Trip Report - London Long Weekend

Dec 2nd, 2007, 04:38 PM
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Trip Report - London Long Weekend

I spent my second trip to London with my 5 yo nephew and we had a wonderful time. We both loved the city on our first visit and couldn't wait to return. I waited for some better fares and decided to return over the Thanksgiving weekend. I hope this report helps those traveling with young children or on a budget.

Prepaid costs in US dollars:
2 RT tix BNA-LGW $1242.44
4 nights at BW Victoria Palace in a twin room w/breakfast $645.21

I had a budget for food/admissions based on our previous visit. I did very well and even came in £40 under budget. This trip was to focus on all the museums we missed the first time around.

Day 1 Wednesday 11/21 and Day 2 Thursday 11/22

I left my office at 2 pm for a 5 pm flight. We arrived at the airport ready for crowds and a long wait at security. I had packed for us both in a 21" rolling suitcase, my tote and his backpack. We also had a stroller. I had planned to carry on everything. When I walked into the terminal at approximately 2:40 pm it was practically empty. Where were all the people the news was saying should be here? I looked towards security and stared right at the agent. No one was there to block my view. I decided to check the suitcase and stroller since there was no line. We walked right up to a kiosk, scanned passports and got our luggage tagged. Then we made our way to security and walked right through. From the time we were dropped at the curb to finding a seat at our gate was about 30 minutes. Now we were in for a long wait. I should have stayed at work for another 30 minutes. We settled in to watch for planes and 5yo took out a few toys and frolicked on the floor. Eventually we were told of a gate change and flight delay of 30 minutes. Our 5 pm flight departed approximately 5:30. Our connecting flight departed at 9:45 (+1 hour time zone difference) and I ended up carrying tote, child and backpack through the tunnels to the new terminal. Boarding had begun but we managed a quick stop at the restroom before taking our seats for the long flight. We took off on time and settled in for the flight. Halfway through a showing of Chicken Little the FA announced somethign was wrong with the AVOD systema and it had to be reset; a 40 minute procedure. We proceeded to eat dinner and go to sleep for a while. I woke up first to sunny skies. Breakfast was served and we landed on time. Immigration and bag pick up was quick and I stopped at an ATM and then bought our train tickets. We took the Southern Train to Victoria, I topped up my Oyster Card and then I juggled all of our stuff while pushing the stroller the few blocks to the hotel. I was overheating by the time we got there and had stripped all my layers to a long sleeved t-shirt. We checked in at about 12:15 with no problems. After settling in we headed for the #24 bus to Whitehall for the London Walk I planned to take. We found the meeting place at Exit 4 (thanks again to all who helped with that) and ran into Tesco Express for a baguette and crisps for lunch. We ate standing up and waited for our guide. We had a large group and got on our way. We explored the history of the Westminster area as we made our way past Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey. About an hour and 20 minutes into the walk the temperature had dropped considerably and suddenly. We hadn't put on enough layers and 5yo was cold so we dropped out of the walk and headed back to the hotel. This was fine as he had fallen asleep for a while anyway and jet lag was starting to hit me also. We stopped at Sainsburys on the way and picked up bread, ham, strawberries, a Coke and some plastic picninc cutlery and paper plates. We had our picnic Thanksgiving dinner in the hotel room while watching Britsh reality TV. All in all a good first day.

Costs:
1 adult/1 child Southern Train one way £13.35
Oyster £12
Snack £1.50
Lunch £4.00
Dinner £10
Walk £6

Day 3 Friday 11/23

I had the grand plan to wake up and get an early start. I looked blerily at the clock at 9 am. Ok, not exactly the plan but I am on vacation and I can let go a little. I showered and dressed while 5yo continued to sleep. He finally woke and as we had missed breakfast at the hotel we set out for the Caffe Nero down the street. We enjoyed hot chocolate with whipped cream and a pain au chocolate for me, chocolate muffin for him. He didn't finish so we packed the leftovers for a snack later. We grabbed #24 again and got off at Trafalgar Square. Our first stop on the great museum tour was the National Gallery. When we got inside we spent time un-layering. This would be a theme for the weekend. Sweater over turtle-neck, jacket, hat, mittens, blanket for 5yo, and jacket over sweater, scarf, hat, gloves for me. It was pretty cold but the sun shined beautifully this day. We saw the Impressionists and moved on to the Italian art. We discussed a few paintings after I read the plaques. He was mostly interested in anything that depicted a soldier or war but he also liked the more gentle Impressionist paintings. He's a normal 5yo but I hope that all this exposure to art and different cultures makes him a more rounded adult. After the art we headed for a bit of tacky souvenir shopping at one of those Crest of London stores. We found little bits for everyone at home and headed up the Strand for Covent Garden. Our destination was the newly reopened London Transport Museum. We had a blast here. We spent several hours playing in all the transportation options (OK he played I watched). We went from barges on the river to horse-drawn taxis, steam engines and finally the modern tube and bus. The set-up is pretty good and they make it interactive by giving you a card to stamp at 13 stations so show you saw each part of the history of transportation. There were lots of old bussed to play in and a couple of special areas based on age. I had to drag him out of there when I felt faint from hunger. We left the fun behind and stopped at Wagamama for a late lunch. We both had the chicken ramen. It was good since I was starving but nothing to write home about. By the time we left it was after 4pm. I had wanted to stop at Twinings but couldn't remember if they closed at 4 or 4:30. It was cold and I wasn't quite sure how far up the Strand it was so I decided against it and we headed back to the National Portrait Gallery since it was open late. We looked at pictures of long-dead queens and kings and saw the Andy Warhol of Queen Elizabeth II. 5 yo liked this museum a lot also since we talked about what people had lived in the castles we had visited on our previous trip. We decided to fortify ourselves before heading back to the hotel so went to the museum cafe. I had tea and a scone while 5 yo had the rest of his muffin and another hot chocolate. While I was enjoying my 2nd cup 5 yo had to use the toilet so we packed up, I gazed longingly one last time at my tea and we headed to the restroom and then back to the bus. Another evening of TV.

Costs:
Museum £8
Breakfast £8
lunch £18
Snack £6

Day 4 Saturday 11/24

Again planned to wake up and get an early start. I looked at the clock and it was after 8. At least we hadn't missed breakfast. Now the breakfast isn't that great but at least there is toast and coffee. Today turned out to be the coldest day we encountered. The skies were overcast and I wasn't sure if it would rain or not. Today we took the #52 bus to kensington Gardens. I even managed to get off at the right stop. We walked through the park and saw Kensington Palace. We didn't go in and continued on past the statue of Queen Victoria to the Princess Di Memorial Playground. 5yo had a blast even with the cold. The pirate ship was a huge hit. We spent more time than I wanted to with the cold. Once we packed it in I headed to the Naturaly History Museum through the park. It all looked so simple on the map I had. I must have made a wrong turn or gone out the wrong exit to the park but I walked and walked and walked. I believe I was on Kensington Gore and it finally intersected with Brompton Rd which I recognized. I then knew I had walked way past where I wanted to be. I headed up the road and passed Harrods. OK, good start. I remembered this on the map. I was stopping at all the bus maps to check my progress but the NHM never showed up. At one I mumbled out loud about walking forever and a woman heard me. She was lost as well. Thank goodness I am not the only one. Turns out she had just come from the V&A which is across the street from NHM and I just had to keep walking. She joined us as she couldn't find her way back to her hotel and wanted to warm up a bit. We arrived, finally, checked our coats and stroller and headed for food first. Boy, was it crowded. I realize it was a weekend but I was not expecting this. We has to wait several minutes to get into the main restaurant. It was our turn and 5 you chose sausage links, peas and chips while I had the penne w/bolognese. We also got a giant cupcake to share. We never actually got to eat it though because 5yo was playing around and dropped it right on to the dirty floor. I was really looking forward to that cupcake too. After lunch we made our way to the main attraction (for us at least): dinosaur bones. We had another great time and stopped to pick up a few gifts for everyone again. It wasn't that late when we left so I went over the the V&A to see the fashion displays. I also checked out the items from the British collection and Roman rooms. As 5 yo wasn't that interested he just sat quietly and rested. He was pretty tuckered out from all his exercise. I headed back to the bus stop where a group of older British ladies asked if I knew how to get to XX Hotel in the Strand. Did I look like I knew my way around? I took out my handy bus map (shouldn't everyone have one) and we found the correct route, this was a stop and their bus came first. I was so proud. At least I could assist others even if I couldn't find my own way. Once we got off back at Victoria we walked up Wilton Road and stopped at Seafresh for fish and chips. We shared a larger portion of the cod. It was really good. This was our only meal in a real sit-down restaurant and it was nice to not have to deal with the clean up.

Costs:
Lunch £13.75
Snacks £1.50
Dinner £16.00

Day 5 Sunday 11/25

Our last full day and I set the alarm so we would definitely get up early. Another breakfast at the hotel and we set out with directions printed from the TFL website from the hotel the the Horse Guards Parade. They were very easy and it was nice to see something not on the main streets. we arrived quite early for the changing of the guard so 5yo spent some time running around in St James Park. We headed over to the Parade ground and gathered around for the ceremony. The guard getting off duty came riding out on their beautiful horses. Then the new guard came riding up the street and entered the parade. Eventually they all were just standing and standing and standing. Nothing had happened for a while and we didn't know the exact procedure but we were cold so we decided to leave. we walked across the Westminster Bridge to the County Hall building where we stopped for a snack at McDonalds. I had avoided fast food until this point. After warming up we went to the little park across from the Eye to wait for my friend D who was coming down from Warrington to spend the day with us. Once D arrived a bit after 12 we bought tickets to the Eye (the only thing 5yo really wanted to repeat) and got in line. We had a 45 minute wait and entered our capsule for the ride. 5yo was in heaven and loved it while d had never been on and we talked architecture comparing the older buildings with the boxes built post-WWII. After our ride we stopped for lunch a little cafe meant for the Aquarium I believe. I shared a sandwich and crisps with 5 yo and then he had a gelato. After lunch we took the bus to the British Museum. D had never been and 5 yo wanted to see the mummies again. We hit the Egypt and Greece rooms first. Next was the Roman rooms and the Money room. I thought that was pretty neat. I wanted to go to afternoon tea at the restaurant but D was outraged at the prices. Hey, I'm a tourist and I was willing to pay but I deferred and we ended up downstairs at the cafe sharing a muffin and soda. It was almost closing time and D had to catch the bus back home from Victoria Coach Station. We found our bus stop and 5 yo and I boarded bus but D had not bought a ticket yet so we decided to meet back at Victoria, Unfortunately, once we hit Piccadilly our driver announced that this bus would no longer be going to Victoria and it would be terminating at Hyde Park. By this time 5yo had fallen asleep and I had to quickly get off the bus and line up for another. When we arrived at Victoria I waited a while but didn't see D getting off any bus. I needed the bathroom at this point so went into the building and rang the bell for the attendant to open the gate as the stroller doesn't fit in the turnstyles. No one was there. Frustration. Now I had to go upstairs to the food court. No lifts here so I carefully balanced the stroller with sleeping child going up the escalator. 5 yo woke up and saw where we were and asked if we were going home. I said not tomight but tomorrow and this spawned a tantrum of sorts from a normally sedate child. Again the attendant was absent and things were getting desperate. I was now dealing with a tired, crying child and I had to go. I set 5 yo out of the stroller, folded it and put my money in the coin slot. I then shoved the stroller through, told 5 yo to crawl under and did the same. He screamed the whole time, I hate London, I hate you, I really wanted to go to Disneyland. This was news to me. Once we were through I grabbed a sandwich to share from Subway and walked back to the hotel. The crying and accusations continued for a couple of hours. Once we settled back at the hotel and had some dinner he calmed down. He then declared this to be a "great day". What??? I can't complain because he had been a great traveler, did everything I asked and really enjoyed all the things we did. I spent the evening packing and we hit the hay.

Costs:
Admission £22.50
Snacks £8.03
Lunch £10.40
Dinner £4.60

Day 6 Monday 11/26 and Day 7 Tuesday 11/27

Our flight wasn't until almost 2 so we took our time having breakfast and finished packing. I still had some pounds to burn so we took the Gatwick Express this time. Check in was fine and this time I kept the stroller but checked my 21" and the other bag I brought for souvenirs. We spent some more money in duty free buying chocolates and tea and had a snack at McDonalds. The flight boarded on time and was uneventful. At least we were able to watch movies this time. We arrived on time in Detroit and were one of the last to go through passport control. 5yo had fallen asleep and I went through and then rechecked the bags. Security was tough but a helpful woman loaded the stroller onto the belt while I carried the kid through. We made it to the gate to learn that our flight was delayed about 20 minutes. Not too bad. Preboarding began and I usually wouldn't but with 5 yo sleeping I did need a bit of extra time to get us situated. We took our seats and pushed back from the gate to take our place for takeoff. We sat and sat and sat for 2 hours. We had to be de-iced and then were told that we were heading back to the gate. Some of the de-icing agent had come through a crack in the door and got on the FA jumpseat. Maintenance then declared it couldn't be cleaned and the flight was canceled. This was not good. I picked up 5yo to get off the plane and he woke up. I told him we were not going home and this started another round of crying. We had to wait on the jet way for our stroller. They couldn't find any ground crew to get all the strollers and car seats so the pilot finally went. We made our way to customer service where we were pracically last in line. We waited our turn for a hotel andmeal vouchers and made our way to the shuttle area. We had to wait for 30 minutes outside in the freezing cold and we had packed all our warm clothes and were only wearing tshirts and light jackets. The crying was ongoing. I was exhausted and frustrated. The shuttle finally came and we then waited in line to check in. The flight was to depart at 7:17 pm, was cancelled a bit after 9 and we finally got a room at almost midnight. All this and we had been up since 7 London time. We stopped at the hotel gift shop to pick up toothpaste and such and ordered some food at the restaurant. 5yo had calmed down since he had been able to talk to mommy on the cell phone and was looking forward to the adventure of a new hotel room (one with a bathtub no less). We fell into sleep around 1:30 am. I woke up at 3:30 and was afraid I wouldn't wake up again for the 5 am shuttle so I took a shower, dressed and packed up our stuff. We hadn't been allowed to get our luggage. I woke 5 yo and he had a short bath. We went down to check out and get the shuttle back for our 7 am flight. Once we reached the airport we went through security again, hit Starbucks for food, and asked another agent where our gate was as it was not on the departures board. We waited at the gate, boarded the plane and then had to wait while they reconciled the luggage count from last night to what was there this morning. Then we had to wait for a crew to push us back as they had left while we were waiting earlier. We took off 45 minutes late but were headed to home.

Costs:
Gatwick Express £23.85
I also burned up the last £22 I had in my wallet

All in all this was a great trip and I love the city of London. I can't wait to go back and plan to take my neice when she is a bit older.

Next up is Rome with my nephew and a family trip to France (Normandy) and Holland.

Thanks to all the dedicated posters who have helped me plan 2 wonderful and memorable visits.

trvlgirlmq is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2007, 09:13 PM
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Posts: 1,190
You sound like you have a very mature 5 yo nephew there.

Really enjoyed reading about your adventures. Delayed / cancelled flights are the worst.

I wish i'd had such a cool aunt when i was 5.
sashh is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2007, 10:33 PM
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Well, from one travelgirl to another, this long weekend in London was very different from my solo trip last month!

I give you big kudos for taking your 5 year old nephew by yourself. It is such fun to travel with young kids (mine are now 12 and 14) and see things through their eyes. But, it is also difficult and can be exhausting.

One other place my kids loved when they were younger was the Science Museum, especially the hands-on section.
travelgirl2 is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2007, 02:58 AM
  #4  
BKP
 
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I thought you were mistyping and that your nephew was actually 15, based on his behavior. As a mom of a 2 1/2 year old thank you for giving me hope that thoughtful trips to museums are somewhere in the near future, hopefully! Thank you for your trip report.
BKP is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2007, 03:15 AM
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trvlgirlmq: I also could not believe that you had a 5 year old with you but you kept talking about a stroller so thought well yes she does.

Amazing long weekend - certaintly wouldn't be for me but very interesting to read how you did it and exactly how much you spent. Well done.

Sandy
SandyBrit is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2007, 03:42 AM
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This forum certainly shows up cultural differences.
I can just imagine the reaction of a 5 year old British child if you suggested putting him in a pushchair.
"I'm not a baby, supposing my friends saw me etc. etc!"
Josser is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2007, 03:54 AM
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I was chuckling at the same thought.
My children would have been horrified at that age.
Perhaps, the fact that our children start their formal education at five makes them feel too grown-up to be treated like toddlers.
I suppose that if the child agrees to be pushed, the swings side is that you can put him in the pushchair when he is tired.
The roundabouts side is that a pushchair must be a horrible hassle on public transport and busy pavements.
Anyway, whatever his mode of transport, I'm glad that he enjoyed himself.
MissPrism is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2007, 03:59 AM
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I was trying to work out how you'd get a 5 yo into a pram without hacking half his side off.

Or was threatening to do that the way you got him into it?
flanneruk is online now  
Dec 3rd, 2007, 06:48 AM
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Thanks for the kind words. My nephew is really well-behaved and a wonderful traveler. We do use a stroller when there will be a lot of walking because he is small for his age (only 29 lbs). His 3 yo cousin is bigger than he is. His short little legs couldn't have carried him with all the walking and I wasn't about to pick him up either. Maybe I don't give him enough credit but I can certainly walk faster while pushing than I did when he was walking. Taking the stroller on the bus is surprisingly easy. The aisles are made for a wheelchair and you can use that space if no one else is. I only had to fold once when another stroller was in the spot with a small baby. The only drawback about traveling alone on the bus was that I wouldn't let him ride on the top of the double decker because I didn't want to leave the stroller alone. He was fine and I did let him sit right up front a couple of times when the bus was empty and he enjoyed that. It's the little things you know?

I can't wait to plan my trip with my other nephew. He will be almost 13 when we go and it will be a whole different experience.
trvlgirlmq is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2007, 07:08 AM
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You are a brave soul! I have a four year old and a 16 mth old, and my entire family thinks we are nuts to be thinking about taking them to Italy next year! I'm almost apt to believe them but your report gives me a tiny bit of hope, that perhaps I should give my kiddos a little more credit! LOL! Nice trip report!!
kschaub is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2007, 07:27 AM
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Great trip report! Thanks for taking the time to post it. It illustrates very well what is possible with planning and determination and one good little 5 year old.
cynthia_booker is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2007, 09:14 AM
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kschaub - You can read my previous report by clicking on my screen name. He was 4 1/2 then and we spent 10 days in London and Cotswolds.

Have a wonderful trip!
trvlgirlmq is offline  
Dec 27th, 2007, 03:43 PM
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After taking our 2 year old grandbaby on a cruise I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to take her anywhere. She was such a good girl. On the plane she did very well. Especially having to sit on her momma's lap the whole time. We did walk her up and down the aisle a few times. The FA were really sweet and went out of their way to accomadate us.

She was a doll on the ship too. And we took the stroller everywhere. I thought for sure she'd throw a fit if she couldn't walk but she didn't. Even on the ship she let us push her in the stroller. Thank God. She's 37 inches tall and 37 lbs. so carrying here is a chore.

I can't wait to take her on a trip again. So Mother's don't hesitate to travel with your kids, you'd be surprised at how good they will do. Now teenagers, that could be a different story.

Mamaw is offline  
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