At the start of December Rob, George and I went to London for two nights to visit my middle sister, Charlie. Was it relaxing? No. Did we all come back exhausted? Yes. But was it worth it? Definitely.
We live in the Yorkshire Dales which makes it about a 3 hour trip to London by train or a five hour car journey. We decided to travel down by train, which meant we packed light, could entertain an energetic toddler and didn't have to worry about traffic getting into central London. We booked train times to fit in with naps hoping George would sleep most of the way (fools I hear you say!). Obviously that didn't happen but a picnic, an iPad and some friendly co-passengers meant the journey went pretty smoothly.
Before we arrived, I had a good planning session with Charlie to make sure we lined up toddler friendly venues, lots of pit stops at good places to eat and some lovely festive activities. We opted for: the Natural History Museum; playing in the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens; Covent Garden and the National Transport Museum; walking round the Christmas lights on Carnaby Street/Seven Dials; and a trip to the Christmas market on the Southbank. We also squeezed in a visit to the Mamahood Christmas pop-up shop to do some Christmas shopping. All of these venues were perfect with George (space to run, interactive exhibits, good changing facilities etc.) but had something to keep the grown-ups entertained too. We particularly enjoyed the National Transport Museum, which is the most impressively curated museum I've been to (and worth the pricetag) and kept us all engaged for hours.
I did lots of research on hotels before we eventually booked the Ampersand in South Kensington. Our criteria was a nice hotel, centrally located, family friendly. Most of the hotels recommended by various travel articles were eye-wateringly expensive and the Ampersand was not cheap by any means; however, it was right by South Kensington tube, the rooms were beautifully decorated and spacious (relative to other London hotels I've stayed in), it was walking distance to some of the places we were visiting and the staff were really helpful. As we spent our evenings from about 8pm when George went to bed in the hotel room, it was definitely worth the spend to have a nice place to relax after a busy day.
The highlights of our trip were seeing George roaring back at the giant tyrannosaurus rex in the Natural History Museum, watching him demolish a pizza at Franco Manca whilst the adults necked red wine and chatted and seeing the look of pure joy on his face when he got to 'drive' a London bus at the National Transport Museum. The lowlights were being woken up at 4.45am because we were all in the same room, trying to get on a tube with a tired toddler in a pushchair at rush hour from Piccadilly Circus (yes, we were those idiots! Sorry commuters of London) and the meltdown George had on the train home which resulted in a grumpy woman next to us moving to a different carriage.
It was totally exhausting carting a toddler around London for three days but it was totally worth it to show him some amazing places and to get to spend lots and lots of time with Auntie Charlie.