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Trip Report: London for one week with college student and 3 year old

Trip Report: London for one week with college student and 3 year old

Old Oct 24th, 2009, 11:36 PM
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Trip Report: London for one week with college student and 3 year old

Oh how fast these trips go. My 20 year old brother planned to do his junior year of college at the London School of Economics ("LSE"). I decided to take the trip over and help get him settled into London since I was familiar with the area. Along with me came my 3 year old daughter. What a trio we made. We all flew from Chicago on British Airways World Traveler (economy) departing at 7:15 PM direct to LHR arriving at 9:20 AM. Flight was fantastic. Plane was a new 767. Seats were nicely done in blue with coordinating blue and pink pillows! Service was very nice and it was great to have the British flight attendants around talking in their various accents to get us into the groove of going to the UK. We had a dinner and breakfast. Food was very good for airline food. We really made use of the entertainment features. I loved their touch screen individual tvs with various movies and tv shows. That really helped me keep my 3 year old occupied. She finally fell asleep and was out for most of the flight since it was an overnight flight.

Passport Control went ok. We had a serious guy who didn't crack a smile. He looked through all my brother's papers: visa letter, letter of admission to LSE, etc. He then asked me if I was with him and I told him yes, we came to help settle him in. He was checking out my kid and asked if she was my child. I told him yes and then told him everyone tells me she looks like me. He actually peered over to examine her face and my face! Then he inquired we why didn't have the same last name. You should have seen the look he gave me when I told him I didn't take my husband's last name! He finally stamped our passport and said next.

We got our luggage and exited baggage claim into the public area of LHR!! We found an atm to withdraw pocket money and met up with our driver from Just Airports (great recommendation I found on this board) by the Costa coffee. Driver was very, very nice and took care of all our luggage. We had 5 pieces including hand luggage. Our vehicle was an older MPV (multi person vehicle aka minivan). One way trip to our hotel - Waldorf Hilton including toddler car seat and car park expenses was 55 GBP. I gave him a 5 GBP tip and he was very happy.

I chose this hotel due to proximity to the LSE. It's literally 1 block away on Aldwych. I knew we would be running back and forth between hotel and dorm. I had booked 6 nights through HHonors points. I am a diamond member so we got upgraded to an Executive Room. I asked for a suite upgrade and that was an additional 80 GBP/night. I declined however perhaps I should have since we had a free stay.

I stressed at the check-in counter that I wanted a spacious room. I had read various reviews of all kinds on Tripadvisor on this hotel. I told the clerk over and over again I need space. She gave me a room on the 8th floor which is the top floor. Downside is elevator only goes to 7 and there are 2 small flights of stairs to 8. i told her I would take it for the space. She assured me i could switch if I didn't like it. Room was not ready so early in the day and we were told we could go to the Executive lounge for snacks, etc and check back later. We gave our luggage to the bell hop and then went to the lounge where the staff introduced themselves to us and showed us around the lounge. I have to commend the staff at this hotel. No matter where you are in the hotel, if a staff member sees you, you will receive a warm smile, especially in the executive lounge. We refreshed with cappuccinos and snacks and then decided to head out for some of our LSE errands. We came back after 3 PM and our room was ready.

Room was very spacious. King bed and a nice sitting area with spacious bathroom. Room looks just like Executive room on website. Received welcome fruit plate with note from manager and large bottle of water. Room had 2 sets of bathrobes and slippers. Plenty of tea/coffee/hot chocolate packet stuff. Used it everyday and was replaced everyday. Maid service was consistently good and also received turndown service daily without asking. Room had a do not disturb and maid service switch. Executive lounge has a very nice afternoon tea spread and weekend breakfast. Bed is very comfortable. Tv has variety of channels including US Fox news. Hotel is walking distance to almost everything. All sorts of restaurants from fast food to upscale dining.

Hotel is more a 4 star rather than 5. I say this because, although it has modern touches, the furniture is older and you can see the age in the bathroom. Hotel opened around 1906 so it does have that historic charm. Amenities in room are not up to 5 star level. Mismatch of Neutrogena and some other US brand product. Website states upgraded luxury toiletries, but they are not. You have to take steps up to enter this hotel with no handicapped accessible ramp in visible site. Once inside, there is a handicap lift to take you to lobby level. I had a stroller with me so had to use this frequently, although if staff was around, I was offered help to carry stroller up steps. Concierge is helpful as well if you want info on activities or want to order Dominos pizza delivery for kids. I did this 3 times because my daughter's clock was off due to the jetlag so her dinnertime was always hitting around 10 PM. Beautiful pool you see on the hotel website belongs to LA Fitness club next door. Pool is indeed not as beautiful in person as it seems on website. Looks older.

We walked around outside the hotel quite a bit. The Hilton Waldorf is perfectly situated walking distance to almost everywhere. We walked the Strand many times, went to Oxford Circus, Traflagar Square, Leicester Square several times, even walked to Buckingam Palace!

I had pre-purchased tickets to Buckingham Palace beforehand. That was very nice and it was fascinating to see all the Queen's old clothes and personal gifts she has received from different countries. Queen Elizabeth II was very, very fashionable back in the day.

We did not have an opportunity to attend any shows given we had a 3 year old with us. Previous to going to London, I had planned on taking her to the zoo, aquarium and other kid's places, however, time flew by so fast.

Recommendations on Places we ate, mostly in Covent Garden area: Pizza Express - nice pizza place which also offers a 500 calorie thin pizza with a cut out in the middle where salad is placed. Mela Indian restaurant - just go there. Very tasty food. Presentation is very good. Not your typical Indian restaurant. Sofra - Great Turkish food. Most places had a special price 2 or 3 course meal. Great Lebanese restaurant in Knightsbridge very close to Harrods is Al Arez. Had this great smoothie-type drink called Red Dream at Haagen Daaz in Leicester Square.

A surprise hidden gem I found on my last day was the restaurant on the top floor of Selfridges department store on oxford circus. They have so many different kinds of cuisines. I had chicken biryani.

I cannot commend the food in London enough. There is something about the fresh herbs and seasonings which you can see and smell and taste all at the same time. Delish!!!

We did a lot of shopping for my brother's dorm room at a department store called John Lewis. Previous to this trip, I had never seen this store. They had virtually everything you needed from iron to hangers to linens to clothes to makeup to a very nice food shop.

I was lucky to score Ceremony of Keys at the tower of London tickets a few months before. It was so cool to be in the Tower at night. Again, I found out about this from this board. In all my previous trips to London and the Tower of London, I had no clue of this Ceremony. Free to people who take the time to write in and request.

We also did part of the open top bus tour and got off at Harrods. We were exhausted after lunch and cabbed it back to the hotel. They've changed the Diana/Dodi memorial at Harrods. Still have that glass found in their hotel room.

We went to Starbucks a lot. My last trip to London was March 2007. I noticed that there have been several more store open since then.

I didn't mess with the tubes on this trip. Walked 90% of the time since our hotel was in a great location or took cabs. On my last day there, kid, stroller and I were finished with our shopping on oxford and the traffic was bumper to bumper. I didn't feel like blowing 15 GBP on a taxi so I figured out the bus system. For 2 GBP, we got back to our hotel. Where have I been all these years? I definitely will use the bus system in the future. My daughter loved being on top to see everything.

I tried to pay cash for everything to avoid fees. When I ran low, I used my American Express card since it charges 2.7% foreign transaction fee versus MasterCard's 3%.

Return flight home was 10:15 AM. We left for the airport very early in the morning and arrived by 7 AM. We flew American Airlines First Class back. Check in was in the flagship area. I was overweight by 7 kilos so I started taking things out of my luggage to put into hand bags. The clerk finally let it go when I had 3 kilos to go and I didn't have to pay the $50 fee. My kid fell asleep after security as I was pushing her around in the stroller checking out duty free chocolates. I finally said good bye to London and went into the flagship lounge, which was very very crowded. I found a room in the back area and set my stroller and bags there and got some breakfast. The place kept getting busier as time went by. Finally time for our flight. I whizzed through the airport with the stroller while kiddo slept. It was about 10 minutes to get to the gate. First Class perks are very nice. Priority AAccess with security and boarding, etc.

In flight service was great. Flight attendants were so nice and very helpful with my kid. Glad to see expanded movies and tv shows so that helped keeping kid occupied. Food service was excellent. They sure keep you busy with food and snacks and hydrated!

In summary, this was my sixth trip to London so I wasn't as gung ho about doing many tourist attractions as usual. We were there on a mission to settle brother in and got to squeeze in a little sightseeing. We were so lucky to have had beautiful weather the whole time we were there, which was last week of September. Never rained a drop!! Never took a jacket out during the day. Just in the evenings. I love London and hope to go back soon!

I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
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Old Oct 27th, 2009, 11:12 AM
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I wrote this after 2 AM. Did anyone read it?
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Old Oct 27th, 2009, 11:59 AM
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Yes, indeed! I went to London with a 3-year old once upon a time so read it with particular interest: my daughter came with me on a business trip aged 3 and that was just the first of many, many wonderful vacations together. I am not sure you can give your child a better gift than a love of, and ease with, travel.

You write a great and detailed report and others will benefit.I particularly admired your obvious ability to be happy with the little things that small children like to do and eat.

I am pleased that you started a love affair with London's marvelous bus system...next time, do brave the Underground, it is worth it. The try the trains (go up to Oxford or out to Kent for the day) for the trinity of transit: our daughter started a life-long love affair with trains as a result.

Happy trails and I hope your brother does well at LSE: it is a great start!
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Old Oct 27th, 2009, 06:50 PM
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LJ - Thanks for your response. I did not mess with the trains because I had the 3 year old and a stroller and did not want to deal with out of order escalators or elevator issues.
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Old Oct 28th, 2009, 11:07 PM
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I enjoyed your report. I also love London and always look forward to returning. Is your brother enjoying himself?
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Old Oct 29th, 2009, 06:17 AM
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Thanks for the nice detailed report. Sounds like you had a good time and your daughter adapted well to travel.
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Old Oct 30th, 2009, 09:51 PM
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Yes, my brother is loving it there. He has commented on the quality of classes and lectures versus his university back in the States.
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