So as any expat blogger will tell you, I love to travel. But with work, kids, blah, blah, blah, it’s not an easy feat. And now that we have two ankle biters, it doesn’t get any easier. But being a glutton for punishment mixed with my tendency to live occasionally outside of reality, I wanted to conduct a little experiment. What would it be like traveling with a 2.5 year old and a six month old? No big deal, right? WRONG.
I’m a spontaneous traveler, which with kids is no longer spontaneity, but just plain stupidity. For example, I had no plan for getting from Heathrow to the Airbnb apartment in Hackney, a super cool Brooklyn-esque neighborhood where we set up camp. I thought we could just cab it, which we could have done if we had wads of cash hidden away somewhere I didn’t know about (It’s a 90 pound ride, my friends.) So we decided to take the underground, thanks to the idiotic recommendation from information. Thanks. Karma’s a bitch, but she won’t be nearly as bitchy as YOU deserve.
You see, the London metro, though very reliable and extremely well connected to pretty much everywhere, except of course where we were staying (Yeah, there was no metro stop near our apt.) is very old and completely unmodernized in most locations. That means stairs. Yes, we had miles of stairs to climb up and down upon arrival with two suitcases, a stroller, a car seat, a 2.5 year old, a six month old and a diaper bag. I wish I had a picture. To our surprise, people were sympathetic to our situation and pitched in to get us where we needed to go. They helped us get on and off the trains, carried our luggage up and down the stairs, and basically saved our lives. At first I was shocked and had this terrible gut feeling someone was sure to run off with our stuff, but considering the circumstances, I had to trust and it worked out. People were super helpful and friendly during the whole trip, but from here on out we took the bus, which was infinitely easier and very comfortable. PLUS, on the bus you can look out the window and SEE everything. Bless your cotton socks, Londoners!
Traveling with very young children is like going through the daily routine with a different mis-en-scene and extra stress. We still have to get up, feed ourselves and them, get everyone ready, change diapers, etc. plus add on all of the extra stuff we have to pack each morning because we plan to be out all day (extra clothes in case there are accidents, puddles to jump into and soak everyone, bottles, formula, pacifiers, disposable bibs, blankets because it’s freezing cold, valium (that’s for me), etc. Three hours later, we’re ready to go.
This is all just to get ourselves out the door. Then we have to get to the bus stop, which takes forever, because the child (who by the way has legs and knows perfectly well how to walk) wants to be carried and when we tell her we can’t because we’re already hauling enough baggage to get us to the half way point up MT. Everest, proceeds to throw herself on the ground and cry. So we strap her into the stroller and move the baby to the Baby Bjorn because hubbies’ back isn’t hurting QUITE enough. But we press on because we. Are. Going. To. See. Some. Of. London.
That’s pretty much how things go from here on out.
Day one we headed to Central London and crammed in the main sites, so we could check that off our list right away. I remembered everything being pretty close together, but with our extra baggage, the walk was interminable and I swear even hubbie started to ask me,”Are we there yet?” But we did it and in the rain! Thank the gods for raincoats, wellies and stroller covers! Pretty impressive, right?
The rest of the trip was pretty chill. We rode on the bus a lot and it was really a convenient, economic option thanks to the Oyster Card, a pre-paid card you just swipe when you board the bus and is good for the metro AND bus lines. You can purchase these at most metro stops or certain corner markets.
Day two we took it slow, had brunch at Market Street Café on Broadway Market, which we did pretty much every day because their English Breakfasts were freaking awesome, and headed to Shoreditch and Brick Lane, where we hung out for a while, then went back to our hood in Hackney (right next door to London Fields) and relaxed. We spent a lot of time here, especially on Broadway Market, which has lots of cute restos, markets and shops and a super cool open market on the weekend.
Day three we took the bus to Hyde Park, walked to Kensington Gardens, where we played with the girls on the many rolling fields and exclusive playgrounds, visited the swans at the huge pond and had a picnic snack, then moved on to Notting Hill and Portabello Road, where we stopped at The Duke of Wellington for a relaxing and delicious Sunday Roast. Then we walked off that pig fest and headed back to London Fields to stroll, relax and prepare for the trip home next day.
Day four it was time to go home, so we took our time getting ready, had one more yummy English Breakfast at Market Street Café and headed to the airport. And to cap off the very nice albeit somewhat stressful trip, our 2.5 year old threw a monster tantrum in the middle of Heathrow airport outside of security prompting some very deprecating looks from security and travelers. Perfect.
We wanted to do day trips to Oxford to revisit where I spent some of my childhood, and York because another expat blogger I read made it sound adorable (and Downton Abbey is filmed on location there), but we were lucky and seriously pushing it to see and do what we did. So they’ll have to wait for another trip when we’re on our own or the girls are closer to their tween years.
Happy travels and if you’re hitting the road with kids, don’t forget to pack extra hand wipes, patience, and valium.