London in Feb 2013 with teenager

Aug 4th, 2012, 06:38 PM
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London in Feb 2013 with teenager

Hi, I am planning a 7-10 day trip to London in mid February with my husband and our 15 year old son. We may be bringing another 15 year old friend of his. I know Feb. isn't the best time, but it is our only possibility so we have to make the best of it. Neither my son nor my husband has been to London. I was there 25 years ago, so I know much has changed. I am looking for information on renting an apartment or condo while there. Any suggestions as to the best parts of London to stay and how we should look for non-hotel accomodations? I'm OK with being outside London central, so long as we can get in to the city easily. We are hoping to take public transportation and not rent a car.

Also, any suggestions for what to do with a 15 year old in this fabulous city? How much freedom should I expect to give these kids while we are over there? I don't expect they will want to stay with my husband and I the whole time. Thanks for any help you can offer.
Loulou12 is offline  
Aug 4th, 2012, 07:00 PM
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Loulou12, you might start by having your son and his friend research those places in London which interest them the most. For example, if they have been following the Olympics, there is a LONDON WALKS tour of Olympic sites available.

If they have an interest in history, the CHURCHILL WAR ROOMS are fabulous. I am sure that you all would enjoy riding the LONDON EYE – on a clear day with good visibility.

There is just so much to see in London and I believe that your 15 year old son would enjoy the experience more with a friend of his own age.

Many years ago I was in London during the 3rd week of February and the weather was great – even saw some daffodils. Hope you have the same.
latedaytraveler is offline  
Aug 4th, 2012, 10:19 PM
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>>you might start by having your son and his friend research those places in London which interest them the most.<<

You could also get them working on understanding and planning journeys around on the transport system:

If you search around the forums, there quite a few recent discussions about different areas of London to stay in, and about apartment rental companies. Personally, I'd have thought (if there's something available within your price range) somewhere around Bloomsbury or South Kensington/Gloucester Road would be ideal, but a word of general advice: don't rely solely on what the proprietor says the area is.

Get an exact postcode (it will look something like "SW1 1AA"), check it out on Google Maps and Street View or similar online service and cross-reference it to the public transport maps.
PatrickLondon is offline  
Aug 5th, 2012, 10:01 AM
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We were in London in April with our teens (ages 13 & 15) and stayed in a two-bedroom apt in South Kensington. It was a fabulous location just a few minutes walk to the Gloucester Road tube stop. We rented it through A Place Like Home and were very happy with them.

Some of my boys favorite things: Churchill War Rooms (this was THE favorite); London Eye; Science Museum; London Walks - we took three, including a Ghost Walk; and wandering through all the beautiful parks.
amamax2 is offline  
Aug 5th, 2012, 10:29 AM
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There are dozens of things kids that age would love to do in London - and I suggest you set them onto finding them. Head them towards the Let's Go student guide and the Thorn Tree section of the Lonely PLanet website. It will help them pick out what will interest them most on top of the major sights that everyone will want to see - including Tower of London, British Museum etc. This worked perfectly with my DDs when they were 11 and 14 - they had a list of more things than we could ever see in the time we had in London and Paris.

If you tell us what their interests are - people can make specific recos.

Separately, I would try to stay as close to the center as possible to avoid wasting short hours of daylight. Also - check out apts so yuo can go for a 2 BR 2 bath at better rates than a hotel. (Also, having a fridge with snack is good with boys that age - who seem, IME, to eat about 4 times what adults do.)
nytraveler is offline  
Aug 5th, 2012, 11:24 AM
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Agree with advice to have the teen(s) do some advance research and come up with a couple places/things they would like to see/do.
Also agree with the suggestion to look for a 2 bedroom / 2 bath apartment. We have been quite satisfied with both and with when we rented London apartments.

As to location, a decent neighborhood and proximity to public transport are the key things. London is so spread out that there is no one place central to everything you will want to do.
Seamus is offline  
Aug 5th, 2012, 11:47 AM
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Thanks for your reply, latedaytraveler. I had forgotten about the London Walks. I will check out the Churhill war rooms. My son is semi-interested in history so that is a good place to start. Appreciate your help.
Loulou12 is offline  
Aug 6th, 2012, 08:37 AM
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They might also like Brick Lane. It's a bit further East of the usual tourist honeypot but lots of fun: street food, hunting through record shops, antiques and bric-a-brac market.

You can also top off the trip with a trip to Colombia Road flower market at the top of Brick Lane. A gorgeous little street with independent shops, chock full of trade price flowers and plants, and burly men shouting "BOUGAINVILLEA, YOURS FER ONLY 11 PARND DARLIN'".

Then wander around Spitalfields market and its surrounding shops: this is a pedestrianised, modernised version of an old Elizabethan market. It has tons of cool shops, trendy folk and eclectic restaurants (as well as the chain stuff).
sarahpoppet27 is offline  
Aug 6th, 2012, 02:37 PM
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Regarding how much freedom to give the kids. That is actually a personal question based on your own knowledge of the kids. However, I will mention that March 2011 we were planning on taking our 15 yo son and his friend to Japan for two weeks. Unfortunately, the earthquake tsunami happened about 8 days before we were scheduled to leave so we ended up canceling the trip. Ended up taking them to Disneyworld where we gave them TONS of freedom, but I digress.

When we were still going to Japan, my plan was to tell them that they basically had to be with us all the time. Now, if we were in a museum or say at Camden Market we would be able to split up - ie. We are all shopping in the Camden Market area, let's meet up here in 1.5 hrs. That would give them the freedom to explore on their own but not have them be too far away. In Japan or probably London I would not have let them take any public transportation without us. As the two weeks went on, and depending on the situation, I probably would have considered loosening the rules (depending on how they did in the beginning - ie coming back at the 1.5 hr. time, etc.).
I think London is a safe city, and young kids are around by themselves all the time, but you just want to be careful that they are comfortable and respectful of any rules/boundaries that you may have. Our kids have traveled quite a bit, but having someone else's child you are responsible for is a whole other issue. I would also talk with the other kid's parents about how comfortable they are with freedoms.

Also, if you plan on being separated at all, I would make sure the kids have a cell plan that at least covers some phone calls and minimal texting so you can communicate with them.

Also, with 7-10 days I would consider at least one maybe two daytrips. We went with a small group tour to Cambridge, Shakespeare-on-Avon and Warwick Castle. There are other options - Stonehenge is one.

Here is a link to my trip report which includes info. on our apt., restaurants, things we did and pictures:
jgg is offline  
Aug 6th, 2012, 02:59 PM
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I agree that South Kensington is a great spot. If you want to walk through to central London you can, otherwise you are on multiple tube and bus lines to getyou anywhere easily. I am here with three small children and we walk easily to the museums ( natural history, science, V&A) as well as Kensington and Hyde parks. We are staying in an Oakwood property which is nice with a full kitchen and a very large supermarket almost underneath us (most appreciated as we don't have a car)
London seems very safe and I would feel comfortable in letting 2 teenagers roam on their own for limited amounts of time with phone contact (sims and cheap plans are easy together here). Things can still go wrong, they can still get lost but at least they speak the native language!
starofthesea is offline  
Aug 7th, 2012, 05:44 PM
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Thank you to all who have responded. I'm glad I started this thread early, because there is a lot to think about and arrange. Very thankful to those who gave opinions on the amount of freedom to give a 15 year old. Yes, it is a matter of opinion and you must know your child, I agree. I often think that I am too strict and unwilling to let go as my son gets older, so it was nice to see how others handle things and nicer to see that I'm not as bad as I thought.

I will get my son to start taking the lead on the research for his portion of the trip. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with.

I will also look into the apartment rental v. hotel stays based on the info you all posted. Someone mentioned staying as central as possible, especially to take advantage of daylight hours, which makes sense, especially since we will be there in the winter, when daylight is short. I'm wondering if anyone can give me rough idea about how much it might cost to rent a 2 bedroom apartment for 7-10 days. Ideally, one bedroom would be a queen or king and the other would be two twin beds. THe twins would be for my son and his friend. I imagine they would prefer 2 twins instead of having to sleep in the same bed. We don't need a lot of luxury. I would just want to be in a safe, relatively quiet area with good clean bedding and a little room for some privacy and elbow room.

Thanks again everyone!
Loulou12 is offline  
Aug 7th, 2012, 06:32 PM
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If your son is semi-interested in history, particularly military history, then the Imperial War Museum is a must. My son visited it a couple times when he was 8 - 10 years old. He went again last summer as a 21-year-old college history major and said it was just as good as he remembered.
longhorn55 is offline  
Aug 7th, 2012, 08:03 PM
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Loulou, the cost for vacation apartments will vary widely based on location and relative "poshness." Your best bet is to have a look at a few sites - the ones I mentioned above plus and are a good place to start. Absolutely avoid craigslist, which is full of scams in London. Things to keep in mind:
- if it sounds to good /cheap to be true it probably is
- rental costs may seem high at first but compare to the total cost for two hotel rooms (and don't forget taxes) and the savings you can realize by having some meals in the apartment. Hotel breakfasts can easily run $15-20 per person or more in London.
- online reviews/references posted by the owner are not an ironclad guarantee but can be helpful; if you see some places that catch your eye come back here with specifics (a link to the posting is usually best) and ask if anyone has rented the place previously or knows the agency.
Seamus is offline  
Aug 7th, 2012, 10:53 PM
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And do try to get an exact postcode (it will look something like "SW1A 1AA") that you can check on Google maps and Streetview to see what the neighbourhood looks like, and how close it is to public transport. Neighbourhood names, as claimed by enthusiastic landlords, aren't always that reliable,
PatrickLondon is offline  
Aug 8th, 2012, 09:30 AM
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As many PP have said, there are LOTS of rentals - when you find one that you like, please do start a new thread asking for opinions on it - the members here are awesome at seeing red flags or giving advice on apartments!

Prices do vary widely, but to give you an idea, for our trip we stayed 9 days, so I wanted a 2 bedroom (one with queen, one with twins). We rented this apt:

It was £1075 per week (this was end Mar/beg Apr), which if you look on their site for the price range for this property, was in the mid-range.
amamax2 is offline  
Aug 8th, 2012, 09:47 AM
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Took my 15 year old son and 17 year old goddaughter to London a few years ago. We did many things together - Ducks tour, Churchill Museum, lunch (including beer) in a pub. The two of them went to Madame Tussaud's on their own the 2nd day. We were in the city center and I went over instructions as to how to get there and met them a few hours later. 3rd day my son went to the London Dungeon on his own while the rest of us went to St. Pauls. Again, traveled over together (we were staying at a friend's house outside of town). He wanted to go back to their house afterward and managed tube and train. The two kids also went out with our friend's teenagers on their own at night. So bottom line was we allowed him a little more freedom each day as we all felt more comfortable navigating the city.

Other things my kids have enjoyed from prior trips were Westminster Abbey, Tate Modern, and London Eye.
AtlTravelr is offline  
Aug 8th, 2012, 10:09 AM
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Another vote for the Imperial War Museum and London Walks.

How about the Globe Theater, the tour and the museum? And maybe one daytrip, just to get out of the city. (I would wait for a better weather day.) Hampton Court Palace and Windsor are not too far out of town. Oxford has a lot to do indoors, including the Christ Church College Hall, used in the Harry Potter movies.
Mimar is offline  
Aug 8th, 2012, 11:37 AM
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Posts: 7,561 - you're shooting fish in a barrel.

Seriously, a 15 yo boy in London means CHOOSING what to do, not trying to figure out if there is anything of interest.

Cabinet War Rooms
Imperial War Museum
Royal Observatory
Greenwich Maritime Museum
Windsor Castle
Hampton Court Palace
Dover Castle (day trip by fast train from St Pancras)
various art museums (depending upon interest, or lack thereof)

more and more and more (even without the tourist traps like Madame Tussaud's, which is a bunch of wax stiffs and not really interesting for a boy, or the London Dungeon).

PatrickLondon's right - without a post code, you have to trust the renter's description of the area. Many of those are less accurate than a toddler with the Bow of Odysseus.
BigRuss is offline  
Aug 8th, 2012, 01:37 PM
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To give you an idea: These flats are just next door to the Tower of London. Either the 1 or 2 bdrm flats would work for you. The 1 bdrms sleep four (as MANY holiday flats will) and the 2 bdrms sleep up to six w/ more flexibility for bed configurations.

In the off season, the 2bdrms run £869 and the 1 bdrms £675 per week.
janisj is online now  
Aug 8th, 2012, 04:32 PM
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This Spring we made a return trip to London, this time with our 17yo son and 13yo daughter (previous trip was when son was 10yo). We decided to stay in Belgravia. It was quiet, and I loved its proximity to Hyde Park, where I went running every morning, and me and the kids loved catching the Tube in lively Victory Station. Previously, though, we'd stayed in Bloomsbury, and the next time we visit, that's where we'll stay. Bloomsbury was more centrally located for what we enjoy the most - museums and shows, and we're not into shopping. Both good areas, though.

What we did on this trip: Tate Modern (son's choice; he's big into contemporary art); National Gallery (we're all into art); Tower of London; afternoon tea (son's birthday celebration choice); Westminster Abbey.

Last trip, things we didn't visit the second time: Imperial War Museum, Cabinet War Rooms; St. Paul's; the LondonWalks "Spies and Spymasters" tour, which focused on real-life spy Kim Philby.

We went to shows both times, which everyone liked.

We had told our son that he would be able to do stuff on his own this trip (we also spent time in Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Edinburgh and rural Scotland), but to my surprise, he wasn't much interested in doing so. Several times we split up in museums, and met later; that worked out well (he could visit the modern stuff, and we didn't!). It may be different with your son if he has a friend along, but maybe not.
Lexma90 is offline  
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