In my previous career, I was an international correspondent. I’ve been to almost every state in the US as well as Europe, the Middle East and Africa. And after my recent trip to London I can safely say it’s a world of difference when traveling with a child verses for work. Here are some things I found incredibly helpful on our trip, and some that I could have left at home.
What To Bring To London:
When I first started traveling for work I lugged around a massive bag with wardrobe for whatever story I would be covering as well as equipment I needed. Over the years I’ve learned to pare down to just the essentials and buy whatever I need in the country I’m visiting. For our family vacation to London I found everything I needed fit perfectly in the roomy Aerospin by American Tourister. Not only is the bag bright and beautiful, but it’s expandable for extra packing capacity and has a large mesh interior pocket for smaller items.
It also has 4 wheels so it turns easily when maneuvering around the airport which is a huge help when you’re also chasing a 3-year-old. I got a 21″ Aerospin in red and an adorable 21″ Minnie Mouse suitcase for Chan from American Tourister. I loved that they were big enough to hold all of our necessities, but light enough to travel through Victoria Station in London. The Aerospin is available only at Target and you can find more Disney themed luggage on the American Tourister website.
This comfy and compact pillow is a unique take on the typical U-shaped travel pillow. It’s wrap-around design is made to support your neck while it gently rests on a support inside the pillow.
It looks a little like a scarf and takes some getting used to. But once I had it in place it was far more comfortable than a regular neck pillow. Then it folds up on itself so there’s no bags to keep track of. Take a look at the science backing up the Trtl Travel Pillow on their website.
3. Get Your GBP’s Before You Go
You will likely use your credit or debit cards almost anywhere in London but it’s still a good idea to get some pounds to take with you before you travel. The exchange rates at most US banks are still better than anywhere you’ll find overseas.
And make sure you do this well in advance because banks don’t always have foreign currency on hand. They have to have it delivered. We waited too late and had to pay a rush fee which ultimately ended up costing us as much as it would have if we would have just exchanged money in the UK. Plan ahead for this one and you can save quite a bit.
4. Your Kid’s Favorite Snacks
Whether you pack them in your suitcase or your carry on, you’re going to want your child’s favorite snacks and water bottle. They may have them in London, but you will save yourself a trip to the store and a potential meltdown by having them in your purse or backpack. Plus when you’re in the middle of Buckingham Palace and your kid needs a drink, it’s good to have something ready to avoid a royal meltdown.
And speaking of backpacks, I cannot recommend the Ju-Ju-Be Backpack more. It’s perfect for travel because it has so many pockets and nooks and crannies to store things like wipes, an extra change of underwear (for you or your kid!), snacks and more.
The thing that’s great about Ju-Ju-Be is that they don’t look like the boring backpacks you find at the store. They come in beautiful prints and colors AND they’re machine washable. So if it gets a little extra dirty on your trip, you can throw it in the washer when you get back and it’s good as new. I took my Ju-Ju-Be “Be Right Back” in Royal Envy because…London. And I will never travel again without it.
6. Games and Movies
Yes you want your kids to see the sights, but realistically they aren’t going to be as enamoured with the history of Westminster Abbey or Windsor Palace as you are. They may also need a break (so will you) and need some quiet time so loading up the iPad with some games is a great idea. This seems like an obvious idea but sometimes it’s good to have a reminder when you have a lot of things to do before you travel. Right now Chan is into Cut The Rope, Monster Words and Endless Alphabet which can all be found in the iTunes store.
7. Favorite Blanket or Stuffed Animal
This is purely a comfort thing. We took Chan’s blanket on the plane and packed her backpack with some of her favorite toys so she wouldn’t be lonely. Turns out we didn’t need half the stuff we brought but she definitely used her blanket.
8. Extra Battery Charger
Our phones died within hours of using them in London. I don’t know if it was because there’s an extra drain on usage or if we were using extra data or both but it was really annoying. So we bought an extra battery charger while we were there and paid way too much for it as a result. We have one at home and I’m so annoyed that I didn’t think to take it. If fully charged, a battery pack like the Belkin or this sweet Darth Vader charger can fully charge your phone no matter where you are without having to be plugged in. Totally upped our social media game once we got it.
If you’re child is new to walking, or is under 5, take a stroller. It will save you on those long walks through the city where you don’t want them running around. We used our UPPAbaby Cruz for the tour through the Tower of London and around the city because it’s light weight, moves like a new car, and can fold up with one click. And although Chan explored a lot, she was definitely glad to have a seat to rest in when she was tired. I was jealous! But she wouldn’t let me get in with her. UPPAbaby also has a fantastic travel bag that made packing it up and checking it on the plane a total breeze.
What You Do NOT Need:
1. An Electrical Converter
There is a different power grid in London so most US electrical items will not work. You can take a converter with you but you don’t really need one. We borrowed one from our hotel and it worked perfectly.
2. Toys, Sticker Books, Coloring Books etc.
We packed Chan’s backpack with so much stuff there was no way she would have had time to play with everything. I was so worried that she would get bored on the plan and be a jerk that I brought her entire playroom. In reality, she watched the movies on the back of the seat in front of her, played some games on my iPad, then fell asleep. Next time I’ll pare back on this.
3. The Oyster Card
Everywhere I looked online while making my travel plans it was suggested that we get an Oyster Card. It’s the equivalent to a Metro Card in LA and allows you to travel on the Tube system. Since we were going to major tourist destinations on this trip most were a quick taxi ride away from our hotel. We found that by the time we walked to the subway station, waited for a train, then figured out our stops, we could have taken a taxi that dropped us right at the entrance to most places. Plus we didn’t have to worry about being in the Tube system with a 3-year-old running amok. This is all preference of course and I would totally use an Oyster Card if I was traveling alone. I just felt it was much easier to take taxis, and what parent doesn’t want to keep it simple?
I hope you found some of these ideas helpful for your trip to London. Again it’s all preference on what to take depending on what you plan to do while you’re there. I would love for you to share any tips you’ve found on traveling to London with kids with me so I can use them for our next trip!
**Disclaimer! I was compensated for my honest review of some of these items. For more information please visit my disclaimers page.