The Shopover. It’s our new-found Christmas tradition

The door clicked closed behind me as I dropped the bag and heaved a sigh of relief. We’d been out for just a few hours, and yet our feet hurt, our heads ached and the bag had become ridiculously cumbersome. Thanking our lucky stars for Premier Inn being right in the middle of things, we’d gratefully stepped back in and whizzed up to our room for a quick pit stop. Dumping the contents of the rucksack on the bed (anyone else now go shopping like a teenager with a rucksack, rather than taking all the plastic shopping bags? I love my hands being free, I hate plastic bags… but oh my middle-aged shoulders!), we all kicked off our shoes and spread out like we owned the place (with one desperate 10yr old galloping to the loo…), teenager picking up messages with mates, husband faceplanting the bed and checking the football scores while I made use of the wifi to Skype home and check in with the 16yr old.

We had come up to London for a seasonal ‘shopover’ – we wanted to spend the day Christmas Shopping, but also make the most of our time in the city with the kids, see some sights and take them to see a show to round off the experience into something more than ‘just a shopping trip’. However, the perils of  coming from Dorset means we’re limited on train times, and the last trains back home leave Waterloo at 9.20 – at least ten minutes before the theatres finish.

Thankfully Premier Inn stepped in, and we found ourselves in possession of a family room right on Leicester Square; pretty handy we thought. Little did we know just how handy it would feel!

We arrived earlier than we should, but the lovely reception staff found a room which was ready for us and let us check in early, so we were able to drop our overnight bags, freshen up and head out.

First impressions of a Premier Inn family room? Honestly?
So. Much. SPACE!

I was honestly surprised that the family rooms are more than big enough for the four of us – a double, with two singles set up one each side. We’ve had a few ‘family’ rooms over the years, and they so often end up being an average room with two extra beds crammed in. Okay, the beds themselves were pretty close together, but the room itself was spacious enough for the four of us to move around quite happily without having to breathe in when we passed each other. We adopted a quick bathroom rota for a little dressing privacy, but even when we were getting ready to go out for the evening we had the desk, the bathroom counter and the wardrobe shelving area with a light-up mirror to use; more than enough for us to not start squabbling over mirror space.

(*whispers* don’t tell Premier Inn. But when Bear saw the bed she immediately jumped up on it. And when I say ‘jumped’ I mean ‘flying leap through the air squealing in excitement at the lushness of her bed for the night’. You know, that kind of ‘jumped’)

So – once we were settled we were keen to head out! First stop was to collect our theatre tickets (if you haven’t booked yourself tickets before you arrive, then I strongly suggest you go straight out to the TKTS Box Office and pick yourself up some last-minute seats; your evening self will love your organised morning self for doing so).

But our evening plans were sorted, so we headed out to explore the West End. Right from the door of the Premier Inn we were awash with places to explore, and to be honest we just followed our feet. From Leicester Square we meandered through Regent’s Street, Oxford Street, St James’… All the best of British shopping right there under our noses.
Lunch was a much-needed sit down at MOD pizza just off Leicester Square (why is shopping so exhausting??), but even so by early afternoon we really needed a break; small faces were starting to look pale, and our feet were telling us we’d tramped a few miles.

And suddenly, having a hotel room right on Leicester Square was the best feeling in the world. It was right there!

No need for a long walk back, finding a bus, or planning in advance for the hour needed to go find it and get back again. We simply stepped off the busyness of the square into the quiet calm of the hotel – and it was like a soothing cool balm on a tired brain.

The Premier Inn on Leicester Square is a really tall but narrow building, with more floors but less rooms on each. And the security systems mean you can’t access the actual hotel floors unless you have a key card – which not only feels really secure, but also means there’s very few people passing through your floor. The hotel is remarkably quiet for one in peak tourist season, in the biggest tourist area in one of the busiest cities in the world.

Our room (room 412) was overlooking the square, too, and once the daylight began to fade the twinkle of the Christmas lights outside meant we didn’t pull the curtains and the room felt prettily festive the whole time we were in it!

Stepping back out we decided we’d leave the shops alone now (so. many. shops!), and try the Christmas Market instead – the light was fading and the twinkling lights through the trees proved irresistible.

Once we were all shopped out (and laden down with yet more weight in the rucksack) we sauntered back across the square to the hotel, rather smugly eavesdropping overhearing a couple bickering over whether they should walk all the way back to their hotel and freshen up (her) or not bother walking all that way and stay as they were, he’d just carry the bags (him). I think she won, but he looked tired and defeated – goodness knows how far their hotel was!

We dropped our bag again, and freshened up (which in one case involved having a quick power nap after faceplanting the comfy bed once more *looks at husband-who-doesn’t-love-shopping-very-much*) before going to find dinner before the theatre.

We came out of the theatre a few hours later, sides aching from laughing (Comedy About A Bank Robbery. See it. So so funny), and we paused and ooh-ed at the beauty of the Christmas Lights. No one felt like quitting on our perfect day just yet, so we took a saunter to enjoy lovely old London at Christmas, slowly winding up back at Leicester Square just as the 10yr old finally gave up and admitted tiredness was winning. I think we all secretly agreed – it had been SUCH a long day, so jam-packed, we were all just about at the exhausted stage.

Once again we blessed the fact that the hotel was right there, and we were back inside our room within minutes; a quick rotation of bathroom facilities, and as I Skyped home to check in and say goodnight with the two oldest of the LittleStuff brood, the younger two were already gladly snugged up in bed. Before I had said goodnight on Skype and come to tuck her in, Bear was fast asleep, wrapped in her duvet (and not even noticing we had left Cheeky Monkey at home).

The teen’s eyes were also drooping fast, and we grown ups were very fast behind him – and suddenly our love of a convenient Premier Inn hit new heights. Oh, those Hypnos beds.
When you’ve spent a long day on your feet those previously-comfy-looking beds become clouds of pure joy. Silence coated the room as we all settled, and stretched, and a small pair of sighs rose happily – I didn’t hear another thing until the alarm started chirruping.

I stumbled across the room to stop its annoying early-morning rudeness and glanced around – and I’m pretty sure no one had actually moved for the entire night, we had all slept so solidly.

14yr old Jolly, a nickname left from his delicious toddler days, never lives up to his moniker in the mornings – but even he cheered at the sight of the breakfast buffet, pronouncing loudly that he was going for a three course breakfast; fruit for starter, Full English for mains, and pastries for dessert. *eyeroll*

Bear tried the pancakes (nice, but couldn’t manage a whole one), the fruit (added too much yoghurt and ruined it), the cereal (managed to eat most of that one) and about five glasses of the fruit smoothie.
Mr LittleStuff and I just breathed deeply over the freshly ground coffee, thanking our lucky stars for fresh beans full of caffeine before we even looked at the food…

Honestly, we had such a wonderful time. And I know I’m repeating myself, but the sheer convenience of having the hotel right there should never be underestimated. It was brilliant. And we appear to have started a new Christmas tradition – we’ll definitely be back next year. Only next year the older ones want to come too…

One night in a Family Room on Leicester Square this December is around £200 – there are still some spaces mid week, but weekends from what I can see are fully booked.
And of course it’s not just about London – Premier Inn has over 750 hotels across the UK and Ireland, and so many of them are in city centres, making the most perfect locations for shopovers with a stress-free Christmas shopping experience for you and your family.


Author: Laura

A 70's child, I’ve been married for a Very Long Time, and appear to have made four children, and collected one large and useless dog along the way. I work, I have four children, I have a dog… ergo, I do not do dusting or ironing. I began LittleStuff back in (gulp) 2004. I like huge mugs of tea. And Coffee. And Cake. And a steaming cone of crispy fresh fluffy chips, smothered in salt and vinegar. #healthyeater When I grow up I am going to be quietly graceful, organised and wear lipstick every day. In the meantime I *may* have a slight butterfly-brain issue.

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