Family walking through reception of Hampton by Hilton Waterloo in London
Family travel, Holidays, Hotels, UK

Keeping family city breaks real with Hampton by Hilton

Family city breaks can be full of high expectations. You’ve seen the amazing pictures on Instagram and trawled TripAdvisor for the best places to visit. But we know from experience that visiting a bustling metropolis with children doesn’t necessarily always make a picture perfect break.

*Advertisement feature*

[AD]Are you fed up of over-filtered travel snaps on social media? Here's a #RealTravel photo diary from our family city break in London with Hampton by Hilton including our tips for city breaks with kids #citybreak #familytravel #familytravelblog #TinBoxTraveller #Hilton #hotel #break #getaway #tips #travel #London #England

Hampton by Hilton is celebrating the real side of British travel and invited us to stay at one of their London hotels to capture the unfiltered truth behind family city breaks.

This is the cornerstone of Hampton by Hilton’s latest campaign, #RealTravel. They know that holidays don’t always mean lounging by an exotic pool, cocktail in hand, and that people travel for a huge variety of reasons. In response, Hampton by Hilton appointed one of the UK’s leading documentary photographers, Ian Weldon, as its ‘Realist in Residence’.

Ian captured a series of candid photographs showcasing the warmth, fun and human connection of travellers who needed little more than a welcoming bar, comfy bed and hot breakfast to fuel their football match, birthday party or university reunion.

Young Harry, 8, sneaks a pre sit-down snack with a cheeky marshmallow as he makes a waffle with the help of his sister Caitlin, 12, and her best friend Emma, 11. The photo series, entitled ‘This Is Real Travel’, was captured by one of the UK’s leading documentary photographers - Ian Weldon. rrAppointed by hotel brand, Hampton by Hilton, as their ‘Realist in Residence’, Weldon captured images during a weekend at one of their UK hotels, to celebrate the real side of British travel

Sneaking a cheeky marshmallow at the waffle maker.

Sally from Linlithgow, gets to grips with the wonder of a waffle… much to the bafflement of Morris dancers, Gillian and Ruth. The photo series, entitled ‘This Is Real Travel’, was captured by one of the UK’s leading documentary photographers - Ian Weldon. Appointed by hotel brand, Hampton by Hilton, as their ‘Realist in Residence’, Weldon captured images during a weekend at one of their UK hotels, to celebrate the real side of British travel

Sally from Linlithgow, gets to grips with the wonder of a waffle… much to the bafflement of Morris dancers, Gillian and Ruth.

Sharon, 22, David, 50, Matthew, 47, Kuda, 22, Cameron , 22, and Chiedza, 17, all cram into one bedroom to surprise cousin, daughter and niece Chloe Mugwangi, 23, before she jets off on her travels to Australia. The photo series, entitled ‘This Is Real Travel’, was captured by one of the UK’s leading documentary photographers - Ian Weldon. Appointed by hotel brand, Hampton by Hilton, as their ‘Realist in Residence’, Weldon captured images during a weekend at one of their UK hotels, to celebrate the real side of British travel.

A family crams into one bedroom to surprise Chloe Mugwangi before she jets off on her travels to Australia.

Real Travel photos

Hampton by Hilton asked us to capture real moments during our weekend break in London, showing what a trip away means to us as a family.

I love a pretty picture as much as the next person but if you check out my Instagram feed you’ll see that my grid posts are less than perfect. 

Insta-perfection is hard to achieve with two busy primary schoolers who quickly get fed up of mummy pointing a camera at them.

And to be honest, that’s not what we are about. We want to share the good and bad from our travels, including the funny faces, bloopers and when things have gone wrong, as well as our favourite memories.

So, here are some real travel moments from our stay at Hampton by Hilton Waterloo – candid and unfiltered – plus some of our top tips for making the most of city breaks with kids:

Family walking through reception at Hampton by Hilton Waterloo in London

Hotels are not just an adventure for the kids, cuddly toys can have fun too

Children running down a hotel corridor

Why walk when you can run?

Blowing bubbles in a glass of orange squash

Blowing bubbles! What else are paper straws for?

Tips for keeping family city breaks real

Travel with kids can be stressful, especially when you are visiting a big city.

We decided to get real and not make our trip to London with a six and four-year-old too challenging. After all, we have had previous experience of visiting London with a toddler and baby, so this time round we didn’t want to make the same mistakes.

Having said that, exploring a city with your kids can be an amazing experience, especially if you are lucky enough to live in the country like us. 

The girls couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw not one, not two but seven buses parked at a bus stop.

At several points throughout the weekend they turned to us with questions about the things they’d seen and experienced. I’m sure they’ll be processing it all for weeks to come.

Family selfie outside Buckingham Palace in London

We had a brilliant weekend and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. But I also remember the stress of previous city breaks.

Here’s are our tips to make trips with with kids such a success:

Don’t rush

We arrived in London on Friday evening and gave ourselves the whole of Saturday to explore before heading home on Sunday with plenty of time to get the pre-Monday chores done.

Our plan was to visit some of the famous sights that the girls knew from their Paddington Bear books, like St James Park and Buckingham Palace, as well as fun places like the Lego Store and M&M World. 

We didn’t have a strict timetable and would have been able to drop any part of the plan if it got too much.

On the Saturday I worked out a circular route starting and finishing at Hampton by Hilton Waterloo. And on Sunday we planned our morning activities to take us back in the direction of Paddington Station from where we travelled home.

Family looking at a map of London in the hotel bar

Discussing our route in the hotel bar

Fill up at the hotel buffet

We started our day filling up on a big breakfast at Hampton by Hilton Waterloo including freshly made waffles for the girls.  

Girls sitting in booth in Hampton by Hilton Waterloo restaurant

 

Tot looking happy with her breakfast waffle

DIY waffles at Hampton by Hilton are Tot’s breakfast of dreams

Find free things to do

There are so many free things to do in London with kids. We planned to do a few like spotting the city’s famous landmarks, watching buskers in Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden, and visiting the Natural History Museum.

And then there were many more that we just stumbled across, like the Modified Social Benches around the Southbank Centre.

Kids sat on bench sculpture outside Southbank Centre in London

The Southbank Centre’s Social Benches kept the kids entertained for ages

Take plenty of breaks

When our kids need a break they let us know. We’ve learnt to take their cues and find a cafe or look for an alternative way to get around than on foot.

During our circular route around central London we took the tube once to appease the girls when they said they were getting tired. We didn’t let on that they probably walked as far to get to the platform as they would have between Green Park and Piccadilly Circus!

Distraction is an important parenting tool.

Kids sat on floor in Green Park tube station

Sometimes you’ve just got to take a seat

Stay somewhere central

We stayed in a family room at Hampton by Hilton Waterloo, putting us within easy reach of central London’s famous sights, attractions and experiences.

Being central also meant it took no time at all to head back and spend time chilling out before dinner. We’d treated the girls to something from the Lego Store in Leicester Square, and the hotel’s family-friendly bar area was the perfect place to start construction.

Time to relax for everyone in the hotel bar

Time to relax for everyone in the hotel bar

Making a lego set in the hotel bar

The hotel’s great location also meant we could get the kids to bed at a reasonable time before our final day of fun in the city. Family rooms at Hampton by Hilton come with a Queen-sized bed and a double fold-out bed.

For more information about family rooms read our review of Hampton by Hilton Bristol Airport, which we use when we have an early morning flight in the South West of England.

Claire working on laptop in the next bed to sleeping kids in hotel room

Bedtime is a game of two halves. Luckily the girls don’t snore too much

Family city breaks are definitely not all glamour, but they are great fun and always worthwhile – we make memories as a family that are so special to all of us. Yes, drinking an exotic cocktail by a pool is sometimes great, but the reality of travel is different and our girls’ excitement at the big smoke was wonderful to see!

How do you feel about over-filtered and picture-perfect images of travel? Do they raise your expectations or can you see through the staged shots and editing?

If you’ve been inspired to take a family city break then take a look at the accommodation available at more than 2,500 Hampton by Hilton hotels in 29 countries.

Win a stay at Hampton by Hilton

If you would like to experience #RealTravel with Hampton by Hilton check out my Instagram giveaway to win a one night stay for two. Terms and conditions apply.

Disclosure: we were given complimentary accommodation and breakfast at Hampton by Hilton and had our travel expenses to London paid in exchange for sharing our #RealTravel photos and experiences while we were there. We paid for our own activities in London.