LONDON FAMILY HOLIDAY- TOP FIVES

Top 5 things we loved that don’t cost the earth

London can be very expensive to visit as a family. We focused on what we could do for free and kept us outdoors having fun.

THE ROYAL PARKS

Coming from Auckland, London is a huge city. The architecture and attractions make it one of the top cities in the world but quite frankly kids need to run around and burn off energy. There are plenty of parks but the royal parks are by far the most beautiful. Approach Buckingham Palace through St James’s park for stunning views (and photos), check out the Diana memorial gardens at Kensington Palace for the children’s wonderland playground, experience outdoor swimming in inner London by taking a dip in the Serpentine Lido in Hyde park or find London zoo in Regent’s Park. If you truly want to get out into the fresh air then take a day trip to Richmond park, hunt for deer and take a rowing boat out on the river.

THE SOUTH BANK & LONDON EYE

There is always so much to see and do on the South Bank. Kids can spend hours walking among the pop up stalls, check out the skate park (the graffiti alone was a mark of wonder coming from NZ!), pop up fun fairs. There are plenty of attractions to visit such as the London Eye, London Aquarium, Tate Modern, Globe Theatre, HMS Belfast – just strolling past them is entertainment in itself if you don’t want to pay admission. One of our favourite views in London is from Tate Modern through to St Paul’s cathedral and all kids will enjoy a walk over the infamous “wobbly bridge”.

When they wilt there are many child friendly options for dining with family focused chain Giraffe, dim sum at Ping Pong or noodles at Wagamama.

BUCKINGHAM PALACE

Just taking in Buckingham Palace from the outside for free is amazing in itself and no trip to London can miss it out. My daughter is fascinated by the Queen and when we can be invited for tea with her…..If you do want to visit then the staterooms are open every summer. See here for more info:

https://www.rct.uk/visit/the-state-rooms-buckingham-palace

Of course, there is always the changing of the guard at 11 am every day. It can be pretty crowded, so if you want to see the guards and their horses then stroll down to Horsegaurds Parade where you can get up close and photo bomb!

GREENWICH & THE RIVER BOAT

 A 30-minute boat ride east from Tower Bridge Greenwich has many attractions and lots of them free. You can enjoy the large royal park with a stunning view across London from the top and a children’s playground at the bottom, learn where time begins at the Royal Observatory, how voyagers have traveled the world at the National Maritime Museum and shop in the funky Greenwich market.

FREE MUSEUMS FOR RAINY DAYS

Now lets be honest with the British weather the likelihood of some rain is high, so rainy day options are always a good plan. 

Luckily may museums in London are free and are well set up to entertain kids. Here is our pick:

  • Science Museum for lots of hands-on interactive learning for kids
  • Natural History Museum for enormous dinosaurs and wobbly earthquakes
  • V&A  for the fashion conscious tweens and teens
  • London transport museum for lovers of trains, tubes and big buses (this is not free)
  • Tate Modern for the sheer size and scale of this beautiful art gallery in a converted power station where kids can roam the huge turbine hall 
  • British museum for discovery trails for kids to help keep them amused as they hunt out learning and the amazing seven-acre children’s park Coram Fields nearby which is ideal for younger kids or anyone who needs a bit of a break

Top 5 LONDON AS A FAMILY HACKS

GET AN OYSTER CARD & FREE TRAVEL FOR UNDER 10S

A plastic card which you pre-load with credit and then tap on the readers at stations to pay your journey fare. Getting an Oyster Card means you don’t need to stand in line at ticket machines, plus you’ll pay much less per journey than using cash. Special oyster cards for visitors also give discounts on some London restaurants, galleries and shops. Children under 10 can also travel free when using a 5-10 “Zip” Oyster card.

More info can be found here:

https://tfl.gov.uk/travel-information/visiting-london/visitor-oyster-card

https://tfl.gov.uk/fares/free-and-discounted-travel/5-10-zip-oyster-photocard

HOP ON/HOP OFF THE PUBLIC TRANSPORT

You are looking at over £100 for a family ticket on a hop on/ hop off tourist bus. When a trip on a local bus costs roughly £1.50 a trip and still gives the kids a ride on the top deck of a double decker bus why not save your cash? Buses can get you to the main attractions, here are some good suggested routes:

https://www.visitbritainshop.com/world/articles/top-3-bus-routes/

Same for the river. Don’t fork out on an expensive boat tour – take the Thames Clipper up river to Canary Wharf and Greenwich and see the sights along the way.

LONDON PASS

A London Pass card is just one example of several tourist attraction discount cards on offer. You pay a set price for the card or smartphone app and can then use it to enter as many places as you like.

For example, if you were to buy tickets for a Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Tour, the Tower of London, London Zoo and the View From The Shard it would cost £107.79 total. You could buy a 1 day London Pass for £66, saving you £41.79. Multi-day passes are also available.

USE YOUR ONLINE TOUR GUIDE

Don’t fork out on an expensive tour guide. There are plenty of apps these days to help you guide yourself and your family around London. Here are some good ones:

  • StrollOn provides audio walking tours with photos and maps to follow, 
  • Horrible London will keep the kids amused learning about the city’s gruesome and ghostly side.
  • London Market Guide is the shopaholics best friend.

What are you waiting for?