Mind the Gap.

Years ago a family friend told me the story of the three boys who lived miles from town on a farm that ran along the side of the river. Their weekends were often spent fishing or on motorbikes, heading in to town was a time-consuming and expensive exercise.

Their parents saved for years for a once in a lifetime family holiday and took them to the US where they traveled from one side of America to the other. Highlights included a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon, a visit to the top of the Empire State building, and a broadway show starring a well known actor.

When they returned home, someone asked them what the highlight of the trip was.

“When we went fishing in a creek”.

Their highlight was something they could have done at home.

My feet are burning. I have walked the entire length of Hyde Park three times. Did you know Hyde Park is bigger than Monaco? My feet do, they remind me every time I take another step. The little travelers have been to Buckingham Palace, The Tower of London, The London Eye, Westminster Abbey and Hamleys toy store. The highlight of the trip so far?

The park with the pirate ship.

G and I have spent a lot of time over the past few days explaining monuments and discussing history, today I watched the little travelers stand in poets corner in Westminster Abby desperately looking for Shakespeare’s statue so they could fill out the details on the children’s visitor guide. I read out names to them like Dickens, Browning and Tennyson, but I’m not sure if they really understood the magnitude of where they were standing. Nor should they, they are five, eight, nine and eleven.

London has an overwhelming supply of fascinating spots to learn and discover, finding the delicate balance between a “must see” or “must do” while making sure you enjoy the holiday aspect of the holiday is tricky. Will the children remember which Henry beheaded whom? Maybe not. Will they remember that Mum and Dad were available for breakfast, lunch and dinner, that no-one stopped mid sentence to leave for the office, no-one pleaded “just give me 5 minutes to finish this and then I’ll answer your question” – I hope so.

During the changing of the guards ceremony today I watched a very highly strung mother abuse someone for blocking her child’s view. As she made her way through the crowd pushing people out the way she looked almost on the verge of losing her marbles completely, her holiday was looking like a lot more work than a busy day at the office. I wondered if her son felt as strongly about the situation as she did?

Over lunch today I asked the little travelers for their holiday highlights. “When we stopped for the gingerbread biscuit and the hot chocolate” said the second little traveler. “I liked it when we were counting the tube stops and we all said ‘mind the gap’ with an English accent” giggled the third little traveler. The fourth little traveler is hooked on the pirate park, he also counts accidentally rolling in duck poo outside Buckingham palace as one of the highlights of his trip, “you can’t roll in duck poo in Doha”.

None of the above is in my London guide book. Have I not shown them the right things?

“After the museum tomorrow, can we go back to the pirate park?” the fourth traveler asks. I think about all the other places we could take them and then remember the word “holiday”.

If the memory the little travelers have of London is playing in the sunshine on a pirate ship in a playground dedicated to a Princess, while their parents watch on, that’s okay.

It’s possible they won’t remember the statues, the monuments or the dates, but they’ll remember we were both there, that we spoke in silly accents, stopped for hot chocolates and had time to sit in the park.


Best or worse family holiday? What do you suggest to avoid or do you have a “must do”.

Sign up for the best bits here

Sign up for the best bits from our community of forty thousands expats. Every Saturday morning we’ll shoot you the five hottest topics from the world of expat.

Powered by ConvertKit


  1. Yep – it’s the family time and activities that make these trips what they will remember. We traveled extensively as a family growing up. What do I remember? The family silliness. 🙂

  2. We are just back from Spring Break in Paris with our 3 & 5 year old girls. Their highlights? Pushing the buttons in the lift of the apartment building (seriously!), eating pain au chocolat every day, and finding the playground in the Champ du Mars at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower….not the view from the top of this iconic landmark, but playing in the sand at the bottom. But we enjoyed an espresso as we watched them play, with the Tower as a backdrop. Simple pleasures.

  3. I want to go to the pirate park! “inspired by the story of Peter Pan”. I’m with you that “holiday” is about parental attention, a place away from home (whether that be London or camping in someone’s paddock) and time doing something different. We all need a bit of that

    • The pirate park is pretty amazing – a fantastic dedication to Princess Diana. I love the idea that maybe our guys will come back here one day and find themselves walking past the park and maybe, maybe they’ll remember playing here as a child. My guys are desperate to camp in a tent in Granny’s backyard – I have a feeling they would enjoy that more than a trip to a museum. 🙂

  4. Larry and I have noted that, no matter where you bring the kids on the vacation, they will not remember the amazing historical sites nearly as well as they do the fun ice machine in the hotel lobby.

  5. We were in Bangkok and Phuket for two weeks in December. I suspect the boys were most impressed with the personal video screens on the Thai Air flight – although they both assured us that the rest of the trip was nice, too.

  6. When my oldest was nearly 3 and I was pregnant with number 2 we went to Italy. Insane. We traveled entirely by train. We did not go inside any museums. But I remember lots of playgrounds. And much train spotting.
    Today we visited a fab kid’s museum in San Francisco. Highlight for the small boys was a wall covered in Lego base boards – they were completely absorbed for a very long time. I guess we could have just stayed home and got out the blocks!
    Sounds like you are having a lovely time. Enjoy the pirate ship. And thank god you are all together again.

  7. Anonymous says

    I have been following your blog for quite some time. Today’s post is particularly poignant as we leave tomorrow morning for Spring Break in Spain. We have been before and I always try to plan interesting and educational stops, but the girls always want to go back to the playground with the ships and the crocodile park. It doesn’t matter how many times they have been there, it’s a favorite. Thank you for reminding me that I should embrace it because soon enough they’ll be too big to want to roll on the waves and hold baby crocodiles.

  8. Lovely post Kirsty! Brought back many happy memories.

    When we were living in Canada my husband’s work shouted us to a week at a very posh ski resort after Craig had delivered a huge project. We had a ball and made the most of all the facilities, which included a cinema, a bolwing alley, a petting zoo and an enormous indoor pool complete with trazan rope, huge waterslides, fake palm trees etc. When we were driving home I asked Dec, then about 4, what the best bit of the holiday had been. He thought for a moment, then said “You know how we went to the pool and it was downstairs? (pause) Going there. (pause) Being in my bathers in the lift.”

    To this day when anyone in our family has experienced something superlative, something wonderful, something treasured, Craig (my husband) will pipe up and say “Yeah, but was it like being in your bathers in the lift?”

  9. My bestest holiday ever? With my mad parents? To the north coast of Devon. We swam and surfed whilst they watched in the rain.

    (It reminded me so much of Port Willunga…pasties, cliffs, beach…)

    I love this post so so much.


  10. If you possibly can go to the London transport museum in Covent Garden. It is the best museum for kids I have ever been to. Everywhere you go there are buttons to push and dials to turn. Loads of the exhibits can be climbed on. There is a tube train driving simulation and a section for dressing up and just too many oter things to name. It is never too crowded as although kids are free adults have to pay. It is just the right size that noone gets tired. It has been well over a year sincewe went there and my oldest is still talking about it. In fact he simply refers to it as “the best museum ever”
    Hope you enjoy the rest of your holiday! London is an amazing city.

  11. We took our then 10 year old daughter to Baltimore, Maryland, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and what she remembers is being able to stand up on the train between them the entire trip without holding on. 🙂

    I second the vote for the London Transport Museum; my husband and I enjoyed it even though we had no children with us that trip. We like hands-on stuff, too.

  12. Sounds like wonderful memories made! I went to Disneyland when I was 6 (I am now the other side of 40) and I still remember it! 🙂

  13. Anonymous says

    Did your kids get to sing London bridge is falling down, on London bridge?

  14. I just found your blog through the mamamia web site…..I love it, I have read back through a few of your posts and I get it, I really get it!! Although I only have 3 kids and our moving is between Australia and Italy once a year…..everything you write makes sense to me! Hyperplaneactiveness- is definitely a word.
    Thanks for making me smile

  15. What brave amazing parents to even attempt a trip like that! Absolutely wonderful. Kids love food and rude bits….
    I love the UK and I love the Brits. So nice and helpful BUT I hate the way they tailgate your car EVERYWHERE. xo

  16. Sounds like you have had an amazing family holiday. We took our daughter to England when she was 8 and she loved it. “Mind The Gap” was one of her favourite signs too. She is 37 and still remembers it. She tells me that she loved the museaums, art galleries and historical places I dragged her too and has never forgotten them. So wait a few years and this will be a special memory for the children. BTW, could you blog about the London Eye experience? Thanks!

  17. Hi nice to meet you (can’t remember who I came through now…) was hooked on your blog as soon as I read “still can’t pack a suitcase” – story of my life. Have done a couple of f-bomb family trips – the worst are when you can’t get a break from the kids…but that’s just me

  18. New Zealand to Perth says

    Just been camping at Jurien Bay – spent a great weekend fishing, biking, swimming, hanging out with friends, and the best bit for Mr 5? Having Milo cereal for breakfast.

Speak Your Mind