Back in 2009 my husband and I visited London on our honeymoon and instantly fell in love with the city. The sights, the sounds, the shopping. There's so much to soak in and experience. When we decided to have kids, we agreed that we wouldn't give up our love of travel, so now we bring them with us. They love the journey overseas and together we savor every trip.
We arrived in London on Sunday via the red-eye from Seattle. It was a 9-hour direct flight that arrived at London Heathrow around noon. I've never been a good sleeper on a plane so by the time we arrive I'm exhausted yet excited to be back and determined to stay awake until the evening so that my body can adjust to the time change.
Once we take the 45-minute cab ride into the city and check in to our hotel in South Kensington we unpack and get settled in our room. We've stayed all over London on our trips, but always near Hyde Park so that the kids have somewhere to play. This time around we are at the Vanderbilt hotel but we've also stayed at (and loved) The Kensington Hotel, The Cumberland, and the Crowne Plaza. They are all within walking distance of the Victoria & Albert Museum, The Natural History Museum, and Harrods.
The most important thing to do upon arrival is to get to know your neighborhood. We always make it a point to figure out the nearest tube stop for the London Underground. It's the cheapest/fastest way to get around the city. This time we are closest to Gloucester Rd. so we head over to buy Oyster cards. You can buy these via the automated machines at the tube station and load whatever dollar amount you want. Then you just swipe in and swipe out to pay your fare. It's super easy.
Our first adventure was taking the tube to Leicester Square on the West End of London to check out the Lego store. It's the largest Lego store in the world and features two floors of Legos. We had to wait in a 10-minute line (aka a "queue") before getting inside. It was worth it. The store has several photo opps including a red Lego brick phonebooth and a wall featuring the city of London, in brick form. They also offer a "Lego Mosaic" experience that involves a quick pic in the photobooth and getting a mosaic Lego portrait back, made entirely out of bricks. It's pretty cool actually and costs 99 pounds.
After the Lego store, we rode the Tube back to South Kensington and headed to Waitrose, the local grocery store, to stock up on drinks and snacks for our hotel. (This store closes early on Sunday so be sure to check the store hours before heading over.) London is a picnic-ready town so it's easy to find things like half-bottles of wine, ready-to-go meals, and even pre-mixed drinks like rum & coke.
If you can, stay up as late as possible on the night you arrive so that your body clock adjusts to local time. We all passed out around 8 p.m. and woke up throughout the night before finally waking up the next morning around 10 a.m. That first night can be a little rough, but if you come without kids, I would definitely recommend a late night coffee or cocktail to get you through so that you are well-rested for day two.
See you then!
// What to Know Before you Go //
- Eat -
Drink plenty of water on your flight so that you aren't dehydrated on top of being jetlagged your first few days in the city.
- Stay -
If you want to jump right in to the London experience I recommend staying somewhere central in the city so that you can explore all that London has to offer. Get an Oyster Card so that you can hop on and off the tube.
- Play -
The Lego store was a fun first-stop in the city for the kiddos. It's located in Leicester Square which is also on the edge of the theater district. It's a fun place to shop and walk around.
- Pack -
If you're traveling solo you can skip this step, but if you're traveling with kids I recommend packing picnic utensils like forks and spoons so that you can stock your hotel fridge with easy snacks and juice boxes for the kids.