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2.5 days in London with Teenagers - Suggestions Welcomed!

My husband and I and our two children (age 18 girl & 13 boy) will be enjoy our first RS 14-day BOE tour starting on June 22 in Paris. Prior to the tour, we will be flying into London (from Atlanta) for a quick stopover on our own. As my husband and I have spent a week in London before and this will be our kid's first trip, we are letting them pick what they would like to do.

Below is our overall tentative schedule based on their interests. I welcome the group's feedback and suggestions to minimize long lines, and recommendations for restaurants & other things to do.

Friday, June 19 - our Thursday overnight flight will arrive in London around 10 AM Friday (we're hoping we can sleep on the plane!) Should we book a private 2 hour tour by taxi or ? to see some highlights until our hotel (Luna Simone) is ready? After checking in & freshening up, visit the British Museum (open until 8:30 PM) and walk the Covent Garden area. We have a reservation for Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London at 9:30 pm this night.

Saturday, June 20 - visit Tower of London when they open at 9:00 AM. (Any skip the line options or should I just order my tickets online now?) Lunch & possible river cruise. Visit the Westminster Abbey (any skip the line options?). Walk the area by Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, London Eye (possibly ride), Horse Guards, Trafalgar Square (loosely RS walking tour). Purchase advance tickets to a show in West End that evening. Dinner recommendations?

Sunday, June 21 - check out & store luggage at hotel. See the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace at 11:30. Lunch somewhere fun to celebrate for Father's Day...suggestions? Other ideas? We have booked Eurostar train to Paris which leaves at 4:01 PM that afternoon.

We'll be seeing the Eiffel tower (will reserve timed ticket) the next morning in Paris and exploring the Champs-Elysees area before joining our RS tour at 2:00 PM.

Thanks everyone for your feedback. I'm loving this forum!

Posted by
333 posts

My daughter (20) and I took the Jack the Ripper Walking Ghost Tour thru Viator tours and had a great time! We also took a day trip to Stonehenge (at sunrise), Lacock and Bath. Stonehenge is... well... it's Stonehenge! We paid the extra to get on a tour that let us walk around the stones and watching the sun rise as we walked around was magical. It was amazing. Lacock is where the Harry Potter films were made, along with Pride and Prejudice and other movies. It's a beautiful town that still looks like it did 400 years ago. We had a traditional English breakfast in a 400 year old pub with a dog wheel by the fireplace. In the olden days dogs were placed in the big hamster wheel which turned a spit over the fire so the meat would evenly cook. Out back is a stockade for fun pictures! Finally we went to Bath and toured the Roman baths and museum- very interesting! (this trip also thru viator)

We also went to a theater at Trafalger Square- which was tons of fun and not expensive since we searched online for discount tickets. We saw "39 Steps" when we were there. Hilarious!

Riding the London Eye and Thames River Cruise was cool, but we really enjoyed just exploring the park (Jubilee Gardens) and all of the interesting things down by the eye and the Thames. We enjoyed all the buskers and little stands, the carnival rides and people dancing.

Most teens would also enjoy the Hard Rock Café. The London HRC is the original!

Have a great trip!

Posted by
2 posts

Wow , It all seems that you people are going to enjoy to your fullest.. GOD BLESS YOUR FAMILY..!!

Posted by
5628 posts

I'm going to add another option and suggest you tube to the Camden Lock Market on arrival. A sensory treat where you can shop, eat and explore. Could walk along the canal afterwards or take a canal boat tour. I'd then check in, freshen up, maybe a nap if sleeping on the red eye didn't work out and then walk from Luna and Simone to Parliament Square.

Posted by
4666 posts

Remember that there is a minimum thirty-minute deadline to check in for Eurostar trains at St Pancras, and I would aim to be there an hour beforehand for safety's sake.

Posted by
11450 posts

WOW,. you guys are tough as nails.. no way would I be able to enjoy much starting at 9.30 at night on my day of arrival.. not just lack of sleep on the flight. but the fact is my body is telling me that 9.30 is more like 2 or 3 am.. jet lag..

Secondly.. a taxi tour is not a great idea for day of arrival.. jet lag is managed best by getting out in the daylight and living the time you arrive at.. sitting in a taxi that long will lull some of you to sleep.

If your flight arrives at ten am ,, you still won't make it to hotel till after 12 likely.. so its very easy to go to hotel , drop off bags.. and go for a walk.. they may even let you check in early if rooms are clean ..

Lucky you arriving in Paris for evening of June 21st. that's the Fete de la Music .. the city will have concerts in parks,, bands will be playing on street corners etc.. its the longest day of the year so they celebrate with music.. try not to arrive exhausted so you can enjoy it.

Posted by
71 posts

Thanks everyone for all the great advice - we really appreciate it! I reviewed with the family - we love the Hard Rock idea and will try to do that for our Sunday lunch. Really appreciate the perspective on our first day and jet lag. Hotel official check-in isn't until 2 pm, but I will check with them to see if we can stop by early and drop of our luggage. The luggage piece is what I was worried about and led me to a taxi/bus tour, as I didn't want us to have to walk around London pulling luggage for a few hours. Since there will be 4 of us with luggage, would a taxi be the best option to get us to the hotel?

Agreed that the 9:30 PM Ceremony of the Keys our first night will be tough with jet lag - I scheduled this timeslot several weeks ago - and this was the only night available during our stay and an event our family really wants to do. Maybe we'll be able to squeeze in a nap at the hotel when we check in, to tie us over!

Thanks so much for post about Fete de la Music Festival in Paris - I wasn't aware of this. Unfortunately I've already booked our Eurostar tickets and we won't arrive in Paris until 7:20 PM - but hopefully we'll still be able to see a taste of the festival. Our Paris hotel is Hotel Tilsitt Etoile near the Champs Elysees.

Posted by
11450 posts

You will be able to enjoy the evening in Paris.. its light out till almost 11.. drop bags at hotel and go out for a wander and a bite to eat.. it will be fun.

Any hotel I have ever stayed at in Europe has of course allowed baggage drop before check in.. don't worry about that at all.

Posted by
3318 posts

Personally, your first day would kill me. I don't do well with jet lag and kudos to you if you can truly accomplish all of this on your first day!
Get to the Tower of London right when it opens and you should have no problem with the ticket line or the line to get in. We did this in August and had no wait at all. Just an hour later though and both lines were VERY long.
Westminster Abbey has no "skip the line" options that I know of. There is one line for credit cards and another for cash if I remember correctly (?).
London Eye - get ready for long lines. You can buy several ticket packages that offer "fast-track" entry but you still will have to wait a bit. If you just buy a regular ticket the wait can be extremely long.
From the London Eye, across the bridge, around the Houses of Parliament, and across the street to Westminster Abbey, the sidewalks can be wall-to-wall people. Hang on to your belongings (pick-pocket central) and just go with the flow!
If you are seeing a production in the West End, I recommend Brown's for dinner. It's in Covent Garden; fairly casual, the food is great, and prices are reasonable by London standards. There is also a nice buffet in the undercroft of The Church of St. Martin in the Fields right on Trafalgar Square that is not too far of a walk from the West End.
For father's day I have a couple of suggestions.....Walking back from the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace towards Horse Guards Parade to the east, there is a lovely restaurant right in St. James Park called Inn at the Park. Beautiful architecture and lovely setting. You'll need a reservation as it is very popular. If you go north from Buckingham Palace, to the north corner of Green Park, towards Green Park tube station, you'll hit the Ritz. If you want to really splurge for father's day...well, there you go. Both of these are no more than a 5 - 10 minute walk from Buckingham Palace.
I agree with the previous poster to get to the Eurostar at least an hour before departure.
One more thing...make sure your kids bring their school ID card - there are lots of discounted admissions for students at many places in London as well as Paris.
Have a great trip!

Posted by
11450 posts

In Paris your 13 yr old will be free at most museums.. and at the Arc De Triomphe( great view from top, totally recommend) .. but your 18 yr old will not be free or eligible for any discounts. UP to 18 they are free.. not including 18,, unless your child is a citizen of a EU country , in which case they get discounts and free admission at many places till they are 26.
I never brought id for my 13 yr old as it was obvious he was no where near 17.. but if your 13 yr old is six feet tall and shaving.. lol,, then bring id.
On the RS tour I believe they give you a Museum Pass.. so you can use that to go up the Arc if you have a free night( which I think you do after the welcome dinner, ,check your itinerary. )

Posted by
11450 posts

No one gets free at the Eiffel Tower.. not even 13 yr old.
If line is long take the line for the stairs.... its doable.. and you can get tickets to the very top from the second level if you desire.. but the view from the second level is great.. and its cheaper to take the stairs too.

Posted by
3318 posts

My 15 year old was 6 foot 2 and shaving so we brought his ID! :)

Posted by
11450 posts

I can believe that Anita.. my boys didn't hit growth spurts till they were 17 or 18.. now they are both over 6.2!!

Posted by
71 posts

Thanks for the other great suggestions! My son is still a peanut, so no one will think he is 18! We are really looking forward to our trip.

Posted by
9 posts

We took our granddaughter a few years back and booked a Harry Potter private taxi tour....she loved it. So if your teens are Potter Fans that's a good idea. We also have been to the British Library multiple times, it has a great exhibit of interesting items such as original scores/lyrics from Mozart to the Beatles and Leonado DaVinci drawings. We really enjoyed it. High tea is also fun. Also, Covent Garden has lots of street performers and is fun to stroll around in and you have to eat fish and chips at a Pub. The hop on hop off bus is a good idea too....don't pack every minute with activities, just riding the tube and strolling around is great fun. Watch a couple of movies like Notting Hill and 4 weddings and a funeral before you go.....

Posted by
25724 posts

If the lad wears round glasses, has a forehead scar, or is an honorary member of Gryffindor House or the lass has a particular skill in time-turning or potions, (or you or hubby) then a visit to the studios where Harry Potter was made may be in order. Easy to reach by special bus from Watford Junction Station, an easy train ride from Euston Station on London Midland trains. Must reserve well in advance because it is very popular and very well appreciated by visitors.

Do either of them have a scientific or natural history bent? The Natural History Museum, free entry, is one of the best in the world, and Dippy the Dinosaur is being being removed from the front entrance to be replaced by the skeleton of a blue whale. The Science Museum, also free entry, is bleeding edge and very hands on.

There is something for everybody at the Victoria and Albert Museum (all 3 museums within a 5 minute walk of each other in South Kensington) also free entry, has a world class collection of many things including an incredible display of clothing and shoes.

The Childrens' Museum in Bethnal Green, also free entry, has toys and childrens stuff which appeals to all ages and is absolutely one of the best in the world.

Just a few to choose from which may have the younger members of the family not saying that they hate museums.

Posted by
51 posts

I can't agree more with the Harry Potter Studio tour in Leavesden. We booked it for our family (3 adults, one being our 18 year old daughter) and did it the day we arrived. It is FABULOUS. Even if you aren't a Harry Potter fan going in, you WILL BE, coming out. We did all the touristy stuff for our daughter, who typically doesn't like our family vacations. We went to Kings Cross Station to see Platform 9 3/4 for the photo op; we went to 221B Baker street to see the Sherlock Holmes Museum; we found the exterior façade used for the BBC Sherlock show filmed on North Gower street (my daughter actually touched the door knocker used by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman!). Our daughter caught sight of a play (Richard III) starring Martin Freeman during our bus tour and we went back and were lucky enough to find tickets to a sold-out show. Needless to say, she loved our vacation last year and we are going back again this year! There are things for all ages and interests there!

Posted by
359 posts

I think your itinerary looks great. Just make sure you leave enough time to get to the Eurostar terminal on the last day and don't pack in too much that day.

Posted by
71 posts

Thanks everyone for the added information. We are looking into a Harry Potter tour as well if we can fit it in our limited time. We are considering the pros and cons to a hop-on/off bus - would welcome any feedback from folks who have done this for a short London trip....was it worth the cost to you, or would simply walking around and taking a cab be better? Really appreciate all the great suggestions!

Posted by
1882 posts

My son who was fifteen and my nephew who was seventeen at the time much preferred St. Paul's over Westminster, they loved climbing the stairs to what I seem to remember is the whispering gallery and the American Chapel.They also preferred Sacre Coeur over Notre Dam in Paris. I think they liked the view and outdoor steps versus seeing just another church, their words, not mine. Maybe both because it gave them a chance to get some exercise, who knows. Just a thought for you.

Posted by
329 posts

You will have a great trip! My only words of wisdom is to have 2 "plans" for your first day. One is your existing plan. The other is the backup in case one of you or all of you get a terrible case of jetlag.

Last year when our family flew to Europe we flew from the west coast to London, stayed at a hotel overnight (to prevent the jet lag situation), and in the morning leisurely 2 hr flight out of London at 10 a.m. to arrive in beautiful Venice. Whenever we travel we frequently arrive in Europe in the morning and feel like death warmed over...even after sleeping on the plane. I thought the overnight in London was genius......until we arrived in Venice. Even after sleeping on the plane, and in a very quiet hotel, even after being able to sleep a full 8 hours....we arrived in Venice, my 14 year old got into our limo....and fell asleep. He was catatonic. We got out at our apt, he walked into the bedroom, fell on the bed, and slept for 4 hours. (We finally woke him). I tell this story as a "beware"---if you have someone who happens to (unexpectedly) get crushed from jet lag, you will want to have a less ambitious schedule for your arrival day. Hopefully you won't need it, but if you do, you still have a sense of what your priorities are for that first day. Enjoy!

Posted by
11450 posts

We used a hop on and off once in London . We have used it in Paris and liked it.. but I have to say the one we took in London truly sucked... basically impossible to use to get around and it doesn't even go near some sites ie Imperial War Museum.

The bus and tube system are far far superior.. we liked taking regular buses and sitting upstairs for the views of neighborhoods as we passed through them, but tubes are fast.

Posted by
774 posts

On the hop-on hop-off buses, we tried them once, in London when our son was 10yo. We didn't find it very interesting, and the traffic was so congested that it was slow going. We took it for an hour or so on our arrival day, and that was a bad idea - we kept nodding off from the movement of the bus. We did have fun listening to the commentary in a variety of languages, though.

Something lively and outdoors is best for the first day - you may want to consider the Tower of London for that day.

Hard Cafe Cafe is not our family's thing, but it's likely to be even more packed that usual on Father's Day. If they accept reservations, make them! Personally, if I was a dad, I would choose a cuisine that I can't get at home.

Our teen kids liked both St. Paul's and Westminster Abbey.

West End show, whatever your family will like. We saw 39 Steps and agree that it was funny.

Keep in mind that your daughter will be legal to drink in both countries; you may want to decide how you will handle that.

Enjoy!

Posted by
338 posts

I was in London with my kids two years ago also in June and also flying in from Atlanta. However, my kids are younger so take my advice with a grain of salt. Everyone will probably be quite tired after the flight. We took a hop on hop off bus tour the afternoon of our arrival that was nice for the adults, but turned into a narrated nap for the kids. I fear that a guided taxi ride might just be a more expensive version of that experience. You might be able to check in early to your hotel and at a minumum should be able to leave your bags. I'd say that since your kids are older, you might want to consider just powering through and heading straight over to the British Museum or Covent Garden. I think the Ceremony of the Keys may be a bit of the push since it will feel so late, but that's the one fixed item in your itnierary.

Your Saturday seems a bit too crowded, but you can probably pull it off. Arriving at 9:00 at the Tower you shouldn't have a problem with lines. As others have noted - head straight to the crown jewels. You'll probably be able to spend as much time as you like repeating the moving walkway that takes you past them. This site will take you through to lunch. From there, if you'd like you can walk across the bridge and walk over to the Eye and on to Westminster Abbey (about 2+ miles total). The line for the Eye was not bad when we were there (about 30 minutes to get the tickets, take a bathroom break and wait to ride). Westminster Abbey will probably be crowded when you arrive. There are two lines - one for cash and one for credit cards. The cash line will move faster. This site will take a couple of hours after you get tickets. I'm not sure about the hours for the Horse Guards museum and whether you'll have time. Trafalger Square is of course open whenever you want to go.

There are lots of restuarants in the theater areas. We downloaded the TripAdvisor app for London before we left so we could reseach restaurants/reviews on the fly. That turned out to be quite useful.

It sounds like you already have Paris covered. If you're an art fan you'll probably have time to take a peek at something else along the river (Notre Dame/Saint Chappel minus the tower or the top floor of the Musee D'Orsay) depending on when you're planning to see the Effiel Tower.

Have fun!

Posted by
71 posts

Great feedback, everyone! Thank you. We'll take the advice and avoid the hop-on/off bus on our day of arrival and instead go straight to the hotel, drop our bags, and grab a bite to eat and walk around until we can check in. Depending on how we feel then, we'll either take a brief nap or just push on through with the sites. At this point, we are planning to skip the London Eye ride and just observe during our walk Saturday.

I would like to get suggestions on transportation from Heathrow airport to our Luna Simone hotel? With 4 people, four 21" carry-ons plus an underseat tote/backpack each - can we all fit on one cab? I'm thinking a cab will be the best since we'll be so tired, but open to suggestions if there is a better option!

Posted by
1580 posts

Coming from Atlanta, you have a couple of hours advantage on us west coast folk. Doing an evening flight gives you the advantage of mimicking your natural sleep time. We fall in the group that doesn't have much luck with the nap after arrival; we've learned we are better to power through until 9-10 p.m. I think you'll be O.K.with the Ceremony of the Keys. We try to keep moving that first day. British Museum and Covent Garden look good and you might want to consider Borough Market and St.Pauls as you move towards the Tower. If you look at the London transport website, it will tell you bus and tube options.

I second the Primark suggestion for your daughter.

I think you'll all fit in one cab.

Posted by
7 posts

Hello. It sounds like you will have a wonderful trip! And I couldn't agree more about this forum :)

Our first (and so far only) family overseas trip was to London in January 2014 when our son was 14. We took the subway from the airport to our hotel in Russell Square (Bloomsbury-ish district). It took an hour and it wasn't all that fun, especially after an overnight flight and with our luggage, but it was pretty straightforward and everything was such a novelty that it felt manageable.

We took a taxi to the airport on our way home as our flight was early in the morning. Yes, it was a pretty small car and it would have been a squeeze with four (instead of our three), and the added luggage. But they must have bigger cars for bigger parties!

I agree with other comments about dropping your luggage at your hotel, and then being somewhat flexible about how you proceed. I disagree that the hop-on-hop-off tour would be a waste. This was the first thing we did and we loved it! The commentary was interesting and entertaining and it gave us the lay of the land, while also giving us a bit of down time. We didn't get off...we just did the whole loop.

Re the Tower, we bought our tickets in advance (through the bus tour actually), but we still had to lineup about a half an hour, just to walk through the gates and we got there first thing in the morning. We went to the White Tower first and by the time we came out, the lineup for the Jewels was astonishingly long, so if that's important to you, I'd go there first.

Kim

Posted by
250 posts

We dropped our bags at the hotel and then went on a bike tour! It was a great way to get an overview of the city as well as fresh air to fight the jet lag. My kids would be bored to tears in a museum, so an informative bike ride was perfect.

Posted by
2623 posts

I really hate to see you spend Father's Day at the Hard Rock Cafe. It's a chain of restaurants, as you know, and it's nothing special. Just kind of a tourist trap in London. So-so hamburgers for a really expensive price, and it will be crowded and noisy.

I suggest a British restaurant instead. "Roast" is located in Borough Market, not far from Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. They have traditional and delicious family meals, such as roast chicken, beef, and potatoes. If Hard Rock Cafe is a "2" when rating food on a scale of one to ten (ten being the best), then Roast is a 10. Why have McDonalds type hamburgers when for the same price you could have a roast dinner? Just my opinion.
http://www.roast-restaurant.com/
Reservations will be needed.

Posted by
97 posts

Let me add my voice to the point about making sure you are at St. Pancras early for the trip to Paris. Simply put, you will need to go through a security/passport check process that rivals that at any airport. Indeed, think of it as if you were catching a plane rather than a train. Also I urge you to definitely hit the Eye -- I can't imagine a teenager in the world who wouldn't dig it.

Posted by
71 posts

Thanks everyone for the new posts. Great recommendations for our Father's Day lunch. We will be seeing the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace that Sunday morning, then meeting our cousins who will have just moved there - so I like the idea of going someplace special. I also appreciate the reminder to get to the train station earlier and treat it like an airport - very good to know.

I think at this point I am going to look for a taxi/car service reservation to pick us up at the airport when we land. I realize this will be a more costly option, but having flown through the night I'm not sure how much fun it would be to navigate the subway.

Thanks again for all the great feedback! We are very excited.

Posted by
40 posts

I just got back yesterday from 5 days London and 3 days Paris with my 3 teenagers.

I agree with pat. The taxi tour is not a good idea for the first day, nor the 9:30 pm ceremony on the day of arrival. Transit time eats up a lot of your time and energy so you have to plan for efficiency. You do not want to travel to Tower of London twice for these things. Dump the Ceremony of Keys - you will be in a fog. It will be tough to get to Tower at 9:00 am when you are tired and new to it all. Join a Yeoman Warder guided tour as soon as you see one - it adds a great deal. Crown Jewels, of course, but we skipped the White Tower for the Bloody Tower and perimeter buildings. Teens will not have the deep historical interest that adults do.

The London Pass is a good skip-the-line option which you can buy online but you must pick it up near Leicester Square before you can use it, and they open about 9:30. Try to pick it up the day you arrive for use later. It will get you into Tower, Churchill War Rooms, Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle and more. You can purchase it with BA Avios points if you have enough. The downside is you may feel limited to touring sites on the days of the pass.

We did Windsor Castle and Tower of London in one day. I might do this your Saturday, getting out to Windsor early. Windsor is just so impressive.

For the effort it takes and in the middle of a day, Changing of the Guard is over-rated, messes up other plans.

Do not make "dinner plans". You must keep flexibility where you can with such limited time. And you'll be surprised at when and where your kids are hungry, so go with whatever is convenient.

We saw Phantom and everyone loved it - my daughter in particular.

On your first day, try to ride some buses to get the feel for the central city, but keep it low key, maybe the Westminster Walk. One of my kids surprisingly favorite events was our walk thru Hyde Park along the pond, watching/feeding the ducks and swans while the daylight worked to reset our body clocks. Be outside to reduce jetlag. Covent Garden is just shopping and perhaps a waste of time. My daughter did enjoy an hour shopping in a dept. store like Mark & Spencer, Selfridges or Fortnum & Mason - whichever is convenient. Write me if you want more details.

Posted by
216 posts

If you or the kids are into the Food Network, there is a Jamie's Italian in Covent Garden. Check the Visit London website for theatre. Try to get to the Globe. The kids will either have studied or will study a Shakespeare play, right?! (English Lit is moving away from dead, British guys, I think.)

The British Library is fascinating for all and convenient for the Eurostar. We left luggage at left luggage but one of your family might be okay to hang with the bags.

If you want to get to the Eiffel Tower another time, use the stairs.

Posted by
11450 posts

I took a bike tour in London.. it was fun.. I have used the same company for bike tours in Paris too... actually I have taken all their Paris bike tours.. but over a series of visits spanning 5 years.. not all on one trip!!

Fat Tire Bike Tours.

The tours are fun, easy ( they avoid hills etc not that central Paris or London are hilly anyways) and they dole out the history on a "lite" scale.

Posted by
2 posts

One other suggestion for Sunday: I never pass up a Sunday afternoon in London without heading to "Speakers Corner" in Hyde Park. You can listen to the greatest crackpots and rabble-rousers in London in one spot. A truly unique London experience and only available on Sunday afternoon. You might also consider a few minutes to divert to Kings Cross station which is right next to St. Pancras to see platform 9 3/4.

I used to travel somewhat frequently to London and found the best way from Heathrow is the Heathrow Express train. The cab is slow and expensive, the bus is slow and does not pass through very interesting areas and the subway has no view at all. While the train is a bit expensive, it is fast and drops you at Paddington. From there you can get anywhere by tube, taxi or bus.

Posted by
295 posts

You have a lot of posts but I wanted to add that one of my favorite places to eat is Wagamama. Its great for families and there are several in London. I'm heading back over in July and plan to go. Plus, this time I will hit the Harry Potter sights.

Posted by
71 posts

Thanks so much for the latest posts - very helpful! I've heard quite a few good things about Wagamamas, so we will definitely try to eat at one of these locations while we are in London.