Travelling with Children

Travelling by train with children

No matter how old your children are, rail travel is a great way to get out and about with them and explore.  Whether they are toddlers needing the space to move about on a long trip or teens after the free Wi-Fi in first class, there is a good reason to travel by rail for every age group.  If you’ve never considered rail travel with your children before, we hope this section will give you all the information and advice you need.

Have Baby, Will Travel

Chances are, if you are mum to a new-born, the thought of travelling on a train is daunting to say the least.  Travelling with a baby can be a military operation– you’ll want to time the travel between feeds, ideally when baby has a nap and hopefully between dirty nappies.

You will also know that even with the best will in the world, babies can be unpredictable.  Planning is key but so is being prepared for anything.  If you’re travelling by train for the first time with your baby it’s good to think ahead and be equipped for the journey, especially if it’s a long one!

Travelling by train is actually an ideal way to travel with a baby; there is room to feed, pace the carriage and change nappies.  More importantly, if you book an extra seat or travel off peak at a quieter time, then there is room to settle the little one down (safely) for a nap.  (Travelling with under 5’s is free, however fare paying customers will get priority seating).

If booking your train ticket online well in advance, you might consider upgrading to first class.  It’s surprisingly affordable (often cheaper in advance) and will give you the peace and space you might feel you need in order to cope with a longer train journey with a baby.

There is something to be said about leaving the pram at home and embracing the idea of a sling or baby carrier.  It can be overwhelming arriving at a train station and facing stairs, platforms and gaps; do you keep the baby in, take the baby out, collapse the pram? Can you ask for help down the stairs or will health and safety rules mean they can’t?  A sling will eliminate all these worries and give you two free hands to find your ticket, hold a drink or steady yourself on a moving train.

Travel light, try to deconstruct your usual changing bag and take only what you need.  Be prepared for nappy changes and illness, have wipes and a change of clothes handy.  Don’t worry about upsetting other passengers if your baby has an unscheduled cry, chances are they’ve all been there or know someone who has.

Train travel with a new-born may well seem nerve-wracking but you’ll soon realise with a little bit of pre-planning and self-confidence, it’s a great way to travel for both you and your little one.

Young kids on trains, are you mad?

No you’re not actually, it’s an entirely plausible way to travel, as long as you go armed and prepared.  Even the most energetic and challenging under five is capable of coping with a train journey (and you are equally capable of surviving it).

Where possible, travel off peak, this will mean the carriages are less crowded and there will be extra seats so you can spread out.  Great for long journeys and tired children.

Up to two children under five can travel free with an adult, however be aware there is no seat allocation so if a fare paying passenger needs your child’s seat, you must give it to them.  If you are travelling with a child on a long journey it may be wise to buy them a seat, especially if you know they will want to sleep at some point.   Travelling first class is an option well worth looking into when travelling with a child, not only will you have the comfort and extra space, but book in advance and it could well save you money (try our Best Fare Finder widget).

If travelling with a buggy, it is advisable to collapse it and carry it on separately but this is not always possible.  Depending on what train company you use, there is usually an area to park your buggy.

We would recommend getting to the station early so that when the train arrives you can find the seats that face each other.  This means your children will be kicking you, as opposed to the customer in the seat in front.

Travelling with a young child on a train requires pre-planning, forward thinking and plenty of distractions.  In most cases, the initial excitement of travelling on a train is short lived, you will be lucky if your little one is still enjoying the view five minutes after departure, therefore it’s important to have activities to fall back on.  Old fashioned games like ‘I spy’ are great but in this modern age, it’s likely your little one will require more modern stimulation in the form of Lego, loom bands etc or even an app on your IPad.

Don’t rely on the snack cart to relieve the boredom and feed your children; not all trains will have them so go prepared with food and drink.  However, if you opted for first class travel, most train companies will offer complimentary food and drink.  It’s often a good idea to take a few treats, things your child might not have on a daily basis so that you have an ace up your sleeve if the going gets tough.

Most parents find the thought of getting their small children on and off the train incredibly daunting.  The gaps seem suddenly larger and your children seem so much smaller.  For very young children it can be a good idea to buy reins, even if you use them at no other time; but always carry your children on and off the train just to be on the safe side.  Little people have a natural propensity to run for an edge, so stay safe and don’t be paranoid about being over protective.

Travelling with young children isn’t as daunting as it sounds given the right preparation and mind-set.  Some train operators even offer benefits for children, just check with your train operator before you travel.

Mind the (age) Gap

We’ve all seen the car journeys on TV where dad’s driving, mum’s reading the map and the two children in the back are fighting over the fruit pastilles.  So now think train.  It’s family friendly; no one is distracted and parents can concentrate on being parents instead of drivers, navigators and negotiators.

As your children get older, travelling is less about finding ways to entertain your children and more about simply being in their company and enjoying the experience together.  After all, as your children get older, trips away will become fewer.

Train travel with your children can open up so many more possibilities for family trips out and away.  You might struggle to convince your growing children that being confined to a car, listening to radio 4 and entertaining an annoying sibling is a good way to travel.  However, tell them they can walk about, visit the buffet car and go to the loo as and when, you may well find them jumping at the chance for a day out with mum and dad.

The advantage of train travel with your children as they get older is that the destinations become mutually agreeable. You will start to leave Peppa Pig World behind and head towards the science museum, the theatre and art exhibitions.

If you travel on the train with a 5-16 year old you will receive a 50% discount on most tickets.  If you can, book in advance – try to be flexible with times and dates and you will make great savings; money you’d far rather spend on your kids!

* Savings not available on all routes. Savings only available on Advance fares.

† Fares sourced from Prices based on cheapest available one way Standard Class Advance ticket, excluding booking fees. Prices are based on payment with a debit card and ticket collection from the station. Saving calculated against cheapest fare available on the day.