A quid a kid for train to London – worth it for a wander

IS it just me, or do you feel a pressure to be some kind of entertainment impresario during the school holidays?

After the usual day or two of general slobbing about, I seem to be required to have sorted a daily schedule of Things To Do, and to be frank, I don’t really know why I bother.

We don’t ever tend to jet off on any kind ‘proper’ holiday at Easter, and usually will fit in a visit to the grandparents ‘oop North’ if possible. But that fell through last week when the 15-year-old family camper broke down and needed parts that couldn’t be delivered until after the bank holiday.

So, what to do instead?

You might avoid London in the holidays, what with the massive cost of the tourist attractions and the inevitable extra queuing due to Easter.

But it’s actually quite good fun and value for money if you just get on a train and go for a wander.

We had to get to Waterloo last week for a short appointment, and then had the rest of the day to mooch about.

Don’t be conned by the ridiculous train fares quoted online. Instead, buy from the ticket desk people at – in our case – Northampton rail station, who seem to know the cheapest way to get you around. As long as you avoid trains that get into London before 9.59am, or back home between 4.45pm-7pm, you can get an adult and four children to London and back, including unlimited bus and tube travel around London, for £31.40.

That’s £28.40 for me, a QUID EACH for Jed, 14, Doug, 12 and Billy, 8, and four-year-old Bonnie travelled completely free. The petrol, parking and congestion charge would have been considerably more if we’d driven.

If you do fancy a trip to London this week, don’t head for the usual attractions without a fist full of vouchers (you’ll find them everywhere online, particularly on transport and tourism sites, but check their ‘valid from’ dates).

Or give up the queuing and go bus hopping instead. This is a favourite with the kids, who aren’t keen on being dragged around the tube network and much prefer the view from the top deck of a London double decker. With a travelcard you can pick up any route, and if you have a smartphone you can get apps that show you where the buses go to and from wherever you happen to be.

I bribe my kids, using the power of sweets, to spot ‘interesting’ things. They spotted Ghandi’s statue, while another saw a plaque about a zeppelin crash. Poor Bonnie, desperate to join in, just kept shouting and pointing: “There’s a house! And there’s a another house!”

As long as the weather is good and you have plenty of food and drink bribes, you can also wander on foot and see lots too. We walked miles along the river Thames, from Blackfriars Bridge past the OXO Tower, along by all the SouthBank theatres, past County Hall and the London Eye, over Westminster Bridge to the Houses of Parliament, then jumped on a bus up Whitehall (as little legs were getting tired). A great view past Downing Street, on to Trafalgar Square, then another bus up to Piccadilly Circus and then Oxford Street, where we browsed in John Lewis, used their loos and went to have tea and cake in a cheapish café.

Next time we’re going to do the river in the opposite direction, past Tate Modern and the Globe Theatre, and then nip up to Stratford to see the Olympic Park before the summer action (which we don’t have tickets for).

We were dawdling by the end, heading on the tube back to Euston to get an M&S sandwich for the train home (after the 7pm peak). We got back just after 8pm, exhausted, entertained, and for once, not feeling ripped off.

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