It doesn't matter how many times you have seen this spectacle, it always delivers. We got there slightly late and missed the guards marching into the palace. However, this suited us as the crowds had thinned out a bit by then and we were advised by the friendly policeman that there were still two movements to go. So we saw the Queen's Guard marching out of the palace and The Queen's Life Guard (the mounted division) parading past us. This was so good as the kids were not hanging around getting bored waiting.
However, it was then that we thought it may go all pear shaped when us two adults said we would like to go in the palace and do the tour. Everyone seemed OK with this and we walked around the corner to buy our tickets. We still had reservations that the kids would get bored very quickly but this was quashed when we were handed an audio guide that was essentially an iPod Touch! All of our faces lit up like a Eureka Moment!
There are guard dress ups in a box in the corner if you want to use them
Everyone got an audio guide and you choose if you want to follow the adults or child's version. We all did the child's version for ease so we would all finish at the same time (as it is shorter than the adults version). The guide is very easy to use as most children are familiar with touch screen technology and it was entertaining and engaging throughout.
There was an introduction to each room you were in, with some interesting facts, things to find and multiple choice quizzes to make learning more fun.
The tour lasted around 2.5 hours and it was most enjoyable for all of us. The kids loved it and not once said they were bored or can we go now.
We spent some time at the end of the tour in the Family Pavilion. It's only open certain times, so best to check their website if you want to include this in your day out. There are several things to do for the children including dress ups, photo opportunities, a book corner, setting the table for a function (you learn about this on the tour), colouring etc.
There is a gift shop you have to walk past but not through if you don't want to, to exit the grounds. There is also an ice cream parlour you have to walk past to exit, which we didn't partake in but was told the ice cream is made from the royal herd of cows.
We did go in the gift shop and found there to be an array of items for sale in every price range. We opted for a coin in a case for £5.00 and a souvenir guide of the palace (you cannot take photos inside the palace) for £5.95.
I will mention the toilets are at the end of the tour by the gift shop, so make sure everyone goes before you enter the palace and prams cannot be taken on the tour. You check them in and reclaim them at the exit. Baby carriers and hip seats can be borrowed free of charge, subject to availability, if you need them.
There is also a cafe at the end of the tour, too, for thirsty and peckish visitors.
You can download a Garden Trail which will give the kids more things to do once outside in the palace gardens. They will love to find the helicopter pad!
A family ticket (2 adults and 3 under 17's) is £59.00 for The State Rooms (the tour we took). It's worth the money in my opinion and a few hours of your time. Adult tickets are £23.00, over 60's £21.00, under 17's £13.00 and under 5's are free. Prices all include the audio guide and headphones.
It was a truly memorable experience and I would definately go again! We love our souvenir guide. It's perfect for talking about all the different rooms.
We shared a magical time in London those two days.
Jo, Xavi & Reuben Green x