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Are you planning a Family Vacation to the UK?
As many of you know my family recently visited the UK. It was an awesome (though far too short) experience. I can’t wait to go back soon. It wasn’t exactly easy taking 3 children (aged 2, 4, & 6) to another country across the ocean, but thanks to wonderful advice from our more travel experienced friends which helped a lot. It would have helped us even more if we had followed ALL their advice and not just most of it causing us to learn a few lessons ourselves the hard way. I thought it only fitting that we pass out top 11 tips to you to help you on your journey.
1.The flights from the United States to the United Kingdom are Loooooooong (our flight was 10 1/2 hours and it was a direct flight from OAKLAND to LONDON) and once you land the lines through customs can also be long. (it took us over an hour …well closer to two hours to get through) Make sure you have snacks and something to entertain your kids during the flight and while waiting in line to go through customs. The best is to have these snacks and entertainment items packed for each child in their own travel bags (for tips on how to put together the perfect kids travel bag go here) that they are responsible for carrying.
*As a side note: You can’t take drinks with you through security so what I would advise is to either bring empty water bottles with each kid in their travel bags to fill up after getting through security or buy water bottles on the other side (which can get costly). This way each kid has plenty of water during the long flight (saving you the mega and I mean mega expense of buying drinks on the flight itself.)
2.If you are traveling from a non-EEA country (Like America) then you will need to fill out a Landing Cards (to do so you will need your flight info, The address to where you will be staying, your passport info, duration of stay in the UK, and purpose of visit). Your flight steward or stewardess will pass them out before you land. Make sure you grab and fill out a card for each member of your family (including small children) before getting off the plane. This will save you the hassle of having to do so while waiting in line with your kids who will probably be demanding your attention after the long flight.
3.The Customs official will have to be able to see each member of your family to match with the passport and landing card so STAY together! Officials are easier on families so make sure each adult in your group is holding/escorting a child at all times when going through security at airports. Trust me it’s easier this way. STAY TOGETHER!
4.Public Transportation is a great way to keep the travel expenses down when traveling in the UK. I recommend just getting an Oyster card and putting money on it as needed for the buses and Subways etc. Kids under 11 travel Free on Tube, DLR, London Overground and TfL Rail services in the UK while with a paying adult so that is great too! Make sure you look up the maps for public transportation so you know which lines to take ahead of time.
- It is rare to find a hotel (without spending a fortune) that is equipped with 2 Queen sized beds in one room or even equipped for families with multiple children. I have found that Airbnb is a great place to look for accommodations that will work for a family. Even better you can choose a lodging with a kitchen which helps cut down the cost for food. Sometimes you can even negotiate with the Airbnb owner on the price which can save you as well.Sometimes you can even negotiate with the Airbnb owner on the price which can save you as well.
6. Most museums are FREE in the UK so make sure you take advantage of visiting as many as you can. Especially in London! There are soo many to choose from! I particularly LOVED the British Museum!
- While most places accept Credit Cards (which automatically exchange the currency) it is a good idea to pull out some British Currency from your bank account to use for small shops, tips and just in case.
8.If you have any small children I suggest bringing a lightweight umbrella stroller with you as a carry-on. As you try to navigate the Airport, and later sight-seeing it helps to keep your young child with you. As a bonus, you an hang light weight bags or your kid’s travel bags on the handles.
9.Get Travel Insurance! You never know what can happen while traveling Especially when traveling to a foreign country with kids. Travel insurance makes sure you get the medical help you might need if one of you gets sick or hurt.
10. If you are bringing electronics like phones, kindles, Laptops or even night lights you will need to make sure you order ahead of time and bring with you power adapters. we ordered these (Ceptics UK Travel Plug Adapter (Type G) – 3 Pack [Grounded & Universal]) From Amazon for $6.99 and they worked great!
- Make sure your Phone service will work in the UK. It is a good idea to be able to call for help and we used our phones a lot for Google maps and to find food places wherever we were. The best Service we have found that consistently works in most countries is Google’s Project fi. You will need a Google phone to use the Project Fi service (so it is a bit of an upfront investment) but it’s way less expensive than T-mobile (which is the top standard US mobile carrier that works internationally) well it’s cheaper unless you use insane amounts of data.
Google Fi is just $25 a month for Talk and Text + $10 per GB of Data. (+.20 a minute for calling internationally which we avoid by using Skype and FB calling when out of the country) The best part is there is never over limit charges. If you use more data one month it will e added to the next month’s bill at the same $10 a GB rate and if you don’t use all your data that extra data will carry over to your next month as well. ** If you Click my Referral link or use my Referral Code 4PP0YX to sign up for Project Fi, then they will credit us both $20 after your first month of service.
While all of these tips will make your travel to the UK easier with your kids. There is one tip I would recommend to make it more memorable. Make sure to take lots of pictures both posed and candid of your kids as well as the local attractions. A picture, after all, is worth a thousand words and will become priceless to not only you but also your children. Have fun on your trip!