I’m going to burst a myth here I think – London, though it is full of families with kids, and though it is very friendly to kids, doesn’t really make an effort to entertain the young, just the young at heart.
When you start thinking about vacationing with the family in London you go through all the books and all the websites, and what you usually find as “family recommended activities” are things that, let’s be honest, (at least my) kids hate. Kids don’t really do markets, or wandering around beautiful streets, and don’t even get me started about the ability to go to museums and monuments.
Kids love parks, touching things, climbing on things, running around, and mostly – McDonalds. Tricky when we are talking about rain-prone London.
I mean if you have a really young baby you can usually get away with taking him anywhere (assuming he likes sleeping. If he is anything like Ron was, plan on staying inside your home for the first year), I was at the Liechtenstein exhibition a couple of months ago and there were plenty of people with babies sleeping comfortably inside baby carriers. With older kids you can usually bribe shamelessly, stick an iPhone in their hands so they will be quiet in a restaurant, or find things that interest them. But the toddler years, oh those lovely toddler years, those are the real tricky ones (and I am including all the years between 2 and 6 here).
My lesson, after so many unsuccessful family-outings that ended up with an annoyed me and unhappy kids, is planning for what you can and can’t do. And also, always have chocolate in you pocket and as many electronic devices as you have kids. You don’t want them to have to share an iPhone.
As I’m sure you know the things you need to consider before organizing a day out with your family are many, and it’s tough work to combine them together.
You have the actual kids – age, gender and interests. Now you can choose to ignore all of those, God knows we did, but be prepared to suffer the consequences Taking two boys to see the Royal Palace was somewhat unforgettable. Both to the staff and for us.
You really can’t ignore the weather – London, like everyone knows, tends to have rain. Even in August. That’s the easy one. What you should also take into consideration are two things – first of all, have a “cloudy day” plan. It won’t be a good idea to go on the London Eye on a cloudy day. Secondly, remember the temp difference, I mean when we just got here 18 degrees (Celsius obviously) for summer, looked ridicules for us. That’s not summer. That’s pretty cold. Now the first day of 18 degrees is a celebratory day – no more coats!
Add to that the icing on the cake, money. Every activity you find in London costs money. A lot of money. Now, I am not against spending money, especially while on vacation, but I do think that if you spend a hundred pound, the least you can do is have fun.
It doesn’t happen just to tourists you know, there are weekends when none of the “what happens in London this weekend” emails actually offers you anything to do in London this weekend.
In fact it took us a while to understand this scenario and stop feeling let-down by this great city we love so much (it took us a whole Easter of staying at home feeling sorry for ourselves in fact before we totally understood).
And that is exactly what this whole section of the blog is about – making sure you learn from my enormous mistakes! Kidding, it’s to help you avoid the wide-eyed stare at the screen, the feeling of utter helplessness and the thought (or shout. It happens, don’t feel bad) – what is going on here?! It’s London for God sake! How can it be that I can’t find anything to do?!
If you read my review of 2012 (of course you read it. Why wouldn’t you?), then you know that one of our decisions for this year is to make the most of living in London, and since money is of an issue at the moment, the objective is to do as much (and pay as little) as possible.
Eating with kids
When you have kids going out to eat as a family usually starts in a “why don’t we go out today and eat someplace new, I really want Chinese / Italian / whatever” and ends up with a “why don’t we go to McDonald’s?” because, as any parent knows, good food is wasted on kids. Also wasted on kids are fancy restaurants, where you have to worry about them breaking something / spilling something…
My Posts about living in London with kids
What were my real live thoughts while going about London with two kids? This is your chance to pick around my baring for everything I thought about what we were doing, and about the good, the bad, and the annoying of raising kids in a city like London.
We are not very good with the whole money-saving / deals thing. To be completely honest, I keep forgetting to check them before I buy, or we wait too long and the deal we wanted is over, and DIY was never my strong suit… But I do acknowledge that we should be better in it. Raising kids in general, and certainly in London is a very VERY expensive business. So as usual I thought to myself that if I want to be better in it, the first step is to write down everything I know about being thrifty