A city break with a small child doesn’t have to be stressful or expensive! Here are some ways we tried to make our recent city break to London a bit less of a stress…
Before we set off we had Holly pack up some activities to do in the car and treated her to a new magazine. This bought us at least 2 hours of travel time before she started asking “are we there yet”. We also put together a snack pack for her and managed to avoid spending a fortune at the service station en route to London. She usually starts on this before we have got to the end of our lane though!
We had booked into a hotel in Kensington called the Hotel Oliver on Cromwell Road, relatively close to the Natural History Museum. It’s a little basic, but we were out all day and only used our room for sleeping and getting ready so it did the job. We had an “executive triple room” which consisted of a double bed and a single for Hols. As we had driven to London, we paid £25 for parking in the hotel’s car park on Saturday but got lucky on the Sunday after we had checked out as there are free spaces on Cromwell Road, so we had a day of free parking. The hotel is handily located for a Sainsburys too. The room price included breakfast which was a continental style, but was a little unusual in that they served it to you at your table and just brought you everything – a plate of ham, a plate of cheese, yoghurt, boiled egg, toast, apple, bowl of cornflakes and an orange juice. A better option may be to ask what you would like to save on wasting food! If you stay here, get to breakfast early otherwise you’ll have to wait for a table.
We caught the bus from our hotel to Hyde Park Corner and wandered down through the parks to Buckingham Palace and had a picnic (bought from the Sainsburys by our hotel) on the steps of the statue of Queen Victoria with about a million other tourists.
After lunch we made our way through Horse Guards Parade and managed to see the changing of the guard (this takes place every hour, apparently) then went down through Westminster to the London Eye.
We went on the London Eye – not my choice, I hasten to add! I hate confined spaces, heights and crowds so it’s definitely something to avoid if you’re uncomfortable in those situations like me! We had a voucher from a Kelloggs cereal box which meant that a grown up went free with any child ticket, so we only had to pay for one adult and one child and worked out at £49. Unfortunately with this voucher we couldn’t prebook online so had to queue to buy a ticket then get in the queue for the actual wheel. This whole process took about an hour out of the day for what I thought was a bit over rated. Holly and Mr R loved it though. After the Eye we went on a wander on the South Bank then back over to Covent Garden to eat.
A quick word about the buses in London – they’re great! Really regular, really cheap and you don’t need an Oyster card if you have a contactless debit or credit card as you can pay using that. You will need a different contactless card per adult though, but children get free travel. We used the bus loads during our time in London to save time and make getting around easier for Holly – it’s a bit unfair to expect her to walk all the way and she was glad of a rest! There’s an app you can download (https://www.mapway.com/apps/bus-london/) which gives you all the timetables and helps you plan your journey.
As well as having a picnic lunch on our first day, we ate at Home Slice in Covent Garden which does massive 20″ pizzas for £20. Mr R and I shared one (they do half and half pizzas with two toppings) and Hols had a slice of marguerita pizza for £4. With drinks and the service charge our meal came to £48ish. Unfortunately you can’t prebook a table but they operate a waiting list and will call you when your table is ready so you can carry on exploring the area while you wait or sit in the beautiful courtyard soaking up the atmosphere. We also got a map from our hotel with a code on for 20% off at Pizza Express, so we had lunch there on our second day. Lucky we like pizza eh?
Covent Garden in itself is a fabulous place to spend time. There are shops and cafes, street performers and while we were there it was the Covent Garden in Bloom Festival which meant that the whole area was bedecked in flowers and floral displays. In Covent Garden there’s a fabulous shop called The Noble Collection which absolutely made Holly’s day. It’s full of Harry Potter memorabilia and is like a free museum in itself! Massive thanks to the guy on the door who let Holly pose next to the Hogwarts Castle picture with his staff and wand.
We managed to fit in quite a lot during our short break. We also went to the Natural History Museum on the Sunday morning, which is free to enter. We got there just as it was opening and still had to queue, however it meant that we were able to see a lot of the exhibits before the crowds really started to arrive. It’s great if you have little ones who love dinosaurs or any aspect of natural history although the dinosaur exhibit is a little dark and scary in places and very busy! There are plenty of picnic benches and spots to have a lunch outside the museum too.
The Victoria and Albert Museum is a short walk along the road but we didn’t go there – we didn’t want museum overload!
We took the bus from the Bulgari Hotel up to Kings Cross Station as Holly is a massive Harry Potter fan and wanted to see the famous Platform 9 3/4. In reality this is really underwhelming and is a proper tourist trap. The queue though to get a photo taken with the trolley sticking halfway out of the wall was amazing! I can’t believe so many people wanted to do it! Holly didn’t, thankfully, but she wanted to go in the shop and we ended up coming home with a Hedwig plush and some other bits of tat. She loved it though and cuddled her Hedwig all the way back on the bus to Kensington.
Thanks for reading and here are some more pictures I took while we were there.
London is an amazing city with so much to see and do. We’re hoping to go back soon and I’m looking forward to exploring it some more!