London, some people see the hustle and bustle and think 'With kids?? No Way', well I say 'yes way'. We go to London all the time and it's all about the preparation of the journey that makes it go as easy as a trip up the road.
So for those of you who are biting the bullet and taking the kids on a trip to the big city for the first time, here are my Top 5 things people need to read before Travelling to London with kids.
Pre-Plan Your Day Out In London...
With Rainy Day Back Up Plans
When travelling to London with children it is really important to know where you're going or at least what is on and what times things are open.
To avoid disappointment and tantrums, plan your trip in advance with some google research and jot down what is on and where. Don't forget an activity inside too, you just can't trust the British weather, so always have a back up plan.
Also make sure to put the opening times of the places you'd like to visit on your plan too. You don't want to spend 30 minutes on a sweaty tube and then get there and it's closed causing a huge disappointment for all, this is often a rooky mistake when travelling to London with kids.
Speaking of the lovely British Weather, don't forget to check the weather forecast before you go. You don't want to be dragging soggy kids around for too long, that's never fun for anyone.
Planning your trips to London in advance will reduce the likelihood of the day being a disaster and is better for you all as a family, no stressy parents, no frustrated kids... just bliss.
Travelling By Tube
The tube can be quite a scary place to go with children but here are a few handy tips when travelling with children on the tube, which I have picked up over the years of travelling to and from London with Kyd and Rocky.
Keep Left at all times in the tube station or they'll get stood on.
Keep safe on the stairs and escalators, hold their hands or carry them also keep in front of them on the way down and behind them on the way up, so you can catch a stumble or fall before it becomes an injury.
Stay away from the platform edge and keep hold of small children on reins to prevent runners falling on the tracks.
Go right down to the end of the platform for the quieter carriages.
Pushchair access is limited so you will need to carry them at times. Take reins for safety when it comes to toddlers and a sling for smaller babies, this will free up your hands to carry the pushchair. Again go to the end of the platform for more space in the carriage.
Whilst on the train make sure they're holding on even if seated, the train can be very jolty and so injuries can happen. People may not offer a seat to a child, ask for one nicely and they may let them have their seat but be prepared to be ignored.
Plan Your Route Around London
Travelling in London isn't as scary if you know what you're doing in advance. Kids can make life really hard when you're trying to read a tube map, keep track of them and understand which tube goes where, with you getting more and more confused and frustrated in the process.
ALWAYS PLAN YOUR ROUTE.
After planning where you're going, find the directions to each destination and write down the route underneath each one, including how to get from one place to another. There is a tool that does this for you on the TFL website (click here for details). Don't forget to check the time of the last tube and how often they come. This just lessens the chances of being stranded at the cost of a pricey taxi ride.
Always check for planned engineering disruptions and tube closures on the dates you're going too, this can be found on the Transport for London website.
Saving Money in London
Save Money, Pack A Picnic
So how do you cut that cost down.
PACK SNACKS Bottles of water, crisps and biscuits will keep their little bellies at bay for a while. Walking around London is hungry work and buying snacks at events or attractions can be stupidly expensive.
PACK A PICNIC LUNCH: If you are just doing regular tourist attractions then it's easy to sneak off and find a beautiful place for a picnic. There are many grassy areas for nice days and Hyde Park is just a tube ride away from all the main tourist attractions and that is a great place to have a family picnic. Some indoor places have picnic areas too but do check with their website before you go that your own food is allowed to be eaten on their premises.
HAVE A JUNK FOOD/TAKE OUT DINNER: It's only one day and there is a McDonalds on every corner in London. For a cheap, quick, on your way home dinner, nip into somewhere like McDonalds or Marks and Sparks and grab some food to eat on the way home. You'll be too tired to care what you're eating and the kids will love you for letting them eat junk.
EATING IN: If you're clever you can pre think your dinner and find vouchers online that reduce the cost. Make sure the vouchers are accepted in that particular restaurant as sometimes they have restrictions on popular areas. Check that you don't need reservations too as London restaurants get busy. If you know you're going to be in a particular area for dinner at a certain time, then ring and book a table. Better to be safe than sorry.
Safety For Kids In London
So this is an important factor of a trip to London with kids, SAFETY FIRST.
Before you go, explain what it is they are likely to expect. Busy crowds and roads, high escalators and stairs, jolty tubes and quick tube changes. Explaining to them prepares them for what they're about to see and so the hustle and bustle won't shock or panic them.
On the day, come up with a strategy as to how you're going to manage the crowds, who holds who's hand and how you'll find each other if you get separated.
Write your number on their arm in felt tip. I find that this gives you confidence that if lost they'll know who to call.
Wear distinctive and sensible clothing, this way you can spot them in a crowd and they won't be losing their shoes or hats in the gap of the tube. If they have laces be aware that many of the accidents caused on the escalators at tube stations are caused by laces being caught in the bottom step. It can lead to nasty falls and injuries.
Traffic and crossing it, don't cross without the little green man and holding the hands of the child. They can change really quickly so be sure to get across in good time as London drivers are a little erratic at the best of times.
IF LOST: STOP, STAND STILL and RAISE THE ALARM (to a policeman or a shop assistant)
I would advise that you explain to them regularly on the day that if they're on a London street, stand still for a while so you have time to find them, stand against a wall so not to get in the busy peoples way and find a member of the police if they can see one or go into the first shop they find and ask them to phone the number on their arm. Tell them to NOT ask a stranger to call for safety reasons. It is safer to ask a working member of staff and will be easier to find them in a particular shop than it will if they walk the street.
Writing your number on their arm won't help on the tube though as you have no signal, so make sure you discuss that if they get lost at a tube station they need to stay still, find a member of the tube staff or police person and not speak to strangers. If they do get lost look for them yourself, alert a member of staff asap and then go to find signal just in case.
If left on a tube carriage tell them to always get off at the next stop, alert a member of staff ASAP, they can get a member of staff to the next stop quicker than you can get there. They will alert the train staff also and stop the train until they find them.