Explore London with Family Trails

It’s hard to imagine that the modern-day sprawling metropolis of London started within a very small area on the east side of the River Thames, now called The City (or the Square Mile), but back in 200 AD, the Romans looked around, liked what they saw, and built a wall around it – and London was born.

The City is located in East London, and, if you’re busy planning your family trip, it’s likely a number of The City’s famous and historic attractions are on your itinerary – St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London, the Bank of England and The Monument can all be found in the area.

Because London is so big, I love special resources tailored to families with young children that help them get the most out of their visit.  So when I read the only officially recognized visitor information center in The City, called  The City Information Centre, now offers three carefully-chosen, kid-friendly, self-guided routes that are perfect for short-legged walkers to explore the big attractions and hidden gems, I knew I had to share. Families can choose City Stories, Skyscraper Sketching or Towers of the Thames (or you can do all three!) and they can be picked up at the City Information Centre. For more information about each route, click here.

If you’re brand-new to London, the City Information Centre also offers a number of services for visitors.  Staff can assist with directions, information about events, and provide suggestions for days out.  Visitors can also purchase Oyster Cards, fast-track attraction tickets, the London Pass, theatre tickets, book sightseeing tours, Big Bus hop-on, hop-off tours, and tours outside of London.  If you don’t know where to stay, they can help with accommodation as well.   For more information on how the City Information Centre can help you, watch a short video.

For visitors whose first language isn’t English, both the City Information Centre staff and the website are multilingual, and also provide free WiFi, maps, leaflets, and guides.

Also available is a handy app called the City of London Visitor Trail, which can be downloaded for free to your smartphone.  The app includes stories about the buildings in The City, a map, walking trails and it’ll even help you find the nearest toilet (a must-have when traveling with kids).   Sadly, the developer missed a trick and didn’t include any special content for children – hopefully, the family trails and child-friendly stories will come in the future.

The Centre is located between St. Paul’s Cathedral and Millennium Bridge, in St. Paul’s Churchyard, and is open Monday to Saturday between 9:30 am and 5:30 pm, and Sunday from 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.  If you’re planning your trip and prefer to email for information, use the address visit@cityoflondon.gov.uk.

To get there via the Underground, take the Central Line to St. Paul’s, or the Circle or District Lines to Mansion House.   When you’re finished in the City Information Centre, St. Paul’s Cathedral is a very short walk away and the perfect place to begin exploring the historic City.

Please let us know if this information was helpful by leaving a comment! 

 

Find your Perfect Holiday Home in London

Looking for something bigger than the traditional hotel room for your large family during your trip to London with kids? Renting a flat or a house can be an economical and practical alternative, and more space for everyone means fewer frayed nerves!  (To read more about how to keep the peace between siblings while on vacation, click here.)

Besides the benefits of living in a home with separate living areas and bedrooms, most come with fully equipped kitchens, so holiday rentals also give families the chance to save money on restaurant meals. The downside is that many are located outside of the city centre, and aren’t as conveniently located as hotels.

We love renting homes when we visit London, however, renting a flat or house unseen to stay in during your family trip to London can be risky.  Here are our tips for finding the perfect holiday rental in London: 

The Neighborhood:  Thoroughly research the area you’ll be staying in before booking.   London is a great city but, as with all large urban areas, there are places you’ll rather avoid.   If the flat or house is being offered at a rock bottom price, there’s probably a reason, and I’ll bet you don’t want to be living next to it for a week.

Check Google Maps using the flat’s address to view the street you’ll be potentially living on.  Is it residential?  Are the houses neat and the gardens well tended?  If you’re renting privately, can the landlord provide reviews or references from previous guests?  If you’re renting from a site such as holidaylettings.co.uk, what have other guests posted as reviews?

Ask the landlord or agency questions, such as:

  • Does the flat have WiFi?
  • Does it have a landline?
  • Is there cable TV?
  • Is there a garden, and is it shared?
  • Will it be cleaned while you’re staying?
  • Will the linens be changed or is it up to you to wash them?
  • Who is responsible for taking out the garbage and the recycling?
  • Are there instruction manuals for operating the stove and washing machine?
  • How will you  contact the landlord if there’s a problem?
  • Where is the nearest train, tube or bus station?
  • Are there amenities, like grocery and drug stores nearby?
  • If you’re renting a car, does the flat come with parking?

If you’re visiting in summer months, note that in London most homes don’t have air conditioning or screens on the windows.  If  you have little kids who could climb out a window left open to cool the apartment, look for a flat on the ground floor rather than the first or second floors.

Other Tenants:  As many of London’s houses have been converted into units, find out about your potential neighbors and ask if the unit has been soundproofed between the floors.  If you have little kids who will be going to bed early, are the other tenants quiet?  Will your neighbors will be bothered by noise  like footsteps, television, conversation or crying children?

While renting a holiday flat or house requires a bit more research then booking a hotel room, it’s a terrific chance to live like a Londoner and experience the city in a unique way.   I love the extra space our family has in rented flats, and while I can’t say that doing laundry rates high on my excitement bucket list of things to do on vacation, having a washer and dryer means I pack less, which makes navigating the airport with four children far easier.

A gated outdoor space, like a garden, allows the children playtime they wouldn’t have in a hotel, and if there are other kids on the street you’re living on there’s the opportunity to meet new friends.

And while we don’t eat a home-cooked dinner every night (heck, I’m on vacation, too!), arranging a grocery delivery from one of London’s main grocery stores like Tesco, Sainsburys or Morrisons, saves us a trip to the grocery store and provides us with staples like fruit and veg, milk, bread, breakfast foods, quick dinners like pasta and sauce, and snack foods for when we’re out sightseeing.

Helpful Links:

Holiday Lettings  is owned by Trip Advisor and offers a searchable database of privately rented homes and flats.  If you’re looking to save money by staying outside of London’s city center, properties in London’s outlying boroughs can be easily found at Holiday Lettings, and each listing includes visitor reviews.

Room for 5  is a site for large families like mine who need extra space.  The site lists hotels, guest houses, and serviced apartments.

Kid and Coe offers a curated list of distinctive and stylish family homes in London, perfect for visitors who want to live like Londoners during their family vacation.  Visit to view photos, availability, and pricing.

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Five Tips for Solving Sibling Squabbles

In your perfect family trip to London, kids will be too busy enjoying the city they’re visiting to fight with each other, and too tired at the end of a long day of sightseeing to do anything but sleep.

But the downside to single parent travel in London is the TMT syndrome, or “Too Much Togetherness”. And after a week or two of spending 24/7 as a group, nerves can start to fray.

So to help you have a fun-filled family vacation in London with your kids, here are five tips to keep the peace between siblings:

Give kids space

If possible, rent a flat, house or suite when you travel, with at least one separate bedroom where children can retreat to if they need some alone time. Encourage them to take breaks from each other.

Pre-plan days out

Sit down as a group prior to visiting London’s large attractions like museums, amusement parks, or art galleries and decide what exhibits to visit before you arrive. You’ll avoid public squabbles and bad moods if seeing the dinosaurs before Ancient Egypt is hashed out beforehand.

Distractions

Visit a toy store early in your trip to buy something new for each child. For older kids, purchasing a few new magazines or books will give them something to do on their own.

Laptops

Bring a laptop or two, and favorite DVDs and games from home as alternate entertainment stations if kids can’t come to a consensus on what to watch on television.

Slow the pace

Jet-lag and long days out sightseeing are exhausting and lead to crabby, overtired kids. It’s hard when you’re in a new city for a short period of time to make sure everyone gets downtime, but adequate rest puts everyone in a good mood, which means more fun days and great family memories.

Money-saving Tips for Eating Out in London

London has thousands of restaurants for every taste, and, from traditional pubs to American-style diners to gourmet Indian, there’s an eatery for everyone.  But family restaurant meals can be pricey, and a week of eating out while on vacation can add up to big spending.  Luckily, there are a few money-saving websites where visitors to London can find great deals on both high-end and casual eateries to keep those vacation pounds stretching further.

The British Afternoon Tea Guide

Find two for one tea experiences at London’s swankiest hotels, as well as unique London venues in which to enjoy an upscale brew on this beautifully presented website.  If you’re not sure if you should book an afternoon tea during your trip to London, one visit to afternoontea.co.uk will convince you to put it on the itinerary, and you’ll save money, too.

Belgo

Best known for mussels, frites and beer, this Belgium-inspired eatery has four locations in London, but the best-kept secret is their Beat the Clock promotion, offered Monday to Friday, between 5:00 pm and 6:30 pm.  Choose one of five dishes, and pay the price shown at the time of your food order.  For example, if you order at 5:10 pm, your meal costs  £5.10.  Belgo also offers Monday Mussel Madness, where customers can order any mussel dish for £10, and comes with a free drink.

Bookatable.com

Find discounts and promotions at popular London restaurants on this user-friendly, visually appealing website. Visitors can search by type of cuisine, location or price, and can find deals like £30 per person for three courses and a seasonal cocktail at the OXO Tower Brasserie Restaurant on London’s South Bank, between Sunday and Friday, for limited early or late dinner seatings.

OpenTable

Search this comprehensive site by Special Offers and find deals like four courses and a summer Bellini for £30 per person at Maze Gordon Ramsay (one of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants), in Mayfair.  Visitors can filter results by meal price, like under £20, or type of deal, like half price or two for one, by restaurant location, or type of cuisine.

Sugarvine.com

A great resource for tourists looking to book the perfect table for a special dinner out or a casual cafe to refuel after a  morning of sightseeing, Sugarvine has restaurant menus, links to special offers, vouchers, and deals,  as well as restaurant reservations and reviews.  Among the many offers, we found Stupendous Afternoon Tea based on Mathilda the Musical at Scoff and Banter in Covent Garden, priced at £29.50 for adults and £13.75 for kids under 12, as well as tapas for two, plus a jug of sangria, for £22 at Barcelona Tapas.

Museums Perfect for Kids in Sydney Australia

When travelling with children, it can be hard to juggle what they want to do and what you want to do. Sometimes you may find yourself struggling to keep them entertained as they become restless wandering around without any stimulus. If you are travelling to Sydney with children then be sure to stop off at any of the locations here as the kids will love what they have to offer and you can rest easy knowing that they are enjoying themselves.

Nicholson Museum

Inside the Nicholson Museum you will find an exhibit of the coliseum that lives in Rome, Italy. However, it is not the same one as this is a perfect replica of the same structure but built in Lego pieces. Coinciding with the museum’s 50 stories as well as 50 object exhibitions, Lego lovers of all ages will enjoy this very impressive take on ancient Roman History.

Macleay Museum

Wandering around this museum in the University of Sydney will transport you and your children to a world of insects, spiders and crustaceans which are sure to keep the children entertained. With over 600,000 insects on display from all over the world, the Macleay Museum can be a great educational morning or afternoon spent exploring.

The highlight of this museum which will keep your children quiet is the Morpho butterfly whose wings will change color and the patterns will change shape based on differing wave lengths and the angle of the observer.

Manly Sea Life Sanctuary

Renamed and rebranded from the OceanWorld Manly, this sanctuary is home to numerous species of marine life including a pack of ten strong Little Penguin colonies which your children will adore. The sanctuary also offers you a chance to see how they treat ailing marine life back to health in their Rehab Room making a visit here quite educational.

For those who are brave enough, there are also opportunities for you to go diving in some of the tanks such as the shark tanks.

Australian Museum

Continuing with the water theme, a trip to the Australian Museum will give you the chance to check out the Deep Oceans exhibit which will allow you to see the kind of species that live at sea levels so deep that you would need submarine to explore.

The exhibits show you some of the weird and rare creatures that live down there, such as the vampire squid, the sea mouse, squat lobster and the blob fish, and you and the kids will be fascinated by how some of the species at the bottom of the oceans look. You can find great offers on flights to Sydney at cheapflights.com.au meaning you can save money before you even set off!

Madame Tussauds

Everyone knows what Madame Tussards is all about and a trip to the museum in Sydney will give your children the opportunity to get photos with their favorite celebrities. From Hugh Jackman in Wolverine or Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean, the children will love wandering around and seeing their favorite hero’s in wax form. Madame Tussauds is also located right next to the Aquarium so after you have finished here you can walk next door for some more activities your kids will love.

 

Weird Stuff My Kids Say

Today, my oldest girl, who is 10, came to me and said, “In our next house, I would like my room to be in the bathroom.”

Whaaaa????

Yes. IN the Bathroom.

OK, I’ll bite. “Why?”

“Because it is so cozy in there, and when I get cold, I can just jump in the shower.”

I can’t even reply.

???????????????

Next, my little one trots up happily, takes a look at me and says, “It looks like you’re growing a beard.”

Who are these children and where did they come from?

Some days I truly wonder how they arrive at a statement. What chain of thoughts brought them to the moment when strange things come pouring out their sweet little mouths?

I do remember being a child. I suppose I remember sometimes even saying strange things.

I just don’t know if I have inadvertently passed this verbal anomaly down to my children through genes or example. Or maybe it is just all children.

As you can see… they constantly baffle me.

Is “Me Time” Really Worth It?

So last night, I finally made it out of the house and to my first yoga class. I loved it! It was so much fun and when I left, I couldn’t wait to go again. Unfortunately, time does not stand still while I am not home. Me time is a strange thing. Everyone talks about how, as busy mothers who do for everyone else first, we need to take care of ourselves. But at what cost? Continue reading “Is “Me Time” Really Worth It?”

Travel With My One Year Old

Ok, last travel post for a bit. I had planned to write this last Friday, but we all know those days were lost to tennis.

We are incredibly blessed to have the resources to take advantage of some great travel while here on Guam. Before we found out I was pregnant we had planned on several trips while we were here, and after we found out we were going to be parents we were determined not to let it slow us down. News flash, non-mommy Pam: Babies slow you down. Waaaaay down. Regardless, we’ve still gotten a couple great trips in and, while our China trip was less “Relaxing Exotic Destination” and more “Survivor: Crying, Breastfeeding Five Month Old in a Busy Non-English Speaking City,” I really can say that Australia was a relaxing trip for us. Not the sleep until ten, do adventurous things on a whim, days of old, but still low stress and enjoyable. Back when Eli was two months old I shared my tips for traveling with a two month old, and here are some things that make it easier for us to travel with our one year old. Continue reading “Travel With My One Year Old”

Taste of Prague

The highlight of our time in the Czech Republic’s capital was the Taste of Prague food and culture tour. The charming bed and breakfast we stayed at arranged for a babysitter to take care of our children so that my husband and I could venture out on our last evening. The plan: to indulge in cuisine that has been revitalized in the years following Prague’s communist past. Below are photos from the tour and a description of all the deliciousness we sampled at each place. Prepare to drool! Continue reading “Taste of Prague”

Hello Bali

When a good friend of mine called a few months ago and asked if My Traveling Troop would be interested in joining her family for a vacation in Bali, Indonesia, I immediately said yes!

There were many factors that allowed me to quickly agree. First of all, I’ve been dreaming of visiting the island ever since reading about the romantic location in the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. My friend Sapna already chose the flight and hotel, so I didn’t have to spend hours researching. And, Bali is only about a two and a half hour flight away from Singapore — so close it would be a crime not to visit. Finally, I was about to re-enter the work force and the trip seemed like a great way to spend quality time with my family and friends before the nine to five life took over.

Once we arrived in Bali, our families spent most of our days splashing around the Hard Rock Hotel pool and our evenings listening to a band serenade guests at the hotel bar. With rocking music, good food, excellent pool facilities, water slides, and a kids club, it would have been easy to never leave the Hard Rock Hotel in the Kuta enclave. But at some point during our vacation, the moms decided to escape the hotel and say hello to Bali.

For a mere US$40, Sapna and I hired a driver to take us around the island for about six hours for a mix of culture, dining, and shopping. Here are some of the highlights of our tour:

A market in Ubud.

Drums made of mahogany and animal skin.

 

Entrance of a temple in Ubud.
Balinese food at Grand Puncak Sari Restaurant.

 

The view while we dined? An active volcano!

 

Rice terraces.

 

 

 

An offering in front of a market vendor. (I found offerings like this in front of most shops and market vendors in Bali.)

 

Have you ever traveled to Bali? Or is it on your wish list?