This past summer we checked off one of the boxes… international travel with the kids. And it was A-MAZING! In April, I had been scrolling through Pinterest (the source of most of my project/cooking/travel inspirations) and found myself looking at London links when it hit me again.. we only had 3 promised summers as a family 5 to travel together. With Kendall entering her Sophomore year of High School the clock was ticking. After getting the go-ahead, I wasted no time. In the matter of a few weeks I had bought plane tickets, secured 3 different airbnb properties and ordered our London Passes. We were looking at 13 days in Europe, almost 2 whole weeks of travel. With kids ages 8, 12, and 15.. we knew London was going to be the easiest starting point. From there we planned to visit Paris, return back to London for some day trips. We had big dreams of covering lots of London…since we were there we figured let’s do it all! It’s no surprise that we wanted to cover more than we did, but the reality was we just ran out of time. And energy. Not necessarily in that order.
A few things we knew from the start:
- We were not renting a car. Public transportation was abundant and with our City Mapper App (MUST HAVE!), we were going to live like a local.
- Live Like a Local- we needed safe neighborhoods that allowed us to walk (see #1) safely at night. And we needed nearby markets to grab groceries, etc.
- Use the London Pass – more about this later…but it really kept us on track with hitting the highlights and saved us some money too!
- Downtime- with an 8 year old in tow, and 13 days of touring, we knew that we had to offer some downtime to rest and recharge.
- Get the kids involved. Once our London Pass arrived we started talking about the things to do, places to visit, day trips available, etc… and allowed them a chance to make requests.
Our trip was hands down one of our favorite family experiences ever. I’ve had many people ask for the details, so I’ll do my best to give links and recommendations over the next several posts.
I’m pretty sure the most asked question is ‘where did you stay?’, right before they ask ‘how did your kids do on that long flight?’. A quick answer to the latter: my kids were perfectly happy on a flight that gave them their own screen w/ current movies, in a reclining chair and someone serving them food every few hours…LOVED it! Regarding accommodations, as a family of 5 we know we can’t stay in a double-bed hotel room and walk away loving each other after 13 days. Well…at least this family can’t. Sure, it would have been nice to stay in a hotel in London in the city central. With a valet, concierge and room service (dreamy). And if money were no object, and we could reserve 3 rooms connected..heck yes sign me up! But, again… just not for this family of 5. Along with needing enough beds for five and enough space to spread out, we knew that we wanted to experience life in London. We were definitely going as full-blown tourists (backpacks and maps!), but also we hoped to see what the locals do in their own ‘hoods. Airbnb was a natural choice to find our home(s) away from home. We had a few strategies… find neighborhoods East of the airport, but West of Central London. Why? Because I had read enough to understand that the underground (think train/subway…much nicer than anything in the States) had direct lines to Heathrow Airport. This was important since we were traveling 5 deep with luggage and no access to private transportation. After digging around we settled on West Kensington area, giving us a straight shot from Heathrow to Baron’s Court station and a short walk to our flat. Another strategy we used, that we learned many years ago when traveling with kids, make sure your last ‘stop’ (in this case the last 5 days of our trip) comes with plenty of personal space and lounging time. Again, we are that family. We love each other, but we have our limits.
Arriving Saturday-Wednesday: We started in a 2 Bedroom Flat in West Kensington with a fold out couch, right in front of the the Queens Tennis Club in a quiet, pleasant area. The accommodations were a great to kick off our London adventure, and Ty (our 8yr old) still says it was his favorite of all! (He called the fold out couch before his sisters could..and it just so happened to be in front of the only t.v. … he was in heaven.) With only a 5 minute walk to two of the main underground lines, along with restaurants and markets within walking distance, made this the perfect location for us. We landed at 10 am, finally to our flat around 1:30, where the owner’s nephew met us and showed us around the flat. We spent Saturday-Wednesday here and couldn’t have been happier! A short underground ride to Central London (approx 20 mins) and we were off to a great start! We used both the Baron’s Court Station and the West Kensington Station for all of our transportation. Baron’s Court is closer to the flat, by only by an minute or two.
A few pics of the neighborhood around this flat… it was a great location for us!
Wednesday -Friday: We took the Eurostar Paris and stayed in the Opera District (Arrondisement 9). Our flat here was beautiful and spacious and ‘all things Paris’ I was hoping for. The only drawback, we were there during the beginning of an unusually warm June and without A/C it was a tad warm. Thankfully there were fans available, and we were only here for 2 nights. Would we stay here again? YES!! If we could have stayed elsewhere we would have tried for a place closer to the Eiffel Tower, toward Notre-Dame (those neighborhoods were lovely~ but all of it was truly!). We knew this was a quick trip, only one solid day of sight seeing, so being closer to the main sights would have been nice. But this flat and location worked well for us. Pretty sure I was the biggest fan of this place, there was history was in every crevice, board and molding. Can’t wait to go back! We walked almost non-stop here. The Metro was nearby, as were many bus stops. But being in Paris for such a short period, we didn’t want to be underground and didn’t want to wait for buses. And really, walking a Paris street is truly beautiful (says all my crew except for one 8 year old boy.)
Check out these interior pics of the beautiful floors and interiors doors/crown molding.. I just couldn’t love it more! The courtyard out the living room balcony window was lovely, as was the building across the street (view from our bedroom).
Friday-Wednesday: returned to London and finished in the spacious 3 bedroom, 2 story flat in West Kensington. Best perk, outside of the spacious updated flat…the location! A short walk to the bus and underground. Kensington High Street and Notting Hill was a short bus ride away, and both areas were the best of iconic London beauty! We were all loving the area… and we really took the time to meandor the neighborhood and slow down our pace a bit. This was the favored flat for my girls and husband. And the courtyard area was pretty charming for me. We used the buses for most all of our transportation needs, they ran frequently and the stops were less than a 5 minute walk. Kensington Olympia Underground is less than a 5 minute walk from the flat, but it’s destinations are limited and the timing for departures not frequent. The Shepard’s Bush Underground is further away (more than 10 minutes with kids trailing), and from here many options for departure and connections are available…however it is VERY crowded. Buses were easier for us.
My favorite view out this flat was from the kitchen sink, looking onto the lush courtyard. Here’s a few pics from the flat, including the garden courtyard, the exterior and two of many the restaurants within walking distance.
So there you have it! A quick look in the places we ‘lived’ in on our London and Paris adventure. We will most definitely go back and when we do we will use airbnb again! So easy, great hosts and really the best way to end the day!
More on our daily adventures, transportation, best food finds and our favorite shopping soon! ~hollie ❤