This past Easter week, I had the ultimate pleasure of hosting my parents in London and showing them around my favourite city in the world! Neither of my parents has ever been to Europe before, so it was quite a big deal for all of us, and I’ve been so excited for them to come.
Though they were only here for eight days, which seemed too short, we were able to pack so many amazing things into the week. We were so busy it felt like we had done two weeks’ worth of sightseeing in one! I might’ve been a little overzealous in the ground I wanted to cover during my grand tour of London, but I really wanted my parents to see as much of the city I love as possible before they had to return to California. Overall, I’d say it was a major success and I’m so happy they came!
In preparation for my parents’ trip, I had planned and researched a ton, so I thought it would be helpful to create a little guide of what you might want to see and do in London with your parents, should they come visit you one day! Since I really went for it and dragged my poor jet lagged parents around to so many different places, I’ve decided to split up the guide into three portions. This portion will include my list of Do’s and Don’ts in order to ensure the best possible experience for both you and your parents. In the second and third portions of the guide, I’ll take you through all the sights you need to see, as well as the best spots to eat and drink! By the time your parents roll into town, you’ll be an absolute pro.
DON’T: Try to jam pack every minute of every day with activities
DO: Take it slow, stop and smell the roses!
The flight over from California is a long one, and jet lag is very real, especially for people over 40 and when you fly from west to east. Your parents will be tired, and might not be able to maintain the same energy level as you, which is totally fine!
Let your parents rest, and make sure to intermix ‘off’ days of strolling through a park or sitting at a café into your busy sightseeing schedule. It’ll force you to slow down and your parents will be able to appreciate more this way, when they’re not so tired and overstimulated. Let them sleep in and go for a late lunch instead of breakfast, or call it an early night so they have ample time to get their sleeping schedules back on track. They’ll thank you for it, trust me!
DON’T: Completely rely on cabs or Uber
DO: Take the Tube!
Your parents’ first instinct might be to take cabs everywhere when they get to London, and while this may be the better option at times, make sure to try other forms of transport as well! After all, that’s what most Londoners do, and your parents would want to get the ‘real’ London experience right?
In stark contrast to nearly every city in California, London is an amazing city to walk, and has one of the best public transportation systems in the world, so take advantage of it while they’re here. Buy your parents Oyster cards and get them underground or on a classic double-decker bus stat! Just don’t use public transport during rush hour – I made the mistake of taking my parents on a completely overcrowded Tube, and it was a total nightmare. That’s probably one part of the real London experience they’d rather forego!
DON’T: Play it safe with food
DO: Try new things and local cuisine!
When your parents travel halfway round the world to see you, they better be ready to try new things too! London is such an incredibly diverse city with so much amazing food, despite what some people say, so capitalize on that by eating all the stuff you wouldn’t normally get at home. For instance, I come from a small town in the San Gabriel Valley where good Indian food is hard to come by, whereas there’s so much of it here, so my parents made sure to chow down on curry a few times during their stay. We also got escargot (snails) – not exactly your typical Californian fare!
In addition to amazing Indian food, try some traditional British fare as well. Get some real fish and chips, and don’t forget the mushy peas! A classic British fry up is always great as well and definitely try some black pudding with it, just maybe lead with the fact that it’s a British delicacy, not that it’s fried blood sausage! I was surprised by how much my parents loved British pies and pasties, but I’m glad they got to try something we don’t normally eat at home, like these Scotch eggs on the left.
DON’T: Just do touristy things
DO: Show your parents your favourite London spots too!
Of course, if your parents come to London for the first time like mine did, they’re going to want to see all the iconic London sights and buildings. And as a city known for being ‘the centre of the world’, there’s no shortage of sightseeing to do, between all the palaces and museums. However, I do think that it’s also really important to show your family some of your favourite places around London too! There’s a reason you came to this city, and I’m sure your parents would want to see all the places that made you love London. For example, I love Richmond Park and my parents were initially hesitant to take time out to visit, but once we walked through the park, they were stunned at how huge it was and how much nature London actually has! The short detour was completely worth it and they never would’ve seen it if I hadn’t mentioned it.
Besides, there’s nothing better than travelling to a new place and being guided through it by someone who actually loves it! All the sights will mean more if you tell your family why you think they’re great, not just why you should take a selfie with it. Plus, showing your parents all your favourite things around London is a great way to remember why you love London yourself. Everybody wins!
Next up, I’ll take you through all the sights we took in while my parents were here!