As you know, my children and I had a mini-break in London recently. I've mentioned on a few occasions now the difficulty I have in finding something to do that suits both my 15 year-old daughter and 13 year-old son. I'm a lone parent so I need to consider both children all of the time and because they are gender stereotypical, this must include something for "typical" teenage girls and boys.
Our London break was in addition to our main holiday so it was done on a limited budget, but still felt like a treat. We travelled by train and without question a Family and Friends railcard is a must. At an annual cost of £30, mine paid for itself on that particular journey alone. Underground train travel is half adult price for under 16s and if staying for several days, the most economical way to do it is to purchase an Oyster card and ask a member of staff to amend it so only a child's fare is taken. For adults, using a contactless debit card at each barrier is the most economical way of traversing the city underground.
Before we went, we decided what we wanted to do so that we had a loose itinerary. We had never been to Madam Tussauds and it had been ten years since we went on The London Eye. The Tussauds website has numerous offers for various London attractions which can be paid for in advance and are more economical if done in combination, which is what I did for Tussauds and The Eye. Entrance times can be pre-booked too and there are several VIP options. We decided to go to Tussauds on our first day there and I needed to take email confirmation and present the card I had used to pay, to collect the tickets. At the same time, I was handed my vouchers for The Eye. For information, the nearest tube station to Madam Tussauds is Baker Street.
The waxworks are arranged in stories including red carpet, fashion, sports, political figures and so on. Obviously a pouting Kim Kardashian held great appeal for my daughter. One can stand with Kim and have a photograph taken with her by clicking her phone and then collecting a ticket to enable subsequent purchase. I apologise for the blurred image. I wouldn't normally include it but it was quite interesting to see her.
The Rio Olympics were in full swing when we visited, so the medal winners from the London Olympics were popular. We were particularly impressed with Tom Daley's gravity defying medal!
We wanted to visit both The Natural History and Science Museums. They can both be accessed via a subway from South Kensington tube station, (along with the V&A), and admission is free.
Harrods is in the same vicinity as the museums and although, I find it a little ostentatious for my own tastes, I wanted to take my children to see it for the spectacle it is. That being said, I do love spending time in the foodhall...
...And looking at handbags.
And as someone for whom Christmas can never come soon enough, I was quite excited to see this!
From Harrods we took the tube to Waterloo to go on The London Eye, because it was such a lovely day. The vouchers I collected at Tussauds from the pre-booking, needed converting to tickets at the ticket office just by The Eye and then it was a case of joining the queue and waiting...
...During which time it clouded over and that stunning blue sky turned quite dramatically to grey. The "flight" lasted about half an hour and each pod takes around 30 people. It was wonderful to see London from a completely different perspective and for the children to be able to identify the landmarks that make up her character.
Both children use Snapchat regularly and it was nice to see them photographing aspects of London and sharing it on their Snapchat Story. There is a set of London filters which the applied to several of their images and it made a refreshing change for them to taking as many pictures as I do.
Oxford Street is somewhere that I'm sure to to nobody's surprise, my daughter and I wanted to visit. Initially my son wasn't particularly enthralled with the idea but as soon as he saw NikeTown, (next to Topshop) he was happy. We spent at least half an hour in there and my sport-mad boy was in heaven perusing the trainers and football boots some of which hadn't yet been released generally. He needed some new (football) training kit and it was nice for him to be able to get it there and to have something to show. Other shops that he enjoyed were Sports Direct and JD.
Topshop is of course a huge attraction for girls young and not so young and we spent a long time in there too. What we all noticed about central London was the wide availability of wifi (which here in Skipton can be sporadic to say the least). My son found himself a seat and made use of this so allowing us to browse in peace.
Urban Outfitters, Lush and make-up "swatching" made for a very happy daughter.
The only shop I insisted on visiting was Liberty. It is genteel, beautiful and relatively under-stated and I always love the fresh flowers at the in-store florist.
And because once again, the wifi proved to be excellent, my children found a comfy sofa in the home department and I wandered round in blissful peace.
I have eaten at The Spaghetti House on Oxford Street on several previous visits and on this occasion, the weather turned glorious, so we made the most of it and lunched al-fresco at what was a very Instagrammable table!
Our afternoon took us to Covent Garden and then to Leicester Square and on to Planet Hollywood where we dined.
It's lively and vibrant and my teenagers loved it.
Our final day was unbelievably hot, the temperature tipping 30 degrees. We had our cases with us so didn't want to be on and off the tube if possible, so we went to Horseguards Parade and onto Buckingham Palace and then on to St.James Park which I always think is the most beautiful of city oases.
So, to summarise, here are my tips for enjoying a mini-break in London with teenagers...
-Plan ahead and draw up an itinerary
-Make a note of the relevant tube station for each attraction ahead of the visit
-Let them look at a map and decide on a logical order of things
-Give them responsibility for their own travel tickets and Oyster Card with clear instructions that they must replace anything from their own pocket should they lose it
-Look at ways of reducing costs for example, by pre-paying for multiple attractions
-Make it clear that you will spend an equal (or reasonable) amount of time in each child's chosen shop
- Have an idea of where you'd like to eat, several hours ahead of each mealtime. Teenagers very quickly starve
- Keep some snacks secreted in your bag. See above
-And I think this has got to be the most important thing for keeping teenagers happy, wherever you stay, if nothing else, make sure the wifi is free and unlimited.
Love Liz x