Visiting London with a toddler and long haul flights

My husband recently had to go back to London for 3 months because of work and me and the boy decided to come along as we felt that 3 months would be to long to be apart from dad.

So my biggest fear was like most mums probably, the long haul flight with a 1.5 year old! And though I will say that this was not a fun trip, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had thought it would be. After we had passed 4 hours of normal bedtime, he was so tired and desperately wanted to sleep, but because he hadn’t slept in our arms since he was a baby, he just didn’t know how to get comfortable and relax enough to fall asleep. We tried everything! rocking him in our arms up and down the ails, my husband trying to lie down with him and kept putting him down when he got up (which just made it worse), me holding him and singing in his ear, all the while he was screaming at the top of his lungs. Until we just gave up trying! and that seemed to be the magic trick. We essentially just let him climb from one to the other rummaging around and then back in to the arms of the other parents arms trying to get comfortable there and after 20 min of jumping from one parent to the other, he eventually passed out in my arms with no crying. So our new motto became “just go with the flow!” and it seemed to work. I think we were so caught up in having his normal routine and his normal boundaries that we forgot that this isn’t a regular thing. It is okay to just toss it all out the window and just go with the flow and making this a fun experience. So all rules went and he got to watch as much tv as he wanted, eat as many plane snacks as he wanted and he was loving life.

Now for jet lag! I hadn’t read up on it much before leaving as this was a last minute trip, so there was so much to do before leaving. But 2 days in, I started reading a lot of other mums experiences on jet lag with a toddler and all said to just ride it out for the first week, so that was what we did essentially. The first two days we had midnight picnics in the bed, played with toys and watched cartoons. The next few days, I went to his room with a bottle of milk and we just laid in the dark in the bed next to his crib singing calming songs and then when he seemed to be almost turned around I just went and laid in the bed next to the crib, putting my arm in the crib so he could hold my hand until he fell asleep again. And sure enough, about a week in he slept through the night again.
The only thing we did try and do to make the transition a bit easier was to get up at 7 am each morning and have regular nap times each day, not lasting more that 3.5 hours and that seemed to help getting into a new routine better.

Now for London with a toddler. My boy absolutely loved the place! He would happily sit in the stroller for hours at a time just taking it all in.

My biggest concern was the underground with a stroller, as London underground is so old that most stations only have stairs and my boy was definitely not old enough to walk along side me while I carried the stroller, but to heavy for me to carry him up and down in the stroller. But actually if you look on a underground map, you will see a lot of the stations are marked with a wheelchair logo, meaning there is a lift/elevator at the station. So we just worked out a route that would take us to a station with a lift/elevator and then we either just walked from that station or took a bus. We also used the train quite a lot, which was super easy as well and all the bigger train stations have lifts/elevators as well.

For accommodation, you want to live outside of central London or close to a park in my opinion, as you need to get out and run off some of that jet lag every day. We stayed just 20 min outside central London, where there were lots of healthy food places, but also play grounds, parks and other green areas, but far from as busy as central London to navigate through.
And our boy never got tired of riding the train, looking out the window and interacting with other people on the train, so the train ride to and from London was easy.

Some of my favourite places to share with my boy in central London was:

St James Park. As pictured above, is one of the best places for running of a bit of energy as the water area is fenced off and there is a lot of squirrels (bring nuts) and birds to look at, including resident pelicans.

The Parlour at Fortnum and Mason. It is an ice-cream parlour/cafe and they serve tiny ice-cream cones with the coffees, which was the perfect size and amount of sugar for a little toddler that normally don’t experience sugary treats. And the staff is beyond helpful, friendly and patient.
If you go back through my Instagram pictures, you will find the cutest picture of a tiny ice-cream in a tiny hand.

-Southbank. Another place good for running off a bit of energy and look at boats sailing along the Thames.

Natural history museum. He especially loved the Bird area with all the stuffed birds, running from one bird to another pointing and piping. Note, go on a week day!

We were there in autumn and close to Christmas, so we also did a few seasonal things like going to see a Christmas light display at a nearby park, accidentally came across the lord mayors firework show which was magical and even made the lighting of the Christmas tree in Covent Garden.

If nap time had worked we would have probably taken him to see the changing of the guards, as he loves horses and if it had been summer we would have gone to places like The Diana Memorial where he could have gotten his feet wet and we could have had a picnic, but honestly, he loved just taking it all in and we loved showing him one of the cities we love the most.

For food, London makes it so easy! In most supermarkets in you will find healthy-ish snacks for on the go in the baby food section, which is always good to have in you bag when the little one starts getting hangry. But most places have great kids menu and there are so many healthy fast food options like Pret, Eat, Leon and M&S Food market that are located all over London where you can find easy quick food to enjoy anywhere, like sandwiches, fresh cut fruit, nuts and seeds, soups and stews and so on.

My biggest advise thought, is to never be in a rush and make time for looking and talking about interesting things you see on your way and stop and listening to a street musician. Try and ignore the many people that are always super busy in London and just do your own tempo and enjoy it all.

Mia
Xx

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