This guide to planning a family trip to London will help you decide what is best for your family vacation. Use our 3 night London itinerary to create the best London family vacation.
Where do you begin when planning a family trip to London? When I first started I was very overwhelmed.
I had so many questions. How long do we stay? Where do we stay? How do we get around? What should we do?
London was also part of a much bigger trip that we were planning. We had to prioritize what we did because of time constraints.
It was a whirlwind of a trip! After reading this article I suggest you go back to read the full overview and individual posts to get more details and planning tips.
For this article I want to share all about our Family Trip to London! It was a great addition to our trip and we really enjoyed walking around the city.
Family Trip to London FAQ’s
I had so many questions for our first visit to London. It is actually a fairly easy country to visit from the US because there is no language barrier.
It is easy to get around and feels much like a big city in the United States. We felt it was very similar to walking around New York City.
What is the weather like in London?
The summer months are warm and the winter months are cold. We visited in June and got lucky with the weather.
During our June/early July visit the average temperature was 70 degrees F and the sun was shining. We didn’t encounter any rain at all.
I did pack rain jacket ponchos and I suggest layering for your visit. The weather can be unpredictable and you want to be prepared.
I was happy we didn’t need to use any rain gear, but I wanted to be prepared. You don’t want the weather to ruin your visit.
How long is the flight to London?
The flight from the Northeast is around 7 hours. When researching flights we found a great flight with IcelandAir.
IcelandAir stops in Iceland and guests can add 1-7 day layovers into their itinerary. We decided to spend 2 nights in Iceland.
If you can do this I highly suggest you do! It was a bucket list experience for our family.
The flight from Iceland to London was under 3 hours so the layover was nice to break up the longer flight.
What is the cost of visiting London with kids?
There are a lot of things to budget for when planning a family trip to London. Below I listed the 4 major areas of vacation spending.
Keep in mind these prices can vary a lot. Transportation cost should include all the different ways you plan to get around the city.
Attraction costs can add up when traveling with a family. Especially a family with teens where everyone pays adult prices.
We try to balance free activities like self-guided walking tours with a few attractions we really want to see, like the West End musical Matilda.
Everyone will have their own priorities and ways to budget. My best tip is to be realistic on what you want to spend. Figure out what costs are fixed and what are flexible.
From there you can decide what is worth a splurge and what is worth saving on. This pricing does not include our flight cost.
These prices are also estimates based on what I gathered. Your costs may be more or less.
- Transportation Costs: $225.00 (this includes Gatwick Express and the London Underground)
- Accommodation Cost: $1743.00 (3 nights at Marlin Aldgate Apartments, Tower Bridge)
- Food Cost: $560.00
- Attraction Cost: $580.00
It is not lost on me that accommodations were really expensive. This is not typically what we want to spend on hotels but for some reason this is the prices we were finding.
I am not sure if it was because of the timing. We visited during summer which is peak season.
It may be that we are a family of five and need sleeping space for 5. I searched for hours and hours trying to find a place that had what we needed. Nothing was on the value side that I found.
For this trip we realized it was going to cost more than we initially thought. At that point we had to decide do we take the trip or not.
Once we decided to move forward we did the best we could to stay within a budget that we felt comfortable with.
How do you get around London?
There are a few different ways to get around London. Each has its pros and cons.
- Use the London Underground/The Tube and trains.
- Hop on-Hop off buses
We did a mix of walking and taking the London Underground. I thought we might use an uber at night but the subway (London Underground) felt safe and easy.
I was very nervous to use the London Underground. I thought it would be very complicated and stressful.
Honestly when you first arrive there is a learning curve if you are not used to using public transportation. I am not going to lie when traveling with 5 people and luggage it is a bit chaotic.
Once we did it though it was actually very easy. You can use a your credit card instead of a ticket but you can’t use the same credit card for more than one person.
Kids also get a 50% off discount that has to be manually applied from a station employee. It seems more complicated than it is. I will go into more details in the itinerary portion of this post.
Where to stay in London with Kids?
You want to stay near the attractions and things you want to see. If you can’t find accommodations near popular areas you should choose a hotel near a tube station.
We stayed at the Marlin Aldgate Apartments, Tower Bridge. It was walking distance to the Tower of London and a few blocks from the London Underground.
We had a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment that include a kitchen area and a washer and dryer. Having a washer and dryer was so helpful because we were on a long trip.
One thing to keep in mind when visiting London in the summer is that not all hotels have A/C. This hotel did not.
We were on the 16th floor and it was very hot when we first arrived to our room. Thankfully we could open the windows and there was a nice breeze to cool down the apartment.
There were also fans in the room. If air conditioning is important to you be sure to check that it is available.
What currency do they use in London?
In London they use the British Pound. Most places accept credit cards. We didn’t have to use cash during our trip.
There are a few exceptions like when tipping or some markets may be cash only. Overall we didn’t have to be concerned much with this.
Be sure to check with your credit card company about foreign transaction fees. These can add up quickly.
Will my phone work in London?
This was a real concern when traveling for numerous reasons. Plus 4 out of 5 of us have phones and I didn’t want to accumulate a huge cell bill once we returned.
We decided to use an Esim for my husband and I. The kids used the free Wi-Fi wherever we were.
The eSim we choose was Nomad. You don’t need to switch anything out. It is downloaded and installed in your phone.
We were able to use this in all the countries we visited. They offer data and SMS plans. We got a Europe 10GB data plan for $18.00 each.
It worked for google maps and other Wi-Fi needs during our trip. It was more than enough and we had no issues with our Wi-Fi.
You want to have at least one person with Wi-Fi to help navigate your destinations. There is Wi-Fi available most places but you do not want to depend on that to get around.
3 Night London Itinerary
Day 1: Travel to London and the West End
We had a 7:40am flight out of Iceland to Gatwick, England. It was a 3:00am wake-up call to get to the airport.
We arrived in Gatwick, England around 1:30pm. They are 1 hour ahead of Iceland and there was a small delay for our flight.
Before we arrived in Gatwick I had booked us tickets on the Gatwick Express. I was under the impression that the Gatwick Express train had seats.
I was wrong.
There are two ways to get from Gatwick to London by train. You can take the regular train or the Gatwick Express.
I purchased tickets thinking this would make our journey easier and faster. It did not.
The Gatwick Express is about 10 minutes faster but it was chaotic and busy. We couldn’t even board the first train because there were so many people are we were a bit clueless.
This led to a little melt down in an elevator. Travel and stepping out of your comfort zone can bring on a lot of emotions.
After we pulled ourselves together and had a little cry we were able to find a train and make our way to our hotel.
This took us a little under 2 hours. We had to take the Gatwick Express to Victoria station and then take the London Underground to Aldgate East station, the station close to our hotel.
I have to be honest and say this was a lot for us. We were tired but we really kept it together.
A great tip is to use google maps before you leave your house to map out your plan. This will give you an idea of how much time you need and what train stations you will be boarding.
Don’t get me wrong it is still complicated at first but this helped familiarize us with station names and better prepared us for what to expect.
Once we arrived at Victoria station we then had to purchase an Oyster card for our 3 days in London. My husband used the credit card.
Me and the kids got oyster cards. You can do this at a kiosk but you need a station employee to add the 50% off kids discount to each card manually.
It is a bit of a pain but the worker was very nice and helpful. Learn more about London Underground pricing and options.
You have the option to order Oyster cards for the kids before you arrive in London but I ran out of time and didn’t get it done.
Eventually we made it to our hotel around 3:30pm. We were exhausted but had an evening planned in the West End.
We rested for 30-40 minutes and then headed out for the night. I try not to make plans on travel days but for this trip we didn’t have a lot of flexibility with time.
We really love the theater and musicals, we visited New York City as often as we can to see shows, so we knew we wanted to see a show in the West End.
The West End is like Broadway but in London. Before our show we headed to dinner reservations at the Theatre Cafe Diner.
This place has musical memorabilia throughout the restaurant and the wait staff sings some of your favorite songs from popular musicals.
It is a great place with a fun atmosphere. During our visit the grill was broken so we had limited menu options. We liked the chicken and waffle sandwich the best.
After dinner we walked to the Cambridge Theatre to see Matilda: The Musical. It was a really cute show with talented actors.
My favorite numbers were the ones with all the kids singing. The choreography was fun and the show was a great start to our time in London.
After the show we took the London tube back to our hotel. Before our trip I was concerned about safety of traveling at night but it was very safe.
We didn’t feel there was any reason to avoid it. Of course use your best judgement when traveling because things can happen anywhere. You can use an uber or taxi if it works better for you.
Day 2: Self-Guided Walking Tour of London
I received so much advice about what to do in London. A lot of people recommended tours and attractions to book.
I knew I had to follow my gut on what would work best for our family. If a guided tour is your jam be sure to check these guided tours of London.
I knew we would want to explore on our own and go off the schedule if we found something we wanted to see.
Being our first time to London I wanted to see a lot but I also knew we don’t really love guided tours. This one day London itinerary to walk and explore was the best way for us to see a lot in a short time.
My husband and I spent hours putting together a self-guided walking tour that would be interesting to everyone in our family.
Self-Guided Tour of London Overview:
- Tower of London
- London Bridge
- Borough Market
- Shakespeares Globe
- Tate Modern
- Graffiti Tunnel
- London Eye
- Shrek’s Adventure
- Great British Fish & Chips
- Big Ben
- Westminster Abby
- Buckingham Palace
We started the tour at 10:30am and finished around 3:45pm. It was 8 miles of walking but we did sit down for lunch.
The best thing about this itinerary is you can add or subtract anything on it that isn’t for you. If you want to spend time checking out the crown jewels purchase tickets for the Tower of London.
You should have a family meeting to talk about what everyone wants to do and create a London itinerary that works for everyone.
We started walking from our hotel to the Tower of London. The Tower of London is a historic castle and houses the crown jewels.
We walked by the Tower of London to London Bridge. At each place we walked by we took time to stop and take pictures.
From London Bridge we went to Borough Market for breakfast. We were all looking forward to visiting this place so much.
It is an open air market with different vendors and food options. We couldn’t possibly try everything so we had our hearts set on three things.
We tried the chocolate covered strawberries, the mushroom risotto, and a sausage roll from the Ginger Pig.
Everything was delicious and I would visit the Borough Market anytime we visit London.
It was nice to walk along the river and just take in the area. We walked about 30 minutes and arrived at Graffiti Tunnel.
This is an open air tunnel with artists working throughout the day. It doesn’t require admission and we walked back and forth through it to see the art work.
From there we made the short walk to the London Eye located in the central London area.
If you want to see incredible views of the city and heights do not bother you, you should make reservations for the London Eye.
The London Eye is a very popular tourist attraction and will get busy. Make reservations before you leave home.
The London Eye looked great but we were most excited for our next stop: Shrek’s Adventure.
Shrek’s Adventure is an interactive experience that takes guests on an adventure through far, far, away. It is a mix between an escape room and interactive theater.
We had an absolute blast. The employees are fun and engaging Guests participation is used often throughout the experience. It is a good place for the whole family.
Young children and older children will be entertained!
It was very fast paced and I thought we would have more time to take pictures but no video/photos are allowed once inside the experience.
There are photo-ops with Shrek at the end of the experience as well as prop photo-ops of other Dreamworks characters.
After Shrek we were hungry for lunch and ready to rest our legs. We walked next door to the Great British Fish & Chips.
I thought there might be a wait for a table but they were able to seat us right away. This is a fast food/casual dining spot.
You go up to the counter to order and they bring you your meal. It wasn’t the best meal but it was good for a quick bite.
After lunch it was more walking! If this is too much walking you can always take the Tube to get to places or break it up into different days.
We started walking by Big Ben and I don’t know what it was but I loved it. Maybe because it has been it so many tv shows and movies.
To see it is person was really cool. It is a busy area so be sure to keep your kids close and watch your purse and bags.
After Big Ben we walked by Westminster Abbey and continued on to Buckingham Palace. You can purchase tickets for Westminster Abbey to tour the building.
I do not follow the day to day of the Royals but I was interested to see the balcony where the Royals wave hello.
It was a bit anti-climatic. We were able to look through the gates and I couldn’t believe how close it actually was.
This area does get busy so be patient when waiting to get a close look. We were also able to see the guards inside the palace gates, but no Royal spotting!
If you want to see the changing of the guards it happens daily at 10:45am and lasts 45 minutes. This is one of the major attractions in London so arrive early and plan for crowds.
After Buckingham Palace we took to google maps to find the nearest Starbucks. We were in need of some coffee.
Thankfully there was one close by and close to a tube station. We grabbed coffee and took the tube back to our hotel.
When we planned this London itinerary we were very conscious of planning rest time for all of us. This was part of a 12 Day Europe trip and I knew we would need breaks.
After our day of walking we ordered pizza from Pizza Union and spent the evening relaxing in our hotel.
We took advantage of the laundry in our apartment and enjoyed relaxing.
Day 3: Day Trip to Warner Brothers Studio: The Making of Harry Potter
For our last full day in London we took a day trip from London to Warner Brothers Studio: The Making of Harry Potter.
I purchased these tickets far in advance! If you know the day you want to visit you must purchase tickets before you arrive.
I actually wanted tickets for a 10:00am ticket slot and wasn’t able to make one until 2:00pm.
This made lunch time a bit odd but it actually ended up working out okay because the trip to the studios takes about 90 minutes.
We started our day at Dulce for a traditional English breakfast. This was within walking distance to our hotel and we were able to eat and then return to our room to get ready for the day.
We had to take the tube to go a few different stops. This will depend on where you are staying. Once we arrived at Watford Junction we took a bus to the studio.
The bus is included with your admission ticket. Be sure to have that readily available.
If you don’t want to deal with the train transfers there are bus tours that leave from London and take you directly to the studio.
I have a lot of things to say about The Making of Harry Potter and I will be working on another article specifically to visiting the studio.
We are middle of the road Harry Potter fans and there were a few things we liked but we thought The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Universal Orlando was more immersive.
Maybe that is not the goal of the studio tour but we felt it was okay in comparison to the theme parks. It was also a very busy and crowded day.
Most of our time felt like we were waiting in lines to see things. I did really like walking through the Dursley’s House and the greenhouse.
The recreation of scenes from the movies along with the costumes were really a neat part of the tour. This is self-guided so you can stay and explore as long as you would like.
Half way through the tour there is a place to stop and have lunch. The problem with this is everyone is stopping at the same time and lines were very long for food, but you don’t have a choice.
If you can wait to eat until after you will be better off but we had to stop for lunch. It was typical burger and fries options.
We did order a Butter beer that was good! We also brought our refillable water bottles to keep in a backpack as we walked around.
After lunch there is an outdoor area to see the Knight Bus and a few other props. Then guests can head through more about costume design.
The Diagon Alley part of the tour is very immersive and cool. It is much like the Universal Studios area but on a smaller scale. You can also walk through Gringotts Bank.
Overall we liked visiting the Making of Harry Potter and I am happy we did it but it is not something we would do again.
You might have a huge Harry Potter fan in your group and want to visit but if you are not a Harry Potter fan I don’t think it is worth the trip.
Once done touring we took the bus and train back to London, stopped at Pret to pick up sandwiches, and went back to our hotel to pack for the next leg of our trip.
Day 4: Depart London to Paris
Our next stop was Disneyland Paris but first we checked out of our hotel and took the train to St. Pancras Station to board the Eurostar.
The Eurostar travels under the English channel between London and Paris, as well as other destinations. Purchase tickets ahead of time, you do get seats, and enjoy a relaxing journey into France.
More Things to Do on a Family Trip to London
We couldn’t do everything when visiting London. If you have more time on your vacation you may want to include some of these popular attractions.
- Hyde Park
- Natural History Museum
- Covent Garden
- Trafalgar Square
- British Museum
- Kensington Palace
- Leicester Square
- Walk along the Thames River or do a River Cruise
- Afternoon Tea
- Albert Museum
- Science Museum
The best way to plan a family trip to London is to work together as a family to decide the best places you want to visit.
If you have small children or are traveling with teens you will want to create a London itinerary that works best for you and the needs of your family.
There are so many London attractions and the best things to do will be the ones that are the best for you.
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Leah has been traveling with her family of 5 since 2012 and sharing her expertise on planning family vacations and visiting theme parks since 2016. Leah has been featured in Visit Rochester, Undercover Tourist, and Home Publications. She has worked with brands like Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Hersheypark, Toyota, and various Tourism boards and destinations. Leah creates family travel itineraries based on real trip experiences with her family. Her guides and tips help others plan great family vacations. Learn more about Leah and Five for the Road.