If your children are anything like mine, they known much about London. They've seen it on screen from Harry Potter to Peter Pan. They've pictured it through books from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle to A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond. What's more, they've learned lots about London in school. They know which London attractions they want to see and how they want to tour the city. And incredibly enough, they know what they want to eat. They know that Buckingham Palace is the Queen's home in London. They know that Tower Bridge, not London Bridge, is London's iconic symbol. They know that Beefeaters guard the Tower of London. They know that the London Eye is no giant ferris wheel. They know that the Rosetta Stone is housed in the British Museum. They known Camden Market is a fête of shops, stalls and eateries. They know that Harrods is no regular store. They know much about the English penchant for fish and chips and afternoon tea. They are quick to advise that London has more Indian restaurants than Mumbai or Delhi. They are quick to note that the Changing of the Guard is a must see, riding an open-top bus is a must do, and that Big Ben, black cabs and red telephone booths are must photographs. What better place than London for kids to play tour guide and help plan a family vacation?
London is easy to reach by rail, air and road. There are 357 railway stations in and around the English capital. London has five airports - Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and London City - and low cost airlines have made it cheap and easy to reach London from within Europe. While London is easily accessed by car, city traffic is horrendous, parking can be difficult, and a congestion fee is charged daily Monday to Friday. Family Travel Tips: European airfare consolidators, such as Momondo, have a wider offering of European flights than their American-based competitors and oftentimes show lower fares on flights within Europe. London airports are best reached by public transport. Heathrow Airport is accessible by tube and train. Gatwick, Stansted and Luton airports are reachable by rail. The Docklands Light Railway connects London City Airport with the city center.
Public transport is by far the best way to get round London. The city's subway system, formally known as the London Underground and often referred to as the Tube, serves greater London and connects the city with Heathrow Airport. The bus network is quick, convenient and cheap. Black cabs can be hailed on the street or from designated ranks and booked by phone. Family Travel Tips: Children aged 10 and under ride free on London buses when traveling with an adult. A 1-day Travelcard pays for itself in two tube rides and offers a greater savings than the Visitor Oyster Card for visits of three days or less. Many black cabs accept credit cards. Licensed minicabs are cheaper than black cabs.
The weather in London is mild, moist and unpredictable. The average annual temperature range is 20° C (36° F). The warmest months are July and August with an average high temperature of 22° C or 72° F. The coldest months are January and February with an average low of 2° C or 36° F. June has 17 days with precipitation, January has 21. A mixed bag of weather is a recurrent forecast. Don't leave home without a raincoat and umbrella. Plan to dress in layers whether traveling in June or January.
London is friendly and safe yet like any big city caution and common sense are warranted. Hold handbags tightly. Tuck wallets in front pockets. Don't leave bags unattended. Keep personal belongings out of sight when seated. Keep mobile phones out of view when not in use. Keep a keen eye on children. Use licensed cabs only. Unbooked minicabs are not only illegal; they're unsafe and uninsured.
A family trip to London is not a budget vacation. Here are a few tips to reduce the sting. Stay at a B&B rather than a hotel. Travel by bus rather than tube. Buy a travelcard rather than single fares. Book attractions online and train tickets well in advance. Visit free museums. Many London museums, including the British Museum, Natural History Museum, Science Museum, and Victoria and Albert Museum, are gratis for all visitors.
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