Although we love a family adventure in Yorkshire, there are times when we also venture outside of ‘God’s Own County’ (yep, really!). Our latest family holiday took us all the way down to London. I say holiday, it was actually a necessary trip to the US Embassy for a passport renewal, but we decided to make the most of it by fitting in a bit of sightseeing as well.
We have become regular YHA guests and, as our trip to London was a quick 24 hour affair, we thought we’d give YHA St Pancras a try, the hostel being just a few minutes walk from the Kings Cross Train station. Our hope was that being next to the central hub might help us make the most of our time in the city.
Straight away we appreciated the proximity to the train station as after a 2.5 hour train ride, it was just a few minutes walk to the hostel with all of our bags. This allowed us to quickly drop our backpacks off in the storage lockers at the YHA and travel luggage-free for the rest of the day.
The newly refurbished cafe/bar area at the YHA serves up pizza, drinks, and treats and is very modern and inviting. The kids enjoyed chatting with the ever friendly staff, while Bill and I got the luggage sorted.
Bags dropped, our first stop for the day was the National History Museum which was, unsurprisingly, very busy during half term. Keeping track of excited, over stimulated kids was a job, but it was absolutely worth the stress. There is just so much to see: dinosaur fossils; long extinct mammals and giant bugs to name just a few of our favourites.
Our next stop was The London Eye. We had prearranged fast-track tickets, as we had been warned that the queues could be immense. Full disclosure: We were provided two adult tickets for this review but purchased the kids tickets ourselves. I am not sure I would normally have gone the extra cash for the fast track tickets, as I am a bit frugal, but I was so very glad we had once we were there! As you can imagine after a long train journey, tube stops, the museum and loads of walking, spending less than 10 minutes in the fast track queue was a welcome break for us! If you’re fitting a lot in a day like we were, I can definitely recommend the convenience of fast track tickets. If you buy them online in advance, they can be bought a bit cheaper than at the gate.
I had been on the London Eye before and, I have to admit, I was a little bit worried that my four year old wouldn’t like it. He hates fair rides and is a bit scared of heights. I needn’t have worried, he absolutely loved it! You can see him in the video trying to hide under the bench so he can go around a second time.
We headed back to hostel running on fumes. We retrieved our luggage and checked straight into our room. As always with YHA bedrooms, it was basic but clean, warm and comfortable. There was plenty of room and storage and we always appreciate an en suite bathroom, which comes with a family room.
Luckily we didn’t need to go far for dinner. The YHA St Pancras had a slightly more limited menu than previous YHA’s we stayed at, but the kids were in the mood for pizza. (Which was good as that was the only item currently on the menu).
The food came in matter of minutes (along with a glass of wine for mum!). The cafe/bar/eating area was friendly and relaxed. There were other families and people checking their phones etc. We didn’t feel out of place playing our new Baby Animal Top Trumps after dinner and didn’t feel the need to worry about the kids staying quiet.
Thoroughly worn out, the kids slept really well that night. There was no noise from other rooms or hallway. Sadly, the adults didn’t fare was well. Despite the time of year, it was really warm in the room and after a few restless hours Bill got up and opened the window. Then the city noise from the Euston Road outside made it hard to sleep. It wasn’t until the next morning I noticed that we had both a plug in AC and heater in the room. I reckon keeping the window closed and running the AC on low would have sorted us right out!
The next morning we all had an early continental breakfast in the YHA television/communal room. There was plenty of fruit, yogurt, cereal and coffee to get us started for the day!
We got really lucky with our passports and we were in and out of the US Embassy in less than an hour. This left us with a few hours before our train left, so we headed to the excellent Diana Memorial Park Playground in Kensington Gardens. As it was our first visit, we didn’t realise the park had opening hours. We got there at 9:30, a half an hour before the park opened. The kids talked us into an ice cream and the grown ups enjoyed coffee while we waited for opening time with a few other eager parents and kids.
The Diana Memorial Playground is easily the best park I’ve ever been to. It had a fantastic, wild atmosphere, with tepees, a pirate ship and plenty of space for running off steam. Entry and exit is through a secure gate and the park is staffed by the council, so it feels safe to let your little ones have a bit of independence. The most amazing of all is that this wonderful public space is absolutely free!
The YHA St Pancras was a really good fit for our extra quick trip. The proximity to the train station really helped us get around and see a lot of the city. It was clean, comfortable and child friendly, but for a longer stay I would prefer to stay at YHA Oxford Street as it has a communal kitchen and a bit more for kids to do.We were invited to stay at the YHA and provided two tickets to the London Eye for the purpose of this review.