Planning a family trip to London? As one of the world’s most vibrant cities, there’s plenty to offer in London to suit the whole family whether you are travelling with tots or teens. We asked two of our experienced Blue Badge guides, Sarah Ciacci and Eve Milner, specialists in family tours, what their top 10 tips are:
1. Preparation is Key
Get them familiar with the sites before you leave, so they are curious about where they are going. You could read toddlers Michael Bond’s Paddington Bear at the Tower, watch some James Bond films or Sherlock Holmes with teenagers. Rick Riordan has written some great fiction books on the Greek myths for tweenies (about 6-12) which are great in preparation for the British Museum. The more you do before, the more they will be curious about discovering this great city.
2. Layer up
Us Londoners love nothing more than talking about the weather, and that’s because it is so darned changeable, you might get all four seasons in one day. One thing that you don’t want on a tour is a child that is too hot, too cold, or too wet, so make sure you layer up, wear comfy waterproof shoes and include a mac in your bag – just in case it rains.
3. Employ a Family Friendly Blue Badge Guide
Anyone who’s been on a family day out will know how family dynamics can get strained between all the conflicting wishes of the family members. We always find that just our presence can have a soothing effect on fraying moods – we are outsiders, and families always behave better when there’s an outsider about! We are “in charge” if you like, so parents & other responsible adults can relax during the tour. Also, we are skilled at pitching the adventure at several levels at once, so that all the family members can join in and feel involved.
4. Keep ‘Hangry’ at Bay
Kids of all ages need snacks and meals at regular intervals but you may not want to lug around a heavy rucksack all day. As experienced family guides, we know exactly where to pick up tasty snacks or drinks, and where there are rest rooms with baby-changing facilities. A popular place for family groups is Borough Market where everyone can taste different cheeses, cold meats, or morsels of fruit, or cake and put together a little picnic to suit all tastes.
5. Love Public Transport
Navigating around any foreign city can be daunting, but with your own guide, you can relax – and you’ll be amazed how much your kids will enjoy the experience. We find kids of all ages love travelling on the top deck of a double-decker bus, in the Thames water taxis or on the DLR when they can even pretend to be driving the train! We normally involve the kids in planning the journey & leading the way, so they feel important and excited while learning key skills without even realising. We also have games and trails families can do while travelling on the tube or the bus with us.
6. What if it rains?
Let’s face it – it rains a lot in England. That’s why our parks and lawns are so green! But we understand that cold, wet kids are miserable kids, so we have plenty of rainy day secret bolt holes, where we make sure the whole family are entertained and informed in comfort. We can take your family on a hunt for animals in the National Gallery for example, or discover together how ideas of beauty and fashion have changed over the centuries in the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum). We will have been in communication with you before the tour to get to know you all a little so we will have tailor-made the activities and visits to suit YOUR family.
7. Take a Break (or two)
It can be tempting to cram too many activities into one day but in our experience everyone needs a little rest time. We can sense exactly when your kids are bored, tired, hungry or just plain too jet-lagged to carry on, and respond immediately. Sometimes a short break where they can run around and let off steam, or just be quiet and walk bare-foot in some grass is necessary. We always have some oatmeal in our bag for example, so everyone can feed the ducks in one of the royal parks – and lots of other secret bits and pieces to make for a lovely playtime.
8. Think about reins for toddlers
I took my 2 year old to Changing of the Guard and boy, was I happy I had my reins! She could walk, dance and march with guards and loved it, while I was relaxed in the knowledge that I was holding her reins so she wasn’t going to get lost. There are lots of crowds at Changing of the Guard, and in many other tourist spots in London so don’t add the worry of losing your little one. Get some reins (and peace of mind), even if it is just for the holiday!
9. Give them a fun project
Give your kids a project which will keep them engaged throughout the day like a photography competition, or get them to keep a scrap book of leaflets, wierd words, interesting historical facts which can be kept as a nice memento of their time.
10. Enjoy it – even if things go wrong!
The unexpected could happen and throw all your plans out of the window, your kids might have been up half the night because of jet-lag, or the trains might be delayed so you get to your destination late… it happens, but don’t let it ruin your holiday! The important thing is that you are in London with your lovely family! If you have Blue Badge Guide, we will be able to help navigate the trials and tribulations of London (hopefully) stress-free!