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London with a 5-year-old

We have been thinking about going to London with our 5yo daughter, who is well-traveled for her age and generally behaves well on planes etc. After having recently spent several days in a very large American city while on vacation (she had a good time but got very tired and cranky), I'm wondering if it'd be worth it to spend many thousands of $$ to go to London when she is still too young to be up for anything but very low-key sightseeing. I know one must adjust one's ideas -- traveling with a child means going much more slowly and not expecting to do/see the sorts of things one normally would (e.g., no spending hours in a museum). London is obviously full of unique stuff to do and see, but she'd be happy doing very little of it and I don't know that we, her parents, would feel that it was a good use of our vacation time and money, nor would we want to spend a lot of our time doing things we could do at home, like taking her to the zoo or playgrounds etc. Obviously we could split up some of the time, with one parent heading out on his/her own for a half day here and there while the other one did something kid-friendly, but we want to be together most of the time. Does anyone have any other/related thoughts?

I fear this post sounds much more negative than I feel -- we really do want to travel with her, as we benefit from the time together and from exploring new places, and she's generally been a really good traveler (although it's all been domestic thus far). Perhaps it's just a difficult age, or perhaps our recent experience has colored my opinion more than it ought to have done. :-) Thanks in advance for any thoughts you care to share.

Posted by
2664 posts

Hi Lisa, my daughters first trip to London was when she was 5. What we did was to tell her a bit of history like King Henry VIII was married lots of times and he cut off two of his wives head. So then when we went to St. Georges Chapel at Windsor, she wanted to walk on top of his burial site. When we were in St. James Park we showed her Buckingham Palace and told her the Queen lived there. We let her feed the birds, ducks and swans in the park. We went to the Royal Mews, she loved seeing all the Queens horses and carriages. At St. Pauls Cathedral she knew that is where Princess Diana was married (it was only a few years after the marriage). In Westminster Abbey she loved seeing the chair where the Queen sat to receive her Crown. We just made it fun. We also went out to some gardens, she enjoyed that and was able to run some, enjoyed the ponds. We gave her a little camera and let her take her own pictures of whatever she wanted. She had some good ones.

Posted by
2664 posts

She loved the horses and guards at Whitehall. Thought the tube was great and let her try to read the tube map. There is a lot that your daughter would enjoy. If you want more info send me a private message.

Posted by
93 posts

My friend took her granddaughter when she was about 5 or 6 and she had a great time.

I ran across a neat link while looking for a hotel. I just looked for it again, but can't find it. I did find this, though:

If that doesn't work, try this one and look for the London for Families section.

This one might be good, too:

Has she seen Mary Poppins or other movies based in London? That might make it more exciting for her.

If you know she's a good traveler, you should take her. She'll be getting experiences some people never get.

Good luck!

Posted by
47 posts

Thanks for the thoughts. She does have her own camera and loves to take photos of all sorts of things. She also loves to draw pictures, so if we carry pen and paper everywhere we go, she can spend some of the "dull" hours drawing things she's already seen.

Good ideas about how to make things more fun -- I was a history major, so I should be able to pick out a few tidbits that would interest her! I guess the key is to be really well-organized and to manage expectations, hers and our own.

Posted by
800 posts

The travel turning point for us was when our youngest was 5 1/2 (major historical sites in Boston). Didn't do Europe till he was 9 but I'd consider taking my granddaughter when she is 5/6.

Tips: plan for down time - 2 hours back at the room every day possible, especially those first few days - resting, reading, etc.

Alternate indoor museums with outdoor activities. We don't do zoos or playgrounds but we love the European gardens, castle ruins, "living" museums. We did Legoland in Denmark for 1 hour (because it was free) and it was fun. We also swim wherever we can - incuding surfing lessons in Cornwall.

Be sure your child has constant food & water available and look for "treats". We bought special English Chocolate at each major castle, ate devon ice cream, tea & scones etc.

Try to stay in an apt/self catering unit. We did this in SW England - our kids loved having their own room.

If this REALLY doesn't appeal-leave them with grandparents who will love the alone time!

Posted by
98 posts

Lisa -

This is a great age to start international travel. I took my 4 1/2 yr old nephew for 10 days in England this summer. We spent 4 days in the Cotswolds and 5 in London. While in London some of his favorites were riding the public bus, taking a cruise on the Thames, the "ferris wheel" aka London Eye, Tower of London, Buckingham Palace (the flag said the Queen was home), Hampton Court Palace (lots of kings and queens lived here and they have a maze and great outdoor running around places), the British Museum to see mummies and bones. We did a lot of walking so brought a stroller for times when his little legs couldn't go any farther. He did fall asleep a couple of times and I just kept walking around or stopped and sat to people watch. He was a joy to travel with and we are going back in 2009 for a longer trip.

Whatever you decide have a great time.