Our United Kingdom Family Adventure


Our family took a trip this summer to the U.K. We have two boys, ages 13 and 9, and think they’re the perfect age to start a bit of travel abroad. Our plans included 4 nights in London, 3 nights in Wales, and 2 more nights in London before an early flight home. This is the story of our adventure and some of our itinerary! I'll be sure to include lots of links so it can help someone else plan their own adventure.

Day 1: Travel to Newark and stay overnight in a hotel near the airport

Day 2: Travel Day (We flew from Newark, NJ airport at 8:30 AM into Heathrow, London Arriving at 7:50 PM) 

This was our kids’ first international flight. They were excited to have meals on the airplane. We saw someone cleaning the windows of the front of the airplane before takeoff and they had climbed out of the front pilot windows which was something we had never seen before! The flight was one of the smoothest and we even ended early. The kids did really well on the flight and we kept up with Dramamine for everyone to not feel ill! (Swipe to see more photos in this photo carousel!)

Getting from the airport to our hotel:

Waiting for our Train

  • Untitled photo
  • Untitled photo

It took longer than expected to get from our plane to Immigration. Then we had to find our luggage, which was quick. Afterwards, we had to navigate to the train system to get into London and this was also quite a distance. Finally, we got into the Underground to navigate to Victoria Station.  We walked for about 7 minutes to get to our hotel. We were all so tired at this point!

Lodging: Topham’s Hotel on Ebury Street:


  • Untitled photo
  • Untitled photo
  • Untitled photo
  • Untitled photo

We LOVE this hotel! It was recently refurbished and looks great. It was quite difficult to find lodging for a family of 4 that didn’t intend on putting the kids on a pull-out couch. That might be fine when kids are little but ours are 9 and 13 and are big enough to need a bed. So I searched for a long time and found this place on a quiet street. The kids sleep upstairs and each have their own twin bed. They were thrilled with this! The rooms don’t have a lot of storage but it is working very well for us. We were so comfortable. I highly recommend this place, especially for families of 4!

Day 3: Golden Tours 12 Hour Tour of Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, Salisbury Cathedral, and the town of Bath

Though we weren’t able to photograph anything inside of the castle, we had a great time going through some State Rooms and seeing the Queen’s doll-house miniature of the residence areas. We saw lots of swords, armor, and paintings as well as furniture and tapestries and murals. The kids said that this was their favorite part of the day. It was quite a rush to get through everything in under one hour and get back to the tour bus. Here are some of our photos from outside of the castle! (Swipe to see more photos in this photo carousel!)

I’ve wanted to see Stonehenge since I was about 9 or 10 years old so it really felt like a dream come true to see the massive monoliths in person! We have many more photos but for now, swipe to see a few on this photo carousel. 

We toured the Salisbury Cathedral, which has the tallest spire in all of Britain. It is very affected by climate change and global warming, at risk of collapse because of the earth below it getting too dry. It had a beautiful baptismal font with a purposeful reflective area and text on each side. It is designed to spill onto the floor. Our 9 year old LOVED this. We also got to see one of the original copies of the Magna Carta. Photography was not permitted of this in order to preserve it over time. We were all exhausted at this point. Poor Christopher got bus-sick on the way to our next destination. He did great and handled it really well.

Day 4: London (Buckingham Palace, Toot Bus Hop-On/ Hop-Off Tour, Pizza Pilgrims for Lunch, Tower of London Tour, River Tour, Hamley's Toy Store, Dishoom at Carnaby for some late night curry)

Untitled photo

The morning and lunch:

First we walked from our hotel to Buckingham Palace. It was not crowded and wasn't a day that they would be performing the Changing of the Guard Ceremony. If it had been, our plans would have incorporated that. However, we happened to not be local for any of the days that week that the ceremony was happening. It was lovely to have full access to take photos at the gate though! If you're planning a trip and need to know the dates for the ceremony, use this link.

From there, we walked to the Toot Bus Stop number 1 so that we could get a pretty full tour in before our Tower of London tour in the afternoon. This is the Hop-On / Hop-Off Bus company for London. There are 5 different routes. We chose the Yellow Route. You can hop off where you want and hop back on again. Tickets also include a City Cruises Thames river cruise. 

The Toot Bus driver didn't give a tour verbally for this tour but was just responsible for driving. We could plug in headphone jacks to the bus to hear the tour or we could download it on our phones. We tried both. The bus headphone jacks seemed to be better and the timing was more spot-on as we passed buildings and sites noted in the tour.

Note: You might consider making plans to use the bus or river cruise to take you to a new area of the city. For example, you can get to Greenwich by the river cruise ticket that is included. Our plans for later in the afternoon and evening couldn't accommodate this. The last boat to return through the touring company returned by 4:00 and that was too early for us to make it work.

After our tour, we walked to Pizza Pilgrims at Carnaby for lunch. I think we were sitting in an area where the pizza ovens used to be kept! It was cozy. The kids were glad to have the pizza. It was good. The kids were fed and ready for a busy afternoon and evening.

The afternoon and evening:

Untitled photo

We had a great tour guide at the Tower of London. His name was Sean and it turned out to be the last tour he was ever giving. He was retiring the next day! The tour is quite dark but Sean infused it with humor and insight. It is certainly a dark part of London's history to think about all of the executions that took place there, but it was definitely a tourist experience that I'm glad to have had.

From there, we found our way out of the Tower of London area and eventually found our way to the nearby Thames River Cruise boarding area. After interacting with some very grouchy boarding employees, we found ourselves waiting for quite awhile until the next boat came by. We chatted with a London-based family who had relatives in from France and were taking them on tours of the city. It was a lovely way to pass the time. We boarded on the top of the boat and got an introduction to the city from the boat drivers who were not trained to give tours but to drive boats. They just happened to be able to talk about what they knew. That gave the tour a different feel and they made us laugh a lot. They were fantastic. It was a better tour than the audio guide of the Toot Bus for sure. It was also fun to see the city on the River Thames!

From there, we hustled over to Hamley's Toy Store where the kids excitedly spent all of their allowance money that they had converted to U.K. currency and then some. It was several stories and organized thematically. The kids could have spent hours in there! We definitely spent over an hour.

After this, we walked a few blocks over and got on a waiting list for a table at Dishoom Carnaby. As we waited inside, the kids enjoyed hanging out at the bar and watching the bartender make gorgeous drinks. We got them some fancy non-alcoholic drinks while we waited too. The menu isn't exactly traditional Indian food and is mostly small plates that are meant to be shared. Our kids happen to love Indian food and weren't thrilled with the small plates, but it was a really fun dining experience. (We made sure to go to a more traditional curry house later in the week.) We enjoyed this very much. We took an underground to get back to our hotel. It was quite late though and was a weekday. We were slightly worried about making that last train for the day to be able to get a ride back. We made it! We all collapsed into our beds after showers that night. It was such a fun and full day!

Day 5: Transport Museum, Afternoon Tea, Hamilton the Musical

Untitled photo

Morning Plans

We headed off to the London Transport Museum for the morning. This was a much less tourist-feeling spot. There were far more Brits here with their children than tourists like us. We had to purchase an annual pass as adults but the kids were free. The museum covered the history of transportation in London including models of the first "Omni" bus which means "for all." It also showed models of how the Underground system was built as well as how the Underground was used during World War II as bomb shelters. They had a paper guide with stations to punch as we completed each area, giving young children a goal and something to look for. It was one of the best museums I've ever been to in my life that accommodated both adults' and children's needs so completely. I highly recommend it.

Afternoon and Evening Plans:

Untitled photo

We thought we could squeeze in a visit to the British Museum. (We couldn't fit it in. We had gotten tickets ahead but the line wrapped around the building and sidewalk and even with tickets, we would have to wait in line for hours!) This was to our advantage though. We mailed some postcards and then got caught under the craziest rain storm. We found some shelter and waited it out, but not before our shoes and anything not covered by our rain jacket (waist down) was soaked through! We got transportation back to our hotel and used the hair-dryer as best we could to dry our clothes for our next event.

We had a reservation for tea at Peggy Porschen in Belgravia at 4:30 PM. This was quite near our hotel to drop off any leftovers and also quite near the Victoria Palace Theatre where we had tickets later that evening to see Hamilton. With mostly dry clothes, we went down to the lobby and prepared to leave the building, only for the rain storm to come back a second time. We tried to run to Peggy Porschen's but were completely soaked once again.

The staff at Peggy's even remarked that this kind of storm is not common for London and they were quite surprised. We enjoyed our celebratory tea very much, even though our laps were soggy. Though the visual of the place was VERY pink, we chose it for the menu. It included a vegan option so that I could have a dairy-free tea service and had good options that the kids would be willing to eat. It was a success overall. We left with very full bellies and had some goodies to finish later that night - and the next morning! We ran back to the hotel to repeat the hair-dryer process to make it to the theater next!

The performance of Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre was wonderful. Our children know the musical quite well and were excited to see it in person. At the end of the night, we got hot showers and got out of our damp clothes. We packed everything up so we could travel for the next day. What a fantastic day!

Day 6: Travel to Wales

We rented a car at Enterprise. It was supposed to be an automatic SUV. We were so tired from everything over the past few days and let the kids get tea and croissants in the hotel lobby that morning rather than being out before 8:00 AM. We finished packing and started our tour of several trains to get to the rental place. (Brady had emailed the day before to note our change in time of arrival for the pickup of the car. He had also tried to call but couldn't get anyone to pick up.) We rented a car in Hammersmith becuase there is a permit system if you drive within the city boundaries of London. This is to help with traffic / congestion. So. we took a few trains to get to Hammersmith to avoid this extra cost.

When we arrived at the Enterprise, they didn't see our email and had given our car away. We arrived at 11:00 and they only hold cars for two hours. Our rental was for 8:00 AM. They found a car for us but it was a manual transmission SUV. Brady hadn't driven on the opposite side of the road before and it had been almost two decades since he had driven a manual car. But, he was willing. We emphasized to the kids that they couldn't chat or ask a lot of questions during the drive so that Brady could focus. It was about a 5 hour drive to get to Caernarfon. We stopped once for fuel and bathrooms. Once we were on the highway, it was much easier than making lots of turns in a town. Brady did great! We got there ok!

Day 7: Carnaferon Castle and Anglesey Barracks Hike

Untitled photo

Today we had breakfast at our AirBnB. We ate oatmeal packets that we had brought along with juice boxes, tea, milk boxes, and some fruit. We were tired so this was a great way to start the day slowly. We got going and went to the castle that we can nearly see from our rental. We spent a few hours there. Christopher and Ann happen to love gift shops and exiting through them after tours is a weakness for both of them. We had a great time at the castle. The first photo is a cell phone photo of the castle exterior. Then the photos below are a carousel, so clock or slide through them to see more. 

Anglesey Barracks and Hike

Untitled photo

We went to see an abandoned slate mine nearby. This area of Wales has some of the most amazing landscapes. Their mountains are rich in some mine-able materials. This spot has had slate for a long time and this was a major export for the area, but the mines have been closed since about the 1960s. We went on a Hike up the slate mountains. You could see that they used the materials they were mining to make rock paths and walls and even barracks. Miners would walk to these barracks on Sunday afternoon and stay all week to work. They would then walk home on Friday after work to their families. They slept 6 to a bedroom in the slate barracks and had a tiny living room space which is where they entered their structures. We hiked to this up their walking path and also saw old rail tracks where they would have transported the slate. We saw parts of their quarries too and stood in amazement at the mountain views from these spots. The boys found lots of interesting pieces of slate and imagined that they were a “rock phone” and “rock pods”, etc. and had fun in their own way. Christopher did end the hike by saying that he will always remember the trip.

We had a really good meal at the end of the day that was all Welsh food. The name of the place made me uncomfortable but it was one of the best meals I've ever eaten. We dined at the Black Boy Inn. The boys had Welsh lasagna. Brady had a Welsh shepherd’s pie. Ann had a Yorkshire pudding with sausages. It was all quite good. Our bellies were full. We might have gone straight to bed, but it turned out that our Air BnB was next to a pub. Loud music is blaring as I write this at midnight. Hopefully we can sleep soon!

Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In