London and Paris with 3 kids

Apr 24th, 2019, 10:24 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 155
London and Paris with 3 kids

After having received such great feedback while planning my trip, I wanted to write a quick-ish trip report about traveling to London and Paris with three kids under 8.

Background-on this trip were my husband, my 7 and 5 year old sons, and my 14 month old daughter. We tried to accommodate our kids' interests while also seeing things that interested us. I went into this trip with relatively low expectations, and was determined to make the best of it. In the end, we were very pleasantly surprised at how much fun we had, and are already brainstorming destinations for our next adventure.

Details-We flew from Toronto to London (LCY) via Dublin, arriving on 4/12, took the Eurostar to Paris, and flew back from Paris, again through Dublin, on 4/21. While in London, we stayed at Hilton London Metropole in a family room (two queen beds, a pull-out sofa, and a baby cot). We had plenty of space, and the hotel is conveniently located near the Edgware Road tube station. In Paris, we stayed in an Air BnB in the 6th arrondissement, and it was perfect for our needs while also being close to both St Michel and Odeon Metro stops.

London-The highlights for the kids in London were, in no particular order, the Transport Museum, Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens (and the pigeons in Kensington Gardens...), the Tube, the Tower of London, the mummies and the Parthenon at the British Museum, Changing of the Guard (more on that in a minute), street performers in Covent Garden, and visiting Stonehenge.

Having experienced the chaos of Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace in the past, we opted to stay at the gates of St James's Palace where we watched the Guard march in and out. Shortly thereafter, we also were able to catch the Old Guard coming down the Mall. This allowed the kids to see the guards much closer up, while also avoiding the crush at the Palace.

My 7 year old's only request while planning this trip was to go to Stonehenge, and so we made it a priority. It was the highlight of his trip, but my husband and I still disagree on what the best method for visiting would have been. We opted to take the train to Salisbury, and then use the Stonehenge Tour bus to get to the stones. My husband, over a week later, maintains that we should have taken a tour that would have also allowed us to visit Windsor. However, I preferred traveling on our own, as it meant we weren't on anyone else's schedule, and it also allowed us to explore Salisbury a bit, and visit the cathedral. My 5 year old is still talking about the rat that was found in the skull of William Longespee, which one of the docents showed him. I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree on what would have been best, but either way, it was a good day trip out of London.

As with any trip, not everything was perfect. The Natural History Museum was outrageously busy. We waited in quite a line to get in, and then it was so crowded, especially in the dinosaur and volcano exhibits that we left after only a short time. Westminster Abbey was not a favorite for the kids...I think we spent more time taking everyone to the restrooms than we did exploring the Abbey. We could have skipped the National Gallery. And, even though the Tower of London ended up being a lot of fun, we left the Yeoman Warder's tour because the kids couldn't hear, the line for the Crown Jewels was 45 minutes long, and there was a significant line to pass through the gates intially.

We weren't really impacted by the Extinction Rebellion protests, although we saw them when we walked through Westminster. Transportation in London was easy, especially with the London Underground app. The morning we left for Paris, there were major delays on several of the Underground lines, and I think we lucked out by getting a train when we did.
​​​​
This isn't directly related to either destination, but I guess I'll just make a note that we have Google Fi as our mobile network, and there were no additional charges for international data or texting. It was a huge convenience to be able to use our phones normally (international calls are $0.20/minute, however).

I'll do a separate post about our few days in Paris, but overall London was a great introduction to international travel for our little ones, and I would go back in a heartbeat!
Danielle811 is offline  
Apr 24th, 2019, 10:39 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 64,279
Sounds like a great trip . . .

>> My husband, over a week later, maintains that we should have taken a tour that would have also allowed us to visit Windsor. However, I preferred traveling on our own, <<

Your husband is wrong

Re the Tower -- not sure if you read many threads about visiting the Tower -- but the Crown Jewels will always have a long to VERY long queue unless you go there immediately at opening time. If you do that there will be virtually no line at all -- and often you would be the only ones in the vault. That may not be possible with three little ones in tow -- and if one can't do the Jewel House early in the AM it is almost better to skip them.

And yes, the Natural History Museum is almost always insanely crowded.
janisj is online now  
Apr 24th, 2019, 10:56 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 767
Danielle, such a pleasure to read your trip report! You did well to take the children to Europe, your sons will carry these experiences long into the future...I was not quite seven when my parents took me to the UK and Europe and even today I vividly remember so many things. Chasing pigeons at Trafalgar Square, a Punch and Judy show, medieval torture tools (at the Tower?), the Eiffel Tower, Brusselsí Grand Place, a canal ride in Amsterdam, etc. Reading your post took me back in time...😍
geetika is offline  
Apr 24th, 2019, 11:08 AM
  #4  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 155
Originally Posted by janisj View Post
So
​​​​​​
<Re the Tower -- not sure if you read many threads about visiting the Tower -- but the Crown Jewels will always have a long to VERY long queue unless you go there immediately at opening time. If you do that there will be virtually no line at all -- and often you would be the only ones in the vault. That may not be possible with three little ones in tow -- and if one can't do the Jewel House early in the AM it is almost better to skip them..
That was our plan; however, by the time we got through the intial entry line, we had grumpy, hungry kids. By the time we got them snacks, the line had already formed. We SHOULD have joined it then, but opted to go through the White Tower next, and by the time we came out it was at 45-50 minutes. At that point, we just committed to it. Our 1 year old fell asleep mid-line, and we resorted to allowing the boys to play games on our phones. They manage lines at Disney World, and it was certainly cooler in London!

All that to say-we absolutely should have gone through the Jewel House first. Live and learn, I guess.

Side note-has this changed in recent years? I'd been to the Tower twice before, several years ago, and I guess I don't remember such a line for the Crown Jewels.
Danielle811 is offline  
Apr 24th, 2019, 11:28 AM
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 155
Originally Posted by geetika View Post
Danielle, such a pleasure to read your trip report! You did well to take the children to Europe, your sons will carry these experiences long into the future...I was not quite seven when my parents took me to the UK and Europe and even today I vividly remember so many things. Chasing pigeons at Trafalgar Square, a Punch and Judy show, medieval torture tools (at the Tower?), the Eiffel Tower, Brusselsí Grand Place, a canal ride in Amsterdam, etc. Reading your post took me back in time...😍
Thank you so much! We had a great time, and I hope the boys have good memories!
Danielle811 is offline  
Apr 24th, 2019, 11:43 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 64,279
>>Side note-has this changed in recent years? I'd been to the Tower twice before, several years ago, and I guess I don't remember such a line for the Crown Jewels.<<

Maybe you were just very lucky before -- but (not counting several Ceremony's of the Keys) I've been to the Tower probably 15 times in the last 30-ish years even before the current building opened in the early '90's and every time by maybe 10:30 AM the lines have been enormous. And in the old days, there were no videos or anything to keep you occupied while waiting . . . you just shuffled along.
janisj is online now  
Apr 24th, 2019, 11:51 AM
  #7  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 155
Originally Posted by janisj View Post
>>Side note-has this changed in recent years? I'd been to the Tower twice before, several years ago, and I guess I don't remember such a line for the Crown Jewels.<<

Maybe you were just very lucky before -- but (not counting several Ceremony's of the Keys) I've been to the Tower probably 15 times in the last 30-ish years even before the current building opened in the early '90's and every time by maybe 10:30 AM the lines have been enormous. And in the old days, there were no videos or anything to keep you occupied while waiting . . . you just shuffled along.
​​​​​​
I'm probably just remembering incorrectly! Maybe the lines seemed less daunting when I wasn't waiting with little kids 😉.
Danielle811 is offline  
Apr 24th, 2019, 11:53 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,849
>>> Westminster Abbey was not a favorite for the kids...I think we spent more time taking everyone to the restrooms than we did exploring the Abbey.
Did you go up to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries? After spending time at the ground level, it was a relief to escape to the upstairs in less crowded galleries and be able to see the Abbey from above.

Visiting the Crown Jewels is so true. We were among the first 10 or so people to enter the exhibit area. Absolutely no queue.
greg is offline  
Apr 24th, 2019, 01:17 PM
  #9  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 155
Originally Posted by greg View Post
>>>
Did you go up to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries? After spending time at the ground level, it was a relief to escape to the upstairs in less crowded galleries and be able to see the Abbey from above.
We did not. We went on Wednesday afternoon during the half-priced entry time, and it was not opened at that time.
Danielle811 is offline  
Apr 24th, 2019, 06:44 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 236
Love reading about your trip! We were in Paris with kids around the same time as you. Hope you got the great weather we did!
caze17 is offline  
Apr 25th, 2019, 09:12 AM
  #11  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 155
Originally Posted by caze17 View Post
Love reading about your trip! We were in Paris with kids around the same time as you. Hope you got the great weather we did!
The weather was beautiful in Paris! I hope you enjoyed your trip!
Danielle811 is offline  
Apr 25th, 2019, 02:28 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 4,380
Originally Posted by Danielle811 View Post
​​​​
This isn't directly related to either destination, but I guess I'll just make a note that we have Google Fi as our mobile network, and there were no additional charges for international data or texting. It was a huge convenience to be able to use our phones normally (international calls are $0.20/minute, however).
WhatsApp
walkinaround is offline  
Apr 25th, 2019, 03:43 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
Posts: 490
I travel with my children as well. I am enjoying your trip report and I look forward to your description of Paris.
ToujoursVoyager is offline  
Apr 26th, 2019, 11:02 AM
  #14  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 155
Three Days in Paris-
We took the Eurostar from London to Paris the morning of 4/18. We used the Metro to get to our Air BnB in the 6th, got settled in, and set off in search of a late lunch before heading to the Eiffel Tower. We walked through St Sulpice that afternoon, which was open despite its own recent fire. (We arrived just a couple days after Notre Dame's devastating fire, and it was certainly at the forefront of our minds.)

At the Eiffel Tower, we opted not to go up to the observation decks, and instead let the kids play in the surrounding park. The weather was beautiful, and after spending the morning on a train, everyone was happy to just unwind.

We walked a LOT in Paris, and this day was no exception. On our way back to our flat, we stopped at a festival that was set up on the pathway along the Seine, and then decided to walk back. Throughout the trip, my husband and I alternated carrying our 14 month old in an Ergo carrier, and the boys took turns in our stroller. This is certainly not the norm for them, but having that option allowed us to walk further and be out longer than we would have otherwise been able to.

One of the highlights of the entire trip for everyone was our day trip to Versailles. We had some transport complications that day, but despite that, it was one of everyone's favorite days. The palace was beautiful, but after the Hall of Mirrors, I made my way out with the two younger kiddos. The combination of crowds and impending lunch time did my 5 year old in.

We spent the afternoon in the gardens. The Musical Fountains show was taking place that day, which was fun. The fountains interested my older two much more than I anticipated, and we all had a great time. The rest of the day was spent playing in the gardens and along the Grand Canal. My 1 year old loved being able to explore (and not be cooped up in a carrier for awhile).

We pre-purchased our tickets for Versailles, and had to wait in a short line to get through security. The line to purchase tickets looked to be a couple hours long that day!

On our way back to Paris, our train unexpectedly ended its journey at Meudon Val-Fleury due to an accident further down the line. It took awhile to sort out what had happened (with the help of a kind French woman who explained what was going on), and we wound up having to take a bus and a couple Metro lines to get back, but we made it no worse for the wear.

On the docket for our final day was the Louvre and exploring the Champs Elysees. Again, we had pre-purchased tickets for the Louvre, which allowed us to skip the major lines. I'm sure this will be controversial, but we decided that we probably wouldn't bring young kids back to the Louvre. It may have been a combination of crowds and museum fatigue that contributed to this feeling, but we just never really hit our stride. That said, my 5 year old just told me at lunch this afternoon that his two favorite parts of Paris were seeing the Eiffel Tower and the Mona Lisa.

After the Louvre, with one child sleeping in the baby carrier and another asleep in the stroller, we walked through the Tuileries to Place De La Concorde where we were surprised to see it completely devoid of cars and gendarmes posted around the area. As we continued, we found that several bridges, including Pont Alexandre III, public spaces, and the area surrounding the Arc de Triomphe were blocked off, or had security check points due to Gilet Jaunes protests that day. A majority of the shops along the Champs Elysees were also boarded up that day, and the metro stations from the Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre were closed. We wound up walking back to our flat, which was tiring, but ended up being an adventurous way to bid farewell to Paris.

When planning this trip, we really did not know what to expect. We went in with low expectations, and ended up having a wonderful time. Obviously not everything was perfect; kids (and parents) had grumpy days, we ate at McDonald's more than we would have liked, and we probably moved at a slower pace than we did in our pre-child travels, but this was a trip that I will always hold dear. We're already talking about where to go next!
Danielle811 is offline  
May 1st, 2019, 11:35 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
Posts: 490
Thank you for taking the time to write your trip report. It was nice to read my childhood city through your eyes. I love the fact that you travel with your children.
ToujoursVoyager is offline  
May 1st, 2019, 08:52 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 19,718
>>I'm sure this will be controversial, but we decided that we probably wouldn't bring young kids back to the Louvre.<<

I don't find that controversial at all, for children that age. I certainly wouldn't have got much out of it at that age.
PatrickLondon is offline  
Related Topics
Thread
Original Poster
Forum
Replies
Last Post
arivera
Europe
14
Apr 12th, 2015 05:01 AM
beachbum2
Europe
20
Jul 26th, 2011 10:31 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 07:21 PM.