Just before Christmas we went on a two night budget stay to London with the kids.
Bella, age 7, has been asking for about three years to go to London since she learned about it at school.
She was dying to see a red double decker bus!
It was one of her wishes on our family travel bucket list for 2019 and we managed to squeeze a budget trip to London in just before the year was out.
We went on a tight budget so decided to stay within walking distance of the free museums to keep our spending costs as low as possible.
We found a cheap place to stay, took a coach from our home city of Gloucester and ate as cheaply as possible with total spending money whilst there of £150 for four of us. I share the total costs of our trip in my London spending diary.
So what did we get up to?
We managed to squeeze in Buckingham Palace, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, Hyde Park and some sightseeing.
Here’s a look at our family London itinerary for three days and our photos and videos.
3 day London family itinerary + travel diary
On our way on the coach!
We arrived in London at 11.30am on day one and left at 3pm on day three. So we didn’t have a full three days, but just over 48 hours – around 51 hours. We had one full day and two half days.
Day 1: Buckingham Palace + Natural History Museum
Our coach arrived at Victoria coach station and the kids were very excited to see my name plastered everywhere!
It’s only a short walk from Victoria coach station to Buckingham Palace, along the very apt named road Buckingham Palace Road, so we walked there straight away.
It was absolutely packed and the kids weren’t as excited as I thought they’d be, so we didn’t stay long. Just enough to get a quick photo and then go and get some food.
I think they were just a bit tired and hungry for lunch and not enjoying the swarms of people!
Bella said she wished everyone would disappear so it was just us!
We did see some guards (?) walk past us so that was lucky timing!
We decided to walk to South Kensington where we were staying in a Premier Inn for two nights. On the way we’d find somewhere to eat.
It was a bit of a trek with the kids whose legs suddenly didn’t want to work, but we needed to save money so on foot it was!
We walked through the Kensington and Chelsea boroughs which are very upmarket!
I love to explore on foot to get a real taste of a place and look at all the architecture.
Pizza Express South Kensington
The kids were getting really hungry after quite a bit of walking so once we hit a row of shops and saw Pizza Express we dived in! Reuben has also been about to burst for 20 minutes or so as he needed the toilet, so he couldn’t wait any longer.
We all rushed to the toilet and then ordered the kids a vegan pizza each and me and Ben shared one to keep costs down. It wasn’t the most budget place for us to eat, but more the first place we came to that would have a toilet for everyone so we darted inside!!
We do love their vegan pizzas. The Giardiniera is delicious and this one was made to perfection.
Fed and watered, we continued our walk to Earl’s Court Premier Inn.
Premier Inn, Earl’s Court
We had checked in online before leaving home so should have been able to grab the keys quickly from machines, but all three machines were out of action.
There was a queue to a check in desk with a member of staff and Ben tapped a machine just to check it was out of order before we queued, as there was no sign, and the member of staff quite rudely shouted ‘SIR, they do not work which is why I am here!’
She spoke very loudly and rudely and continued to do the same to every person who came behind us!
Not a great start and she even started arguing with people in the queue behind us.
Her customer skills need sharpening.
In fact, we came across a fair amount of rude members of staff in London. What foreigners must think of us!
Our room also had a lot to be desired!
Of course it was a budget stay and cheap hotel at £43 per night for four of us, but there was food (I hope it was food) on the walls in no less than four places which they should have cleaned!
Otherwise it was fine. Basic and budget. Needing an uplift in places, but we weren’t expecting anything luxury for the price we paid!
We had breakfast which was OK. I did gag a bit eating my cooked breakfast the first day as the fried oil taste that covered the cooked breakfast was too overbearing for me. It tasted like the oil desperately needed changing and it masked all the food. It didn’t taste fresh at all. Or perhaps it was the meaty scent all over it!
Ben wasn’t bothered though, or didn’t notice, and he had two platefuls of cooked beans, mushroom, hash browns and tomatoes!
The next day I had beans on toast which was fine. There were lots of fruits and cereals too. There was a carton of soy milk we could use.
The shower was great. Fast, powerful and warm!
The beds were fine. I slept well, when the kids weren’t waking me up tapping me on the head or falling out of bed! Reuben rolled out of bed!!
Natural History Museum
On the first day we checked in to the Premier Inn at 2.15pm. It was only a 20 minute walk to the Natural History Museum so it made sense to visit today as they opened until 5.50pm.
I’ve never been before so this was my first visit!
I was really impressed before we went in.
The building is amazing!
There was a rather large queue, but it moves really quickly. We were inside in around five or so minutes of joining the queue.
Admission is free so there’s no waiting whilst people pay.
I was even more amazed once inside.
The building is just so impressive and grand. There’s a blue whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling which just looks incredible. It’s really all very mesmerising and breathtaking to see.
There are several skeletons from the most complete iguanodon skeleton found in the UK to a woolly mammoth!
Reuben is dinosaur obsessed so he loved seeing these!
There’s an entire dinosaur section which is amazing for any dinosaur lover!
You can really begin to imagine the size of the dinosaurs which replica leg bones in real size and numerous skeletons fully formed, hanging from the ceilings all around.
There’s even a model T-Rex which was quite scary for the kids, but Reubs says it was his favourite part!
In a large room all on its own is an art installation of the moon.
Another very mesmerising room which is also very magical. It looks so real and you feel like you can almost touch the real moon.
We had a quick scout around the rest of the museum. There was a slightly bizarre human area about child development which looked old and needs updating!
Upstairs on the balconies were some crystal and rock displays which Bella loved. She’s collecting crystals at the moment and loves them. She even bought a crystal book and three more crystals from the gift shop with her pocket money.
After a good look round, well as good as can be with kids yanking on our arms to go to the gift shop most of the time(!) we headed back to the Inn.
Needing to keep food cheap after our lunch, we grabbed some naughty Greggs vegan sausage rolls and chips for dinner on our walk back.
Day 2: Science Museum + Hyde Park
We’d heard so many great things about the Science Museum and planned a whole day to visit so the kids could spend as long as they liked.
We stopped at a Tesco on the way and stocked up on meal deals, smoothies and fruit to take with us for lunch.
It is huge and probably better for slightly older children. Perhaps the kids were tired, but they spent most of the time wanting to go to the gift shop and go home!
There’s a huge transport museum which is pretty amazing to see all the original aeroplanes, history of flight (from humans trying to fly first with wings), carriages, cars and more!
I could have spent a lot more time in there, but Reuben was having a melt down most of the time!!
There’s also a large space area which again, I could have spent time exploring, but the kids just wanted to rush through.
If you can take the time to explore without kids pulling on your arms or having a melt down then there’s a lot to see and learn!
The kids were happy to see some interactive displays on the ‘This is me’ floor and also to find some toys to play with in ‘The garden” in the basement which is for quite young children.
We did go to the Bubble Show which is a free show. Even with this our kids were just not in the mood all day and didn’t want to go! We were there at the right time though and so took them and I think they had fun!
Typically I left the room to go to the toilet near the end and when I left they called Ben up to help on the stage!
He had to hold a cube bubble or something!
I also missed three people being put inside a bubble which sounds good too.
The kids came out really excited at the end, so they finally had some fun!!
There is loads to see and do at the Science Museum and I’m sure any other day our kids would have loved it.
It’s also free entry which is amazing.
They were just both in one of those moods that day, probably from tiredness and over excitement!
Hyde Park – Winter Wonderland
I’d not planned this part very well. I knew Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park was free entry and thought it would be magical for the kids to explore.
We walked all the way to Hyde Park which is not too far for adults, but a bit more of a challenge with tired children!
I hadn’t realised Winter Wonderland would be enclosed and the queues were huge!
It was getting dark and colder and we had to walk back (around 40 minutes, without kids!), so decided not to queue for ages to get in.
Such a shame, but it also looked like a glorified fair ground with rides.
Is that all it is?
I’d love to know if anyone has been! I thought it might be more Christmas themed for the children. Like Hyde Park had been turned into a Wonderland.
So sadly we didn’t enter.
This entrance was for prebooked tickets for attractions inside. We then walked to the free entrance and the queues were insane!
Gourmet Burger Kitchen, South Kensington
For dinner we decided to treat ourselves to a meal out. This would also break up the long walk back for the kids!
I have a Vectis card and could get 15% off on Gourmet Burger Kitchen who do a vegan burger!
We were sold.
We found the closest one to our Premier Inn and headed there.
We’ve never been before as there are none near our home in Gloucestershire, but there seem to be lots about.
We splurged on vegan burgers, the skinniest fries you have EVER seen and the kids had the most delicious vegan chocolate milkshakes.
Full to the brim we walked back to our hotel for a well earned rest after 12km of walking that day and 12.5km the day before! A lot for a seven and four year old!
A tired Bella with the skinniest fries!
Day 3: Sightseeing
On our last day we had to checkout at 12pm, but we went for breakfast at 8am before it got too busy. We left the Premier Inn shortly after, once we had packed.
Today we wanted to see Big Ben it ‘Big Daddy’ as the kids called it as his name is Ben!
We walked from Earl’s Court Premier Inn to Harrods, stopping at bus stops along the way to see if we could find one to go to Westminster, but couldn’t see anything close to going that far so decided upon a taxi.
First we had a quick stop in Harrods to show the kids the toys, but I immediately realised this was a bad idea when we walked in!
It’s not my sort of place at all (or Ben’s). It was really hot and stuffy as we were wrapped in so many layers, and we had no idea where to go!
We found the escalators, eventually, and went up to the toy section. We had a quick look, but it’s a bad idea to take kids to a toy shop when you’re not buying them anything!
I just needed to get out of there. I was feeling anxious, out of place, hot and bothered, so we escaped sharpish!
There were taxis right outside though, so we took our first and only transport in London of a classic black cab!
It was £10.40 for the taxi from Harrods to Westminster Abbey which we didn’t think was too bad. We expected to pay around the same on a bus for four of us.
Westminster Abbey, Big Ben & London Eye
Our first sight was Westminster Abbey which is a very impressive building!
We didn’t go in, but just admired its beauty from outside.
And another very remarkable building right next to Westminster Abbey:
We had so hoped to show the kids Big Ben, but it was closed! Well not closed as such, but covered in scaffold and being restored.
The clocks and tower were not visible at all:
It’s apparently not ready until 2021 so maybe we’ll see it on a future trip to London, if we return.
Of course I thought it would be fun to see the Natural History Museum as I’ve never been and for the kids to go to London as Bella so wanted to, but I don’t think we’ll return in a hurry!
I’m already looking forward to our trip to Bluestone after Christmas and going on long walks in the woods, with a lot less people around!
The London Eye is very close to Big Ben so we walked to see it from across the river.
I’ve not been on it, but Ben has with his ex-girlfriend. Maybe we’ll go on it one day when we’re not on such a budget trip! I’d quite like to experience it at night time. It must be quite magical in the dark with London lit up. Ooh, or fireworks night would be amazing!
Reuben wouldn’t turn around for his photo at any attraction, but suddenly decided he wanted his picture in the middle of the street:
We next walked to Downing Street, which is where this picture of Reuben is, but you can’t see anything there.
There were swarms of tourists, but the street is gated with huge black gates and there must have been six or so heavily armed police on the other side.
We decided to head towards Victoria to grab some lunch before our coach home.
We walked through a random arch which I think is part of the commonwealth and foreign offices and stumbled upon St James’s Park.
St James’s Park
I’m so pleased we saw this park as it had so much wildlife for the kids to see!
There are pelicans on the lake, lots of ducks, geese, loads of very tame green parakeets and squirrels that come right up to people!
It was quite amazing to experience, the birds and squirrels were coming up to everyone in the park, rather than shying away.
For our final meal in London we tried Leon ‘naturally’ fast food who had a good range of vegan options.
I shared the love burger with Bella, some waffle fries and vegan cheesy jackfruit ‘wings’.
As we couldn’t see Big Ben, we went and saw Little Ben in Victoria instead!!
It’s a tiny clock tower, just like Big Ben!
We finally headed home at 3pm on a National Express coach which was a bit of a shambles. We actually left at 3.30pm as I think they over booked the coaches.
We were settled in on a coach and managed to get seats close together with the kids, when one of the drivers said seven people without luggage had to get off the coach and on to another.
I said to Ben to ask the driver of we can get seats with the children on the other coach and then we’d be happy to move, but he apparently just shrugged and grumbled something at Ben so he came and sat back down.
After another ten minutes or so, a driver said similar on the tannoy ‘seven people need to move coaches or we’ll not be going anywhere!’
So we all got up and moved coaches. Luckily people moved on the other coach so we could sit with the children. No one immediately moved, but Ben asked the passengers and then we were able to sit together.
We eventually arrived home ready for Christmas Day and Boxing Day before our next trip to Wales!