With low-cost airlines like WOW and Norwegian Air Shuttle (and the majors price matching in many cases), families can now get to Europe from the U.S. at very affordable prices. Add a strong U.S. dollar against the Euro and British Pound, and it’s an awesome time for your first journey to Europe.
But, where should you go once you hop across the Atlantic? There are so many incredible options each with a different culture and magnificent sights to see– from the bustling culture and streets of Paris to the ancient city of Rome and the picturesque mountain views of Switzerland, there are dozens of epic trips. It’s really hard to choose with so many incredible options. However, for a first trip overseas with kids, the land of Harry Potter, Mary Poppins and Paddington Bear is an excellent destination.
More than any other vacation that we’ve planned, our young boys were really eager to explore London. They have read books and seen movies with London as the setting. And, knew enough about history and famous sights like Big Ben, the Queen, the London Eye and Stonehenge to get excited about visiting and helping us plan the itinerary.
Although it wasn’t our first time traveling overseas with our kids, a trip to London is a good entrée to dip your littles’ toes into the international scene:
- No language barrier takes away one of the stressors of international travel;
- Food is similar to U.S., well maybe not mushy peas, but chips (fries), burgers, breakfasts, pizza and Italian food all stack up to American fare.
- Transportation is easy and accessible– in London, most sights are walkable or accessible via a great subway system or cabs (just be sure you look left first before crossing the street).
- There are iconic sights that they will recognize from books, TV shows and movies.
And yet, it is also different enough from the U.S. to be intriguing and to give kids a taste of a different culture such as driving on the left side of the road; using a different currency; and experiencing how delightful afternoon tea is.
The other great thing about London, is that you can tailor your adventure according to your interests. Bookworms will delight retracing the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes and Mary Poppins, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and Harry Potter-oriented tours; history buffs won’t be able to get enough of the Tower of London, The British Museum, and Parliament and architecture lovers can gaze at buildings built back as far back as 1066 (Tower of London) or modern marvels like The Shard and sports fans can catch a football game, see the venues of the 2000 Olympics or wander over to Wimbledon.
Our must-do list hit a lot of the big sites:
Day 1 –first stop off the plane was a pub for a pint and fish n’ chips. Walk around Parliament area and see Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey.
Day 2 – stop at Kings Cross for photo opp at Platform 9 ¾ from Harry Potter and shop in Harry Potter Store; walk through St. James Park to Buckingham Palace; walk along the Thames (see London Eye from afar).
Day 3 – photo opp at red phone booth, British Museum (easily a 3-4 hour visit and one of the most treasured and incredible museums in the world). THE Rosetta Stone, an Easter Island maoi, Egyptian art and stonework are breathtaking. Double decker bus ride.
Day 4 – private driver and tour of Stonehenge (approximately 1.5 hours from the heart of London) and stop at Salisbury Cathedral to see one of the four copies of the Magna Carta and the oldest working clock in the world.
Day 5 – Took water taxi on Thames over to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater; walked across London Bridge to the Tower of London; found area where Diagon Alley was filmed in Harry Potter.
Day 6 – Paddington Station to see statue of infamous bear and shop in Paddington Store before heading to airport.
We barely scratched the surface of all the wonderful things to do and see in London, but it is definitely one of our favorite trips we’ve done. And who knows, maybe you’ll bump into J.K.Rowling or Daisy Ridley on the street!