Two very different styles of guidebooks, London for Children and Let’s Take the Kids to London, give parents an overview of what I think is one of the world’s best cities to visit with children. Castles, kings and queens, Mary Poppins, the Tower of London, Peter Pan—all of these and more are already in your child’s consciousness if they’ve ever read a fairytale or seen a Disney movie. Depending on your needs (is this a first visit or do you want to explore the city in more depth?), one of these guides will fit the bill.
Let’s Take the Kids to London
Let’s Take the Kids to London
by David S. White. Writers Club Press, 7th Edition, 2007; $13.95
Author David S. White has made repeated trips to London with his wife and two kids in tow and his love of the city shines throughout the book. He writes as if talking to his best friend and it makes reading this book a breeze. More a primer to London than an all-inclusive guidebook, you’ll learn White’s tips for having a family vacation to remember without overwhelming everyone.
White dives right in, starting the book off with advice on visiting the Tower of London. His personal experiences and those of his children are invaluable for getting to the heart of what each attraction offers. Scattered throughout are details of London’s history, as well as insider’s tips, such as knowing how to obtain tickets to the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower, which only admits about 50 observers a night (request them at least six months in advance of your trip).
Throughout the book, White puts key information on sights in a box called “Where? When? £?” which has all the relevant details you need to visit an attraction.
Too much space is given over to basics, such as explaining about how to travel—for example, what happens on an airplane, how to not dress like a tourist, time zones, etc.—that could be better used in writing about other things.
Yes, for first-time visitors, travelers who need to know the basics, and for parents who feel insecure about traveling with kids. (Read White’s Pound-Saving Tips for Your London Vacation article.)
Time Out London for Children
London for Children, 2nd Edition
Time Out, 2008; $19.95
First off, I have to admit that the Cartoon Network logo on the cover of this book, plus ads scattered throughout, was an almost instant turn-off for me. Inundated by advertising at every turn, it is depressing to see adverts (to use the local vernacular) in a book. However, this isn’t a novel; it’s a guidebook and if this helps keep it in print, so be it. This guide is quite handy, packed with fascinating history and anecdotes of locals, as well as all the vital information you need to navigate the city.
Don’t be put off by the encyclopedic nature of this guide. It’s chock full of historical anecdotes, biographies of people such as the Boy Scouts founder Robert Baden-Powell, and a timeline of events from 66 B.C. to the present day. Colorful photographs capture kids exploring all of London.
With advice on where to get a kid’s haircut and throw a birthday party, this guide is clearly not just for tourists, but information like this really gives you an inside peek at London’s kiddie culture. And who’s to say your child wouldn’t like getting a haircut while abroad? Info boxes called “Lunch box” naming local dining spots are welcome and there’s a comprehensive chapter on dining with kids, often lacking in other guides.
I’m not that old and my eyesight’s not that bad, but still, the tiny print in this guide made for some tough reading. For those looking for a strictly tourists-only guide, this one might be too lengthy and digress too much.
Yes, but you may want to travel with a magnifying glass to read it.