Driving on the wrong side

England

Overall, it was more cost-effective to book roundtrip tickets from Boston to London. So we planned to return to London to get back to Boston.

While we were there the second time around, I really wanted to check out the countryside. When I visited England before, I stuck to most of the tourist attractions. We did manage to take a train to visit Windsor Castle, which was amazing, but other than that, we pretty much stayed in London.

Since Michael knows how to drive a manual, I was very much looking forward to exploring on our own.

The journey

We landed at London Gatwick airport on Monday around 5 PM. The line for passport control was crazy! It was really ironic because they provided us with the child friendly strollers to borrow, which read “family-friendly Gatwick” on the little flag. I would have snapped a picture, but there were no pictures or cell phones allowed in the passport control area.

The airport didn’t have a separate family like for anyone other than UK or EU passport holders 🙁

Kai and I rode around the area while the rest of the family waited in line. Towards the end of the line, Kai needed to go potty!  I ran to the bathroom and took him. We got back just in time for everyone to go to the front. Phew!

Once we grabbed our luggage, we went in search of the Hertz Rent-A-Car.  Thank goodness, there was no line when we arrived. Michael signed some paperwork, and we were given a carseat that we rented. We didn’t reserve a GPS because it was going to be an additional $30/day, but using our cell phones through AT&T was going to be $10/day for the international plan. So we intended on relying on our mobile devices.

Once we got into our car, we realized it was going to be a tough fit. We had four large suitcases, and 3 smaller carry-ons, along with one backpack, two purses, and an umbrella stroller.  We made everything fit, included four large adults and one toddler in a large car seat. Hooray!

On the bright side: there was a built-in GPS in the car we were given.

We arrived to our hotel around 7:30pm, and I was ready to just order room service and pass out! We ended up going to dinner at our hotel, the Holiday Inn London-Shepperton. The steak I ordered was literally the best thing I ate in a long while. Boy did I miss a nice beef steak.

I didn’t think I was going to be nervous riding in the car, but for some reason I was. I guess it was just weird being on the other side of the road.

I’m so proud of Michael. He did such an amazing job driving us around!

Peppa Pig

On Facebook, I belong to a group called Girls Love Travel. It’s such a lovely community with amazing women from all across the world, who provide such wonderful insight. I jumped in on a post about traveling to London with a toddler, and a few of the ladies recommended for us to check out Peppa Pig World at Paultons Park.

That was definitely one of the best recommendations for our whole trip.

We had such a blast at Paultons Park. Downside is we were not able to purchase tickets in advance:( we had tried several times to purchase them online the night prior, but the system was giving us several error messages. Initially, we thought it was our Amex card, but we also tried our Visa, but it just didn’t work. Even though we didn’t get to save money by purchasing tickets in advance, we still had such an amazing time.

From our hotel, it was about an hour and a half drive. We were going to visit Stonehenge afterwards, but we decided against it.

Once we arrived, we parked our car. They even have free parking!

Kai was given free admission because he was just under the minimum height requirement.

We walked a little bit and purchased our tickets at the booth. As we suspected, they did not accept American Express. But, we had no trouble using our Visa. There were so many rides Kai was able to ride on. The park opened at 10am and closed at 5pm. We got there around 11am and left around 4pm and we were able to go on all of the rides he was able to ride on! The park wasn’t overcrowded. The weather was perfect: not too hot, just warm and partly cloudy.

Kai had SO MUCH FUN there.

Post-park Remorse

Right before we left the amusement park, Michael asked Kai if he wanted Peppa Pig’s RV. Kai was overtired at the time, so he wasn’t really paying attention and ignored Michael. After we got back to the hotel (after his nap), Kai kept asking for the RV toy daddy had ‘promised’ him.

We felt kind of bad, so we looked online to see if we could get it back home. Unfortunately, the deluxe edition was nowhere to be found. So, we ended up finding one at a department store that was about 15-20 minutes from the hotel we were staying at.

The department store was called Argos. I had never heard of them before. But, we made our way to the store 20 minutes before they closed. 8pm was the store’s closing time. Michael and I went on our little adventure while Kai played with Grammy and Papa at the hotel.

We definitely had to do a double-take once we walked into the store.

We were expecting a Walmart or a Target-type of store. What we saw were some computerized systems and iPad-type stations towards the front of the store. There were some video games on display and other small items. But, most, if not all, the items were behind the counter where the workers were.

Michael and I began typing on their iPad stations and searched for the item we were looking for. We found it, and added it to the “cart”. Then, we went to the pickup and pay station and tried paying for the item. Unfortunately, the kiosk we approached wasn’t working properly.

The man we spoke with behind the counter took our payment without any issue. Of course, I was quite curious about their business model in general, so I asked the store associate several questions about the history of the store. I guess the store has been around since the 1970s! I’m assuming back then, they must have had a catalog or something for customers to peruse through, because it must have been a challenge knowing exactly what to shop for if the customers were not allowed to touch and feel. It takes a large chunk out of the shopping experience in a brick and mortar store.

Cars, Motorcycles, Airplanes, and More

We were able to request for late check out at 2pm since were were IHG members. Our flight wasn’t until 6:30pm from Heathrow Airport Terminal 5.

Since it was only 15 minutes away from our hotel, we decided to explore Brooklands Museum. It was a nice display of vehicles and planes! They had a Concorde Experience there too, but Kai was too short to do the 4D ride.

Overall, it was a nice visit, where Kai got to ride in an old race car and Michael got to race in a race car simulator. Here are some pictures from our visit. 

After the museum we decided to grab some lunch somewhere else. Michael and I found a mall where there was a parking lot. I was really craving some Asian food since we the last time we ate it was our first day in London, but everyone else wanted Italian. Yes, I know. We had literally just come back from Italy 😉

We landed on this Italian restaurant called Carluccios at Walton-on-Thames. It was really very tasty! I got some spaghetti so that did satisfy my craving a little. It was noodles and I totally got to slurp them:)

They also had these huge raspberry meringue cookies that were actually pretty good.

We later discovered it was a chain restaurant.

This little outing was a nice way to kill some time and relax before our flight.

Coming Home

We got back to the hotel at 1:30pm, and our room keys didn’t work. So we went to the front desk and they reactivated our cards. We used the bathrooms, finalized our suitcases, and piled everything and everyone back in the car.

We drove about 20 minutes to Heathrow Airport. We found where the Hertz Car Rental returns were, and we dropped off the car with no issues. And, we took a shuttle to the terminal with all of our luggage.

We had a little hiccup. Kai had a little accident. Pee. And lots of it. Poor baby.

He was having so much fun playing in this little indoor play area for children at Heathrow Airport. There were no pictures allowed in this play area (unfortunately).

But it was a nice area. There was a person at the front with a clipboard. You give them your flight number and departure time to them. The lady asked how old Kai was because there was an area designated for babies 0-2 and another for kids 3-7. I think it was 7 or 9, actually. I can’t remember exactly. I just know Kai fell on the cusp of the age groups so they let him go from place to place.

He initially gravitates towards the smaller play area with a few soft gymnastic style soft block toys. Then he got adventurous and wanted to play with the big kids.

He must have been in there for about an hour or so. And, his face was getting all red and he was all sweaty and tired. I turn around and I notice a huge wet spot on his pants.

At this point, Michael had left to inquire about a possible seat upgrade. His parents were waiting outside somewhere.

I was on my own with Kai. I rushed him to the ladies room in our stroller, with our carryon suitcase, backpack and purse.

After I sat him on the toilet, he actually peed some more! I was shocked. Thankfully I had packed him some shorts and extra undies in the carryon.

I got him some chicken chorizo soup and fruit cup, along with some apple juice from Pret A Manger.

He ate the whole cup of soup AND his whole fruit cup. He must have been super hungry from playing! We got on the shuttle to bring us to the right gate number, and we boarded the plane with no issues. Kai was very energetic towards the beginning of the flight.

He did end up falling asleep when we had about 3 hours left of the flight. I was able to watch two movies: Justice League (with numerous interruptions) and the last Maze Runner (with no distractions). I call that a HUGE success!

The US Customs line was quite long.

After they made us go through the automated check-in kiosk with our passports and pictures, we then had to wait in another line so they could get some face time with us. Once we spoke with the guy, it was a breeze getting our luggage and finding our way out to our driver.

Overall, this trip was exhilarating, exhausting, adventurous, fun, frustrating, relaxing, stressful, and enlightening all at the same time. Each trip teaches me a lot about myself, my limits, and how successful my initial plan was, and how I want to do things differently the next time around.

This particular trip was very special and memorable because we had the opportunity to really teach my two-year old about the joys and hardships of traveling. We also had a chance to bond with my husband’s parents through travel.

It was a wonderful learning experience for us all <3

Get ready for our next trip: camping in Maine and Canada in July!

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