reservations for you, so no one is left melting down, crying, hangry...you get it.
The parts of travel where you think, hmm maybe we should just go home? Reservations really saved our butts and kept everyone happy (including us because we ate delicious food).
5. Which reminds me - be spontaneous, and love it. It’s just gonna be one big adventure!
One night we did show up for our dinner reservations, but quickly realized it wouldn’t work with the kiddos (long story, but let’s just say they would’ve made their presence known in the quaint lil’ place). The street and every restaurant around us was packed. Borough Market (an outdoor market by day, restaurant haven by night) - the most awesome place ever BTW, is the happening spot like every night of the week apparently. We found a delicious local woodfire pizza booth right in the thick of it all, live music and people squashed all around us, plopped down with the girls on a picnic table in the street, grabbed a couple of giant glasses of vino, and dug into our delicious thin-crust pizzas. Sounds stressful right? Ya it kinda was. It certainly didn’t seem ideal at the time, but somehow this night is one of our favorites from London. After the chaos of dinner we strolled along the river, the city lights bright, and music playing loud, the girls were dancing, we were drinking wine. Seriously a semi-intense situation turned magical.
6. Consider leaving your carseat(s) at home.
I can’t imagine if we had had to lug them around, and we didn’t even take public transit. Unless you find some miracle featherweight carseat, ours weigh like, a million pounds. You should see us already, and we packed LIGHT! #modsquadherewecome. There are car services that will provide carseats for free (we used London Airport Transfer Co, and had a great experience), for the longer rides such as to and from the airport. We also took Ubers, and walked a ton.
7. Forget about time-zone changes (when it comes to the kids’ schedules).
It’s likely the kids will acclimate after a day or two (I think / I hope!!!). We lucked out and it was a pretty smooth transition, because of the night flight on the way over and them not sleeping much, therefore being tired enough for a full-night sleep a few hours after we landed. If you can, do the night flight. Once home from Europe, however, it took Lola (1 year old) a few weeks to adjust back to normal sleep habits. It might be a little rough (but is totally worth it!!!).
8. Go off the beaten path for anything and everything.
If you travel, you probably know this already. Walk away from the crowds and you’ll discover the gems. If you stay at a boutique hotel or one that is design-centered, they will probably suggest great spots.
9. Pack thoughtfully!
Someone told me, think about what you actually love to wear and only bring those things. How many times do we bring tons of crap but then only wear a few items over and over? I sure do. So I tried to anticipate what those items might be. For the kids, I packed just 1-2 of each thing (pants, shorts, jacket, swimsuit) and then maybe 3-4 light dresses and shirts. Sometimes it’s tricky to anticipate weather but we traveled in summer so it was pretty hot.
10. Bring along an iPad or two.
Hahah. You might think I’m joking but I’m 100% serious. Have you read my other posts yet?! I’m very pro-screens when traveling! What else do you do, when you’re in a long customs / immigration AND security AND check-in line with two busy kiddos??! It takes way longer than you think. But again - WWWWWWWORTH IT!!!!!
If you're planning a trip with or without kids, or are thinking about it, but have fears or questions, concerns, anything - please feel free to get in touch. I am often asked questions about traveling (especially with kids), and am happy to help if I can!
Nighty night everyone!