Planning a family trip to London? The most important decision you’ll make is where to stay. There are plenty of hotel rooms (over 149,000!), but Optimism TravelingMom suggests you consider booking a flat with Airbnb. She thinks it’s the best lodging choice for families. Your first question may be “Why?” Your second? “What’s a flat?”
My adult children are very lucky. They have jobs. The downside though is that their employers sometimes send them thousands of miles away from Mom and Dad to work. And, while FaceTime is better than no time, it’s still not the same as an in person hug. So we packed up the family to visit my son who was working in a seaside village in England. We decided to meet up in London before heading to the coast.
One of our daughters was joining us too, so I started looking for 2 rooms for 4 adults in Central London.
I began with the chain hotels where I have memberships such as Marriott and Hilton. Of course, I didn’t have enough points for free rooms, but each had a number of properties in prime locations.
I had two problems, though, with booking a hotel in London: price, convenience, and tourists. Room rates at 4-star properties in prime locations were priced at $300 per night and I was going to need 2. For family chit chats, we’d need to gather in one of those rooms or in the hotel lobby. And, chain hotels in London were bound to be full of American tourists. We’ve earned our reputation abroad as “ugly Americans” because of the behavior of large packs of Yankees traveling together.
So I scrapped the hotel option and searched Airbnb. I’ve had wonderful prior bookings with Airbnb in Paris and NY’s Finger Lakes.
I was fortunate to find a 3-bedroom flat in my price range in South Kensington, one of London’s upscale neighborhoods. I booked it and crossed my fingers, hoping that reality would meet my expectations.
Fortunately, our Airbnb rental was perfect. Here’s why I think Airbnb is the best lodging choice for families in London.
1. Located Steps from Heathrow Airport via the Tube
After taking an overnight flight from the States, an American family wants hassle-free, inexpensive transit from the airport to your accommodations. Our Airbnb flat in South Kensington was a 4-minute walk from the Gloucester Road tube station on the Piccadilly Line. The ride was about 35 minutes and cost 6 pounds. The hardest part was remembering to look the opposite way when crossing the street.
TravelingMom Tip: In addition to the Tube connection from Heathrow to Central London, there’s a 15-minute train option, the Heathrow Express. It’s another option if you’re in a hurry to get touring. But it costs twice as much.
2. Staying at an Airbnb – Feel Like a Brit Within Minutes
Nothing will make you feel more like a local than referring to your flat in the mews. For those of you wondering what I’m talking about, a flat is an apartment and a mews is a street of former stables converted to residences. They are charming, with cobbled streets, and quiet nights, since they’re tucked behind the auto roads.
3. Gathering Places Made Airbnb the Best Family Lodging Choice in London
When traveling with my family, I prefer to stay in a place that feels like home. And the heart of any home is the kitchen. Having access to one, especially a well-equipped modern one like our Airbnb in London, made it easy for us to plan our touring for the day while enjoying a home-cooked breakfast. That helped reduce trip costs.
4. Live like a Local in a London Airbnb
I chose my Airbnb because it was located in a neighborhood. My old neighborhood, to be exact. I’d lived in London for 6 months and part of the excitement about our trip was that I’d get to show my kids the streets I wandered when I was their age. We drank pints in my old pub and ate our meals in small restaurants recommended by our Airbnb host.
5. Getting Around is Easy for Families in London
We learned the ins and outs of riding the Tube quickly so we could get where we needed to go on time. Missing the Changing of the Guard in front of Buckingham Palace would have been a drag. We also relied on the cheapest form of transportation around – foot power. Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, the Royal Albert Hall, Natural History Museum and Harrods were all within easy walking distance.
Perhaps my favorite reason to use Airbnb is to indulge my vice for house porn. Even if I have no intention of using Airbnb for my trip, I still log in and search for high-end residences. I daydream about staying in a manor house and pretending to be Lord and Lady Grantham.
Alternatively, I drool over sleek, contemporary flats with walls of glass. My own home is a comfy (read: dog- and kid-friendly) colonial, brimming with stuff. In my fantasy life, I live like a mod hipster. And that’s what vacations are to me – a chance to live out a dream.
If you could live in a dream house for one night, would you choose a city penthouse, country castle or something else? Tell us in the comments!