This Easter Holidays, top of my list of things to do with my boys was to introduce them to all (or at least a few) of the wonders that London has to offer. I was sixteen when I first went to London and I still remember all the excitement of that day out now. Whether it’s for a mini-break or a grand day out, London has so much to offer.
Even though driving to London would take us in the region of three hours, we’re really close to the East Coast mainline and can be at Kings Cross within 90 minutes so we opted to go by train. Rail tickets are cheaper the further ahead you book and having just had a look at some random dates in the summer holidays, we’d be looking at less than £15 each. With a Family and Friends Railcard you can expect to pay even less than this.
Once we’d resolved the issue of who would sit where (‘I really would like to sit next to your dad’), our boys loved going on the train, either contentedly looking out of the window, scoffing their packed lunches or spending some time on their gadgets. Middle son was very excited as we passed the Emirates stadium on our arrival into Kings Cross. However, that was nothing compared to his excitement when we disembarked and he saw the Platform 9 ¾ set-up, with the trolley and associated retail opportunities. Fast forward a few short minutes, youngest son was holding the Elder Wand and asking to ‘try out’ various others. The trolley entering Platform 9 ¾ offers a magical photo opportunity and while there is an official photographer, you are free to snap your own. The queue went down quickly and both boys were jazzed to have had their pictures taken and re-enact a duel in a Harry Potter – styl-ee.
If a day out is more your thing then you can park at some of the outer London tube stations, such as Stanmore and travel into town from there. You can get from Stanmore to Bond Street Underground in 32 minutes.
Where to stay
We had opted to stay as centrally as we could without breaking the bank, so we booked into the Premier Inn at Blackfriars. Again, if you know your dates and can book ahead of time, there are some family budget-friendly deals. I had a quick look at dates for October half term and you could get a family room for 4 from £46.00.
Sites like booking.com are a great place to start when looking for London accommodation; there are so many options for every family size and budget. For larger families, the YHA does larger family rooms in their hostels, which could be bang on if you are simply wanting a base for the night.
London is HUGE but it is surprisingly easy to get around a lot of the sights on foot. We walked along the Thames from our hotel to Covent Garden in around fifteen minutes and the boys loved seeing the Shard, the Millennium Bridge and the Houses of Parliament. Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square are all just a short walk from there.
Travel on the tube is free for under 11s, who are travelling with a fare-paying adult and the family gates make this easier to navigate for those with buggies. We got across town to the museums at South Kensington in just over ten minutes. The Transport for London website is a great source of information and will help you work out which is the best means of transport for you. If you’re an escalator-phobe, like me, you can work out your route using their Journey Planner tool. If you prefer to travel overground, little ones will love riding on the top deck of the iconic red London buses.
Things to do
London is awash with things to do for families. One of the main points of our jolly was to visit the Science Museum as my middle son is a total science geek. Entry to the museum is free, although you can make a voluntary donation. Some areas of the museum are only accessible for an additional fee, however we spent around four hours there and barely scratched the surface in terms of seeing all the free exhibits. Our boys loved the ‘Exploring Space’ exhibits and the ‘Who am I?’ section was another big hit!
Admission to the Natural History Museum and the V & A, which are just around the corner is also free. The National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery (one of my favourites) and the British Museum all offer free admission so there is something for every taste.
If you travel by train, you can get 2-4-1 attraction tickets at a number of London attractions, including the Tower of London, when you present a voucher, which you can download here, and your train tickets.
We probably had the most fun just wandering around and seeing all the sights which are familiar from books and TV. The Lego Store in Leicester Square blew their minds with its super-sized Lego models and building opportunities.
Suffice to say, we arrived home with sore feet and happy hearts; the boys are already talking about their next visit.
How are do you like to plan ahead for the holidays and what will you be getting up to. I’d love to hear. Follow me over on Instagram for more antics and family-centred craziness.