London with Kids

Now that my kids are a little older (10 and 8), I feel like it is time to step up our travel game.  We have done many domestic trips in the US, and have been so lucky to visit family all over the country.  I was itching to go abroad with my littles, but for our first venture out I decided we should go somewhere that we speak the language.  LONDON!

The trip was incredible, and eight days in London turned out to be less expensive than five days at Walt Disney World.  Here’s how we did it:

Flight Shopping

The week of Thanksgiving, flights become insanely inexpensive for the following year.  I don’t know why, but we have found it to be true several years in a row.  If you are planning a big trip, watch the airfares right before Thanksgiving!  We found roundtrip flights from Indianapolis to Heathrow Airport, with a quick layover in Detroit, on Delta for $500 each.  Further, I had just opened a credit account with the American Express Delta Platinum card, which actually reimbursed me a small amount on my purchases with Delta!

Where to Stay

I love renting a home when we travel, particularly when the kids are along.  Staying in a hotel with kids is so tough – everyone has to go to bed when they do, there’s no kitchen or living area to relax in, and it just feels so crowded.  In London, I visited Airbnb and VRBO to scout the areas and prices that made the most sense for us.  I looked at maps of the Underground (the London subway) and landmarks, and tried to find an area that was quiet but walkable.  We settled on Knightsbridge, which is adjacent to Hyde Park and the Kensington shopping district, with great Underground access and short rides to most of the spots we wanted to visit.  My parents came along with us for this trip, so we rented a two bedroom apartment on a quiet side street.  Our host upgraded us to a three bedroom apartment for free upon arrival, which was a lovely surprise.  It was so nice to be a part of a neighborhood and to feel the rhythm of the people living in London, instead of being in a sterile hotel that could have been in any city in the world.  Also, there was a private park for the residents of the area and it was nice to have some greenspace for the kids to enjoy.

Where to Eat

We ate breakfast in our apartment each morning, which was so nice and kept food costs down considerably.  I drink a lot of coffee, so this was particularly nice to take care of before we were out and about.  We usually ate lunch at a shop wherever we were (TIP:  the kids’ meals at all of the royal historic places are huge and affordable) and then found a pub for the evening meal.  Many pubs serve food and children are welcome, unlike here in the U.S.

How to Get Around

We took the Heathrow Express from the airport to London, because we booked way in advance and it cost very little.  It would not have been a big deal to use the regular Underground (aka tube or subway) to get there.  We used the Underground for 90% of our travel in London.  Purchase an Oyster card at most any station, load funds on the card for use, then travel cash free until it is time to load more money.  Just tap the card on the blue light, wait for it to turn green, then go through the turnstile.  (TIP:  kids travel free on the Underground, so look for the handicap accessible or larger turnstiles so you can all go through at once)

What to Do

It depends on the age and interests of your children, but here were some of our favorites:

Tour for Muggles:  A guided walking tour of London that hits many of the spots that Harry Potter fans love.  We did this on our first day in London, and it was actually a fantastic way to get a feel for the city.  It also was a motivator for my jet lagged children to get up from their nap and get acclimated to the time.  A must for any Harry Potter fan!

Tower of London:  A fascinating look at the darker side of British history, plus the Royal Jewels are on display!  A Twilight Tour is available for those who dare to be scared.  We only left a few hours for the Tower, but wished we had an entire day.  Leave extra time for this!

Guided Tour of Parliament:  After having used quite a lot of audio guides, it was so refreshing to have a live person!  The British government runs quite differently from that in the United States, and the tour guides explain it in a lively and interesting fashion.  You must book these ahead, and I highly recommend.

Churchill War Rooms:  Absolutely fantastic.  Do not miss this.  I had to peel my children out after HOURS inside.  This is the actual underground headquarters that Winston Churchill used during WWII and it is incredibly interesting.

International Friends tours:  There are a lot of guided tours to choose from.  We chose this company based on many positive reviews, and we were not sorry.  We especially enjoyed the opportunity to take a small group tour of Stonehenge, Bath, and Windsor Castle – it felt more personal.

Sample Itinerary

Here is what we did, and when, for those of you who would like a head start on how to proceed:

Day One – flight arrived, check in to apartment, Tour for Muggles

Day Two – Buckingham Palace tour, Churchill War Rooms

Day Three – International Friends tour of Stonehenge, Bath and Windsor

Day Four – Westminster Abbey, tour of Parliament, London Eye

Day Five – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two

Day Six – Hyde Park, Kensington Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Globe Theater

Day Seven – British Museum and Tower of London, Thames River Cruise

Day Eight – International Friends tour of the WB Harry Potter Studio and Oxford

Day Nine – departure

Anything else?

Relax and enjoy the rhythm of the city.  We know we didn’t see everything we wanted to, but it is a vacation after all!  We look forward to coming back and enjoying more of the beautiful museums and other offerings in this fantastic city!


New York, New York


In the name of my blog, have you noticed how “life” is the last one in the list?  I will be the first to admit that “law” and “mom” dominate my time, with “wife” a sad third, and “life” getting the scraps.  I’m not complaining – I love my work, I love my kids, and I love my husband.  However . . . every so often it is SO MUCH FUN to put “life” first.

This past weekend, my law school roommate got married.  She and I are from completely different worlds – she grew up in Long Island and Manhattan, while I was raised in a small Midwest farming town.  When we would visit each others’ homes, we always felt like we were in a totally different world.  It was so much fun to share our experiences.  Unfortunately, our paths diverged after graduation, and we haven’t seen each other much since.

When I got the invitation to her wedding, there were a million reasons why I couldn’t go.  Anyone with kids knows the end of May/beginning of June is a tsunami of end of school events.  That weekend, we already had a baseball tournament, two birthday parties, and my husband was going to be out of town.  But, for once, I put “life” first and said I would come.  I lined up a sitter, booked my ticket, and off I went.

This was the best decision I have made in a while.  I didn’t know how much I needed a weekend of self-care.  I walked the streets of New York at my own pace, and went where I pleased.  I had my hair blown out at Drybar, I shopped, I drank coffee.  I laid in a king sized bed overlooking Central Park and ate chocolate.  I attended the most fantastic wedding of my entire life.  I danced for hours, I drank a tiny bit too much, and I ate breakfast sitting on a bench in Central Park.

This weekend was a reminder that putting myself first every so often is okay – in fact, it is important.  I returned to my family feeling rejuvenated, and more like myself than I have felt in a long time.

I guess we are always learning, right?  I am hoping this lesson sticks!


Busy Busy Busy!

I’ve been “not so great” about posting lately.  This fantastic Jen Hatmaker post sums up EXACTLY what’s been going on around here.

I’m barely keeping it together, people.  The end-of-school celebrations are taking up mucho tiempo, plus we had ten yards of mulch delivered before Memorial Day.  Ten yards is a LOT of mulch.  We decided to spread it ourselves, but of course my hubs threw his back out on day one of mulching.  Good thing I do massive amounts of core exercises, because moving that much mulch was serious work.  Nonetheless, by day 10 of moving mulch, even my back was out of sorts.  I had some physical therapy to un-stick all my joints, and now I’m back, good as new.

So, here are my latest obsessions:

Women's T-Thong Silver

Saltwater Sandals, in silver.  These are SO comfortable and they work with everything.

Athleta Hypersonic Bikini.  How AMAZING is this?!?!?  I want one.

A capsule wardrobe – I have been purging, purging, purging and it is so wonderful to look into my closet and only see pieces that I love!  Investment pieces, basics that can work with everything, and accessories to make outfits interesting.  Love.

Elk Rapids, Michigan.  The kids and I went for a long weekend, and I am obsessed.  It is near enough to Traverse City, the Leelanau Peninsula, and Sleeping Bear Dunes to take part in all of these wonderful areas, but sleepy and quiet enough that we can kick back and relax.  I want to move there immediately.

My organic garden, courtesy of our local seed library!  Our library has a variety of seeds that you can “check out” and plant.  We have tomatoes, sweet peppers, several varieties of pumpkins, squash, watermelon and string beans going for this year.  The littles are SO excited to watch everything grow, and I love that we are supporting open-pollination.

Selecting a new sunscreen for the season.  Have you see EWG’s new sunscreen guide for 2015?  There are so many great choices this year!  We are a pretty fair bunch, and so we go through a ton of sunscreen each year.  My battle is always to figure out how to balance our budget with a safe sunscreen.  I think this year’s pick is Alba Botanica Very Mineral Kids, as it has an EWG score of 2 and we were able to find it locally for $8 a tube.  Score!

What about you?  What are your obsessions as we enter Summer 2015?  I want to hear what’s new!