You’ll have read about all the activities we got up to on our Family City Break in London on previous posts, but here’s the practical information that made our trip work.
How we got there
We flew Ryanair to London Gatwick, with return flights for the 5 of us during the Easter holidays coming in under €350. A 6.30am flight had us up at 3am. We parked in Quickpark (I always find it handiest) and enjoyed breakfast in Marquette in Terminal 1 before boarding the plane for the short flight. We booked hand luggage only and the boys both managed their own bags, no problem at all, we helped Laoise with hers. (For more information about the bags they used check out our review here). On arrival in Gatwick we got the Gatwick Express Train to our hotel, buying our tickets from the desk in the arrivals hall in Gatwick.
Where we stayed
London is horrifically expensive for hotels and our AirBnB options weren’t much better thanks to needing two rooms for four nights during the Easter holidays. Prices were running into the thousands and the trip wasn’t looking possible when we cast our net wider and found the Hampton by Hilton London Croydon. It’s a business hotel but welcomes children. What sold it to us was the proximity to the East Croydon Train Station, which gave us access to the city by train.
We booked interconnecting rooms which were tight on space but very clean and modern. One room had a queen bed and the other had a double bed and single sofa bed. Rooms had small desk spaces too. Staff were incredibly helpful and so welcoming to the kids, greeting them every day and taking time to chat. They ran an Easter colouring competition that really captured our kids’ imagination and had them colouring more than I’ve ever seen them do it.
There’s a bar at reception that does light meals, we had toasties and chips one evening. Breakfast which was included in our package and is served ’til 10am during the week and 10.30 at weekends. The breakfast offering is danishes, breads, hot options of bacon, sausage, beans and scrambled egg, a pancake machine during the week (not at weekends), cereal, yogurt and fruit. We were very well fed!
It’s 3 minutes from the railway station (in fact from the train itself!) with direct trains to Victoria and London Bridge stations in Central London every few minutes.
Would we stay there again? Absolutely. The train journey was part of the appeal for the kids, they loved it. The cost? We booked direct on their website, and paid £67 sterling (around €75) per room per night, including breakfast.
Travel around London
We ordered visitor Oyster Cards for both adults about ten days before we went to London (Here) and charged them up, they cost £5 plus postage and you need to do it in advance as they post them to you. You can charge them up in every train station as you go. Adult fares from East Croydon to Victoria or London Bridge train station costs £5.50 each way peak or £3.40 off peak. You can just buy your Oystercard in the airport when you arrive. If you buy a Visitor Oyster Card you can get various discounts on attractions, that’s why we got them, but we ended up not using the discounts after all. You can also just use your contactless credit card instead of getting an Oyster card but you’d want to check with your bank about charges, an Oyster Card is probably a better plan.
Children aged under 11 travel free on the tube and buses and the return fare for the boys (over 5’s) from East Croydon to London was £5.70 per day each. (We found a lot of conflicting information online before we left about whether the kids would have to pay on the trains we were getting, but we got the definitive answer from a the ticket office in East Croydon train station. We bought tickets for them every morning in the machine near the entrance. The train and tube rides were part of the appeal and the kids really got used to them quickly. Trains are very regular, depending on where we wanted to visit we took the train to either London Bridge or Victoria, both with great connections to the tube.
Where We Ate
Shake Shack – We ate in the one opposite Victoria. Burgers, hotdogs, (The kids loved the hotdogs) and the “zig zag” chips. Free refills but no apple juice., to the small girl’s disgust. Handy, but expensive enough for what we got and not actually all that kid friendly.
Bella Italia – An Italian chain, we ate in the Shaftesbury Avenue branch. The kids’ menu is good, and not just pizza or pasta. The free squash refills come with their own moped straw. The boys loved that there were two sizes of kids’ portion, one for age 2-6 for £5.95 for three courses or bigger portions for bigger kids for £7.95. Lovely atmosphere here, we would go back.
Angus Steakhouse – The location of this in Leicester Square near the Lego Store was good, but the food was nothing to write home about and expensive for what we got, but the kids were happy with theirs.
Zizzi – Another chain, albeit a fancier one. We ate in the St Katharine’s Dock branch which is near the Tower of London and had a very leisurely lunch. I optimistically ordered the bean and pesto dip for Laoise’s starter. She had spaghetti with tomato sauce and both boys chose pizza. The colouring offering was impressive and the kids didn’t want to leave. TOP TIP: Check the Zizzi offers online here – we got 20% off our bill even though it was a weekend, there are different offers for different branches. We’d definitely seek this out (In fact I hear it’s in Dundrum!)
More Tips for a London Citybreak with Kids
Don’t buy any attraction tickets full price, there are tons of discount websites that sell combo tickets for the various attractions.
Bring a picnic thanks to the “lunch deals” in the supermarket, there’s a Co-op mini-market that does cheap ones
Bring sugar on daytrips for when people get tired
Keep yourself caffeinated and hydrated
Forget fashion, wear your runners!
Post contains some affiliate links