We all learn from experience when it comes to travelling with tiddlers… that’s what I told myself when several things went wrong on our recent adventure to London. We were invited down for a friend’s 30th birthday bash and as he was a longstanding friend of my husband’s I volunteered to look after our 18-month-old at bedtime so he could stay for the party and we’d spend the next couple of days sightseeing as a family.
When we travel we usually go by car and have all our ‘baby equipment’ in tow. This time we had a 2 and a half hour train journey followed by a couple of tube changes so had to travel light. No problem… We’ve done this before lots of times, how much harder could it be with a little person? As we usually take our travel cot everywhere in the car it slipped my mind to check the hotel actually had a cot! (They didn’t) After finding this out earlier in the week we just posted ours down “guaranteed” 48 hours delivery to arrive the same day we did! Except it just didn’t!!
Our tiddler had just started settling and sleeping amazingly the week before our trip and without a cot for her I ended up having a very frustrating couple of hours trying to get her to sleep on the floor, in our bed, in my arms… anywhere!!! Then she was just up and about during the night and subsequently by the morning we HAD to find a cot for the next night.
The weekend got worse before it got better… we rang the nearest Argos who definitely had a travel cot in stock according to their automated phone system and they opened at 9am according to the website. Great, reserved it. Arrived at said Argos at 9:15 and had to hang around for 45 mins waiting for them to open at 10am! And yes you guessed it, they definitely didn’t have a travel cot of any kind in stock. Fantastic. I was straight onto LateRooms.com and booked a 4* hotel for £54 including a cot and we got on with the day and tried to forget about the travel cot trauma!!
We got the tube to Westminster and saw Big Ben, 10 Downing Street and then enjoyed a walk through St James’ Park in the sunshine. The tiddler was entertained by a variety of different ducks “rak rak”, chased a squirrel and when she got fussy we stopped for lunch before carrying on up to Buckingham Palace. We were entertained by the guards and Isabella pointing at them and shouting “daddy” was quite amusing. Met some friends, walked up the Mal and had a drink near Trafalgar Square while the tiddler napped. Then we realised we were near Covent Garden and they had an amazing display of all the James Bond cars featured in the films. After meeting another friend we wandered down to the river and crossed the bridge in glorious sunshine with views across various landmarks. I was amazed how much we were able to see without getting back on the tube, as negotiating the pushchair up and down the steps was one thing that worried me before. A handy tip someone told me before we travelled was to try and use tubes with a wheelchair symbol to make life easier but it’s not always possible.
The next day we visited the Natural History Museum which I highly recommend with a tiddler! It’s free entry and they have a HUGE dinosaur skeleton in the entrance hall which was met by an excited “WOW DINE-SAUR, DINE-SAUR!!” as she nearly fell over backwards looking up at the enormous neck towering above her. They have a brilliant collection of every kind of animal you can think of and I was impressed how much it captivated our 18 month old. When lunchtime arrived they had a couple of cafés with a selection of sandwiches, fruit, and cakes at the usual tourist London prices you would expect but if you’d brought your own lunch there were some benches in the entrance hall. If you visit at a weekend I would expect long queues to get in. It was a Monday when we went and we still queued for 15 minutes. It was quiet once we were inside but they check every backpack at the entrance which takes time.
My top 6 tips for travelling through London with a tiddler:
1) Plan your route ahead to use wheelchair friendly tubes as much as possible. You can download a step-free tube route here.
2) Use a rucksack instead of a suitcase to free up your hands for carrying the tiddlers, pushing the pram, or lifting the pram up and down stairs on the tube.
3) Phone ahead to check the hotel has all the equipment you need e.g. travel cot available
4) Use the parks – there’s so much green space in the city for tiddlers to run around safely. St James’ Park was good for feeding the ducks, Hyde Park has 3 playgrounds and the adjacent Kensington Park has the popular Princes Diana Memorial playground. For older children here is a list of adventure playgrounds across London.
5) Avoid queuing with an agitated tiddler to top up your Oyster Card as you can now use your contactless credit or debit card instead and it’s exactly the same price as using an Oyster Card and includes the same fare capping. You also save money by not topping up more than you’re going to use on the trip!
6) Download the Bubele App which gives you a guide to child friendly places around London. Go to bubeleapp.com and follow them on twitter @BubeleLondon
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