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London- where to stay? Mom with 3 kids!

Hello! I'm planning a family trip to Europe and our first stop will be London. It will be just me and my three kids (ages 9, 12, and 13), so I'm looking for advice on where we should stay (geographical location? hotel vs. apartment?) to keep things as safe and logistically simple as possible. We will be flying into LHR the last week of June and staying about 4 nights. We plan to take the Chunnel train to Paris from there. We plan to do a good bid of "touristy" things as this is their first trip to London. Thanks in advance!

Posted by
10052 posts

While an apartment can be attractive, I think a family room in a place that serves breakfast is advisable. Everyone gets a good, hot breakfast to start the day and Mom does not have to cater nor take time shopping. You can hit the sights with little trouble if you stay near a Tube station. Try Premier Inns for an economical option. Many have family rooms and are located all over London.

It is hard to pick a neighborhood except to say "central" which can be anywhere from St. Paul's to the Tower of London to Covent Garden to Westminster or St. James' Park. Again, close to a Tube station will help. Covent Garden is busy and intense, but fun!

Posted by
32 posts

I stayed at Premier Inn--County Hall in the summer of 2016, with my two daughters and mother. The location could not have been better, right by the Westminster Tube station and the London Eye and many other major sights. It included breakfast and was an affordable place to stay. The downside was there was no A/C, but London in June shouldn't be too bad. Enjoy!

Posted by
1098 posts

I respectfully disagree with the Apartment thing.

My experience is that breakfast in a hotel is close to 10 GBP/person and that is to much for me. Plus: with an apartment you don't have to eat at the same time, you can have a snack in the afternoon, you can eat at home one evening.

Geography: My rule of thumb is "within walking distance of the circle line".

Your Mileage May Vary

Posted by
2 posts

At premier inn kids eat free up to 2 per adult so for 1 adult and 3 kids you would only pay for two people for breakfast. The only issue might be 4 to a room so you would need to check that they can accommodate that.

Posted by
1172 posts

This past summer, our family of 4 (kids 12 and 9 ) rented an apartment on the Southbank. It was perfect. We walked a ton of places. Were within 2 minutes of the Thames and 5 minutes from 2 tube stations. There were a lot of very family friendly restaurants within a 5 minute walk ( wagamamas, pizza express, etc) as well as local pubs and eateries and 2 grocery stores.. We loved having the extra space (kitchen, living room, 2 bathrooms) to come back to after a long day if sightseeing. Our apartment also had a great deck/patio at the back to sit and relax. We did the same in Paris and again, it was wonderful. Always nice to that you can keep snacks and drinks on hand even if you do not want to cook full meals. Having laundry facilities right in the apartments also allowed us to travel with only carry on size luggage.
If you are interested, send me a message and I can send you the link to the apartment

Posted by
2658 posts

Not knowing your budget, check the Rhodes Hotel they have family rooms, the price includes breakfast. There are two tube stations within a five minute walk, Lancaster Gate and Paddington. You could take the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station. You can buy tickets for the Heathrow Express in advance really inexpensive.

Posted by
1154 posts

Eurostar tickets London to Paris go on sale 6 months prior to your travel date and go up in price to become prohibitive. You might get on www.tripadvisor.com, London forum and Paris forum for advice and tips specific to those cities. We recently stayed at the Citidines apart-hotel at Trafalgar Square on Northumberland street in London. Right in the heart of London and walkable to Buck palace, Thames, London Eye, Parliament, Big Ben, 10 Downing Street, Horse guards parade ground, grocery stores, cafes in the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, and a great cafeteria style cafe at St. Martin-in-the-Fields called Cafe in the Crypts with reasonable prices for a family of four. We also frequent Gordon's Wine Bar for homemade British dishes at good prices for London. Don't wait too late to book a place to stay but make sure they have free cancellation in case you find something more to your liking. Tell when you are going and posters can give you more specifics on attractions in both London and Paris.

Posted by
1172 posts

Wanted to add that we also took the Eurostar to Paris. We bought he tickets 4 months prior to departure. The tickets will say to be at the train station 30 minutes prior to departure... make it more like 90 minutes prior error to departure. There is a lot of security r and people who showed up 30 minutes prior to departure were turned away. The person we rented the apartment from in London told us treat the Eurostar the way we would treat flight travel and was bang on

Posted by
3259 posts

We really liked our stay at the Premier Inn St. Pancras. I'd recommend checking family room availability there. As its name suggests, it's very close (a block), to St Pancras where you'll catch the Eurostar. Kings Cross is next door to it for most of your Underground travel. Euston Station is a couple of blocks in the other direction, and there are bus stops across the street and down the block going in either direction. They have a restaurant in the hotel, but there are lots of dining options (including breakfast) all around the hotel. We usually just went to the Pret a Manger at the end of the block for an inexpensive light breakfast.

And Sharon was right on with her warning about the Eurostar. We got there nearly 90 minutes ahead of time. The queue for security looked like Heathrow on a bad day. We were lucky in that an employee saw me with my cane and pulled us aside to what seemed to be a handicapped accessible line, so we got through fairly quickly. And seating in the waiting area was at a premium even that early.

A tip for your Eurostar trip - while they have food and beverages for sale on the train, do yourself and your wallet a favour and buy a picnic lunch before you leave, to eat on the train. We bought ours at the Pret a Manger when we had breakfast (they were open at 0630). But there are places inside the train station like M&S where you can get food to go as well.

Posted by
5 posts

This information is invaluable!! I'm taking thorough notes- thank you all so much! Sounds like many pros and cons to apartments vs. hotel - lots to consider. One more question... If we go the apartment route, which online booking service would you recommend? AirBnb? Booking.com? We live in the US and have only used HomeAway/VRBO here in the past.

And the Eurostar advice is fantastic - I would have been the fool to show up at 30 minutes prior and missed our train! As we refine our itinerary, I'm sure I'll be posting more questions!

Posted by
3654 posts

Europe is not family friendly when it comes to lodging so if you find an apt that works for your budget that’s best. Normally you would have to get 2 hotel rooms but that doesn’t work at all for you so you must find one of the less common family rooms, or an apt.

The Southbank area is both central and relatively affordable, most tourists stay way to the west and have to commute everywhere. Also the Thameslink train from here goes straight to St Pancras so no need to take the tube to the Eurostar on your last day.

Homeaway is as good a site as any.

Posted by
10052 posts

I am normally a big fan of apartments, but for only 4 nights, you are, IMO, on the cusp of really benefitting. London apartments are very expensive and such a stay also necessitates some grocery shopping and (maybe) food prep, that will take away from your time sight-seeing. SO look at apartments and also the Premier Inn and weigh all factors.

I like Booking.com and VRBO in Europe, but have also used London Connection specifically in London four times.

Posted by
3654 posts

I am normally a big fan of apartments, but for only 4 nights, you are, IMO, on the cusp of really benefitting.

I don’t know what this means. I’ve never rented and apt for more than 4 nights and twice as short as 2 nights, and it has worked out well. Also, grocery shopping is a great cultural experience.

Posted by
11228 posts

There are also hybrids.....apartments run as hotels.. You get your own full apartment but there is a front desk like a hotel. They are known as managed apartments.

Two chains of these are Fraser Suites and Citadines. There are also U.S. extended stay type hotels with Staybridge Suites and Marriott's Residence Inn. Of course the last two are U.S. style an won't give much in charm but they include kitchens, free hot buffett breakfasts, evening receptions a few nights a week and.....coin laundries. (The laundries at Staybridge are free.)

There are also numerous non-chainend managed aparatments.

Only you know your kids. Would they do okay cramped into one small room with one bathroom or would they be better off in an apartment where they can spread out?

Posted by
4654 posts

Also, grocery shopping is a great cultural experience.

I love grocery shopping in other countries. My wife hates it. Our roles are so reversed!

Posted by
1220 posts

Does the 4 nights include arrival day? If so, I think that tilts it to the hotel idea. Grocery shopping with 3 kids doesn't seem like the best use of limited time and then there's always the chance that you've forgotten something. Plus, depending on the arrangements of the apartment, it may not be possible to get in after the typical early am arrival from a transatlantic fight. That starts to seriously cut into limited sightseeing time.

My opinion, for what it is worth, is that apartments only start to make sense for a stay of close to a week and on a second trip to the same country. That way, you're already familiar with the quirks of that country and it starts making sense to buy condiments and salt/pepper for the longer stay. Traveling with kids, you'd also have to take into account how fussy they are with food. I would have been a nightmare with my picky eating back when I was younger.

Posted by
1172 posts

I completely disagree that you need a long stay to make an apartment viable. For us, as a family of 4, it is really nice to have actual bedrooms so that if someone wants to wake up early, not everyone is waking up at the same time. Of is someone wants to stay up, not everyone is stuck with putting up with a light being on or stuck reading their book sitting in a bathroom ( true story) You actually have places to sit that are not beds etc. Having laundry facilities is a huge plus. We do buy some groceries but it is not like we spend hours at the grocery store ( we also love grocery shopping in other counties) We often mainly do breakfast foods, snacks and drinks.
Many places will include the basic salt, pepper, coffee, cleaning supplies etc.

we have used VRBO with great success.

Posted by
888 posts

Regarding a location good for kids, we’ve stayed just north of Hyde Park with easy access to the Diana, Princess of Wales' Memorial Playground. Spending time at the park was a great break for kids after a full day of site seeing.

DJ

Posted by
13 posts

We stayed at the Jesmond Hotel, Gower St., in Bloomsbury, a short walk from the Goodge St. tube station (there are others, depending on where you're coming from), and not far from the British Museum, among other places. Breakfast was included in the room rate. As I recall, there are 'family' rooms with multiple beds which would likely be handy for you & the kids. https://www.jesmondhotel.org.uk/bed-and-breakfast

Posted by
5 posts

All of this information is SUPER helpful! So many pros and cons and great advice all around! Thank you all so much - this will really help us as we plan! More posts in the future asking for more advice as we hone in on details... Thanks!

Posted by
11450 posts

I have rented apartments and stayed in hotels.

Apartment rentals present some difficult issues.
Most apartments you cant check in till later in afternoon.. and you cant even drop off luggage.. so think about that.. with two adults thats one issue.. it can be handled by storing luggage at a train station , and going off for day, then returning for luggage and going on to apartment at 3 or 4 .. does that sound fun for one adult and three kids.. I dont think so.

I also find it funny that one thinks you cant grocery shop with a hotel.. I do all the time. I get a hotel with a mini fridge and always buy fruit, cheese, drinks and yogurt for late night snacking, or for when I am worn out and just want a bed dinner in..

In paris I would STRONGLY suggest a hotel as there is a big crack down on vacation rental apartments.. most are not legal, and if an owner gets investigated you may find your reserved apartment suddenly withdrawn or cancelled.. and finding a hotel last minute in june is not that easy.. also ,and this is not to be taken lightly.. most apartments do not have air conditioning, and I have always found less expensive hotels that do have it.. touring around all day in the heat with no relief at night.. no thanks. Sure, you may not need it.. weather is unpredictiable and you may hit some cooler weather, but if you need it and dont have it, you will be very sorry. Keeping windows open is usually not a great option , street noise is not restful.

Its not easy finding quad rooms.. which is what you need.. so its good that you are looking now.

However ( sorry I cant post links I suck at tech stuff) google "quad rooms paris" and a tripadvisor poster has posted links by area to many hotels in paris that have quad rooms.. as I said.. their arent a ton.. so the list will stream line your search !

look at www.hotel-marignan.com/ a good budget choice.. but it doesnt have ac.. however it does have a kitchen you can use.. and includes a simple breakfast. The location is excellant , you can walk to many sites and its not on a busy street.

In london I concur with others that the Premier inns are a good choice.. its a reliable chain with many locations.. I like the one by Kensington.. walk to the Natural History museum and most kids love that one.. giant dinosaur bones et al.. lol

DO bring food and drinks( yes you can bring liquids) for the Eurostar.. even if you pick up stuff on way to station. Second classs is fine.. its only 2.5 hours and kids can stretch their legs.. its actually quite comfy anyways..

Posted by
1772 posts

We've done a VBRO apartment and Premier Inn County Hall in London (plus other hotels).

The apartment was in a managed building, so there was always someone on the desk. But, since each unit was individually owned, the desk couldn't really help with "technical" questions, like how to operate the washer/dryer. Also, the rental agency moved us to a different apartment 4 days before our trip. It was a better area, but we needed room for 4 adult people and the second apartment needed 2 of those people to be really small. Thankfully, one of our adults no-showed. We enjoyed shopping at the market across the street and the feel of being less touristy.

PI County Hall had easy access to several tube stations as well as popular sites. There were lots of British families staying when we were there. There was a small independent grocery across the street from the hotel and well-stocked and reasonably priced vending machines in the lobby. There was an internet charge, but it produced excellent internet service. They did the whole kettle and biscuits tray in the room and re-stocked daily.

You won't go wrong whatever you choose.