Prepping for our Family Trip to London

So, Max goes on tons of business travel every single year. For as long as I've known him, he's been Platinum level on American Airlines (achieved with 60+ flights in the calendar year). Some of the places I have no desire to travel to (I'm looking at you, Yuma Arizona). But lots of the time I'm dropping hints that I'd love to tag along. Tokyo. New York City. Seattle. San Francisco. I fully realize that business travel is not at all glamorous, and most of the time Max sees zero of the city in which he's staying because he's working all day (and then doubly working at night doing whatever things he's missing in the office). Still, when I heard the word "London" being thrown around in the fall, my ears perked up and I started my rationalizations of why it would make an awesome family trip and introduction to international travel for Parker.
Some way, some how, Max agreed and surreptitiously booked tickets for Parker and me to tag along! He surprised me on my birthday with our airline tickets, and even put in buffer days so we'd have time to explore London all together after his conference ended. This was October, and we were headed to London in mid-December, the peak of the Christmas season, so I knew I had to move fast with planning. I wouldn't say I'm a "Type A" person, but I do love to plan 😂 Oh, and I do loathe most things electronic so it was all paper and post-its for me!

I researched lots of activities to do (including places we went to when we visited London several years ago as well as some of the things we missed). Then I tried grouping things that were in the same part of the city, and moving them to days and times that would work (then moving them around again as I booked specific things like dinner reservations or ballet tickets). I ended up pre-purchasing almost all our tickets, from The Nutcracker to The Tower of London, online from home and just printed them out. Some of them (The Nutcracker, our tours of Kensington Palace and Parliament) needed to be done ahead of time to reserve our seats or spots, and some (The Tower of London, The London Eye) just saved us from having to wait in a line to purchase them there. I tried not to go overboard, but at the same time I wanted to get as much out of our visit as possible (while still keeping everyone rested and happy). 

In preparing Parker for London, I first turned to the library and checked out several books on London. When kids can make connections between something they've seen in a book or on a show and something they've seen in person, it makes the experience all the more meaningful and impactful for them. There was even a book on the British Museum, so we got to point out things we would get to see there (like Egyptian mummies and the Rosetta stone!). 

I also ordered two books to keep here at the house. The first was an older book, first published in the 1950's, called This is London. I loved how it showed an old-fashioned London, with printed tickets for The Underground and bowler hats on all the men. It in fact had an update with an entire page of errata, as so much has changed.

The second was a recent release, Welcome to London. It covered much of modern London and Parker loved learning about the open air markets and found particular humor in the "L" for "learner" signs placed on cars of new drivers. 

Once we were actually in London, Parker had a base of knowledge on which to draw, so the first time he laid eyes on the real London Eye, he knew exactly what it was (same for the Beefeaters at The Tower of London, and even those beginner drivers on motorcycles with the "L" signs!). He latched on to random things like reading about the open air markets, and was keen to peruse Borough Market just like in his books.

If you're traveling with kids, two big necessities are usually the the carseat and stroller. But, let's be honest - the more luggage, the harder to get around. Since we were planning on using public transportation exclusively on the other side, we got to leave Parker's carseat at home because he wouldn't need it on the subway. Score. He would, however, need a stroller. At four-and-a-half, Parker's little legs just can't keep up with lots of city walking. I had read lots of recommendations to travel with an inexpensive umbrella stroller, and I even looked into purchasing one, but pushing Parker around in a stroller that didn't handle very well sounded like zero fun. I debated taking our nice stroller, however it's big and I really didn't want to deal with taking it through security or gate checking it on the plane. Not to mention the fact that we'd be taking London's metro ("The Tube" or "Underground") from the airport to the hotel, and we'd already be carrying two suitcases up and down stairs (only certain stops had elevators or "lifts"). Adding a stroller to that haul was about the last thing I wanted to do. It finally dawned on me that we only needed the stroller while getting around in London, so we ended up renting one for the week! It was amazingly perfect. We used Air Tots, who service London exclusively (but if you are headed to another part of the world, look around for a similar service). We selected the BabyZen Yoyo+, which is exactly the stroller to have in a crowded city with tiny restaurants. It folded up and had a shoulder strap, so we'd literally carry it like a bag on the metro and when walking up and down stairs, and it was perfect to tuck away while we ate out. The stroller was waiting for us at the concierge desk at the hotel upon check-in, and we just left it with them at the end of the week. It was awesome to have a nice stroller that handled well since we used it all day, every day while we were there! The AirTots crew just could not have been nicer to work with, and we highly recommend them if your travels are taking you to London! Use the code: KLEIN10 to get 10% off your order. 

In planning I of course kept checking the weather app on my phone, and at one point it looked like we might get snow the Monday we arrived! I already owned these brown Blondo riding boots and loved that they were lined, warm, comfortable and waterproof - so I ordered the black knee high version for the trip so I'd be able to switch out footwear if needed. I also purchased this coat in winter white on super sale since I didn't own a hooded down coat for the rainy/cold weather (it's rated for -7 degrees!). I wore both right onto the plane and they kept me dry and warm walking out to that first day in London! I feel London as a whole is just a bit dressier than U.S. cities, so we actually didn't pack any jeans to wear over there (save for the one pair Parker wore traveling out there) and opted for a more polished look (I left my beloved English made Hunter brand boots at home as those are considered shoes for the countryside over there, and would be too clunky for tons of city walking anyway). 


Before we left, I also looked at our calendar (we'd arrive home on a Sunday evening) and scheduled a Hello Fresh box to be delivered that Monday. I figured we'd want to eat at home after being gone and eating out for a whole week, but wasn't sure I'd be up for grocery shopping and meal planning right away. I first tried Hello Fresh with a coupon (because with a coupon it's just about the same price as just buying the groceries yourself) and seriously loved it, enough to splurge for a situation like this (worth every penny to my future jet-lagged self, let me tell you). For reference we do the four-person family meal because I love leftovers for lunch the next day (or stretched to make another dinner).

We didn't do a trip countdown for London, but Parker did make "London" cards for our advent calendar for each day we'd be gone, and the morning we left he opened the card that read "Fly to London" - he's just a bit exited here 😉

More excited faces - here we are in the elevator at the Huntsville airport. We had already checked our luggage, and one of Parker's "things" at the Huntsville airport is to race Daddy to the gate floor - Daddy takes the escalator and we take the elevator (Daddy always wins and jumps in front of the elevator doors when they open up). 

Remember that status I talked about earlier? Max gets perks like early boarding, free checked bags and upgrades to first class. Since he was on a separate itinerary from us (as it was a work trip), he got upgraded by himself for our connecting flight to Charlotte, and insisted I take his seat. That's true love right there. He sent me this photo when we were onboard.

And I sent him this one, enjoying my pre-flight drink. 

We had a layover in Charlotte - here's little man in front of our gate before we changed him into pajamas for the overnight flight.

Read all about our transatlantic flight here in my post International Flying With Kids

Our Family Trip to London recaps: 
Day One HERE, Day Two HERE, Day Three HERE, Day Four HERE


  1. Ithaca is one of the prettiest places I've ever been! You should go if you get a chance - the state parks full of waterfalls, the wine country around the finger lakes, the vibrant and collegiate downtown as it's home to two universities. Ithaca is a great city!

    1. Oh did you go to Cornell?? Maybe I should have said Ithaca in the winter under a foot of snow, haha! Well I will have to remove it from my "no" list!

  2. I'm super excited to read all about your London trip! I'm obviously behind on my blog reading, haha! My husband and I are looking into planning a trip to England soon! I just finished reading the Rick Steves England book! I love your way on planning with the post it notes, I'll probably have to do something like that for myself too!

    1. It worked so well being able to move the different events and activities around (even after we arrived!). Are you going to be there for at the same time as the royal wedding??? I'm totally waking up at 4am again like the last one (or whenever it's going to be broadcast) I just can't wait! :)


Powered by Blogger.