Suggestions for London vacation

Oct 11th, 2010, 08:25 AM
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Suggestions for London vacation

Hi. My family and I are planning a trip to London for early July 2011. The family includes my husband and me, our three kids (15,14, 9) and my in-laws, both about 70 (they travel widely all over the world and are very spry and adventurous.)

We'll be in London eight days and hope to find centrally located accommodations. My husband and I like to stay in apartments because it allows for more room for the kids, and we can use the washer/dryer and therefore don't have to pack as much.

Our kids love history and museums and are very amiable travelers. We want to get a good sense of the city in the time we're there.

Any suggestions on where to start the planning process? What are must-see places? Cool off-the-beaten-path places? Day trips out of the city? I'm open to all suggestions. We have eclectic tastes and tend to shy away from canned experiences...

Thanks in advance!
ksbeem is offline  
Oct 11th, 2010, 08:47 AM
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"Any suggestions on where to start the planning process?"

1) go to your local library and check out all the London guidebooks
alanRow is offline  
Oct 11th, 2010, 08:54 AM
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Hampton Court, where Henry VIII held court, is often overlooked by first-time London travelers but your family would seem posed to love it - reeks of history (the Tudors TV series takes place in Hampton Court - not necessarily filmed there but in historical context

anyway this palace - the English Versailles as it has been dubbed - if full of surprises at every turn - it is not your normal boring caslte tour - self-directed with or without audio guides you see the old kitchens, which look at if a feast for the gourmand Henry is being prepared - called the most complete intact Tudor kitchens anywhere - and there is world-famous art, such as the cartoons in the Orangeries and The Great Vine - an old grapevine planted by Capability Brown, who designed the ornate formal gardens - the vine still yields pounds of grapes for wine making though it is now enclosed by glass.

And in the vast park is a famous flummoxing maze to baffle you and your kids

And you can much of the year take a boat from London to Hampton Court and always take very frequent trains right to a station opposite the main entrance.
PalenQ is offline  
Oct 11th, 2010, 08:57 AM
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Welcome to Hampton Court Palace
The official website of Hampton Court Palace, managed by Historic Royal Palaces.

Getting here - Buy Tickets - What's on - 'Top ten' things to see and do

Court Palace Guide - All You Need to Know About Hampton ...
Hampton Court Palace is best known as King Henry VIII's home but there's a lot more to this wonderful English royal palace. Find out more, including all you ...

Note if going by train buy a train ticket and you should get 2 for 1 admission but you must print off the coupons from the 2 for 1 web site - anyway saving beaucoup pounds.

Days Out Guide - 2FOR1 London
We're offering 2FOR1 entry to over 150 top London attractions, restaurants, ... with your National Rail train tickets when you arrive at the attraction. ...
PalenQ is offline  
Oct 11th, 2010, 09:16 AM
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ksbeem - Let me suggest that your kids are well old enough to do some research on London sights that may appeal to them as well - yes for the older two with any decent guidebook - places like Windsor Castle - the castle of their dreams - the dread Tower of London, where many a head was taken off, the British Museum's myriad attraction - have them study up on the purloined Elgin Marbles for instance or some of the ultra famous city gates, walls, etc stolen from all over the world - Madame Tussaud's, the London Dungeon, the Eye Over London - a huge Ferris Wheel that gives you a bir'd eye view of all of London, Jack the Ripper Tours, etc.

All those sights and more - like the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum if kids are into tennis - or taking in a soccer match if into soccer, etc. - anyway all those sights have web sites with nice photos to whet their appetities and help them also plan the trip.

With my once young son i found that if he helped plan the trip he enjoyed it more.

anyway London has so so many varied sights.
PalenQ is offline  
Oct 11th, 2010, 09:26 AM
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And as a last thought for now to me one of the great things about going to London is to take in a London Play - again have kids research what is one in the West End - the major playhouses and have them select a show to attend - just going to a play in London is a great thing but to one that they know about - super!
PalenQ is offline  
Oct 11th, 2010, 09:53 AM
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Try to get tickets to "The War Horse". We were in London recently and couldn't attend because the tickets were sold out. But several people told us how wonderful it was and that children enjoyed it as well. When we were in Castle Combe in the Cotswolds, they were laying cables and doing other preparation to start filming for "The War Horse" which is going to be a Steven Spielberg movie.

Also, going on walks with "London Walks" is a lot of fun. There are subjects to suit everyone.
jrjcolllins is offline  
Oct 11th, 2010, 10:18 AM
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>>Madame Tussaud's, the London Dungeon, the Eye Over London - a huge Ferris Wheel that gives you a bir'd eye view of all of London, Jack the Ripper Tours<<

Our PQ must be at the paint again. The Eye is great (though it isn't actually a 'Ferris Wheel'), but the other three are among the worst of the worst. Mme Tussauds is OK-ish but not really for a first trip and the other two are schlocky beyond belief.

"or taking in a soccer match if into soccer, etc"

July isn't Football season

Your kids love history and museums so they will be in heaven - most museums in London are free. The British, Science, Natural History, Imperial War (don't be put off by the idea of a 'war museum'- it is amazing), V&A, National Gallery, Museum of London, etc are all free.

The London Transport Museum charge - but is great for kids of all ages.

But essentially - I agree w/ alanRow -- start w/ a good guide book and also click on DESTINATIONS above and read Fodors description of sites in London. The subject is huge - and we can help a lot, but definitely get the kids in on the planning.

One problem is it may be difficult to find a flat sleeping 7 comfortably. There are some large/posh places but they are relatively few and far between. What is your budget? We can recommend some if we know how much you want to spend- but because of rarity, it will have to be booked well ahead.

Or - another option is to rent 2 apartments in the same bldg/complex. That might be easier.
janisj is online now  
Oct 11th, 2010, 10:48 AM
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OF COURSE I am consulting guidebooks. I don't expect anyone on this forum to do all my homework for me. And thanks for the tips to get my kids involved -- I am doing that.

Just wanted tips from people who've been who could recommend from their own experiences what to do/what not to do.

I must say, alanRow, that was a condescending and patronizing response and really uncalled for. Please don't bother to respond if you're not going to be helpful.

Thanks to everyone else.
ksbeem is offline  
Oct 11th, 2010, 11:35 AM
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to the OP

MANY people post here expecting us to do the research for them. I will say from your post you didn't seem like one of them, as you gave us lots of details,., but I think some of us old timers get cranky....
mztery is offline  
Oct 11th, 2010, 11:52 AM
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but I think some of us old timers get cranky.... like the one who posted:

and saying they are the worst of the worst

the worst possible advice from janis IMO IF you are thinking of kids that age - yeh have them do some stuff adults think is cool but those things above that janis poohpoohs are some of the very top attractions for not only British families but adults too.

Seems like someone cannot remember her childhood, too long ago perhaps?
PalenQ is offline  
Oct 11th, 2010, 12:17 PM
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Search the forums for trip reports (especially from travelers with kids). That'll help give you an idea for what other people have done, what they've enjoyed and what sounds like potential for your family.

This sounds goofy but just use google to search for images of places to go in London, things to do in London, etc. Also check websites like Flickr for London photos. The photos are often what really grabs my attention and makes me excited to go somewhere. I love flipping through the guidebooks with tons of pictures (DK I think usually has great photos) and then using other guidebooks or the forums to get the info about those photos.

One thing I LOVE in London is to visit the Tower. Go before they open so that you can take photos of the Tower Bridge and the outside of the Tower wall. Then, once you're inside, head straight for the jewel tower. That way you can take your time looking at the crown jewels and the other fun stuff in that building. If you go later (even an hour or two) the line will be clear out the door and down a good distance. Once you're through the jewels, go join one of the yeoman warder tours. They're free and tons of fun. There's great information but the yeoman warders are all pretty funny so it doesn't seem like a boring history lesson. Some people tip them at the end so have a few coins ready if you wish.

A night time excursion is to go back to the Tower for the Ceremony of the Keys. It's later at night (9:30-10pm I think) and has great history. The Ceremony is free but requires a reservation. See their website on how to make that reservation and don't wait too long (3-4 months out or more is best, especially as you'll be there in high season). Finding the return stamps can be a pain, so try your main post office if you decide to send for tickets.

The underground is very easy to use and pretty handy. Check for various schedules and routes for the buses and the underground. It'll also be a good site for figuring out travel cards for your group. I've only ever used a pay as you go (PAYG) oyster card but I've only traveled solo in London. There are 2 for 1 deals and various tickets for kids (search the forums for that kind of info).

Possible day trips: Hampton Court Palace and Windsor Castle. Dover or Canterbury Cathedral are good day trips as well, but save those for your next trip.

Good luck and have fun! London is one of my favorite places and I'm sure you'll have a fantastic time.
Iowa_Redhead is offline  
Oct 11th, 2010, 12:26 PM
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London Walks....go to the website.
Elainee is offline  
Oct 11th, 2010, 12:46 PM
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As someone who has traveled to London with kids I'll offer what they liked best:

Tower of London - lots of history, beefeater tours are informative yet funny

Hampton Court Palace - We spent an entire day here. So much to see. The gardens are lovely and it sits right on the river (you can take a boat but the train is faster)

Natural History Museum - dinosaur bones, enough said!

Imperial War Museum - Again a place we spent hours. My boys love war.

London Eye - Expensive, do you have to, no, but the views were amazing.

Any Park - great for running around (the kids) or sitting for a break (the adults)

I have 2 trip reports if you click on my name.

Have fun planning.
trvlgirlmq is offline  
Oct 11th, 2010, 01:44 PM
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Definitely the Tower of London. We were lucky enough to see the Tower Bridge lift up to allow a ship to pass through. The Ceremony of the Keys is interesting. The British Museum should appeal to all-we loved it but went on a bank holiday and it was MOBBED. Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens-lots of children there in the summer-nice place to relax. Maybe the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace?? We also enjoyed Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, walking across the Millenium Bridge to St. Paul's Cathedral where there are some beautiful views if you climb to the top.

The guides that we had were Knopf MapGuides and the Eyewitness Travel Guide to London. Check them out at a Borders or other book store. You can then order them at Amazon for less. What we liked about the Knopf was it was small, lightweight, and had detailed maps by sections of London. We also had the Rick Steves London guide.

If interested in apt. rentals check out

Our last visit we were about 5 minute walk to Gloucester tube/underground. Believe Circle, District, and Piccadilly lines go through this station. Stayed in South Kensington area-very nice, safe. Nearby (walking distance) are Science Museum, Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum.

For a day trip we did the sunrise tour to Stonehenge, followed by breakfast and visit to Lacock, and then Bath. We had a great guide with tons of information. Our group was the only one at Stonehenge as we were there before official opening time. We were able to go beyond the rope barriers and lean against, touch, etc. the amazing stones. There are strong opinions about Stonehenge but I love ancient sites. Lacock is a charming small village that has been used for numerous films like Harry Potter, Emma, Pride and Prejudice, too many to mention. Bath was interesting but crowded with tourists.

Hope you all have a great trip!!!
chris45ny is offline  
Oct 11th, 2010, 04:01 PM
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I did this SAME trip 15 years ago: A week in London with our two kids (plus a nephew who was the same age as my older son - 10 at the time) and my in-laws (in their early 50's at the time).

Have you traveled with the in-laws before? If not, consider breaking up the 7 of you into two groups on some days so those with differing taste can go their separate ways. On days you split apart, it's better to meet for dinner at the apartment rather than trying to hook up at a restaurant.

I think people have already mentioned the "must-sees" (there are SO many!). The British Museum might be the one place you break into three groups and meet up in the cafe - there is so much there that everyone will have different priorities.

I think the kids especially will love the Tower of London (may not be worth the long waits for all the adults, however). A play in the West End is a must as well (or two if all seven of you don't have the same taste).

In addition to going to specific places, also look into some various self-guided walks that will show you the best of the various (and varied) neighborhoods in London.

One day-trip is plenty. The ones mentioned in various posts above are all good ideas.
bardo1 is offline  
Oct 11th, 2010, 05:42 PM
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cferrb is offline  
Oct 11th, 2010, 06:36 PM
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I lived in the UK. I have actually been to Madame Tussaud's several times (PQ always recommends it but has never that I remember mentioned stepping inside the place)

The London Dungeon is a total tourist trap, and Jack the Ripper -- I ask you, is a guiided walk w/ explicit descriptions of women being disemboweled is appropriate for a 9 yo???? I think not. (plus not one Ripper location still exists - you get a lot of >>that carpark is where such and such was murdered<< and >>that block of flats is the site of yadda yadda<<)

Listen to the advice re the Tower, Hampton Court, etc.

Day trips could be anything - Oxford, Dover Castle, York, You will have time for 1 or at very most 2 out-of-town trips (I consider HCP, Greenwich and Windsor 'in town' since they are so close to London and easy 1/2 day trips)

Everything else is a piece of cake - I really think your biggest issue will be accommodations. A group of 7 is not easy -- so what is your budget??
janisj is online now  
Oct 11th, 2010, 07:22 PM
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After several visits to London, we decided to see, and really enjoyed the Ceremony of the Keys. It was atmospheric, informative, and enjoyable.

We got Travelex 10£ tickets for the National Theatre. I think they are available ahead of time on the website; they were good seats.
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
Oct 11th, 2010, 07:30 PM
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We took our kids to London for the first time when they were 11 and 13. I'd say of all the museums, especially for history buffs, our favorite was the Cabinet War Rooms. We also really enjoyed day trips to Greenwich (standing on the Prime Meridien is just cool!), Stonehenge, Cambridge, Bath and Oxford. They loved the British Museum (at the time, you could touch the Rosetta Stone). We enjoyed walking and walking -- past Big Ben and Parliament, doing brass rubbings at Westminster Abbey, Picadilly and Leicester Square. We enjoyed Harrod's (first flat panel TV we ever saw -- we were in awe!). We love markets, so on that trip we went to Portobello Road, on subsequent trips, we've been back to Portobello Road, Camden, Spitalfield's and others. We loved Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park. We even liked visiting Carnaby Street, because the kids really like the Beatles.
sf7307 is offline  

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