London Hotel Advice (plus bonus question re travel to Amsterdam)

I would like hotel advice from the smart and well-travelled people of the SDMB. I’ve not been to London but will be going soon with my husband and two children (not small, but not yet teenagers). I have read TripAdvisor for hours and am more confused about hotels than I was before I knew anything at all.

Is there an optimal area in which to stay? Because of the kids, I would like to avoid London’s equivalent of Times Square, but I don’t want to be holed up in a primarily residential neighborhood either. I guess what I prefer is a place centrally located and near a Tube station.

I need a hotel with all the usual amenities: room service, internet access, dry cleaning, concierge, etc. I’m not particularly sensitive to price, I really just need a recommendation for a great hotel in a great area.

The bonus question is: What is the best way to travel from London to Amsterdam? I would guess it’s by plane, what with London being on an island and all, but I have been wrong many times before so I would not be surprised if I was wrong about this as well.

I took a ferry across to the Netherlands when I was there two years ago. It involved a train from London to the coast, then the ferry ride, then a train from the landing spot into Amsterdam.

It was neat. The ferry was huge and it had movie theaters and several restaurants. Flying would probably be fastest, but a ferry is a cool way to travel.

Excellent suggestion, thank you!

Sorry, I don’t have a specific recommendation.

But, if I was staying in London with kids, I would try to get a hotel near Hyde Park. Scratch that — I would get a hotel near Hyde Park. It will be more expensive, but the surrounding areas are very nice (tons of mews houses), and that’s just such a neat place for kids. Plus, right in that area you have the Natural History Museum (which kids love) and Harrod’s. And anything else, remotely touristy — like the Tower of London — is only a short tube ride away.

(On preview — here would be my process: (1) go to hotels.com or someplace similar and search near landmarks. The landmark would be “hyde park.” (2) see which hotels are within my price range. (3) research those hotels on places like tripadvisor. It also occurs to me to tell you that many hotel rooms in Europe are slightly smaller than American standards. Not something that should bother you, but it sometimes skews results on sites like tripadvisor, e.g. “1 star, because that dang room was so damn small you couldn’t fit my Suburban in it!” <— joke!)

The fact is, though, you’re almost always near the Tube in London and it will take you anywhere. And your kids will love the tube and figuring out the map and how far everything is.

Also, if you don’t end up taking the ferry, booking your flight to amsterdam on a low cost airline would be a good idea. I’d do it as soon as you can finalize your trip plans. (low cost airline = something like easyjet).

Good luck!

For the ferry, there’s a fare that includes rail travel either side: http://www.onerailway.com/templates/promo.aspx?id=2009

From central London, you need to factor in the cost (and hassle) of getting to/from airports into the overall price of the cheap flights available.

Second Vote for staying near Park Lane. Hyde Park is simply stunning in the summer (assuming you’re coming over in the next 1-2 months) and a great place to take the kiddies. Stuff to do, stuff to see, and close to lots of other stuff. Slightly less expensive would be any hotels near South Kensington tube station; that’s close to Harrods and the Park still, but a bit cheaper. Also Regent’s Park is quite nice, what with the canals and the zoo.

If you’re truly not adverse to paying out the bum (check me out - I’m like almost a Brit using slang like that! :)) I’d check out Mandarin Oriental

Do be prepared to be shocked, however - the hotel prices here are astounding, and you don’t get nearly as much bang for your buck as in the US.

Plane is probably fastest, but, you can actually train it as well if you like - Eurostar to Bruge from London Waterloo, then take overland trains from Bruge to Amsterdam. You can also do Paris - Gare Du Nord is 2.5 hours from London Waterloo by train; then you can take a train from Gare du Nord (or possibly Gare du Est) to Amsterdam.

Last time in London, I stayed at the hotel in Charing Cross Station … the “Thistle Charing Cross” I believe it was called. That was excellent - it was within walking distance of the Mall and Hyde Park, and while the station offered loads of amenities and a quick access to public transportation, the surroundings weren’t seedy at all. One thing, though: If you go to stay there, I read on TripAdvisor that you have to specify what wing you want to be put up in; as they said only one is newly renovated (I have no idea, which one it was, though, or if this is actually true - I did not specify anything and my room was fine).

Slight nitpick. The Eurostar trains goes to Brussels and not Bruge. You change in Brussels for the train to Amsterdam.

We were pleased with staying at the Thistle Victoria. It sounds similar to the Thistle Charing Cross. It adjoined a major train and tube station with a sizable mall. We were pleasantly surprised by the size of the room. A downside was that it was quite a ways from the entrance to our room, it may even have required changing elevators. It was walking distance to a lot of sights. There was also an express train to the airport (Gatwick) at Victoria Station.

I didn’t have kids with me, but I had a good experience with Premier Travel Inn, which is a UK hotel chain. No frills and no charm to speak of (it was a bit like staying in a generic chain hotel in the US), but no problems, either. I think we stayed at the Southwark one, which was actually more convenient to the Embankment Tube station than the Southwark Tube station. Southwark is a nice area of London, though, in medieval and Renaissance times, it was a high-crime area with lots of brothels, theaters, bull- and bear-baiting arenas, and prisons. It’s not like that now, though the rebuilt Globe Theatre is there. It’s well worth going to a play, especially a Shakespeare play, there, and being a groundling (standing in the area right in front of the stage) is fun. The actors on the stage sometimes throw stuff out towards the groundlings (as they supposedly did in Shakespeare’s time), so it might even be fun for kids.

You want to stay near a station in Zone 1 of the Tube (the white area in the center). It’s much more expensive (and takes longer) to travel between zones than it is within a zone, and Zone 1 is going to have the central-London stuff you’re probably interested in doing. You don’t want to spend your whole vacation on the Tube.

If you’re flying through Heathrow, an advantage of staying near a Tube stop is that you can take the Tube to Heathrow. It does take a while, though.

The pound being around $2 now isn’t going to help, either.

Don’t expect amenities like room service. You may or may not get stuff like air conditioning and a private bathroom- be sure to ask when you make your reservation if that’s important to you. You may or may not have to pay extra for breakfast at the hotel.

Both correct, although there’s plenty more to say on the topic.

There’s non-express trains to Gatwick both from Victoria and from a number of other stations across central London, which are a fair bit cheaper. Other stations served include Blackfriars and London Bridge, which can be much more convenient depending on where you’re heading to/from.

The Heathrow Express isn’t cheap, and isn’t handy unless your hotel is in the vicinity of Paddington or you’re then prepared to pay for a cab as well. The Underground is your more likely best option.

Stansted and Luton airports have lots of flights to Amsterdam, but are both a long way out of town. There’s train routes to both, and also cheaper but slower coach services. Also check flights from London City, with VLM, which may not be as cheap but are much more convenient.

If you are looking for slightly cheaper accommodation, but still central with good access to transport, you might have a look at some of the youth hostels in London (linky). A few of them have private family rooms that can sleep two adults and two kids, for between £70-£100/night. I stayed at St Pancras YHA last time I was in London on holidays and a single dorm bed (including breakfast) cost me £25. Plus the hostel is literally across the road from Euston Road / St Pancras station.

I am neither a parent nor an experienced world traveller, but when I stayed in London it was at the Crowne Plaza St. James. Right near Buckingham Palace, Tube station right around the corner, short hop from Victoria station as well.

I got one of their small rooms as a deal on travelocity - I think they’re quite expensive. They have one or two restaurants on-site, room service, hot pot/instant coffee in room, cable…not sure if they have internet because I don’t have a laptop. My room was pretty small, but the bathroom was nice, and the staff was always very friendly.

ETA: looking at the website, they do have internet access. And if you come in via Gatwick, the Express train runs into Victoria station.

I’d second/third/fourth the suggestion that you go by Eurostar from Waterloo to Brussels and then change to an Amsterdam train. The Eurostar service is superb, I’ve used it many times going to Antwerp and have always enjoyed the trips. Going on from Brussels to Amsterdam is a trip I’ve done a couple of times and that’s a very enjoyable way to travel.

If your children are old enough to appreciate it, I’m sure they’ll like the train journeys rather than an impersonal flight.

If you do decide to go down the Eurostar route however, book early. Else you’ll be paying a small fortune.

Similarly, if they haven’t been on a large ship before, the Harwich - Hook of Holland train-boat combination could be a lot of fun.

As long as the sea’s calm !

Last time we were in London, we stayed at the Strand Palace Hotel. We had Kiddo with us, he was 4½. We were treated really well and the staff seemed to really like kids. The complimentary full English breakfast was outstanding. Often we didn’t even need to eat lunch. The nearest tube station is Covent Garden. The Lyceum Theater (home of the Lion King) is right around the corner.

This is a great site to visit for all kinds of info about London. Hotels, restaurants, sights to see and discounts! Their hotel section is very helpful.

If you or your husband are active or former military*, there is the Union Jack Club right outside the Waterloo tube station, which I found pretty convenient. Overnight rates are very inexpensive, and it’s geared towards the retired or separated enlisted people. Officers have to pay to become members, and also for overnight lodgings, which makes it less of a good deal. I remember the rooms were very small but also very inexpensive and extremely convenient to the rest of the city. If you’re not out exploring the city all day and most of the evening, your kids may find the accommodations lacking compared to even the most modest U.S. chain hotel. I don’t think my room had a TV (due to gov’t regulation of TV sets).

    • UK, US, Canadian, and Australian (also NATO?) military are all eligible, and/or some police and fire services – if you’re even close consider calling and asking if you’re eligible.