Living in  a rural idyll in the very far north of TMK we love to get some city time for our little family every so often. This half term we headed for London. Here are our top ten tips for enjoying your visit.

1. Organise your London travel before you go. Tube and overground and bus services are so easy and integrated to use. Don’t even think about taking your car to enjoy central London life. Travel after 9 30 and before 4 30. This also keeps days shorter and less tiring when with small children. We arranged pre paid Oyster cards. £30 comfortably saw us and our two little ones all over London for 4 days. Children under 11 travel free – which is just fabulous. The helpful staff at tube stations man the wide gates and will allow you to pass through as a family group and save you both queueing and turnstile angst. Travel for London website is invaluable. One of the great excitements of our trip was a replacement bus service between Turnham Green and Kew – we got to sit at the front, upstairs, after dark and watch the dance of all the other buses and cabs swooshing in and out of the traffic. It’s all cool and new when you are from out of town!

2. There is so much to see and do in London as a visitor that being selective is an absolute must! We try and choose one “big ticket” venue or activity per trip. In choosing this we look at events that are happening when we are in London. This year it was an easy choice to visit the Tower of London and see for ourselves the Seas of Blood created by the wonderful poppy installation in the moat around the tower to commemorate the war dead. 888, 264 poppies will be in place by Armistice Day. We could have visited the poppy installation for the free but we chose to include a full trip to the Tower as the sightseeing spectacle of our London visit. It is truly fascinating and I would thoroughly recommend allowing the majority of a day to visit.

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3. Take care when looking at multi attraction passes. There are lots of different cards and passes that promise ticket price reductions. And they do – if you visit all the attractions listed. Do think carefully about your schedule before investing in one. We felt we would feel pressure to visit everything in a tourist frenzy in order to gain the benefit.

4. Pack a lunch and lots of snacks and water. We alternated between eating out (and were pleasantly surprised by the quality of food and service on offer at the big tourist sites and museums) for a treat and grabbing a sandwich and snack on a park bench in the lovely late autumn sunshine. Sightseeing requires loads of stamina for little people and having endless energy giving snacks and water on hand was a real winner in maintaining the smiley faces!

5. Plan a flexible schedule and have a fall back plan.  We choose a couple of things that we would like to do every day and our route both to and between them. Our thinking was that if one place failed to live up to expectations or was overwhelmingly busy we had a back up plan prepared for another activity. After our visit to the Tower of London we made a brief stop off at one of our perennial favourites the Natural History Museum. Just a quick pop up from the tube at South Ken, a skip round the dinosaurs and we were off again. Easy peasy. The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exbitition has just started here and is, as ever, breathtaking.

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6. The best things in life are free. Londons museums are FREE. This fabulous fact often makes me gasp. For our daughter the highlight of our visit was the dinosaur exhibition (see above) and quite possibly the cuddly sabre toothed tiger she bought in the NHM shop. For our son and my husband it was undoubtedly the Imperial War Museum. Recently extensively refurbished with exhibits from the WWI right up to the Lockerbie trial and Iraq and Afghanistan it is demanding, stimulating and deeply moving. My 6 year old daughter found the WWI galleries too overwhelming so we retired to the very lovely coffee shop, but she absolutely adored the chance to become a spy in a fantastic interactive exhibition for children about  the exploits of the SOE during WWII (there was a small charge for this but it was well worth the 1.5 hours entertainment and learning). My son added masses of images to  his photo diary and I spent hours absorbed and drifting round the exhibitions. My grandfathers both served in WWI and my father in WWII so there was much resonance with half heard stories from my childhood.

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7. Plan a light day. A day that starts late, revolves around an outdoor activity and little travelling and demands as little as possible from you all. London has masses of beautiful parks and gardens both free and with paid entry. We are lucky to enjoy family entry to Kew Gardens and we love to scamper round the gardens, spotting squirrels and running around the play park. There is good coffee and food for parents and time to simple relax and breathe in the these beating hearts of London. This half term Kew is running an excellent activity for children with actors, a trail for the children to hunt down clues and solve a puzzle and a final theatrical presentation. All included in the entry! The prize possesions from the gift shop here were a bat and a scorpion for son – which were immediately shoved down the back of little sister’s t -shirt. Oh how we all laughed!

8. Keep a photo/instagram diary of your trip. I keep an instagram diary with my phone camera fairly regularly and it was really fun for my 9 year old to keep his own diary of his trip. He loved showing the friends we were visiting the images he had taken everyday and it really helped in processing and remembering everything that we had seen and done.

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9. Walk! While the buses and the tubes are wonderful London is also a city that lends itself to walking. Walk through St James Park, down the Mall and catch the changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace (even days only during October), explore Camden or Covent Garden or Chinatown on foot (all recommended for afternoon but before the .. em ..riskier element of London life shakes it’s tassles at you) or, our favourite on this trip, stroll along the river from Lambeth to Southbank at sunset. see the London Eye, the Palace of Westminster, the busy river traffic for free before heading for dinner at Southbank where we…..

10. made time for friends.. easily my favourite part of any trip to London is the chance for an extended catch up with family and friends. This year we were able to introduce my kids to their 3rd cousins, extending family relationships for another generation, to meet and matchmake between my kids and those of the TMK’s very own Megan who is London based and for me to spend  long chatty evenings (maybe a glass of something to hand) with university friends who kindly host us and let us turn their house and lives up side down with unfailing smiles and kindness.

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London. Half term. Done.

words and images Rosie Woodhouse: Love Skye Photography

with special thanks to Penny of the TMK family who travelled all the way to Skye to look after our four legged family members while we went travelling. Expect some blogs about her time on Skye soon!




Packing my Suitcase