I had no idea that our trip to London with our 15 month old would go as it did but all I can say is that I got 9 hours of sleep straight through, no interruptions for 4 days and it was glorious.
If San Francisco was the worst case scenario for sleeping situations, London was the best. We went to bed when Tommy went to bed and got up when he got up. We were in a regular hotel room so we had little choice, and surely didn’t mind.
We opted for the day flight to fly direct from Boston to Heathrow. British Airways saves seats for people traveling with children under 2 that have extra leg room and a tray table that folds down for a “bassinet” where the child can sleep. We did not know about this and did not reserve one of these seats. Still Tommy did great on the first flight.
He fell asleep shortly after take off and after only 30 minutes, the lady sitting by the window had to get up to use the restroom and Tommy woke up when I stood up to let her out. I was surprised that she did this but she probably thought he was one of those babies that slept through everything or couldn’t hold it any longer.
We kept him entertained with new toys that I bought for the trip as well as iPad shows and movies on the flight. He also made some friends walking up and down the aisles. It was stressful for me though. I didn’t watch a single movie on the 6 hour flight or nap. Nick was able to watch one movie. Tommy himself never fell asleep again until the final descent. Overall it was fine but tiring.
We stayed at The Athenaeum Hotel in Mayfair which came up first when I googled, “Kid Friendly Hotels in London.” It was perfectly located for easy travel on the tube, walking distance to many sites, had a crib for our use, a babysitting service, and kids concierge.
A lot of people recommended an AirBnB but we opted to stay at a hotel with Tommy because we didn’t want to bring our travel crib. I also wanted the option of room service for dinner with Tommy in case we didn’t want to go out. I love having a concierge for recommendations and reservations for all things sightseeing or food. Whenever I stay in a foreign country, I like having someone that can make a phone call for me, whether it’s for a taxi or emergency.
The Athenaeum was perfect for us and our needs. When we checked into our room at 9pm we had planned to have dinner in the dining room as Tommy thought it was 4pm. Quickly after sitting down, we realized this was not going to be fun for anyone. Tommy wanted to run around. He had just been on a plane for 6 hours. We retreated to our room and ordered room service which was delicious and arrived really quick. We were so hungry I didn’t take a picture but I loved my Ahi Tuna Burger and Tommy loved his kids pizza. Nick ordered a burger and also enjoyed his meal.
In addition to the travel crib, we were provided with building blocks, a book, a teddy bear and food for the ducks and swans in the nearby Hyde Park. Tommy was obsessed with the bear. He loves stuffed animals and the blocks were a hit in the bath.
We all went to bed at midnight and Tommy slept right through the night until 10 am the next morning. I was shocked and elated. We got a late start most mornings because Tommy was going to bed so late. I guess lucky for us he only sleeps about 10 hours at night. Each day, unintentionally, his routine shifted to be more on London time. Naps would get earlier, and he would be ready for bed about a half hour earlier each day. By the last night, we were in bed around 10 pm and he woke up at 8 am.
He would nap twice a day in his stroller while we were eating lunch or walking to our next tourist destination. This worked out great for us. London was easy to navigate with out UPPAbaby G-LUXE as it’s small, folds up and really light. Many of the train stations are not totally stroller friendly so we would have the carry the stroller up and down the stairs. We did bring the stroller right on the escalator when available and obviously the elevator when we saw one. Tommy also hated being in the stroller 50% of the time so one of us usually carried him while the other carried the stroller.
I did not work out once while in London but I got in my workout carrying around our little monkey and navigating the tube. My iPhone also indicated that we walked 9, 7, 10, and 8 miles respectively each day!
Two nights we hired babysitters so we could go out to dinner. The first sitter we got through the Athenaeum. We just told them what night and we were hooked up. We of course had to pay but prices were similar to sitter services here in Boston ($25 service fee and $15/hour – in pounds of course). The next night we used a niece of a friend who works with Nick in Boston. We paid her the same amount since we assumed this was the going rate.
Since Tommy was on Boston time, they didn’t have to put him down for bed and awkwardly sit in a dark hotel room. He is fine with new faces so he had a ton of fun flirting with the ladies. Both sitters worked out perfectly and we were able to enjoy two relaxing dinners. We intentionally came home before bed time.
There are so many restaurants in London but you need a reservation for all the good ones. Our concierge was awesome with local recommendations. All of my readers and friend’s suggestions we couldn’t get into! We hit up Chor Bizarre, an Indian restaurant that we loved as well as The Ivy Restaurant Bar and Grill for our date nights.
We did go out to dinner two nights with Tommy. The first was at a pub and that was a disaster. We went too late, they didn’t have highchairs and no kids menu even though it was listed as family friendly. The second was a success and I’ve never seen Tommy eat so much. We ate at a little Lebanese restaurant that I didn’t think was child friendly upon arrival but quickly realized that when Tommy is a part of our meal and eating what we were eating, he was pretty chill. I still can’t get over how much he ate from the falafel, hummus, tabouli, halloumi and pita bread.
We also had brunch together at The Athenaeum. He did great here as well as the breakfast was 100% family friendly. I had Bircher Meusli with nuts and fruit. Tommy had peanut butter toast and cheese. I also loved that they had green smoothies as part of the continental breakfast in addition to almond milk.
We took an Uber to Heathrow to go back home Sunday morning and made sure to reserve the infant seats. This was a game changer! Luckily, our flight was on time again. Having the space in front to let Tommy stand and play was so helpful. He fell asleep on Nick and slept for 1.5 hours. We didn’t transfer him to the bassinet because we were nervous he might not sleep as long. That was ok because we used the shelf for our drinks. I watched 2 movies and Nick finished at least 1. It was a longer flight but so much more relaxing. He of course again fell asleep as we landed.
The most annoying part I think of the trip was customs. I would highly recommend getting Global Entry if anyone plans to travel with their kids abroad a lot. Tommy did so well on both flights and then had to stand in line for what felt like forever. It was my least favorite part of the trip.
Between getting 9 hours of sleep each night and having the sitters, we really did manage to have a nice little vacation. It also helped that Tommy naps in a stroller. It wasn’t as relaxing as it would have been without Tommy obviously but we were glad that he came and would do Europe over the west coast any day. The time change was so crucial in allowing us to feel rested and has made me want to go to bed earlier. You just gotta get past the anxiety of flying with the child. Easier said than done, I know.
Of course I’m not opposed to vacation in the same time zone as Boston but Nick and I are not really a beach vacation couple. We like history, we like walking around and experiencing new cuisines and cultures. Charleston is on our list maybe for Fall.
We did miss out on the downtime we have after Tommy goes to bed and we definitely couldn’t enjoy some sites like The Tower of London like we would have without a toddler but all in all we were glad we went.
I’m going to do a post on what we did exactly later this week, but for now, this is my victory post and how we managed to pull it off! If you have a destination that is equally as amazing for kids as London, leave your suggestion below.