How not to go to London

How not to go to London

posted in: Travel | 31

You know how everyone always get plane tickets so cheaply and fly everywhere for (almost) free, and you always pay full price and it ends up costing an arm and a leg? Well, I do. Because when you buy 4 plane tickets, have to time your flight to the school holidays and can never really book a long time in advance (this one is mostly because we never know where we’ll be next whenever), you are lucky if you don’t have to sell a random organ to pay for the pleasure of packing three suitcases for a two day trip because the kids “bed-friends”, toys and electronic devices take up at least a suitcase and a half (and that’s after we vetoed Olaf, the ginormous snowman), go through all the security checks, and cramp into a too-full flying bus.

Our version of traveling light. With Olaf.

But not this time. Last week I snagged, for the first time ever, a flight that was so close to single digit price tag you could almost hear the credit card smiling.

The only catch was – it was a one night flight. Fly to London Saturday morning and come back to Berlin Sunday early afternoon. Some would say it’s not worth it. But I have an obsession with EggNog Latte from Starbucks (which apparently they don’t share here in Berlin, but is “back due to popular demand” in London), and the Oxford St Christmas lights, so after the kids stopped whining about it being “only one day” (they have an obsession with London in general, and anything less than a week is deemed “too short” for their taste), we packed the three trollies and hopped on the plane.

Waiting for the plane. A little music is good for the soul.

It all started innocently enough, we had our regular table at the airport cafe (yes, we have a regular table) we even gave a couple of young girls some tips about Copenhagen (I love it when we can give people tips about places. It happens so rarely) and we passed border control quite fast (I hate border control, they scare me half to death every time and in every country). I should have known we were doomed.

Our regular table at the airport

The phone call came at 9:05 am, just as we were closing the hotel room door and heading into town. A major crisis at Hidai’s work, servers down, losing money by the second. And this, if you ever wondered, is how not to go to London.

But at least we learnt some valuable lessons –

Don’t try to fit a ten hours shopping day into four. Especially on Oxford st, before Christmas.

Don’t try and eat three meals in the span of two hours. Especially when you’ve been stress-munching non-stop on food that belongs to the category “something sweet for the kids”. There is no way a grown-up’s stomach can stand all that plus a McDonalds, a Starbucks, a Pret and some chocolate from M&S and still let you function.

Kids at McDonald’s

Don’t try to walk leisurely and stop for good photo-ops in Oxford St Especially on Saturday afternoon, before Christmas, and when you have two kids who apparently have forgotten what city life really looks like, and has gotten used to the Berlin pace and space.

Trying to stop for a selfie. Was not my best idea.

Don’t take the kids with you. Especially if they have been up from 3am, Flew for 2 hours and sat in a hotel room for 5, glued to iPads which were connected to electricity and ate three bags of sweets. But if you do, don’t forget to also bring ear-plugs.

We did take the kids.

Don’t forget that London high-street shops have a tendency to blast (lousy) music every minute of every day, but especially when you have a headache. I assume they think we feel younger and oh so cool and hip and whatever the kids are calling it these days. In reality it makes the people actually paying (as in the old people) just feel older and grumpier and count the seconds until they are out of there.

Another attempt at a photo

Don’t forget they now charge 5p per bag. Or as I like to call it a “if you pay this we’ll let you out of here faster” charge.

Don’t try and change your flight home online, on the phone or at the airport. Especially if you are flying EasyJet. Our options were plentiful, but they all ended up costing twice (!) the original flight price for an extra 5 hours in London. Even we are not that crazy.

Back in Berlin for the first snow!

Do go to Starbucks, because evil corporate or not, there is nothing like those red cups.

Do eat at Pret, which are not an evil corporate, and have the best sandwiches in the world.

Do pop into M&S, which I have no idea if they are an evil corporate or not, but they have excellent packaging-design department, and those chocolate buckets.

Coffee and Mince pie from M&S
Coffee and Mince pie from M&S

Do go to the new(ish, I guess, it wasn’t there in May) toy store which is a cross between Hamleys and Disney. It saves time. Also you get to play with really cute things and blame the kids.

Do not be terrified of the person in Boots who looks at you funny and judges your shopping habits. It is perfectly normal to buy 15 bottles of Otrivine. And a few other things. and the latest Heat. Hey, if I had time I would have gone into 4 different Boots for this.

Do walk around. Just walking around Oxford St, with all the lights, the noise, and the crowds is enough to get you into the Christmas spirit. And also to think once more that someone should pitch the people at Gatwick to add a sign of “Welcome to London. Where everyone is thinner, younger and better dressed than you”. Honestly, I don’t even know why I try.

A few more lights

Do book a new flight to another weekend, because the prices for January are really low, and compared to Berlin, it’s considered a “warmer climate holiday”. Just make it a two day holiday. Or a week.

I do have one good photo 🙂
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Orli D., wife, mum, blogger. Not always in that order. Loves my family, writing, and chocolate. Not always in that order. Blog incessantly and honestly about SEN, Ocular Albinism, Vision Impairment, Gifted kids, my kids, parenting and anything else that crosses my mind. Lives life as an expat in Malta, and trying to find my way in this modern life.

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31 Responses

  1. Rachel

    Ha basically do not ever stop walking whilst in London and that keeps everyone happy x
    Rachel recently posted…LookFantastic Little Black Friday Box + GiveawayMy Profile

    • Julie Syl Kalungi

      Ha ha haaa surely you can stop for the essential SELFIE and of course get the crazy person looks from te quite disinterested ever stressed out Londoners 🙂

      Trust me even the young Londoners look 5 yrs older…its a London thing. Well done on getting through your pre-xmas shopping in London…And what almost single digit tickets….lets get that link asap. As a frequent traveler and a member of a travel club ( by the way its open for members at the moment 🙂 I love the 2-3 days dream get aways we get for next to nothing, So I would love to get a next to nothing flight too 🙂 you guys got it all sussed…an own airport table lol! And to imagine that today we posted a blog post on “Why Travel Matters” Small world!

  2. Mellissa Williams

    I am with you on Pret A Manger. Love the place! All the left over food at the end of the day goes to homeless people as well. Yes London can be a nightmare when it is in the run up to Christmas, but what a place! 🙂
    Mellissa Williams recently posted…How To Work With A Jeweller To Get The Perfect Engagement RingMy Profile

  3. Izzie Anderton

    And now I want to go to London before Christmas. I’d forgotten how brilliant it was, in spite of all of the chaos.
    Izzie Anderton recently posted…The Elf Goes Shopping Again…My Profile

  4. Sarah Ebner

    This is such a brilliant post – you need to come back and chill a little and enjoy it more next time (and go to more Boots stores!). I’ve lived here all my life and I try not to venture into Oxford street within a few months of Xmas….
    Sarah Ebner recently posted…Daleks, Davros, The Doctor and more: The Dr Who Festival (by Daniel)My Profile

  5. Jen Walshaw (@Mum_TheMadHouse)

    I adore London even just for a fast stop and a look at all the lights! My boys would not have been happy couped up in the hotel tech or not!
    Jen Walshaw (@Mum_TheMadHouse) recently posted…Melting Snowmen cookies – cooking with kidsMy Profile

  6. Our Cherry Tree

    This puts me to shame! I live only half hour from central London and never go, even though I miss it. Hope you enjoy another trip back soon! #PoCoLo
    Our Cherry Tree recently posted…Toddler approved Christmas cardsMy Profile

  7. Nayna Kanabar

    I loved reading your post, it sounded so down to earth and amusing.I hope amongst all the rush you did get to enjoy some aspects of London.
    Nayna Kanabar recently posted…Christmassy Apple and Mixed Berry Jam and the ThermoCookMy Profile

  8. Stephanie Robinson

    Wow -that sounds a whistle stop trip. Well done on the cheap flights, I never seem to get them either 🙂 #pocolo
    Stephanie Robinson recently posted…My week this week: MotleyMy Profile

  9. Verily Victoria Vocalises

    This has to be one of my favourite posts ever of yours. I love how you have shared everything – and even the negatives sound like positives! There is nothing like London – especially at Christmas 🙂 Thank you for linking to #PoCoLo x
    Verily Victoria Vocalises recently posted…Are You a Dangerous Driver Because of Your Vision?My Profile

  10. Ness @ JibberJabberUK

    I gave up trying to shop on Oxford Street years ago. Now we like to go down to Marble Arch on the top deck of a bus and walk back down enjoying the lights and shop windows.
    Ness @ JibberJabberUK recently posted…Finance Fridays – Christmas Home InsuranceMy Profile

  11. Lex

    What an insightful, funny post. You really did deliver. I love how you write. Despite it being a short, hectic trip it sounds like you had fun. But yes in hindsight do book for longer next time, for your own sanity haha 🙂 #weekend
    Lex recently posted…Being a 10 month old.My Profile

  12. Cass@frugalfamily

    I love London at CHristmas but we’re not planning on making the journey this year – we’re having a chilled one this year x
    Cass@frugalfamily recently posted…Five Frugal things I’ve done this week to save money {27th November 2015}….My Profile

  13. Ickle Pickle

    Love this – and despite it all, I would still love to take the children to London before Christmas! Kaz x
    Ickle Pickle recently posted…Magical Lapland UKMy Profile

  14. Mrs Tubbs

    Respect! I wouldn’t go near Oxford Street at Christmas, let alone with kids!
    Mrs Tubbs recently posted…Sometimes …My Profile

  15. Steph @MisplacedBrit

    Fantastic 🙂
    I know that Boots hording habit all to well! What’s a girl to do when there’s no Boots where you’re living!! 🙂
    Well done getting through all of that.

  16. Now; this is an urban adventure! TV crews should turn it into a sport!
    Emma @ Adventures of a London Kiwi recently posted…Sisterhood of the World BloggersMy Profile

  17. Kara

    Even I struggle doing London in a day and its only a two hour drive for me – what an adventure though
    Kara recently posted…Save money on family days out with Kids Pass!My Profile

  18. Terrainia

    Absolutely enjoyed this post. I have never been to London, but loved reading your taking on traveling in a short time span. As someone who remains relatively busy, I will also open up to possibly take a quick trip to a nearby state or country.

  19. Priya Aurora

    I totally loved your post. Traveling with kids, you need to be fully prepared.

  20. Michelle Gwynn Jones

    I have done the cheap airfare a few times. I find that it is either a wonderful experience or a complete disaster. Never in the middle.
    Michelle Gwynn Jones recently posted…THANKSGIVING ENDS IN TRAGEDYMy Profile

  21. Kimberly

    Awe I really like your pictures and the trip sounds like it was an experience. At least you and your family will have the memories to share.
    Kimberly recently posted…Motivation Monday #6My Profile

  22. Wander Mum

    You were so brave to venture onto Oxford street so close to Christmas. I live in London and tend to steer clear! But, the lights do look amazing and there is definitely a buzz…just don’t stop to take any pictures! This post and some of your other posts would be a great fit for a new linky I am co-hosting – #citytripping – if you fancied joining…runs Tues-Thurs #pocolo x

  23. Lori

    I love these sort of great mini crazy adventures. I recently went to london on a 24 hours trip and it was super fun and worth the buzz. x
    Lori recently posted…A SIMPLE WINTER PLUM TART RECIPEMy Profile

  24. Nikki Fraser

    I have only ever been to London during the summer but it looks amazing close to Christmas. It’s amazing you arrived home for first snow 🙂
    Nikki Fraser recently posted…The down side to blogging!My Profile

  25. Ninajcat

    OO h I love the twinkly lights of London I love it x
    Ninajcat recently posted…Older Teenager Christmas IdeasMy Profile

  26. Donna @OrdCyclingGirl

    What a great blog. I really enjoyed reading this post. Hope your next visit is a little more relaxed!
    Donna @OrdCyclingGirl recently posted…Review: The Heritage Jersey from SvelteMy Profile

  27. Cathy (MummyTravels)

    I love this post! I have lived in London for around 15 years and you wouldn’t get me into Oxford Street around Christmas unless you paid me LARGE sums of money. Sometimes not even the rest of the year 🙂 But I absolutely love that you hopped on a plane for less than 48 hours here. Thanks for joining up with #citytripping
    Cathy (MummyTravels) recently posted…The Take 12 Trips challenge 2015My Profile

  28. I love this! Do hope you make it back. I have to say I vowed never to return to Oxford Street years ago – I just can’t bear all the crowds. Certainly agree about Pret’s sandwiches!

  29. Wander Mum

    Hey, returning for #citytripping – thanks for linking up! I love this post – so honest and pretty much sums up the atmosphere in London and Oxford Street in the lead up to Christmas! What it is with Boots? My Singaporean friends always have to do the obligatory stock up when they are in town! X

  30. Jacek

    Perfect blog. Really nice to read something fresh and natural.