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A few months ago the girls and I flew on a surprise trip to London. Originally we planned on meeting my husband in Ireland, but he diverted. We decided to make the most of our time in London. While I wouldn’t recommend just two days in London because there is so much to see, I am going to share with you how to do two days in London with kids.
We flew Delta from Detroit on a 10:30 pm flight. Thankfully, we landed Delta One, making the trip a little bit easier. Lay flatbeds are the way the only way to travel-my friends. Before we even boarded our flight, I gave the girls each a melatonin (a hormone found naturally in your body) and told them to go right to sleep. Always speak to your physician before giving or taking any medication of any kind. I am not a physician, just a mom, who knows what works for my kids. Some people, myself included, suffer from night terrors while taking melatonin. They promptly pulled down their sleeping masks and passed out. While I didn’t sleep well, my kiddos did, any mom knows that is a win–we run on coffee anyway. If you are simply doing a two-day tour of London, you need a decent amount of sleep.
After customs, we went to the bus pickup. Mistake number one, know which bus goes to your hotel. Heads up there is a fee for these buses. You buy the tickets on the bus so carry some Pounds. There is a free bus. It doesn’t necessarily go right to your hotel, know which one you need, do not rely on the bus driver. Near the bus stop at the airport, there is a map with all of the hotels and bus lines. On our second day, we ended up on the wrong bus. Hopping off as soon as we realized, we waited almost 45 minutes in the blistering cold for the correct bus. Because we thought we only had a day, we booked two different hotels. The second one was on the Tube line which I found to be easier.
Walking Tour Day 1
We took the bus to the Tube station and headed towards Buckingham Palace. I did not know the Tube ride was an hour-long. I kept nodding off because I was exhausted. We met an American-British couple, they gave us some wonderful recommendations and kept me awake. Because the Palace is iconic, we started our journey there. I knew my kids would recognize it. The wind was brutal and cut right through us. I grabbed us some warm drinks. Frustratingly, we found no trash cans anywhere! Maybe a Brit can enlighten us on why. In the end we carried our cups all over with us. Sunshine and coffee in large quantities cure jet lag. Especially for a mama trekking all over London in two days with her children.
My girls loved Buckingham Palace, and we lucked out because no one was there. We walked up to the gates and they watched the guards for a while. Afterward, we strolled through St. James’s Park which is beautiful and we found trashcans! Next, we hit up the iconic phone booths. My kids thought they hit the jackpot, who knew phone booths could be so much fun.
London is incredibly easy to walk. Thankfully, my children enjoy walking because we do it all of the time. My middle daughter tends to be the navigator. She takes after her dad having an incredible sense of direction-unlike myself. With a map in hand, she gave us the play by play of what we were seeing. From St. James’s park we walked to Westminster Abbey. We missed the service by an hour or so. Evensong is performed every day except for Wednesdays, check the website for the times, but it is free.
From there you will pass by Big Ben. Being a last-minute trip, we had no clue that it was under construction. Big Ben is the other icon from London that my children recognize, unfortunately, it was covered in scaffolding. Guess that means we have to return one day.
Next stop-The London Eye! The line was extremely long that day, thinking that was our only day in London we opted to skip it. If you are on the hunt for a restroom you will find on the pier directly across from the London Eye, make sure you have some Euros or Pounds.
Tower of London
After we rode the Tube to the Tower of London. There is a small park as you exit the station. The girls wanted to try it out, so we took a few minutes to play. We can never pass up a park. Unfortunately, again having only a day, we didn’t do a tour. Instead, we just explored the area and chased all the birds. Then crossed the bridge soaking up all the views.
It’s an easy walk to the London Bridge from the Tower Bridge, simply go straight down the River Thames. There is a really cool restaurant along the way that looked dreamy. They have individual pods that are plastic or glass with amazing views. Lots of beautiful places along the route with spectacular views.
Once the London Bridge was checked off, we decided it was time for some food. I visited London in college and remembered it was expensive. Add in three children and you can go broke. Quickly, searching for gluten-free, I found a sit-down restaurant. Noticing it had four dollar signs next to it, I knew it would be out of budget. We strolled down Tooly street which is super cute, in search of some food. For gluten-free, we found Leon where my celiac’s kiddo enjoyed Moroccan meatballs. The rest of us found a delicious grab and go Mexican place, they, unfortunately, did not have gluten-free. For four meals, I think I paid roughly $60, just to give you an idea of cost. We simply got burrito bowls and two water bottles, plus the meatballs. Later we discovered the Meal Deals at grocery stores!
Walking Tour Day 2 in London
I won’t bore you with the details of getting stuck another day, only to say that leaving the Heathrow Airport is nothing short of a nightmare! Once we realized we were staying another day it was nearly 430 pm. My husband said if I was you I’d be headed to the hotel, then to bed. I laughed at him because we headed out!
After dropping our bags off, yet again, we grabbed the Tube and headed to Piccadilly Circus. By the time we reached downtown, it was nearly 645 pm. Because my girls were absolute troopers all day while at the airport, I wanted to do something fun. We made a beeline for M&M and Lego! Probably my kiddos’ two favorite places. They loved seeing all the floors in the M&M shop and the Lego creations were incredible. Being so late in the evening, it wasn’t terribly crowded. We waited just a few minutes to get into Lego. In Piccadilly, we had to, of course, get a photo in front of the iconic fountain. Some Puerto Ricans had a dance party in the middle of the square, my girls loved watching them salsa dance.
Chinatown was a bust for us. Maybe because it was late or maybe because I didn’t really know what to look for it was a waste of time. We walked down the road a little bit then headed back. Surely they have delicious food, however, it is probably not gluten-free. From there we just went back to Piccadilly Circus.
Back to the Tower
After Piccadilly, we headed back to the Tower of London. We all wanted to see it lit up for the night. The bridge was beautiful at night all lit up as was the Tower. I highly recommend seeing it in both lights. The kids thought it was exciting as well. By this time it was almost 10 pm at night, we pretty much had the bridge to ourselves.
Our last stop in London was Leadenhall Market which of course was closed. It is simply a boutique-style shopping area located on cobblestone streets. I definitely want to return during the day at some point, but it was really stunning at night as well. It reminded me of the cut-through we found in Bucharest. But it was eerie being there alone. I never felt unsafe that late in London, but I would probably skip this if it is late at night. By this point, my children quickly crashed. The ride to the hotel seemed to last forever, I could barely keep my eyes open.
Friends, feeding my army in London was not cheap! We found meal deals. Meal deals are offered at grocery stores, book stores, grab and go places, and even the airport. They offer a sandwich or salad, drink, and chips for 5 pounds. This is a steal! My older girls loved chicken sandwiches, and my youngest enjoyed a delicious salad. Not all places offer gluten-free options so just beware. If we spent longer than two days in London, we would grab some fresh veggies along with sandwich fixings to save some money.
The first night we stayed in a Radisson Blu hotel, right near the airport. The airport is not near downtown, it is about an hour’s ride on the Tube. This hotel was relatively convenient to the airport. However, not the cleanest hotel I stayed in. But, the breakfast redeemed the dirtier room. We booked a room with a free breakfast. Free breakfast helped out because kids are expensive to feed. The spread at breakfast was extensive and they provided a lot of gluten-free options. My daughter asked for a piece of gluten-free toast, and immediately the employee toasted her one in a separate toaster. There was also a lot of healthy options which I loved.
The second night we stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn which is conveniently located off of the Tube. There are stairs you have to contend with to cross a bridge, and it is about 1/8 of a mile to the hotel, but this was much easier than the bus. The Hilton was much cleaner as well; however, the breakfast was a traditional American breakfast. It wasn’t great either. When we asked about gluten-free bread, they did offer it, they promptly put it in the same toaster as the regular bread. Unfortunately, celiacs cannot eat it if it is cross-contaminated. But overall it was a great place to stay!
Can London Really Be Done in 2 Days With Kids
Final thoughts, while I think you can do two days in London with kids, I recommend a longer time. Especially, if this will be your only hop across the pond. For my girls, it is easy for us to do these quick trips. London is a great city to visit for a weekend if you are a family like ours though. I also felt incredibly safe even being alone with my children.