London Itinerary

Hi all, I would love some input on the plan I've developed for my family's trip to London in July (6-13). There are four of us, including two girls ages 5 and 7. We're staying in an apartment close to the South Kensington Tube station. I am most interested in help identifying fatal flaws or scheduling issues that I may have missed. I'd also like some help identifying which tickets I should buy before leaving for London, which I should buy once I arrive and which I should just buy at the door. I am planning to get Zone 1 and 2 seven-day travel cards for my wife and I with the understanding that the kids will travel for free. As with tickets for the sites, should I get these in advance or once I arrive? Saturday Arrive late morning, Big Bus Tour of London (Red route start Victoria Station Area) Sunday Transport Museum, Covent Garden, Lion King matinee Monday Changing of the Guard at Horse Guards near St. James, London Opera Lunchtime recital, St. Martins rubbings, Trafalgar Square, Hamleys Toy Store, Diana Playground Tuesday Westminster Abbey and Museum, Churchill War Rooms, Royal Mews, Westminster Evensong Wednesday Tower of London, Thames Cruise from Tower dock to Eye dock, London Eye, maybe a quick peek into the Victoria and Albert museum Thursday Windsor Castle/Windsor Friday Natural History Museum, Tea at Orangery, maybe a short visit to the V&A museum since it's open late Saturday
Depart Many thanks for any input you might have.

Posted by Kathleen
Camano Island, WA, usa
331 posts

Sounds like you've got it covered. There are London Passes that cover some of the sites; but be aware that a lot the big museum like the V & A are free but may have a entry fee for special exhibits. Check out the National Trust UK site for the Overseas Visitors passes. I think that the family passes may be worth getting. They are for 7 days. Entry to a couple of venues such as the Tower may prove this. Check to see what's on their list first. Some of the more action packed things are probably on the London Pass. I think some cards combine travel and sites...but make sure you are getting what you want to see and do. Remember to do at least one of the Street Markets. Even the girls might enjoy the Imperial War Museum...it's history with sight and sound.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7967 posts

The Imperial War Museum is closed until the end of July. There's a kids' area in the National Army Museum.

Posted by Nancy
London, UK
159 posts

I think you have done an exceptionally good job at grouping things together. Kudos to you. I wouldn't bother with looking into a National Trust pass - none of the things you have listed would be covered. The Science museum is a great place to explore with children. Also there is a great crypt cafe at T Martins in the Field. Enjoy it all!!!

Posted by Leslie
Atlanta, Georgia
370 posts

Am I missing the British Museum in your itinerary? If so forgive me. If not, this is the highest concentration of the coolest stuff in the world in one spot. Kids would like it too. Much more than the V&A. It and Westminster Abbey are my two only constants in visiting London, even on a last minute weekend trip I did. The rest looks like something I would do. I don't profess to be an expert on any locale or subject but I can't imagine anything that is par to the British Museum. Sorry in advance to the Louvre fans.

Posted by Richard
Lafayette, LA, USA
147 posts

My favorite things and places in London--St. Paul's Cathedral (an experience is Sunday services), Westminister Abbey, the Imperial War Museum, tea at the Orangery, the offerings by London Walks. For us, afternoon tea in London became an early dinner.

Posted by Katy
London, UK
130 posts

Agree with the posters above, think you've got good basic plans. My random thoughts. When you're at Covent Garden don't miss the outside entertainers - in my experience children often love these. Whilst the V&A is my favourite large museum in London, I don't think children would enjoy it. It is next to the Natural History museum but a better bet may be the Science Museum, which is also in the same area - which does have some child-friendly displays (altho' I have to confess that I have not been there recently so don't have first hand knowledge.) Agree with comment re British Museum. Also point about café in the Crypt at St Martins. Near the Eye is Shakespeare's Globe, which has exhibitions and tours daily - check out their website.
As advised above, do look at London Walks website - walks.com. They do 2 hour tours and many of their guides are terrific. For example, I did a two hour tour with one of their guides in the British Museum and got way more out of it than if I'd been trying to get round by myself.

Posted by Rob
Dunwoody, Georgia
235 posts

Thanks for all of the feedback so far. My quick back-of-the-envelope estimates suggest that individual admissions/family passes for each site are a better deal than any of the combo passes (e.g. London Pass). I'm still trying to work out which tickets I should buy before my trip and which I should buy when I arrive. I appreciate the suggested additions. I'll see if I can work a crypt lunch or afternoon snack in at St. Martins. We are planning to add a street market high on our list of potential add-ons (sites that we'll see or not depending on how the days flow). I'll also put the science museum on the potential add-on list since it's close to our apartment. I figured someone would bring up the British Museum. This was a tough call, but my wife and I have both seen it and figured our kids would not get as much out of it compared to some of the other sites given their ages. This trip has a heavy castle/royalty, horses, and arts slant to it to better align with their current interests.

Posted by Chris
London, UK
3 posts

Hi Rob, Sounds like a great itinerary for you and your family and I have a feeling the weather will treat you well also! Fingers crossed. With regards to purchasing tickets, I would definitely recommend buying in advance some of the day trips as these will fill up, and also you can change your date if you need to (or cancel up to 24 hours in advance) without charge - at least that's what this company do: http://www.sightseeingtourslondon.co.uk. Everything sounds do-able, Wednesday is all in the same area and the London Eye is only a 20 minute ride so you should have plenty of time to see the museum. I am not aware of London Underground giving kids free travel, but if they do that's great! Can you send the link over also - as that would be great to see! Have a great time! Chris

Posted by Ron
southwest, Missouri, U.S.A.
1359 posts

Hello Rob. I recommend : reserve your tickets for London Eye in advance (before you travel to England). And reserve your tickets for the Royal Jewels at the Tower of London in advance, if that is possible. I advise travelers : after the overnight flight from the United States, do not expect to do any sightseeing that day. It is likely that you will feel very tired and miserable and stressed when you arrive in London. I suggest these changes to your London Itinerary : Monday or Tuesday : Go on the London Eye. Wednesday : add St. Paul's cathedral and Museum of London. You can walk to both from the St. Paul's "Tube" station. Delete Thames River boat ride and London Eye and Victoria & Albert Museum.
Friday : Go to the Science Museum instead of Natural History Museum.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3505 posts

I can't think what would interest little girls at the British Museum. At the V&A, if you enter from the tube station, there's the costume room first thing on your right, with fashions for the last 300-400 years, including some undergarments. On Fridays at 2 p.m. there's a 1-hour theatre tour that includes puppets and costumes from the Lion King. The Museum of London might be a good choice. The problem with the London Eye is that in inclement weather (and what are the chances of that in London?!!??!!), it's hardly worth going. You just can't know in advance. But if you don't have tickets, the wait is long. There are two other places I can think of offhand for seeing London from the air - climb up to the dome of St. Paul's or go to the new Shard building's observation deck.

Posted by Kathy
Burbank, CA
9 posts

While this sounds like a very interesting and doable itinerary, it does not sound very appealing to either a 5 or 7 year old girl. It sounds like the girls are into castles and princesses and other royal things. I suggest Hampton Court which has more interactive things for children to do and see, a palace that has two different eras represented,lovely gardens, and the Maze. Give thought to planning more time at the Natural History Museum and the adjacent Science Museum if the interest is there. V&A is worth the time and I am hearing grand things about the V&A Museum of Childhood, doll houses and miniatures. I think Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are on stage when you will be there, give those a thought; be sure to check when the theatre is dark as days are different from those in the US. St Martin in The Fields has free weekday afternoon concerts since you'll be in the area.

Posted by Cynthia
Gig Harbor, Washington, USA
1202 posts

Another place for a "bird's eye" view is the bell tower of Westminster CATHEDRAL (not the same building as the abbey, although it is in the same area). It was on our list of "add-ons" last April - we didn't get there because we were invited to visit friends in Hastings - but it sounds like the view is good and the price for the elevator ride is very reasonable....Not sure if I would take young children up into the dome of St. Paul's - we went up there many years ago and I remember feeling the railing wasn't high enough, but I do have some fear of heights...We did the London Eye in April, sans reservations - the lines were over an hour long even in the shoulder season.....Definitely schedule time for the Victoria and Albert - lots of variety so the girls shouldn't get bored with it....You might enjoy the Thames cruise from near Parliament to Greenwich instead of the shorter one....Green Park is excellent for open space to run off a bit of excess energy.

Posted by Nan
Providence
10 posts

I like your itinerary. I have a couple of suggestions: It might be better to go to the Princess Diana Playground and have tea at the Orangery on the same day as they are very close to each other and will avoid backtracking. When you say that you are planning to get Zone 1 and 2 seven-day travel cards, do you mean the paper tickets from the train stations instead of Oyster Cards? If so, you can use the 2 for 1 deals at www.daysoutguide.co.uk/2for1-london. Print out the vouchers from the website. You will be able to use the 2 for 1 admission for the Tower of London, the Thames Cruise, the Churchill War Rooms and the London Eye. On my trip, the savings from 2 for 1 deals paid for one of the Travelcards in the end. I don't believe you can use them to reserve tickets in advance, though. The Big Bus Tour is expensive. You might want to look into the Heritage Routemaster Buses. Route 9 includes Kensington High Street - Knightsbridge - Piccadilly - St James Street - Trafalgar Square. Route 15 includes Trafalgar Square - Aldwych - Fleet Street - St Paul's Cathedral - Monument - Tower Hill (for Tower of London). The Travelcard will cover the buses. I also love London Walks. Print out the itinerary and you can pick something if you have the time. The benefit is if the kids get tired, you can just step away from the tour. Regarding the street market, check out the Borough Market. I had read about it, but the actual experience is amazing. www.boroughmarket.org.uk/ Make sure you go straight to the Crown Jewels when you arrive at the Tower of London. Have fun!!