London, England to New York to Alaska: Travel Days

Our flight out of London was early morning. We left the hotel about 6am after a few hours of sleep. Security and checking in was no big deal. So we had a bit of time to find a lounge. It wasn’t anything fabulous but as always they’re so nice to get away from the hub-bub of the main terminals.

We got onto our flight and that’s when we got the best surprise. It was such an empty flight! Ty’s seat was in the middle three seats and no one else was in his row. So I moved over and the kids had three seats to themselves while Ty and I shared three seats. It was glorious!! Just not feeling crammed or confined made it such a delightful flight. Best international flight we’ve had!

We made it through customs quickly due to Ty using MobilPass. It’s such a great app! Our hotel in New York which Ty booked specifically because it had a pool, however the pool was closed. πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ why they closed an indoor pool for the season makes no sense.

So instead of being able to burn some energy we had two kids stuck in a hotel room. We resorted to taking the kids to the hotel gym and working them out. πŸ˜„

We ordered some room service for dinner and crashed early. The past few days our schedules were so crazy so we were ok with extra sleep.

We also had to get up early, again, for our flight from New York to Portland. Thankfully the flights were easy and we had no issues.

Enjoying the lounge before our flight.

We flew New York to Portland to Seattle to Anchorage. Which sounds more miserable than it was. It really only added about an extra two hours to our day.

There really was nothing better than arriving back home. Even with all the snow and cold back in Alaska!

London, England: Adventure Day (Harry Potter Studio Tour Day!) Part 2

The saga continues πŸ˜„ My kids were totally freaked out by the Forbidden Forrest. Till the workers shared a secret with them. Aragog, Hagrid’s giant spider was made using coconut fur/hair. They LOVED this movie magic and it totally eliminated he scary factor.

We then got to explore Platform 9 3/4. You can walk through the train carriages and take blue screen photos on the train, pretending dementors are after you. πŸ˜†

We finally made it to the cafeteria area. This had something we’d all been looking forward too, Butterbeer!!!

Ty and the kids ended up trying Butterbeer ice cream, while I stuck with the original cold drink. Mine was way better!!!

We also took some time here to finish our lunches πŸ˜‰ and listen to all the extras on the audio guide. It was nice to do this while sitting down and we didn’t feel rushed.

They then have some outside sets, the Knight Bus, The Dursley’s House, Harry’s Parents Home, Serius Blacks motorcycle. All while movie studio fake snow was falling. It was so fun!

After being outside you can explore the special effects rooms. Again the amount of detail that when into every bit of these movies was overwhelming! They brought in a bird specialist so they could get the feather pattern on the Hippogriff (a made up animal!) as realistic as possible. 😳 That is just one example of how accurately they tried to portray every element of these movies.

We walked through Diagon Alley. It was so fun and you wanted to enter every shop!

Final part of the tour was the scale models and the artistic portrayals. Beautiful and incredible!

In the entry they have these life size photos of the cast, you can measure up against your favorites.

The best day!

So exhausting but so incredible. But now it’s 6pm. We had to catch the bus back to the train. The train was so full we had the kids sitting on our laps for the 45 minute ride. Then we switched to the Underground for another 30 minute ride. Went to our hotel and got our suitcases before getting back on the Underground for another 30 minute ride to the airport. πŸ€ͺ Our new hotel had a shuttle from the airport but by this point we were wrecked. So we booked ourselves an airport taxi. But not just any old taxi. It was a Tesla! Ty fell in love on that ten minute ride. Meanwhile I was just trying to keep R from getting car sick.

We finally made it to our hotel and threw everyone in bed. Since we were going to get up at 5am to make our flight to New York. Gosh London was a whirlwind but it was so amazing!

London, England: Adventure Day (Harry Potter Studio Tour Day!) Part 1

So to be completely honest the entire reason we came back to London this year, was to go to the Harry Potter Studio Tour. Ty and I were HP fans already. We started the kids on the audiobooks about two years ago. They fell for the stories, hard! The kids and I have listened to the entire series about 4 or 5 times, entirely now. It’s what we listen to anytime we’re in the car. So we knew this was going to be a wonderful experience!

We didn’t have entrance tickets till 1pm, so we walked around downtown London from our hotel. Played at a playground and the started taking the train out to HP. It’s about a 25 minute ride. From there you jump on a dedicated HP bus which takes you right to the studio. Ty had read that if it’s not busy they may let you in ahead of your scheduled time. So we decided to go for it, and we managed to get in right after noon.

(Be forewarned there is an excessive amount of HP associated photos in this post.)

I’m so proud of Ty on this day. He not only booked us the audio tour headsets, he got us the Official Guidebook, and he tolerated/supported the numerous gift shop stops throughout the tour! πŸ™‚

They also have these great little Passports (for free!) that you can grab at the entrance. It has you searching for snitches throughout the tour, and you get embossed stamps as well. It’s a great way to engage younger tour participants, or those who maybe aren’t huge fans. We were so busy looking at everything, we didn’t bother too much with the snitch hunt. But my kids did enjoy the embossing machines.

They first show you a short clip about the studio and the history of the movies being made there. Then they take you right up to the entrance of the Grand Hall and you start the tour by walking through it. It was all dressed up for Christmas and was a great way to start the tour. It was a bit rushed since they continuously start off new tour groups in there. So if you’re hoping to linger and really enjoy the details, you just don’t get that kind of time.

The audio headsets were great, for giving full details about each station, along with additional video clips, and still photos. We’d read the average person can see everything in 3 hours. We got in just after noon, and left just after 6pm. And personally, this felt very rushed! Looking back at Ty’s photos, there was a whole area that I missed! So if you’re true fans, please allow yourselves plenty of time.

From here we got to see the Gryffindor Common Room and the boys dormitory.

More costumes and amazing set pieces.

We got to walk through Dumbledors office. The attention to detail was incredible! It must have been an amazing experience to work on these movies.

They had a fun quidditch exhibit and we could practice our broom skills. πŸ˜‰

The burrow!

They had a dueling station thy was interactive. It was so neat, and the kids got to practice their moves!

More amazing set pieces.

They had a small set of the Forbidden Forest.

I’m going to end this post here. There’s plenty more to come from the day and this was about where we snuck into the bathrooms to take a belated lunch break! πŸ˜† We were no where near the cafeteria area and we desperately needed to refuel. So yeah, we blocked the handicap stall for like 5 minutes to stuff our faces and had a line of people waiting on us when we left. (Shame!)

London to Vienna Travel Day

We had a bit of a leisurely morning since we woke up before our alarm. Showered and packed up before getting the hotel breakfast. We left the hotel about 10am and walked to the tube closest to our hotel. It was finally running again after being under maintenance, the entire time we’ve been here. With one easy transfer we made it quickly to Gatwick Airport. So much faster than on our way into the city! This was also after Ty having four days of experience with the tube by now.

We got checked in and through security with no issues. Tried to get into the lounge and they were at capacity. So we found some seats and settled in for about an hour. The kids watched some shows on the iPad and Ty and I caught up on phone stuff. Another bonus part of this credit card with the lounge passes is the ability to have free food credit and certain restaurants. So we grabbed some muffins, bagels and yummy breakfast foods before our flight. Then showed our Priority Passes and voila free food! No really it’s something more exact than that. πŸ˜„ A certain dollar amount or such and such but really the credit card details aren’t my thing. I’ll have Ty write all this up in a post.

We boarded our British Airways flight and it was under two hours to get to Vienna. Again, nothing was free. Not even water. It’s all credit cards too so if we did want to buy a bottle of water for 2Β£ it seems silly to charge for that small of amount. A bit frustrating. But the kids were happy since they’d finally earned their chocolate frogs!

< The kids threw a fit when we had them stop watching the iPad for a potty break. We were starting to land so Ty put his foot down and took away the iPad. So we definitely had some fussy kids for the last bit of the flight. But hoping it leads to better behavior in the long run. 🀞🏻 Parenting while traveling, why don't we get a vacation too?! Landed in Vienna and got through customs with no issues. Ty's dad, Bob was waiting for us right outside customs and the kids were over the moon to see him! I think they were excited to have someone else to talk to. Bob had arranged for a driver to take us to the hotel. Such luxury! Walking to the car we were surprised how mild the temperature felt. We had a heavier long sleeve on and that's all that was needed. The hotel set us up on the same floor but couldn't get us near each other. Bob took the kiddos in his room and Ty and I got a room to ourselves! Traveling with grandparents can rock. We walked around the corner to a little Italian restaurant. The food was wonderful but it took over an hour to get our meal! Surprising since there were no other customers in there.
ick walk back to the hotel and everyone called it a night.

London Adventures – Day 4

We all slept hard last night. At one point though L woke me up by repeatedly poking me in the eyeball for water. How did he even find my eye in the dark? Why did he walk all the way around the bed past his father for me? Mystifying parenting questions. But we all managed to sleep into 9am, which is a miracle!

After our hotel breakfast we debated our best chances for a church service, the location, and time. The draw for my non-catholic husband is you get to save the hefty admission fee if you go for a service. πŸ™„ But we’d missed the morning ones at that point so we hoped to make it to a late afternoon or evening service. So we headed for King’s Cross Station hoping to find Platform 9 3/4 and get a little Harry Potter fix. We’d stupidly left buying tickets to Harry Potter Studio till about a month before our trip. Having no idea they’d sell out as fast as they do. Ugh that’s our biggest regret is had we’d known we could have bought tickets in time. Our kids are HUGE Harry Potter fans, as are we. So we thought we’d do what we could and find the platform and take a picture with half trolley. It was out of the way and by the time we got there it was noonish. We located the platform and the lines were insane!!! Over an hour wait to take a picture with the half trolley. Our kids were super disappointed they weren’t really going on the train to Hogwarts or that we couldn’t get to Diagon Alley. It was totally lame. Here’s the best photo I could get, and it’s of someone else. πŸ˜”

So we waited in line to get into the store. Which only took about ten minutes thank goodness. But was insanely packed with people and the worst place to have a stroller and two kids who wanted everything!!! We managed to survive it though and all we bought were two chocolate frogs, a packet of Berties Every Flavor Beans and a Gryffindor headband for R. They really wanted the large Hedwig, as you can tell.

We left there and went to see Buckingham Palace. Neat but swamped with people. We took a few photos. Saw the guards walk around a bit, possibly changing of the guard, don’t really know. Then we headed back to the tube for lunch and the Museum of Natural history.

The museum of Natural History was packed!! Right in the entry there is a cool escalator that goes up through a giant globe. So that’s the first thing the kids wanted to do. I got the stroller and headed for the nearest elevator since it wasn’t allowed. Well myself and two dads with their empty strollers proceeded to take a tour of all three other levels in that museum trying to catch up with our families. It got pretty ridiculous how either we got off on the wrong floor, or the elevator would take us down instead of up. We ended up working as a team for about 15 minutes trying to locate our families. Ah the joys of family travel!

The museum was neat but it was also overwhelming with people and noise. So we tried to enjoy it but that’s an exhausting combination.

We made it through and just outside they’ve set up the perfect tourist trap. You have to walk past a carousel and and ice skating rink! We gave into the carousel by told them they could ice skate at home for free. πŸ˜†

L of course sat next to some random woman who was riding it by herself. R was in the inside horse so I couldn’t get a good photo of either of them. What’s the point then?!

We left there to catch the tube to Westminster Abbey. Which was amazingly empty so the kids had a dance party at station stops.

We figured out that this is Big Ben. I’d heard that they were working on it but didn’t expect all this scaffolding.

Saw a bit of Parliament. But I’m guessing it’s more impressive during the day.

But we did get to attend an Organ Recital at Westminster Abbey. It was incredible to hear that old pipe organ play. I’ve been wanting to hear one of those since we’ve begun visiting these old European churches. We didn’t stay for the full mass. It was getting late and everyone was tired, hungry and getting a bit cranky.

We took the tube back near our hotel. Found a great Thai restaurant and had a wonderful and quick meal.

Per our usual New Year’s Eve plans it is now ten o’clock. The kids are asleep and we probably will be soon as well. Happy New Year! We are looking forward to starting off 2018 as we love to, with more amazing travel. We’re off to Vienna tomorrow!

London Adventures – Day 3

This was going to be our big sightseeing day. We set an alarm to wake up by 7. No one was happy about the alarm but breakfast at the hotel was nice and calm at least. Then we set off for the London Tower. We read it gets crazy during the day so we wanted to be there right as it opened. We got there about 30 mins after it opened and it was just fine. We ended up leaving our stroller just inside the entry gate and walked around the whole outer wall/walkway.

We saw the Crown Jewels. They are incredible!! The diamonds were huge. The crowns numerous. Just not something you get to see every day. Then we came across a live performance they had on the grounds. The king and queen came through as well as their fool and entourage. The kids loved that part.

After exploring all of the grounds we grabbed a quick lunch nearby and walked to the Tower Bridge (aka what everyone calls London Bridge). You get to go up into the towers and walk across them. They have fun clear floor portions so you can see down into the road and water. Touristy but very neat. At some point L was using my phone to take pictures too.

From there we walked along the River Thames till we got to the Monument. Which we of course had to climb up!

Afterwards we stopped for a snack break then went to the Transportation Museum, which we’d heard time and again the kids would love. This Museum was fun! The kids got a map with locations of different stamps for them to find. This kept them on the hunt and the museum offered a great hands on glimpse of the different modes of travel through the ages in London. Very cool to explore and we left with some fun artwork.

We closed it down at 6pm and found our way to a small little indian restaurant. Everyone had happy tummies so we hopped on the tube and got everyone to bed. Where thankfully it was a quick bedtime routine before everyone was asleep.

London Adventures – Day 2

We slept in a bit today which was really nice! After breakfast at the hotel which was a total mad house. Like as soon as staff would bring something out it’d be gone in 30 seconds and they ran out of clean cups and plates. 😬 We managed to get enough to feed ourselves and then headed to the tube. Our goal today was the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland! We knew today was pretty much all for the kids. It’s a giant amusement park that has free entry but you pay for each ride or game or show. We booked ourselves the Cinderella on Ice show first.

< It was pretty good. Nothing outstanding. But the fairy godmother on stilt skates was impressive. Afterwards we went to say hello to Santa! R was a bit shy, but L raced right up to see him. Both kids were asking for more presents since Santa only seems to bring them little presents that'll fit into our suitcase. ☺️

After chatting up the big guy we walked around a bit before going to our second show. The circus! We were all pretty excited about this since Ty is the only one who’s actually been to the circus before. We were able to snag front row seats which was fun. I think we had high hopes for this show as well but again it was a bit of a let down. A singer with some so-so whip and lasso skills, a group of acrobats, a magician that seemed to flub his underwater trick, a somewhat entertaining clown type person, and probably the best was a tiny Italian guy who flipped up and down in a giant rotating metal wheel. But the kids got a kick out of it and it was fun to see with them. I’ll probably still say that we haven’t attended a real circus though.

Our last ticketed item was to ride the big wheel they had. We looked into riding the London Eye and it was super expensive and we’ve done these in other cities so we figured we’d compromise on the smaller wheel at Wonderland. We had a great view of the amusement park and a bit of the city. But mostly we enjoyed sitting down, and having a snack break.

Before we left we let the kids pick out one ride. The two roller coasters R really wanted to ride she or L wasn’t tall enough for so we talked them into some Fireman’s funhouse. Again, they enjoyed it. Which was the point of this whole place!

After that we called it a day for the Wonderland and took off across the park.

Ty had read that some museums stay open late the last Friday of the month. So we were hoping to get some Museum time in.

Both kiddos fell asleep on the walk over. Also the museums apparently don’t stay open late in December. So we had about an hour to do a quick run through the Science Museum since the kids were still sleeping.

After waking up two grumpy kiddos we scrambled to find dinner close by. It was a super busy area and we ended up grabbing sushi takeout and eating next door in the Starbucks because it was the only place with seating for four. Whatever at that point we were going bonkers with hunger!

Food in our tummies we headed back to the tube and the hotel. I proceeded to crash by 9pm but apparently the kids wanted to stay up late and chat. I was woken up at 11pm to a kiddo being tossed into my bed and Ty separating them with the consequence of no more desserts while we’re in London. Ah, the dreaded fall out from too long of a nap. Everyone eventually feel asleep except for myself. I was then up till 2:30am! Time change, jet lag, and hotel rooms with kids are a brutal combination for a nights sleep.

London Travel & Day 1 Adventures

So we left New York City bright and early. Got to JFK airport just fine. We had two hours before our flight so we went to the lounge. Ty’s got that system figured out with the right credit card that gets us into about 80% of the lounges out there. It’s a life saver when traveling with kids to have a quiet space to get away to. The free food and drinks are also a huge plus!

We boarded our flight just fine and took off for London. Now this was our first time flying Norwegian Airlines. Ty gave me a heads up before our flight that unless you pay for it you won’t get any food. Which was fine since it was a 5.5 hour flight and we grabbed a bunch of snacks and some cans of juice from the lounge. πŸ˜‰ But what I didn’t expect was that they practically ignore you if you haven’t paid for food service. No water, or any drink is offered. They basically wouldn’t pick up our trash unless it was shoved at them or we placed it in their trash bags ourselves! I found that part totally bizarre. Why would you not want to maintain the cleanliness of your airlines? But other than that odd bit, the seats were nice, they had built in screens and chargers, with plenty of leg room.

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With a five hour time change we didn’t get into London till 11:30pm. We knew it would be late night so Ty had booked us a hotel that was a 10 minute walk from the airport. We grabbed some food at a grocery store in the airport, so convenient! Then made it to the hotel and had the kids fed and in bed by 1am. Seems late but didn’t feel quite that bad due to the time change.

So I was of course awake at 6:30am but Ty and the kids, I had to wake them up at 10:30! We packed up and headed back to the airport about 11:30, to catch the train into the city. Again, grabbed some breakfast from the airport grocery store before figuring out the train system. This beginning our long drawn out ordeal of getting to our next hotel.

We made it to the right platform but got on the wrong train. Not figuring that out till it had already pulled away. Ty being the map reader extraordinaire that he is, had a new route planned out in no time. We got off at the London Bridge stop took a short walk from the train station to the tube and also got to see a few sights.

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We made it to the tube and got on the train headed in the right direction. Got off one stop too early and found out from a nice gentleman they’re doing line maintenance right on the end of the line we wanted. So we hopped back on the train and got off again at the next stop. Talked with the local workers and figured out it was easier to walk to the hotel then try and mess with the local bus.

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This was right outside the tube trying to make sure we were going to right way to the hotel. This was at 2:30pm, so it’s been three hours and we’re still trying to find our hotel. Everyone was a bit over it by this point. Not exactly the most efficient use of our time in London but this is real life travel. At least the views were nice!

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About 20 more minutes of walking, including an extra five past our hotel. Thank goodness Ty spotted it behind us! Even traveling as light as we are it’s still tiring pulling a suitcase or carrying a 40 pound kid on your back. It was very nice to finally check in and unload all the unnecessarys.

It was getting late and we’d hoped to have high tea and make it to the Transportation Museum today. However, we ran out of time and had to choose one. Hoping we will have time for the museum later we went for high tea at The Delaunay . I had found it online and it had reasonable prices compared to everywhere else I had researched. Knowing our kids were a bit young to fully enjoy either the tea or the finger foods. I still really wanted that experience with them and R is so into everything fancy I knew she’d really enjoy it.

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Hot chocolate for the boys.

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Right before she spilled tea down the front of herself. I told her to raise her pinky and she tipped the whole cup instead. 😬

The food was so pretty! The kids liked about half the desserts. The scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam were my favorite! It was completely fun to try but the kids didn’t really enjoy the food and it was way to fancy for real life. But really we went for the experience, and I’m so glad we tried. No one broke anything, and we didn’t seem to bother anyone around us. SUCCESS!

Afterwards we walked around the Covent Garden Market.

So when we first arrived at Covent Garden station everyone was queuing up for the lift. We couldn’t figure out why everyone was waiting for the elevator?! So we passed them all and headed for the stairs. Then we saw this sign which explained it.

This station was WAY underground and you had to climb up 193 steps to exit the underground. It was a hoot, Ty carrying the stroller, myself, and our two rather young kids were passing up quite a few people on the way up those stairs! Was fun to experience but we definitely took the lifts on the way back down.

So after arriving back to our closest station we head back to the hotel and Linc starts fussing about wanting to get in the stroller. This starts an epic fit he threw for about 30 minutes. All the way through the station, down the street, over a bridge and through the town till we got to our hotel. We wouldn’t let him get into the stroller till he stopped fussing. Well he never managed to calm himself so he walked the entire way.

This was one of a few stops to pout and pretend he wasn’t coming with me. There was yelling, threats and tears. It was quite an event.

Ty and R stopped to get some crepes for dinner but there was no way I was taking L into a restaurant. So he and I went back to the hotel. Where he was promptly fine and dropped all attitude.

Traveling with kids is not for the faint of heart! It can be so rewarding and amazing. Ryder had a wonderful conversation with a young man from Vietnam on the train today. She learned he speaks 5 languages and how that she could do the same if she wanted. On the other hand, you have to be tough enough to handle stares from strangers wondering why your child is throwing themselves on the ground screaming. Or the embarrassment from your child loudly announcing they just wiped their booger on the grab bar on the metro. And that’s just what happened today!