I love planning, preparing and packing for a trip. This was no exception. I had lists and lists of lists. We left on a Monday, so had the weekend to prepare the house and pack. We decided it would be nice to come home to a clean and tidy house and the backyard looking good.
This trip was so fun to plan for. From the time we confirmed with Graeme and Becky that we could all be in London at the same time, then setting dates and buying tickets. Colin’s brother and his family planned a European trip and put some time in London on their itinerary so that we could have some time together.
Thinking about the things that were important to us that we wanted to experience again and that we wanted to share with the boys. Scouring Pinterest for ideas of things that we haven’t done. Planning out the days and thinking about what places and activities are close together has been so fun. Looking at maps and websites, booking advance tickets to things. I made a master calendar and put all the things we wanted to do on it. It was slightly overwhelming to look at, but we were going with a flexible attitude and knew that we might not get to everything. I would say that having that calendar and plan took so much stress out of the trip. We knew each day when we woke up what the plan was and where we were going. Everyone had contributed their thoughts and desires ahead of time and we had come up with a plan.
My Dad took us to the airport – 3 hours early, of course, because it’s an international journey. However, since it was our local airport, we were checked in and ready to go in about 10 minutes. We played some 500 and wandered a bit.
We flew into Portland and had quite a long layover, so we played some more 500 and then the Smiths came and picked us up and we went to dinner together – it was so good to see them and have time together before the rest of our journey. Portland also has great moving sidewalks near the gates which were great for burning off kid-energy.
Then it was the long flight to Iceland. None of us got much sleep, but it was uneventful – watched some movies. It would have been nice to take advantage of being in Iceland, but the layover was short and we didn’t want to take any time out from our London trip.
The bathrooms in Iceland were great – every stall was a little room with a toilet and sink. Fully enclosed – no giant gaps between the doors – what is it with US bathrooms? The sink had what looked like handlebars which I totally grabbed – only to find out they were air jet dryers underneath.
The flight to London was about 3 hours. Jude slept for about half of it and Zane crashed about half an hour before we landed.
We touched down at London Heathrow around 4:30 pm and proceeded to get our bearings. We got our weekly travel cards (Oyster Cards) with the help of a lovely Transport For London employee who was just what we needed as we arrived feeling tired and knowing we still had to get all the way across London at rush hour. He’ll be getting a great review from us. What a difference it makes for people to be kind, share knowledge and have a laugh.
We jumped on the Picadilly Line and got seats, of course, since it begins at Heathrow. When we got on the Tube and the boys sat down, I felt a huge grin spread across my face. It was such an amazing feeling to see my boys on the Underground.
Then the tiredness kicked in. Zane fell asleep, first laying his head on Colin’s shoulder and then switching to the shoulder of the man on the other side of him. Jude fell asleep hard too. We had to switch trains at Green Park and then it got a bit crazy since it was rush hour. The boys and I and two of our bags got on the carriage, but Colin didn’t make it on with the other two of our bags. So the boys and I travelled to Stratford on our own standing for much of the way with our bags – a true Underground experience. Zane was so tired and not feeling great by this time. We got off at Stratford and Colin arrived on the next train.
We headed for our hotel, checked in and then headed down to the mall in search of SIM cards and dinner. The boys got their second wind and we got connected with UK SIMs and found some dinner. By this time it was after 9 pm and time to head to bed, but not before a bit of play time on the playground conveniently located outside the hotel for the boys while I got our room and belongings organized in the hotel.
Off to sleep feeling content and excited about the adventure ahead.
Travelling with slightly older kids, it was great not to have everyone’s bags filled with toys and things to do. We kept it simple by loading books, Netflix shows, and games on our tablets and phones. Less stuff on the plane is always nice. The in-flight entertainment was also great and we all watched a movie together by syncing when we started the movie on our individual screens. We packed some games for down time at airports, though as the journey gets longer, you tend to want to spend airport time walking around rather than sitting. Water and snacks were our other important take alongs.
While the journey across London was long and tiring, we saved a lot of money by not taking the Heathrow Express into the center of London – money we would rather spend on experiences. And let’s face it, any trip on the Underground qualifies as an experience!