The summer holidays, as I understand it, are all about filling the six weeks with enough activities to keep your kids from going feral with boredom and tearing the house apart.
But it’s also a great opportunity to expand your children’s awareness of the world and their cultural horizons.
Taking them on a day trip into London is a great way to do that – but also maddening for all the people you will encounter in London.
So here are some tips to make your trip easier on you, your kids, and the enraged locals around you.
Don’t use the Tube during rush hour
Also, ‘rush hour’ is a misnomer. Really you want to avoid it between 7.30am and 9.30am in the morning, and 5pm and 7pm in the evening.
It’ll be hot, crowded, stressful and will put your kids off London transport for life.
Keep hold of small kids around busy Tube stations
If you’re coming out of, say, Leicester Square or Oxford Circus stations, keep hold of any younger children. It’s easy for them to get lost in the crush.
Don’t run for the Tube if it’s beeping
The doors are about to close, and you and your family could easily be separated.
Tube doors are strong, stubborn things. They won’t open in order to let you reunite with your family.
Avoid restaurants in Leicester Square
Pick a side street and walk down it. You will find quieter, cheaper and better restaurants a mere stone’s throw away.
Hit South Kensington
South Ken is away from the hustle and bustle of central London, while also boasting three of the city’s best museums – the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the V&A (the latter is better for older children).
The Science Museum is especially great for kids. You can chill out while they run themselves ragged on the interactive exhibits.
Try a matinee
London is full of great all-ages musicals, as well as plays specifically aimed at little ‘uns.
Evening performances of West End musicals generally go on until about 9.30/10pm – probably a little too late for kids. They usually do matinee performances on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Don’t bring your family group to a complete stand-still in the middle of the pavement
At least not if you don’t want your kids exposed to some pretty imaginative swearing from the commuters whose path you’re blocking.
Madame Tussauds is basically a monument to queuing
Locals avoid it like the plague, but it’s worth trying at least once, and is ideal for a rainy day in the city.
Try a London park
London isn’t all about culture and museums – it’s also full of green spaces that are a nice break from crowded pavements.
Stand on the right, walk on the left
It’s basically all you need to know about the Tube.
Avoid Oxford Street unless absolutely necessary
It’s insanely busy at any time of day, and it’ll slow your progress down considerably.
Take one of the roads that runs parallel to it instead – you and your kids will have a far more relaxing time of it.
Charing Cross Road can get pretty rammed too.
A picnic makes a nice alternative to trying to find somewhere to eat
A sandwich in a park, or on a bench in Trafalgar Square, is far less stressful than finding a kid-friendly restaurant that isn’t already pretty full.
The South Bank is usually a good spot for pop-up kiddie entertainment
From funfairs to urban beaches, the South Bank is usually full of activities at this time of year, plus various street food vendors and markets.