As soon as school finished for the year, I headed to London with my 9.5 yo grandson and my 30 something daughter, his aunt. I first visited London in the eighties as a thirty something myself, when a reasonable day started after breakfast, tubing into central London from our B&B way out in Parson’s Green, sightseeing ALL day, going to a play, then returning home before midnight. I understand it CAN be done that way, but after years of holiday trips, business trips, and weekend trips when we lived in Germany, I don’t visit London (or anywhere!) that way anymore. I have ALMOST as much energy but not the need to cover so much, so fast. The checklist is done. I enjoy London selectively now, always assuming I’ll be back. (Three visits in the last 13 months, and next up in October.)
The point of this trip report is to lay out what worked for a nine-year-old’s first trip to London that got this response: “On a scale of 1 to 10, it was a 15!”
You know your kiddo’s interest and stamina level, but when I read some of the planned itineraries on this forum, and see days crammed with museums and heavy historical sites, I can’t help thinking “I don’t think this is going to work.” I’m opinionated, but I’ve done this trip with kids several times — took my 10 yo grandson last summer, and took each of my daughters when they were slightly older. Trying to share what worked for us that might be useful when you’re about to shed a lot of pounds taking your child to London.
Without question, what both my grandsons, and both my daughters a generation ago, loved most in London was the theatre. The musical both boys loved most was Hamilton. Grandson #1’s next faves were Les Mis, Lion King, and Peter Pan at Regent’s Park. This year the 9yo liked School of Rock next best, then a tie between Aladdin and Matilda. The two more complex plays took some advance prep, but the kids’ book “Who Was Alexander Hamilton?” made that one easily understandable. If I’m taking them to a show, it’s worth is to me to put them in good seats where they can see. This often takes planning far ahead, i.e., right after the plane tickets are bought. Good seats only get scarcer, not cheaper.
The down side of all that theatre (beside the cost!) is that it makes for late nights that aren’t easily followed by early morning starts. If they were up til midnight, I let them sleep in til nine, and didn’t even try to get out the door before late morning.
Fitting in dinner before a 7:30 showtime is also problematic if you tend toward late lunches, and don’t want a 5:30 dinner. We stay in apartments, so it’s easier to stock good snacks and drinks. I also take advantage of quick food from Pret, and when traveling with kids, never leave home without an emergency jar of peanut butter and jelly.
After theatre, my grandsons’ next favorite activity involved food. Neither are picky eaters, and the 9yo is an absolute foodie, so they’re easy to please. Wagamama and fish and chips (especialy Poppie’s) are their faves; Borough Market and food stalls on Portobello Road were big hits; and afternoon tea at the National Portrait Gallery was memorable for both. (If you book Monday - Thursday, there’s always an online 20% off coupon, and it’s a reasonable early dinner option on a theatre night.) And everybody loves a good Soho noodle house, classic Italian, and Sunday Roast Lunch. Took the younger one on a food tour this trip, and he even liked Bangladeshi curry! We try to do one nice sit down meal every day and fill in the rest from Pret and the grocery store.
Both boys loved the Harry Potter Studio Tour, which needs to be booked several months ahead.