If you’re thinking about taking a family day out or weekend trip to London this year, you may be a little apprehensive about the cost. As a major financial centre, the city has earned a reputation for being expensive. It’s true that there are lots of ways to blow vast amounts of money. But the trickledown effect of all these riches flying around is that there’s plenty to see and do either for free, or at a small cost.
Staying in London
London needn’t be that expensive. Book in advance, and stay away from the West End, and you’ll be able to find reasonable accommodation in a decent part of the city and remember, the tube stretches out into the suburbs, so you’re always well connected to the action.
If you aren’t very strict with dates and can book last minute this is a great way of finding a reasonable hotel, of course doing so with kids can be daunting so maybe a back-up plan is an option. Many you can reserve and cancel for free up until the day of arrival so perhaps book a Travelodge or a Premier Inn room and keep looking up until the day you travel – that way you’ve a fall back option should you need one and won’t have to pay for 2 hotels either.
Or going the other way of booking months in advance often reduces the cost too.
Of all the family activities in London, the V & A Museum of Childhood is a smart choice for parents, as it brings back floods of memories from their own youth, whilst keeping the kids happy at the same time. Don’t be misled by the V & A connection – this collection is at the opposite end of the city, in Bethnal Green. The exhibits are all childhood-related, and date from the 17th Century onwards. Think threadbare victorian teddy bears and rickety mechanical toys and you’re not far off the Museum of Childhood experience. Once the kids get bored with the artefacts, there are interactive classes to be had, including storytelling and arts and craft. Entry to the main museum is completely free, but sometimes there is a charge for special events – check the Museum of Childhood website for more information – one for older children.
Other favourites of ours include the Natural History Museum where children can explore the 36 galleries filled with various exhibits from the small to the HUGE, there really is something for everyone here and you can wander around for hours, perfect for all dinosaur fans, it does however get very busy in the holidays so it is advisable to get there early. This is also free entry.
You could catch a tube to South Kensington and walk up Cromwell Road for a whole day’s worth of museum fun at The Science Museum which is very child-friendly, packed with interactive exhibits. If your child is really hand on this is a great place to take them, no worrying or saying ‘don’t touch that’ as it’s actively encouraged that you all join in with the fun. They will never know they are also learning at the same time!
Other museums on our to do list include: The National Maritime Museum, the British Museum, the Tate Modern, the National Gallery and the royal air force museum.
Covent Garden is great for killing some time, filled with street entertainers my kids love it here. We could spend hours wandering around watching the variety of acts from magic shows, mine artists to singers and more. Of course there are loads of places to eat and shop too.
The southbank also has lots of street entertainers for the kids to watch and is also home to the Coca-Cola London Eye, The London Dungeons, Sealife and Shreks Adventure – these aren’t free but are ones we visit often using our Merlin Annual Passes which we have had for the past 2 years and have used so many times saving so much money in the process.
There are also the free parks in London – Hyde Park, Diana’s memorial playground, Kew gardens (children are free), St James Park, Battersea Park and many more.
You can also head off to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard, see the Beefeaters at the Tower of London or just have a wander around Trafalgar Square.
We love exploring London as a family and are heading off for another adventure this week, we will be staying over this time and cramming in as much free fun as we possibly can.
What are your half term plans for this week?