Let’s Travel! Our Family’s Summer Vacation in London (The Good, the Bad and the Pretty)

London called and we answered! We traveled to London as a family of five last month and had an eventful trip full of ups and some downs. But overall, we absolutely love London and plan to visit again very soon.

Why We Chose London for a Family Vacation

Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden London

We were in London the last week in August, right before Luke started the 2nd grade. It was also our first European trip with the twins – Cruz and Levi. We were told we were crazy to bring 13 month old twins to London but I really wanted to visit the city for a number of reasons: My two friends (Jen and Jenn), who are huge Anglophiles, convinced me to go after seeing all their pictures of the city from their recent trips; watching the wedding of Harry and Meghan further sparked my interest; and of course, following so many Instagram accounts from London. I’m not going to lie though, traveling internationally with twin babies is hard and requires a of work. But I’m glad we did it!

Is a Week in London Enough for a Family Trip?

We knew it would require more work and time to travel with twins or three kids compared to just traveling with Luke. So we decided that a whole week or 7 days in London with kids might be the perfect amount of time to get through everything we wanted to see. As it turns out, London is a very big city with so much to do and see and it’s impossible to do everything in a week. But we managed to get in most of the touristy London sites plus some off-the-beaten path places.

Hearts Mural at Borough Market

During our week in London, we went to the London Eye, the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, Borough Market, had a picnic in Hyde Park, took a double decker bus tour, wandered around Covent Garden and had lunch there, visited the Science Museum, walked around Notting Hill, had afternoon tea at the Botanica Room at 100 Queens Gate Hotel, played at the Princess Diana Memorial Park, and stumbled upon a farmer’s market. But it never felt that we were rushing around town to do all these things.

So the answer to the question – yes one week is the right amount of time to spend in London for a family trip. In fact, we did not feel like we needed to keep to a schedule, which took a lot of the stress out.

The Good

London is very kid-friendly, family-friendly, well, everything friendly. Hyde Park is a great place for the kids to run around and to have a picnic. Everyone we encountered was very pleasant. The city is very clean. Public transportation is very accessible. Almost every place took credit cards, including the cabs.

Where We Stayed in London – Kensington

My friends Jen and Jenn recommended that Kensington neighborhood, which was the perfect home base for us. It felt more like a neighborhood and less touristy but with many restaurants around, including a small grocery store (Waitrose) right around the corner from our hotel. Also in the neighborhood are the three big museums.

We stayed at 100 Queens Gate Hotel (a Curio Collection by Hilton), which was recently renovated so everything at the hotel just felt and smelled new. My overall review of 100 Queens Gate Hotel in London is that we absolutely loved it! The property is just well decorated and designed. The service and staff were attentive and very professional. Breakfast was included in our rate and was always very good. The twins loved the pancakes and yogurt! Also included in our rate were tickets to Kensington Palace and the Tower of London. While there, we also had proper afternoon tea in the Botanica room. More on that later. We stayed in a room with a king bed and a living room (with a fold out sofa). The room size was perfect for us. One drawback is that the hallways are quite narrow and we were not able to fit our double stroller through our bedroom door. So we had to fold the stroller prior to getting it through the door.

We decided not to stay in an Airbnb for a variety of reasons but mostly we knew that some Airbnbs would require us to take the stairs to get to the room. With twins and a double stroller, that would be really hard. Also, most homes in London do not have air conditioning. Because we were in London in late August, I didn’t want to take the chance with any hot days, which we ended up experiencing.

Admission to Most Museums in London is Free

I didn’t know this until we were in London but admission to most museums in London are free! That’s right…free! You just have pay additional for the special exhibits. We went to the Science Museum in London and I was blown away! You could literally spend a full day in that museum.

Fitting our Zoe Double Stroller into a London Black Cab

We used the London black cabs and buses to get around London but mostly the black cab. Although they are a little more expensive than a ride share (i.e., Uber), they were far more convenient as we were able to fit the Zoe double stroller into the cab, without taking the twins out or folding the stroller. All the black cabs took credit cards as well, so we didn’t have to worry about carrying around a lot of cash.

Meeting Up with Instagram Friends in London

I’ve made so many connections through the Instagram app. I just so happened to make two connections that I was able to finally meet up in person.

Sofia and I followed each other on on Instagram about five years ago. I loved that she shared her life in London doing all the fun London stuff. We both experienced secondary infertility at around the same time and as it turned out, we both got pregnant with our miracle babies at around the same time. We met up in Notting Hill for doughnuts!

Drinking coffee with my friend Angela at Aubaine in Selfridges
(picture credit: @angelacoomey)

I met my friend Angela on Instagram a few years ago because I loved all her beautiful pictures of London. We met up one morning and took a walk around London and she was able to show me all her favorite spots, including Aubaine at Selfridges.

Discovering Mews In London

The entry to Kynance Mews. Thank you to the kind stranger for taking our family pictures. This might be our Christmas card picture this year!
Manson Mews
Warren Mews. Picture credit: @angelacoomey

To be honest, I didn’t know much about the Mews in London until we stumbled upon a Mews behind our hotel. I was just so charming and colorful. Then I made it my mission to go into as many Mews as possible. I think I changed our trip itinerary to searching for Mews. I want to go back to London just for the Mews. That sounds crazy but that’s how much I’m obsessed with them.

The Weather – Sunny London

We couldn’t have picked a better week to be in London. Well, besides that there were some 90 degree days, it was warm and sunny in London. I’ve never seen so much sun in London ever!

We took advantage of the weather and impromptu picnics.

The Bad

The First Hotel We Stayed In

So we didn’t initially book the 100 Queens Gate Hotel (that I reviewed above). Our first hotel was north of Hyde Park, near Notting Hill. We booked their largest room only to find out that the biggest rooms were all in the basement. We decided to change hotels as we didn’t want to stay in a basement for the week and there were lot of stairs to get to the room. The hotel staff was very nice about it, which I very much appreciated.

The thing about hotels in London is that you get two extremes – very nice hotels (that are very expensive) or so-so or out-dated hotels (that are reasonably priced). It was hard to find something in between. But I very glad we paid a small premium to stay at 100 Queens Gate Hotel.

Losing My Camera in London

I lost my brand new Canon M50 mirrorless camera in the back of a London black cab. Unfortunately, the cab driver or whoever got in the cab after us, decided to keep it. I lost it on the way from the London Eye to Covent Garden and it just put a damper to my mood that day.

I am not blaming anything on the city of London for losing my camera but I will always remember that I lost my camera there. I reported the incident to the London Transportation Police, who have corresponded with me telling me that my camera has not been returned.

All the pictures I’m sharing in the post are from my iPhone8 Plus. I’m sad I lost all the other pictures from London on my camera but thank goodness I didn’t lose my phone!

Finding Places to Eat in London for a Family of 5

When traveling with kids, we normally chose to eat at very casual restaurants. We ate at mostly pubs in London but I didn’t want all our meals in London to be in a pub. We ventured out and found difficulty with space at some of the restaurants. Although London is very kid-friendly, I found the restaurants to not be so much so. Maybe we just had bad luck finding a place to eat with two toddlers?

We did eat at Bumpkin many times during our week in London and loved it. The food was good and so was the staff. Unfortunately the restaurant closed a few months after our trip.

Not All Tube Stations Are Accessible for Strollers

I think we would’ve taken the Tube in London instead of the black cabs but we found some difficulty in having to carry the stroller up and down the stairs. So we opted to spend a little more money on the convenience of the black cab or took the tourist route with the bus.

The Pretty

We didn’t experience anything ugly in London so I wanted to end this post (which is now Parts 2 and 3 of my London blog posts) with everything pretty. I took so many pictures pretty London that I just needed to share! So stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3!

A Proper Afternoon Tea in London at the Botanica Room

Afternoon tea at Botanica at 100 Queens Gate Hotel

One of my things I wanted to do in London was to have afternoon tea there. Because when you’re in London, you should have afternoon tea, right?

More on our Afternoon Tea at the Botanica Room in my next post – here.

London In Bloom

Twirling in front of Mr. Foggs House of Botanicals.
Picture credit: @angelacoomey

It seems like every where you went, there were floral doors or flowers everywhere. It just made the city even prettier. My friend Angela took this picture so me in front of Mr. Fogg’s House of Botanicals.

More on London in Bloom in this post!

What Worked For Us In London

Levi took his first three steps in London!

Transportation from and to London Heathrow Airport – In both cases we had the hotel arrange the transportation for us. It was more convenient and cost effective. I highly recommend contacting the hotel about a week before you arrive and asking them to arrange transportation from the airport for you, if you do not plan to take the Heathrow Express.

Taking the hop-on and hop-off buses – We took the hop on and hop off buses in London during our first few days to get the lay of the land. There are several companies that operate them but they all basically do the same thing. Just be aware that some have different routes. They all don’t stop at the same places.

Bringing small blankets for picnics – There are so many parks in London. So if you’re in London during the warmer months, I high suggest having a picnic at some of those parks. We used our blankets quite often while in London.

Purchasing fast passes to the London Eye ahead of time – To avoid the lines, we purchased fast pass tickets to the London Eye online ahead of time. We also purchased the upgrade to experience the London Eye at any time instead of a set time. It gave us more flexibility and we didn’t feel like we were on a schedule.

Using our credit cards for almost everything – We rarely had to use the ATM to get cash in London. We found it very convenient that most places, if not all, accepted credit cards. To get the most of our use of credit cards, I highly recommend getting a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees.

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