Travelling with kids presents its own unique array of challenges, especially if you’ve never travelled as a parent or caregiver before. Not only do you need to find activities that everyone will enjoy, you also need to attend to the needs of small beings that depend on you while you’re trying to relax and have a good time. Without careful planning and a good attitude, family holidays can end up being more exhausting than your normal life at home – and all that money and effort goes to waste.
One of the most important factors in the success of any holiday is your hotel. A dirty, noisy room with facilities that don’t work and unhelpful staff will ruin your entire stay. It’s essential to take your time and choose a hotel that meets all your criteria. It should of course meet basic standards, such as cleanliness, great service, comfort, a convenient location and good soundproofing. But if you’re travelling with children, there are a few extra things you might want to keep in mind. It’s those extra little touches that will take your holiday from “good” to “wonderful.
The first step is to hop on Google and begin your research, using a phrase such as “family rooms London.”Family rooms will usually be extra-large with space for two adults and two children; if your family is larger than this, you can request a baby cot for the youngest child or upgrade to a suite for extra space. There’s also the option of booking a serviced apartment instead of a hotel room; these places have their own fully-equipped kitchens and plenty of space, and offer a more independent experience than a traditional hotel.
Look for hotels that are in a central location, five minutes or less from the nearest Tube station. London is a very walkable city and grown-ups can spend many happy hours wandering the streets, but little legs tend to get tired much faster and you’ll soon have unhappy children begging to be carried. You’ll already be doing lots of walking while you see the sights and when you head back to your hotel at the end of the day, you’ll all be grateful that just a short Tube journey and a mercifully quick walk lie between you and your beds.
To choose the location of your family rooms in London, think about the places you’ll want to go and plan how you’ll get there. There’s plenty to wow a kid in London and they’ll love places like Hyde Park, the London Eye and London Zoo. Older kids will enjoy the gruesome history of the Tower of London or perhaps taking in a show on the West End. These places are all close to the city centre, so a centrally-located hotel is the best idea. It’s best to cover all your transport worries now so you don’t need to figure it out when you arrive: consider how you’ll reach your hotel from the airport and whether you’ll need to walk a long way with heavy suitcases. Bringing a baby or toddler on the Underground? Use the Transport for London website to find out which stations have step-free access between platform and ground level, so you don’t spend too much time carrying a stroller up and down crowded stairways. Peak hour in London is usually 7am-10am and 4pm-7pm each weekday – try to minimise travelling on the Underground during these times, since most lines will be extremely crowded.
A holiday is a chance to try new and exciting dishes you might never encounter back home and London is the perfect place for a gastronomic adventure, with thousands of restaurants serving food from all around the world. However, prices are often high and you may experience a slight shock when you see your first restaurant bill after dinner for four. Besides, kids can be picky and in the mornings, it’s good to have something hot served up straight away that you know they’ll eat. Shaftesbury and Montcalm hotels all offer a complimentary full English breakfast each morning; some hotels also offer continental breakfast options including cereal, yoghurt and toast, so your kids aren’t overwhelmed by the lack of familiar options.
These hotels also offer family packages – an excellent add-on to family rooms in London. They not only give you a little more peace of mind but also add a touch of magic to your kids’ holidays. At Shaftesbury hotels, the Family Escape package offers one night’s stay in a family room, complimentary chocolate and fruit, and a free family movie to watch together on your in-room plasma screen TV.
Montcalm hotels offer the Family Togetherness package, which includes surprise gifts for your kids, complimentary water, juice and homemade cookies, free kids’ movies and ice-cream. For the grown-ups, there’s complimentary access to the fitness and wellness centre so you can take some “you” time in the sauna. All hotels have complimentary access to WiFi and broadband internet, and provide baby cots free of charge on request.
Finally, try to relax and stay positive! When you’ve done all the planning you can possibly do, remember to breathe, smile, and look forward to your holiday. Take the time to watch your kids experiencing the magic of London for the first time and enjoy their happiness; accept that things will probably go wrong and trust that everything will turn out fine. Happy parents are the most important ingredient for a successful family trip. You can do it!