London with a Chronic Illness text with a tray of afternoon tea delights above it

London with Chronic Illness

We spent a long weekend in London and had the time of our lives. This post won’t be about what to see or do necessarily because there are a million of those. This post focuses on tips for having a great weekend in London with a chronic illness, eating vegan food, and not drinking.

Hotel

La Suite West is between Hyde Park and Notting Hill on a street with a neighborhood feel. This was perfect for us for many reasons:

  • Vegan restaurant that accommodates allergies and offers room service
  • Continental vegan breakfast included when you book direct
  • Vegan afternoon tea
    • Non-alcoholic bubbly that made it feel special
    • 10£ discount if you book through the app
  • Comfortable beds
  • Bathrobes for ultimate coziness in room
  • Small rooms, but it’s London….
  • Friendly, warm, and welcoming staff

I highly recommend La Suite West for someone with a chronic illness in London. There were so many pros that reduced the stress of being away from my home and routine.

Restaurants

Wild Food

Small lane leading to an open area with restaurants and shops
Small lane leading to Wild Food

We found this place by searching “vegan” on Maps, and it was a delight. It’s tucked back in a little lane that opens up to a plaza full of restaurants and businesses. The menu was small which always tells me that they focus on a few things and knock them out of the park. A lot of the menu is raw, and they are down with gluten free. I had one of the better pureed lentil soups ever and some incredible zoodles. We also liked that it was:

  • Friendly and laid back
  • Full of nutrition
  • No belly bomb – left us energized for more exploring
  • Decadent sweet treats

Bonus tip: Hop in the sailing shop on the main street nearby and have a chat if Mark is around. He told us about all kinds of history and took us upstairs to show us the invoice for Shackleton’s provisions before his exploration.

Redemption Bar

Before seeing Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 on the West End, we needed a pre-theater dinner. Many restaurants do a prix fixe situation for this, but we decided to sit at the bar to have a few appetizers and non-alcoholic drinks. Redemption did not disappoint! The space is small, so reservations are recommended. We loved that:

  • The entire menu is gluten free
  • Non-alcoholic drinks were inventive and beautifully presented
  • Gorgeous food that was incredibly nourishing
  • Insta-ready interior design
  • Friendly staff

Transportation

Oyster card

People entering and exiting a train car at Bayswater station on the London Underground
Bayswater Station on the London Underground

The Tube is the best way to get around London. Pair it with the busses, and you won’t have to walk much at all, conserving energy. The tube gets very busy which means there is often only standing room. I was so impressed when I saw a sign that said, “Not all disabilities are visible” and learned about the London Underground’s campaign to raise awareness for people who might need a seat more than you realize. If the train or bus is crowded and you need a seat, it’s worth trying to nicely ask someone in the priority seat if they could let you sit down. This awareness campaign makes London with a chronic illness a little bit easier.

You can buy an Oyster card online and have them mail it to you. We got 30£ on each card for the weekend, and it was just right. The cool thing is that they offer is refunds! You go to the website to request it after your trip, and they will refund the amount left on your card

The Oyster card lets you simply tap an electronic pad to get into and out of tube stations or board a bus. You pre-load money and get a discount over single-trip tickets. It’s a no-brainer! You can also add money as you go if you need to.

We flew into Heathrow which is the only airport connected to the city via the Tube. Because we had our Oyster cards in hand, we breezed past the other tourists who were bumbling and fumbling at the ticket machines all jet lagged.

Low Energy Tips

It suuuuucks to be on a vacation or traveling, wake up one day, and you just can’t. So. Disappointing. As we explored the city, I noticed a few cool opportunities to experience London with a chronic illness low energy day.

Vegan Afternoon Tea

Tray of tea cakes
Mouthwatering tea cakes await a low energy day

What’s more English than afternoon tea?! La Suite West had a spectacular offering that also included a glass of non-alcoholic bubbly which made it feel even more special. 

Hyde Park Picnic

People sitting under large trees in Hyde Park in London
Enormous trees to shade you during a lovely picnic on a low energy day

If you stay at La Suite West, it’s very close to Hyde Park and a 10 minute walk from Kensington Palace where Will, Kate & their kids live. Ask the restaurant if they’d pack you a picnic, find a spot on the expansive and beautiful grounds and enjoy while you people and dog watch.

When to Visit Museums

Go a few hours before closing time. Tour groups inundate all of the good museums throughout the day and it’s crazy stressful and draining when all you wanna do is peep some mummies at the British Museum!

Even better, see if the museums you are interested in have night hours when you’re there. The Natural History Museum was open late on the Friday we arrived, and we saw everything with maybe 100 other people in the whole place. It was magical.

Egyptian Artifact at British Museum
Egyptian artfact at British Museum

Alternatively, see if you can buy a ticket to a small group tour before opening hours. I know the British Museum does them with a focus on certain rooms. They were fully booked for the weekend we went, but it’s definitely happening on our next visit!

Data on Your Phone

Talk to your provider and seriously consider whatever it takes to get data. Because I live in the EU, I had data and it was a GAME CHANGER in terms of navigation, looking up what whatever really old building we were looking at was, and finding vegan food.

I realized that it removed a significant layer of stress versus the times we have been in countries without data. It also let us maximize our time and prevented us from walking pointless steps that just drain your energy and put you in a bad mood.

Restroom Finding Tips

Finding a restroom is basically a superpower at this point in my journey with Crohn’s. My husband’s skills are also pretty good! On one of our tube rides, Nature called…actually, Nature SCREECHED LIKE A WILD BANSHEE. I was hot, sweaty, and nauseated while doing my darndest to tame the devil inside.

We got off at our stop, got to the street level as fast as we could without gambling too much, and desperately scanned the street. We were in a touristy area, so I knew any café or restaurant would have a code, and there wasn’t a hotel in sight. That’s when I saw it: a bank. I walked in and as politely as I could muster, while trying to mask my panic, asked, “May I use your restroom?” and the nice man told me where it was. I think he saw the desperation on my face. I’ll forever be grateful to the man who saved our day.

This tip is a good one for finding restrooms and, really, for all of life:

When you ask for what you need nicely, you’ll generally find good, decent people who want to help.

Places I look for restrooms when I can’t wait:

  • Museums
    • Almost all have free admission in London. You just have to wait in the bag search line. Then find it in the lobby.
  • Hotels
    • Walk in like you have a room there — I’ve never been stopped. If it’s a small place, I’ve had success asking. I’ve never been turned down.
  • Carry change for the public restrooms in the tube. It’s something like 30 – 50 pence for the turnstile to get in
  • Bring your I Can’t Wait card from the CCF or CCF UK

Wrap Up

London is as magical as everyone says it is. Some might think travel with a chronic illness is impossible, but as long as you do some planning and preparation, a large city like London is no problem at all. The final thought I want to leave you with is this: You could spend two weeks in London and still only scratch the surface. Prioritize. Make a list of everything you are interested in and pare down from there.

Have you been to London? Do you have any tips for vegan places, non-alcoholic drinks, or how to conserve energy on a low day? Share in the comments below! Then share this post with someone who dreams of jolly ol’ England.

Still dreaming of far away places? Check out my post on Barcelona with Chronic Illness.

London with a Chronic Illness text with a tray of afternoon tea delights above it
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