My two sons (13 and 10) and I visited London the second week of October. We were there for ten days. We were “aggressive” travelers, meaning we packed in so so much into our trip. This forum as a rule usually frowns on doing such a thing ;) so I thought I would share our experiences in encourage those of you wanting affirmation that it can be done, or to reiterate to the rest of you that it sounds exhausting. ☺
Day One/Two (Thursday and Friday)
Having gotten $500ish Air New Zealand tickets LAX to LHR, we flew out from Tucson to LAX in the early morning. Air New Zealand was fabulous. My boys were occupied the entire time they were on the plane. We all three slept for parts of the time, but their onboard entertainment was fabulous. The food was great; they gave us blankets and pillows.
Air New Zealand is very serious about the weight of your carry-on. I like to bring all of my luggage on board with me, out of fear it will disappear, and of course I don’t want to stand around and wait for it when we arrive. For those of you that share this worry, let me say that by the time we got through customs (both into London and into LAX) everyone’s luggage was pulled off the carousel and lined up neatly for us to grab. If I had known that, I would not have worried about checking my luggage.
Customs took at least 75 minutes, which was more than I thought. What a mass of humanity!
We pre-booked our Heathrow Express tickets a month out, which saves lots of money. There is a long walk from to the Heathrow Express “gate”. I guess we were walking 15-20 minutes.
Heathrow Express was quick and easy. You get on the train directly at the airport and they come around and zap your ticket on your phone. Some people bought their ticket directly from the lady on the train.
Teenagers in London can get a discount tube card. It cost 15 pounds and I had to order it ahead of time. Still not sure how much money I saved, but I know it cost us 45ish minutes at the airport to pick it up – which in itself makes me question if I would have done that again. Time is money, especially after traveling for so long and just wanting to GET THERE. The tube office was easy to find, and we were fifth in line when we got there. By the time we left there were about 12 people behind us. They had my son’s card, and also helped me purchase the right amount of travel money on both our cards (my 10 year old traveled free!!).
We stayed at the Waterloo Hampton Inn. It was perfect for us in many, many ways. First off, we stayed on points. They allow three people to stay in a room. And it is maybe a five minute walk to Waterloo Station which was amazing. From Waterloo we went everywhere, with few connections. I had been looking to stay near “a tube stop,” but now knowing the value in staying in a bigger hub tube stop, I say there is tremendous value in that.
After check-in I dragged the boys out of the room as fast as possible. Those beds looked so tempting, but it was only 3:30ish and I knew we had to stay awake a few more hours. We took the tube to Westminster and were just tourists – taking pictures of everything and feeling like we were really in London. It was a fun little moment. Of course if I had been with my teenage daughters it wouldn’t have been a moment, it would have been hours of selfie-taking ;)
From Westminster, we walked to the Abbey and then over to St. James Park. We walked through the park, which is so lovely, on the way to Buckingham Palace.
I should say that the boys were as prepared for this trip as I can imagine them being. They knew the history of what we would be seeing, they read a history book that gave them the backstories of things, and were so excited. Which is why some of their reactions were interesting to me.