The family package at the Royal Garden Hotel London.
Back before Christmas I spotted a competition to win a half term break for two nights at The Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, London which included tickets to go on the London Eye, The Big Bus Tours and Madame Tussards, staying in a suite no less and including a 24 hour film package which included snacks.
In order to enter you needed to share a photo on social media using certain hashtags of your travels with the family. This was my tweet entry.
— Pink Pear Bear (@pinkpearbear) December 29, 2016
Christmas came and went and I thought no more of it. In fact, I had almost forgotten about it when I checked my email only to see that we had won! I was so shocked and absolutely thrilled! The children were so excited. They talked about it nonstop for weeks.
Right from the start, the hotel were really accommodating, happily checking dates for us and making sure that we were in the right room to suit the family best. I even had a personal phone call which was a lovely touch.
My husband had a few days holiday left to take and so we settled on a Sunday – Tuesday break with a very late train on the Tuesday.
When we arrived, we were a little early for check in, and so we sat in the restaurant and enjoyed a complimentary cup of tea! What could have been stressful with two children in an obviously five star environment was actually a relaxed (as relaxed as it can be!) experience thanks to the welcome rucksacks for the children given to us at reception as we arrived. Inside there was a colouring pencil set in an embossed box with a notebook, rubber and pencil sharpener. They are really sweet sets that are still getting a lot of use now we’re home. There was also a water bottle, a torch and a travel activity pack, pirates for my son and princesses for my daughter which they were both extremely happy with.
After our tea, our suite was ready and so we were taken upstairs by a member on the concierge team who was more then happy to answer any questions. We arrived into the lobby, (yes you read that right!), of our suite and the kids rushed in to explore. On one side was the lounge area with a dining table for four, a sofa which pulled out into a bed for the children and a desk area.
On the other, was an enormous bedroom with huge bed, a bathroom with not just a bath but also a large walk in shower, then another seating area and desk. Both rooms had really large televisions in, there was a tea tray and we were given bottles of water on the first night.
The Royal Garden Hotel is situated right next to Kensington Gardens and the room looked out over the park, with large, full width windows on both sides of the room and window seating across to make the most of the lovely views. We were overlooking Kensington Palace which was really exciting for the children.
The first evening, we traveled across to Angel to meet my best friend and her family for dinner at Pho. If you have one near you, I really recommend you try it, they are seriously child friendly and the Vietnamese food was the most authentic I’ve had outside Vietnam itself. We had a lovely evening and arrived home late.
Luckily we could have our breakfast in our room at the table at no extra charge. You fill in a card and hang it on your door before 2am and the breakfast is brought up at a time you specify. They even laid up the table for us. It was completely delicious and none of us could quite believe it when we first saw it. (Breakfast for all is included in the family package.)
After a hearty breakfast, we headed off to explore. After a chat with the very helpful Royal London Explorers* we planned our day. The Big Bus Tour tickets which are included in the family package, were probably the best things in our opinion. The bus stop was across the road and there are several different lines to choose from. The blue line is the one that passes the hotel and is an audio tour with headphones. I’d advise taking your children’s own headphones though, as the in ear buds didn’t fit them and they (and us!) got quite frustrated with them falling out repeatedly and needing to be put back in.
*’the hotel have a dedicated team of Royal London Explorers (similar to concierge but far more exciting sounding!), to find you the very best deals and to help you plan your stay to get the most from your visit to London.’
You can pick up the red line at Marble Arch and this was our favourite with live tour guides giving you amazing facts that I would never have known otherwise.
Top Tip: On our way home that afternoon, we were after the last bus time for the blue buses. We received slightly wrong info that we would need to get off and walk across Hyde Park to get back. This is not true! You can if you like, it’s a nice enough walk but with two tired kids and approaching dusk it was slightly on the stressful side as it’s a 30 minute walk! As we discovered on the second day, if you go to Marble Arch and get the purple line, the ‘Home James’, it drops you at the hotel steps! A far better option for tired teeny ones! 😀
One attraction that the hotel can get discounted tickets for is the London Eye. We have never done it before but I’ve always been intrigued. Bear in mind that despite having a ticket, you had to exchange that for a timed entry ticket and the queue for that was about 40 – 60 minutes when we were there.* Plus only one person can queue. I queued at around 12pm and we were given entry tickets for 3.15pm, returning at 2.45pm.
If you have the London Eye and the river on your left, keep walking and you should find plenty to keep you occupied if you choose to stay in the area and wait as we did. There are so many street performers and then if you keep going under the railway bridge, you will come to several different restaurants and then my son’s absolute favourite place, the skate park. He was exhausted though, and succumbed to sleep on a bench, despite all the noise and hustle and bustle!
*We were visiting at half term, fast track tickets are available but are very expensive. The Royal London Explorers are more than happy to discuss with you the best times to visit to avoid the worst of the queues.
After a brief nap, we returned to the Eye where we were directed to the end of a very long queue. Which we were in for over an hour, there are no loos before you get to the Eye that I saw so make sure you go before you get in line as it’s very difficult to get out. Buggies must be folded before you get on. Also worth noting that the ‘pods’ don’t stop moving and so you need to hop on and off quickly. Once on board, it is a 30 minute gentle rotation of the wheel.
Despite the blue skies and sunshine, it was a little bit too hazy for photos over towards Big Ben but the views the other way were astounding. I love London and spent many happy weeks there as a child and it was nice to get such an amazing view out across so much of the city. Despite all the queuing and the haziness, when asked what the best bit of our trip was, my son said the London Eye, so that makes it all worthwhile for me!
Today was a whirlwind!! We’ve been seriously spoilt by @royalgardenhotellondon after winning a comp to be Family Ambassadors and trial their new family package. After a breakfast so amazing we all sat open mouthed for a bit before tucking in, today was spent doing big bus tours,🚌 (amazing!!), the London Eye, 🎡 (almost worth the ridiculous queuing time! 🙄😂) and enjoying films with seriously scrummy snacks delivered to our room! London is doing us proud! Plus the England Rugby team are staying in the same hotel which has made my husband’s entire year!! All in all, very happy family indeed!! 😄
After the Eye, we hopped back onto the bus and did some more of the red tour. Which took us back to the other side of Hyde Park and our ill fated walk across the actually pretty enormous park! It’s lovely though, and there are cafes by the lake and a ridiculous amount of swans to gasp over. The hotel will actually loan out micro scooters, which we would definitely do if we stayed again, and also games to play in the park which I think is such a brilliant idea.
We were really having to cajole the children to keep walking and it was getting late (for the kids anyway!) so I phoned ahead. Part of the family package is a Food and Flicks deal, which is 24 hours of unlimited films and a food trolley brought to your room. They had asked for an hours’ notice and so I spoke to reception and asked for it to come at 6pm. They couldn’t have been more helpful, including arranging to make sure it catered for me as a vegetarian too.
When we finally got them back to the hotel, we were having a chat with the Royal London Explorers and apparently I completely missed the England rugby team walk past! Turns out they were staying at the hotel and so my very excited mega fan husband took the kids for a drink in the bar to do some celeb spotting. It absolutely made his year seeing them I think!
Once they were back upstairs, we settled the kids down with a film, and tucked into the most delicious platters of food, all homemade and served in the room. Afterwards, a lady from the housekeeping team came to turn the kids’ sofa into their bed, and once they were asleep, we watched a film ourselves in the bedroom. The films are all fairly new and so I finally got to see Bridget Jones’ Baby!
The next morning, the kids woke early, and after coming through to get their rucksacks, amused themselves quite happily in their room with their activity packs and we got to lie in bed. Bliss!
After another amazing breakfast, it was check out time. We were all very sad to be leaving and wanted to move in! We still had a full day though, and the hotel very kindly stored our bags for us. During the off season months, the bus tickets are 24 hours plus 24 hours free and so we had another full day to use them.
We got the bus up to Madame Tussauds which was another activity on our list…….but unfortunately the queue was all the way down the street just to get the ticket, before another queue. After a brief family discussion, we decided that instead of a day in the queue, we would rather see some more of London and try to see the changing of the guard, not the big affair at the Palace itself, but just down from Trafalger Square there is an hourly change of guards on horses so we decided to aim for that. We hopped off the bus outside Hamleys first though, and spent some happy time in there looking round before walking down to the horses….and missing it by three minutes!
A few more stops on the bus and then it was lunch at Bills near Covent Garden. By this point, the smallest members of our group were clearly exhausted and so the two of them spent the time waiting for the bus being generally very silly and annoying! We wanted to wait for a red tour and complete the loop and they are roughly every 20-30 mins. The blue buses with headphones are far more regular.
There is also a boat tour included and we were planning to get the boat back however, someone fell asleep again 😀 and so we decided just to relax and stay on the bus all the way back to Marble Arch, where we swapped to the Home James which dropped us neatly back at the hotel steps to collect our bags and head back to the station to go home.
I don’t think you need to ask whether we had a good time and what we thought of the Royal Garden Hotel. I loved the whole idea of the Family Package, it really made our trip hassle free. The Royal London Explorers are more then happy to spend time helping you plan your trip and can get discounted tickets for most of the attractions which means you can tailor your trip to suit you, which is excellent if there is something you particularly want to do, or like us, you don’t want to do things that have very long queues. The Big Bus tour tickets are included though, and stops at, or near all the main things to see and do.
There is a choice of rooms and Family Package prices start from £375 per night for a family of four, comprising of room, breakfast for all, the food and flicks package and the Big Bus tour tickets, which I don’t think you can beat for such a beautiful and well situated hotel. The other thing worth noting is that although the hotel is a 5 star hotel that oozes luxury, they pride themselves on being unpretentious and we never once felt out of place there. Find more about the hotel’s Family Friendly Promise here. The other lovely thing about the hotel is that they don’t increase their prices during holiday periods as so many others do, which is so refreshing and means they can actually be very competively priced despite their well deserved 5 stars worth of luxury!
The only problem we have now, is that nothing is ever going to quite match up! 😀
Disclaimer: The Royal Garden Hotel did not ask me to write this post. Our stay and the attraction tickets were complimentary but I am choosing to write this review as I was so impressed with our experience.