What’s the best option for seeing as much of London with kids, while not breaking the bank, and being convenient? The short answer is The Original Tour company in London. We received hop-on/hop-off bus tickets for 48 hours, a Thames River cruise and they even have free walking tours available. Remember how much we loved it in Porto, Portugal as well?
Like any big city, driving around can be a real pain. Not to mention the idea of driving “on the wrong side of the road” can be very intimidating to most travelers. That leaves a few options: The Underground is super handy, and a great way to get from Point A to Point B, but it’s not a good choice if you’re trying to get a feel for London and it’s myriad neighborhoods. Taxis are a little bit better, but they can get expensive quickly. The London buses are a good option, but they lack the flexibility/ease of seeing all the great spots that London has to offer. Of course walking is a great option, but with kids there is only so much walking they are willing to do.
So what is your best option for (A) seeing the city, (B) staying on budget, and (C) maximizing flexibility? That’s easy: The Original Tour – City Sightseeing London! If you’ve done any type of searching for London tours, I’m sure you’ve seen this company. We were lucky to partner with The Original Tour while we were in London, and we had a great time. The kids relaxed and enjoyed the ride.
We started our journey at Trafalgar Square where we picked up our tickets. They provided us with maps of London and the various routes they offer. In addition, the kids each received a free Kids’ Pack which contained an activity/quiz book. The open-top buses have three routes which cover over 80 stops throughout London. Once you’re on the bus, they provide each passenger with earphones to listen to the tour guide. If English is not your native language, no problem. They provide multi-lingual commentaries in Spanish, German, French, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Russian. We also loved the special kids channel they have.
If we’ve learned anything, it’s that traveling with kids adds another layer of complexity. With The Original Tour, getting the kids involved and excited about London was easy. Being able to see the monuments and sites of interest up close brings the kids closer to the history and culture than any book can. You can almost reach out and touch St. Paul’s Cathedral from the bus.
When the kids saw something they were interested in (London Eye, Covent Garden, Big Ben etc…), we just hopped off the bus. We walked around where we wanted, and when we wanted, and then hopped back on the bus. With buses coming every 15 minutes or so, it makes it easy to pick up where you left off. How’s that for flexibility?!
Heidi and I lived in London for almost 3 years, and we saw things on the tour that we didn’t even know about. Plus there were some interesting historical facts provided which the kids have studied in school. We crossed a number of the bridges in London, including Tower Bridge and London Bridge, and that was a great way for all of us to see different aspects of the Thames River.
While we thoroughly enjoyed the buses, the pièce de résistance was the Thames River Cruise. We had never done this when we lived in London those many years ago, so it was a must as far as we were concerned. And the best part? It’s included in the tour. Like the buses, their boats have an open area up top which is a superb idea. We started at the Westminster Pier with a fantastic view of the Houses of Parliament and the Elizabeth Tower (which holds the famous bell named Big Ben).
Throughout our boat cruise, the Tour Guide was pointing out historical buildings and facts (the one about the Union Jack was my favorite). We made our way up the Thames to briefly stop at the Tower of London Pier, and then we made our way to Greenwich. With the wind picking up and the sun going down, we started getting a bit chilly near the end of the tour, but were able to warm up in the lower level of the boat. The hot chocolate really hit the spot and the posh velvety seats were very comfy. This is really a great way to see many of the sights without all of the traffic and congestion. It was very peaceful with plenty of space to move around and take photos.
We didn’t have time to enjoy all that was offered with the free walking tours, but we will add that to our next visit. So if you find yourself in London, and you want to maximize what you see, check out The Original Tour. They have great packages, the convenience of online ordering, and they always seem to have some sort of special offer going. It’s highly recommended.
Key information about the tour at the time of our visit
(please check the official site for current information)
- Hop-on and hop-off as many times as you like on all routes at over 80 stops
- Free Walking Tours from The Original London Visitor Centre at Trafalgar Square:
- 10:30 – Changing of the Guard
- 13:00 – Rock ‘n’ Roll
- 15:30 – Jack the Ripper – from The Original Tour stop at the Tower of London (Tower Hill)
- Free Hop-on Hop-off River Thames cruise pass
- Service operates between 9am and 5pm every 15-20 minutes in winter with later and more frequent departures in the summer
- Entertaining English live-guided commentary on the Yellow Route
- Large fleet of dedicated multi-lingual vehicles with digitally-recorded commentary via earphones in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese and Russian on the Red and Blue Routes
- Blue Route gives easy access to many of London’s top museums, shops and attractions
- Superb, award-winning, modern, open-top bus fleet, over half with low-floor disabled access
- Kids’ Club with fantastic children’s commentary on the Red & Blue Routes and a free kids’ activity pack