London is a location that leaves an impression on you for years to come. Traveling through the different areas takes you back in time as you explore the major landmarks, historical sites and consider the daily life of the royals through the years.
After our family trip to London in 2019, I thought it was time to revisit our previous trip with traveling updates keeping in mind changes due to Covid. As of right now, the UK is at a very high level of Covid rates, according to the CDC, and it is advised against traveling here. However, late 2022 is looking better with potentially fewer travel advisories.
Keep in mind; conditions are changing, so it’s best to check your country’s government website for the newest updates before booking a trip. So we’ve updated the itinerary with information on closures, current mandates, and how to stay safe while traveling.
If you’re planning on flying into Heathrow Airport, as we did a few years ago, the restrictions have changed. Currently, those vaccinated will need to take a test before leaving your country of origin and then within the first two days of arrival in London. Negative results allow you to skip quarantine, while positive results require a 10-day quarantine. If you are not vaccinated, the process will be the same except for a mandatory 10-day quarantine, even with a negative PCR test.
Family Trip to London: Day 1 – Exploring Central London & The Birds Eye View
After we exited the airport, we used a taxi to get to our Airbnb next to the Notting Hill neighborhood. If you’re using a taxi or Uber to get to your accommodations, you and your family will need to be fully masked. If current restrictions continue, expect to wear masks in all indoor locations and on any public transportation.
While we chose a six-story multi-family apartment building with typical accommodation features and amenities, you can opt for a more central location. Our rental had convenient access to a bus stop to easily get to the central city. Expect higher pricing for staying in the center of the city.
After taking a break from our long journey to London at the Airbnb, it was time for lunch. We headed downtown to experience the lively Picadilly Market for food and crafts. Unfortunately, this market has shut down as of 2020 due to low demand and foot traffic. While this market did not make it through Covid, other street markets have reopened in 2021 and are awaiting exploration with delicious street food options like Broadway Market.
Following lunch at the market, you can spend time observing some of the biggest attractions via bus as we did. You’ll likely spot the famous London Eye, which we braved on our 2019 visit (both the height and cost). This is one attraction you’ll want to splurge on for the epic views of London from above. Luckily, this activity has reopened, and you can ride on the Eye with a face covering.
While we didn’t visit these locations personally, here are a few additional ideas of attractions to stop at if you have extra time on the first day of your familyt trip to London:
· Victoria and Albert Museum
· The British Museum
· Science Museum
· Natural History Museum
· Covent Garden
· Hyde Park
· Sea Life London Aquarium
Family Trip to London: Day 2 – Riding the Thames River Cruise
We had purchased the London Pass, which offers access to 80+ top attractions. You can choose whether to buy it for 1-5 consecutive days. I still recommend purchasing this pass, and the benefits are the same as in 2019. One change is that some attractions will require you to book a time slot ahead of time.
We took the River Thames boat tour, which is included on the London Pass. I firmly believe starting a trip with a tour is a great way to see a quick view of famous landmarks, then you can zone in on which ones you want to explore more in-depth later.
The Tower of London is a must-visit after taking the boat tour to see the famous Crown Jewels. This attraction is a location that now requires a pre-booked time slot for guaranteed entry, as only a certain number of visitors can enter at a time.
Unfortunately, we did not realize that certain attractions close earlier than 5 pm each day. Make sure to check the open hours for each location so you can explore as much as possible.
Family Trip to London: Day 3 - Visiting Buckingham Castle & Making Animal Friends
If possible, it’s a necessity for a family trip to London to include a stop at Buckingham Castle. Usually, if you visit between July and September, you can explore the castle’s interior as the guards are on vacation. In 2022, the open dates have changed to July 22 – October 2. We were lucky enough to see the impressive interior of the castle and its 19 staterooms during our visit.
The palace is another location where you must pre-book your timeslot before heading here. A quick note, there is no photography allowed in the staterooms. Snacks and drinks are also banned inside Buckingham Palace, though these are not new rules.
Also, make sure to explore the London Zoo while in the area, especially if you have younger kids. We spent a few hours here, and the kids loved the lemur exhibit.
Family Trip to London: Day 4 – Touring Top Attractions: Windsor Castle, Bath, Stonehenge, and Lacock
We packed a lot of activities into the final day of our family trip to London as we wanted to see as much as possible. The best way to do this includes a bus tour with some of the top attractions. In particular, we visited Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, Bath, and Lacock. This tour is the most cost-effective option, especially for larger families, as it cuts out additional transport costs and entry fees between destinations.
We enjoyed the short time we had in the peaceful city of Bath. Our tour only stopped there for 1.5 hours, so we spent the whole time exploring the area to soak in the natural beauty.
Lacock town and Stonehenge both follow the face covering rule – it’s necessary while inside shops and restaurants. While you don’t need to pre-book for either location, you’ll get a discounted price for booking ahead if you decide to visit Stonehenge without a tour.
Ideas For Taming Your Family Trip to London Travel Budget
Since London is such a popular destination, there are many options for hotels and Airbnbs. Generally, Airbnbs are more budget-friendly than hotels. If you stay outside the city center, accommodations are usually more affordable except for top locations with easy access to public transportation (like our apartment).
Previously, our only option was traveling in August due to conflicts with summer sports activities for our kids. In 2019, it was challenging to find accommodations that met our $250 daily rate. Currently, rates start at $89 per room per night in August, making staying within the same budget easier. This daily rate is for hotels, though more affordable Airbnbs are available.
When possible, walk or use a bike rental service as the most affordable transport option. Or, jump on an all-day tour for a more affordable way to see the attractions. Of course, taxis and Uber are available though we tried to walk as much as possible to keep costs down.
Public transportation remains a reasonable way to travel around London. There is now an option to use a device for contactless payments instead of sourcing an Oyster card. Keep in mind; you’ll need to wear a face mask at all times while using public transportation.
When you visit London, purchasing groceries and making a few homecooked meals will help save money. Visiting smaller casual restaurants and outdoor food markets is another way that we were able to stay within our food budget.
Due to the exchange rate remaining about the same as our last visit, food can be pricey in London. If you’re on a tighter budget, opt for more casual dining locations and mom and pop eateries, as you’ll find better food rates there. You’ll still want to be mindful of what you’re eating and where to ensure you don’t go over budget.
Here is where you will likely spend most of your money. While some activities are splurge-worthy, like the London Eye, others can throw your budget off quickly. Consider purchasing tour packages for a more budget-friendly option, allowing you to see various attractions at once.
With a 4-day trip, there are not many miscellaneous expenses. However, we knew souvenirs would be a temptation for our kids. Create a daily budget for these to keep spending in check. I still back my claim that kids should bring their allowance on this trip for extra souvenirs; that way, it’s a win-win situation. They learn about budgeting, and you get to keep more money in your pocket.
Keep the above budget and Covid tips in mind, and you’ll be able to enjoy a safe, healthy family trip to London all while maintaining your budget!