Having now tried a family trip to London in an apartment and in a hotel, I thought I would share both perspectives, plus my tips on getting the most out of a trip to the capital.
A Family Hotel Stay in London
On our first proper family visit to London, our kids were 5 and 7, it was our first touristy trip (visiting my brother and his girlfriend in Hackney doesn’t count) so we stayed at The Cavendish Hotel which was walking distance to Buckingham Palace, and a stone’s throw to Fortnum and Mason, and that dictated what we did. The kids enjoyed walks, deckchairs and ice creams in Hyde Park, we had tea and scones and Ice Cream Sundaes at Fortnum and Mason. We walked to Trafalgar Square and then on to the river to catch a boat.
We went to the Hard Rock Cafe my Mum always took us to when visiting London and the same one Mr A and I visited early on in our relationship – that time our order got lost and we had too many beers while waiting and ended up playing with our food and making cities out of our leftover dinners. The kids loved continuing this tradition!
Our hotel was on the same street where Mr A bought the suit for our wedding – it was magical revisiting this with the kids, and our luxury hotel really set the tone. When you are doing a lot in London, with younger kids, it is great to have a really comfortable base, breakfast cooked and everything within walking distance.
One place I always mean to stay is on the Southbank, one of my favourite places in London, I love that there is lots of space to let off steam safely and always something new happening. My Dad always recommends the Premier Inn here, for value in the city and an unrivalled location. I love seeing Shakespeare’s Globe, Tate Modern is fun to explore and we like taking the kids to the pizza place nearby where Mr A and I met for dates when he was in West London and I was in South East London.
A Family Apartment Stay in London
My kids are 8 and 10 now, we both have friends in London and were keen to show them a less touristy side to the city. So this half term we stayed in an apartment in Finsbury Park for a night, which meant the treasures and shopping of Camden were on our doorstep, and the Science and Natural History Museum and The V&A were also within easy reach and a single tube journey, via the Piccadilly line to High Street Kensington.
The kids loved staying in an apartment, London isn’t just about the sights for kids, they really love learning more about life in the place now they are a little older. ‘Do you have to own a shop to live in London?’ marvelled my daughter, which made me smile – it certainly looks like every apartment is over a shop in some parts of the city. ‘Mum, I think they are doing a dodgy deal!’ she said while watching a group of men hanging outside a cafe. ‘I can’t understand any of the languages people are speaking!’ said my son. It gave us lots to talk about. Our trip to a jam packed Science Museum faded in comparison to all the little things we learnt about life in London town.
While we were there, I went out to a 4oth birthday in Crouch End while Mr A ordered takeaway and the three of them had a little party with Netflix and pizza. They loved this, having their own apartment with a living room, felt really grown up and different to being in a hotel. It was cheaper than room service too, plus we could nip to the local shops or cafes for breakfast, and we had somewhere to make sandwiches for days out.
Another apartment Mr A booked for a work trip that we gatecrashed, was close to theatre land, perfect for when we wanted to stay up late and go and see Matilda the musical, which is incredible. Back in the days when the kids went to bed well before us, it was good to have a room to ourselves, instead of hanging out in the bathroom or corridor while waiting for them to go to sleep. Nowadays we’re ready to go to bed when they finally admit defeat.
Tips for enjoying London with kids
Don’t try and do too much, and don’t assume the big ticket tourist attractions will be the things the kids enjoy most. Mine find staring at buildings, counting stops and learning tube station names, jumping on buses and people watching equally, if not more fascinating than queuing for a long time for an attraction.
Seek out the smaller quirky places too, to avoid queues and crowds and take up less of your day. I visited over 20 London museums in one day for charity once, I will pop the link below.
London has loads of lovely parks and green spaces, be sure to factor some into your days.
Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square and the South Bank are full of people watching and street entertainment opportunities.
Map the places on google maps you are keen to see, to get an idea of the areas, then you can look out for accommodation near the places you are keen to visit, or easy tube connections.
Use an accommodation comparison service like HotelsCombined to search for deals on apartments and hotels. Hotels Combined combines all the deals from places like Booking.com, Expedia, Get A Room and Hotels.com. If booking hotels read the small print to check whether breakfast is included, for apartments read carefully to see what facilities are nearby like shops and parking. Apartment hosts nowadays are often as good as hotel concierges at sharing tips on the local area.
Start early to beat the crowds, take a siesta back at your hotel or apartment if needs be, perfect if you are seeing shows in the evening.
Pack snacks to save money.
Factor in lots of breaks.
Give the kids the map and teach them how to navigate London Transport. Kids under 12 are free on public transport in London and you can pay by tapping your debit or credit card at the entry and exit gates, which really takes the hassle out of travel!
Find out more
Read about our stay at The Cavendish
Read about our adventures in London with the London Pass
Read about the twenty museums I visited in one day – there is bound to be one that appeals!
With older kids and teens, check out the amazing Eating London Tour – this was a brilliant way to find out about the history of the very cool East of London, eat loads of amazing foods and take in some street art too. There are so many brilliant walking tours nowadays, they are great for giving grown ups a break from being tour guide and you will learn loads of quirky facts together.
Thanks to Hotels Combined for collaborating on this post, all opinions my own.