A three-day London layover with jet-lagged kids: Our suggestions

Are you friends with jet lag? I am not, but sadly as I live in Western Australia there are many destinations where jet lag can hit badly, and flying long haul to Europe is one of those times.

Three-day London layover with jet-lagged kids

I always try to build in a jet lag buffer to the start of these trips, and this time it was a three-day London layover. With sincere apologies to London, I figured that if we ended up not doing too much during these three days it wasn’t the end of the world, because London’s a city you just keep coming back to anyway. It was more important to me that we were feeling fit and alert for Iceland.

Fortunately the jet lag wasn’t too bad, and we managed to get out and about a fair bit in London – but with a strong focus on pleasing the five-year-old to keep him on track despite his tiredness. It worked out great and I thought I’d share some of the fun experiences we had in case you need tips for a London layover too.

Day 1: London sights – Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and all that jazz

London is one of those cities which is familiar even to young kids – its famous sights pop up constantly in books and in TV and movies. My son wanted to see Big Ben after learning about it from a book on famous buildings and to visit Buckingham Palace because he’d seen his favourite TV art and craft guru Mister Maker standing in front of it many times.

Big Ben in London - A jet-lagged London layover with kids

Big Ben – only the top part is free of the London tourist crowds!

We’d arrived in London about 7 in the morning, caught up with a lovely friend (hi Jen!) and then at lunchtime simply headed out on the tube to do some sightseeing. It was sunny – this always helps when adjusting to a new time zone – and we were busy – so it worked out well.

The only downside was that there were all these other people in London! It’s probably always fairly crowded near Big Ben or Westminster Abbey, for example, but on a sunny summer day this is probably worse than ever. My son didn’t like the crowds much – though he did like seeing the familiar famous sights. And he slept well that night (so did I!).

Day 2: It’s all about the toys at Hamleys

Although I was angling for some more sightseeing (knowing my son had been quite obsessed with the Tower of London for a while when it was in a book he loved), he was really unhappy about the thought of being in big crowds again, so we went for a compromise outing: Regent Street to visit Hamleys Toy Shop.

Lego Queen Elizabeth at Hamleys Toy Shop, London - Outings for a jet-lagged layover in London

I’ve been to London to visit the Queen … at Hamleys toy store, anyway

Now this is a winner of a place if ever I’ve seen one. Seven floors of toys, lots of hands-on displays, even some excellent Lego models (a life size queen and corgi, and a realistic-looking telephone box, just to mention a couple). We spent a couple of hours exploring every nook and cranny here, and knowing it was just the beginning of a long trip my son was happy with my ruling that he could buy a couple of small and inexpensive toys, and came away with a great three-pack of model vehicles which had a London double-decker bus, a London taxi and a tube. They were played with endlessly on our trip and still get pulled out regularly today. He also got an A380 plane (similar to what we’d flown in on) and I think that still gets played with daily!

Visit to Hamleys toy store in London on a three day London layover

Happy camper after our Hamleys toy shop visit, in Regent Street, London

Day 3: Culture (and mummies) at the British Museum

We were flying out to Iceland in the evening of the third day, but this still left us with most of a day to explore. Given my son’s long-lasting interest in Egyptian mummies, the special mummy exhibition at the British Museum seemed to be the logical destination. The exhibition showed eight mummies and the CT scans they’d done of them – utterly fascinating!

British Museum - three-day London layover

Exploring the British Museum on the final day of our London layover

Of course, the rest of the museum was amazing too, and we also spent some time sketching interest artefacts from the Ethiopian collection – my son loves to draw and although I’m not very good at it, it’s always interesting to spend some time looking more intently at one thing, and drawing something is a great way to do that.

From there it was on to Gatwick Airport and a fairly long wait until our plane to Iceland took off – a wait that only modern electronics could really help …

Entertainment at Gatwick Airport - end of our London layover

Entertainment at Gatwick Airport at the very end of our London layover

Accommodation tips for a jet-lagged London layover

I’ve already raved about renting accommodation through Airbnb recently, but let me do it again: try Airbnb! I was keen to rent a flat or apartment in London so that we’d be able to self-cater and come and go as we pleased – essential when you’re overcoming jet lag. It also needed to be relatively central so we could do some sightseeing without too much drama.

Airbnb flat in Hammersmith, London for our three-day London layover

Our lovely Airbnb flat in Hammersmith, London

I found a gorgeous flat on Airbnb located in Hammersmith, very close to the Thames (I did some lovely walks along the river), a short walk to a tube station and with a supermarket nearby. It had a gorgeous garden out the back so when we were feeling weary from sightseeing we headed there and relaxed (usually with something special like fresh raspberries).

I always feel like a hotel is harder to settle in to if you’ve got kids who might be awake at midnight with jet lag, and they don’t have as much space to play, either – renting a flat was not only cheaper than a hotel but much more comfortable for our layover.


This post is part of Instagram Travel Thursday, a great way to discover new bloggers and Instagrammers who love travelling as much as we do – have a look through the links below and if you’re a blogger, join in!
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  1. Your flat was cute. And such a neat photo of the Queen.

  2. What a perfect trip you had!

  3. Great to see what you discovered in our hometown and that you had a good time. I’ve only recently discovered airbnb and just love it too!

  4. You certainly put that extra time to good use. Love the lego shot.

    • Thanks Alison. And yes I’m not one to sit around resting when I’m on a trip – I always want to make the most of it! Though I have definitely had to slow down on that since my son came along and that’s a good thing, too.

  5. Jetlag layover, excellent idea, I have never even thought about that! Need to keep it in mind next time we fly over your way 🙂

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