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Tell CrossCountry about your top train travelling tips and you could win return train tickets worth up to £500 - NOW CLOSED

(188 Posts)
KatieBMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 12-Jul-13 14:12:31

CrossCountry would like to know Mumsnetters' top tips for family train journeys. Here's what they say: "Summer holidays can be a very manic time for families. Not only do we encourage families to take advantage of the extent of the CrossCountry network - connecting major cities like Manchester, Cardiff, Edinburgh and York - but travelling by train also means that as a family you can sit back, relax and enjoy the views. We're keen to find out what parents find most valuable about travelling by train and where best to visit, so we can help share your tips with other families."

So, do you and your family travel by train? What would your top tips be for other MNers travelling with their LOs? Are there any essentials you take with you? Maybe snacks or activities for your DCs? Or is packing light the key to a stress-free journey?

How about your favourite places to go for a family day out by train? Where would you suggest travelling to?

Share your top tips and train stories on this thread - everyone who comments will be entered into a prize draw where one MNer can win a complimentary standard return ticket for up to four people, valid between any stations served by CrossCountry trains up to the value of £500.

Please note your comments may be used (anonymously of course) by CrossCountry in PR and marketing materials, their website and possibly elsewhere so please only comment if you're happy with this.

Thanks and good luck,

MNHQ

OnTheNingNangNong Sun 14-Jul-13 14:03:14

My children enjoy travelling by train. I always make sure there's different activities for travelling there and back. So a colouring book and a game of I spy... on the way out and the phone ready charged in case of emergencies. On the return journey I buy them a magazine each, mostly with a toy on the front as it entertains them for ages.

I take plenty of snacks and drinks, book online with a railcard (either friends and family or a local one) and book a seat if possible.

If you have a child that still naps it is worth its weight in gold to try and arrange travel for the nap time. You cannot put a price on a happily napping child and a parent in peace.

boatclub Sun 14-Jul-13 14:16:30

I love traveling by train and have just done a longish trip with 2 young children. My tips would be

book in advance - the train line will email a reminder when tickets for your journey become bookable

try and book seats near a luggage rack and toilet - better than weaving up and down with heavy bags and wobbly kids

friends and family rail card

backpack of activities for each child

a list of stations to tick off as you go through them

a list of things for each child to spot out the window

more drinks and snacks than you would usually have

Also thumbs up to nice ticket inspectors who print off special tickets for the little ones and to lovely passengers who distract for a minute or 2

Theas18 Sun 14-Jul-13 15:41:36

Use the train co website ( eg cross country trains) to book tickets NEVER thetrainline .co.uk as they Ok for finding trains but charge £1 booking fee, the train operator sites dont

SaltySeaBird Sun 14-Jul-13 18:18:58

We do like going to London by train, but have been considering Scotland too (we live in the South East).

We make sure we take snacks, water and some magazines / papers to read but really spend most the time looking out the windows peering into the little gardens that fly by!

Even very small children can have an mp3 player (from 2 ish) DS has story CD's loaded onto his ipod shuffle, plus Bob the Builder / Wiggles etc. In ear headphones need replacing with headband style ones though - you can buy foldable ones.

Table seats are not as good if there are just 2 of you, as you don't have as much legroom, and it's actually quite good to have the backs of the other seats making a little private space for you in the airline style seats.

MooseBeTimeForSpring Sun 14-Jul-13 20:40:06

It's a 275 mile drive to our nearest train station!

BananaramaLlama Sun 14-Jul-13 21:09:11

We take our smart phones and an ipod for the three girls to each have a way of listening to stories / watching some tv / playing games. Then I read a book and dh looks out of the window. Time the journeys over a meal, and take a picnic with us (sometimes bought at M&S if we're short of time or on the way back), that takes up some valuable time. Then we make a trip to the buffet car but we only need to buy something small, rather than the whole meal, which saves some money. Take a change of clothes for all the kids. Have something non electronic that is new - sticker books or similar.

500internalerror Sun 14-Jul-13 21:28:23

Take 'disposable' entertainment, so you can swap and replace for the return journey - pound land is your friend, for books & crafty bits!

Booking ahead via train line or red spotted hanky, & with a railcard, can save a packet if you don't need a very precise travel time.

Do not get lured into station shops with their overpriced food.

Book seats close to the toilet. And take toilet paper with you!

Do not allow your children to sit next to each other if they are prone to fighting confused

smileyhappymummy Sun 14-Jul-13 22:08:38

I love trains!
Baby + sling gives a good chance of baby sleeping
Dd age 6 loves this
http://www.amazon.co.uk/I-Spy-Train-Journey-Michelin-Guides/dp/206715138X

idontgivearatsass Sun 14-Jul-13 22:41:41

Have a good rest the day before to make sure toddler is not too cranky if the coach trip is long

HamletsSister Sun 14-Jul-13 22:45:38

Act as if it is a real treat, more exciting than anything else and make the journey the point. Keep telling them it is fun, a reward and that only good children are allowed regular train travel. (only works if, like us, you only have one train which takes forever so you don't actually HAVE to use it).

manfalou Sun 14-Jul-13 23:14:46

We always tell our eldest that we're going on a train so that he looks forward to it and play games like who can spot the cows/horses/sheep first and sleepy bears. (youngest doesn't care about trains yet.. he's only 2 months old!) The iPad is also a life saver! Plenty of kid friendly apps and some children's programmes to watch on their too.

Snacks are a must, ones that can easily be whipped out like raisons or mini packets of biscuits... we find raisons are great as DS eats them one at a time so it takes him aggress to eat them and passes more time.

Take a smallish pushchair, theres never enough room for them on a train as it is so the smaller the better.

We travel to Manchester and London but also we have travelled to Disneyland Paris on the train too... which BTW if anyone is thinking of going is THE best way to travel there, so quick and no messing around.

I prefer to travel via train as my thoughts have always been if the kids get bored at least you can go for a quick walk down the train and back if needs be, something that can't be done if you're travelling long distances in a car. Plus its SO much quicker anyway and if you look early enough you can usually get really cheap tickets.

tethersend Sun 14-Jul-13 23:51:15

Take earphones.

Grit your teeth.

If all else fails, move seats to the other end of the carriage and start tutting them along with the other passengers.

ThePeppermintHippo Mon 15-Jul-13 02:10:42

Make sure to book seats and get a table, avoid the quiet coach! Take snacks and plenty of entertainment. Headphone splitters can be really handy so 2 can watch a film or something on the iPad at the same time with only one headphone jack.

WouldBeHarrietVane Mon 15-Jul-13 06:01:54

Take the sleeper - wonderful smile

Plan ahead - let your children learn to deal with boredom so that long journeys don't have to be 6 hours of you thinking of things to keep your children entertained. There's only so much colouring/reading/music that can be done before the inevitable "are we there yet". Children need to learn to entertain themselves.

If you have a pram then the disabled space is good, though you will have to move if someone in a wheelchair needs it.

Speak nicely to the train manager if you need extra help. The train companies aren't obliged to provide help for travelling lone parents, but they will if you ask nicely and they have no other people needing their help.

Not everyone thinks your child is cute.

prakattack Mon 15-Jul-13 09:44:32

I'm getting all sorts of plans reading these great stories, I'm thinking it might be time to plan another big trip for the summer.
Both my boys love travelling by train - even a 20 minute journey into the city centre is met with great excitement!
For longer journeys, i always make sure they have their own little backpacks of activities (as has been said many times!) - as much disposable stuff as possible - colouring pages, pencils, stickers, puzzle books, edible treats etc. If I have time though, my top tip would be to wrap them all up individually. It makes each "present" last twice as long, is far more exciting and it means it's very easy to space things out over the length of the journey rather than them tipping everything out in the first half hour and then getting bored later when there's nothing new...

gleegeek Mon 15-Jul-13 10:02:36

Dd and I often do the journey from Hampshire to Lincolnshire. The worst bit is crossing London tbh, no-one gives way for a person with luggage and a child...

Tips: get dc to carry their own backpack with a drink/snack/books/cuddly etc etc. The I spy... books are great for train journeys - small to carry and easy to fill in. Depending on their age, give them the timetables and get them to work out the best route. Take their homework, amazing how you never ever hear the words 'I'm bored' when they know you'll whip it out! Remember change for using the loo at stations.

I love travelling by train but the cost is getting prohibitive.

RubySparks Mon 15-Jul-13 10:46:42

I live in Scotland and use the Kids go free off peak offer all the time to travel into Edinburgh - great during festival time as you can just wander and take in free shows and the general atmosphere. Longer trips need food/drinks and gadgets to keep entertained. When they were younger summer comics were great for keeping them entertained.

twoboots Mon 15-Jul-13 10:51:28

two singles can be cheaper
if you do sit by a plug socket, opportuntistically charge your phone
my daughter loves anythign "new"- get a cheap colouring book and crayons for the jouney

northender Mon 15-Jul-13 11:03:00

Plenty of drinks and snacks to keep costs down.
Our dc's favourite game is for us to come up with a list of things to spot while on the train journey, some easy, some hard and attach points to each item. Points then mean prizes at the end of the journey, maybe a small amount of money or packet of sweets.

storynanny Mon 15-Jul-13 11:12:24

Make sure you lock the sliding toilet door so that it doesn't get opened whilst you are sitting mid flow with knickers round your ankles for all to see.

Divinyl Mon 15-Jul-13 11:38:15

I can offer tips for travelling with a baby still in a pram or buggy. Did this every weekend between the ages of 6 and 10 months with a journey going via London, and once itemised every item of luggage I fitted on to the buggy to see how many things I had taken (totalled up at 63, most items in the changing bag). List in the Baby Book for posterity.

- take a couple of folded flat plastic bags, and if possible, a large drycleaning type bag. This can double as a changing mat in a reclining buggy and on luggage racks if necessary. The plastic bags are for any clothes mishaps.
- take enough cold drinks for you if you can - you can get very thirsty with the effort of buggy hauling.
- great train food for babies at the puree stage: a soft avocado, not quite cut in half before you go, and a spoon. Protect this in a little plastic cup. Throw away skin and stone completely when eaten (watch the stone, it can stain if it pops out onto fabric). Not so good food for train: apple and custard (quite funny with hindsight but not to be repeated).
- take a gauzy cool scarf to use for assistance if you are likely to need to breast feed en route, you can squash it up very small in a bag or even use it as a bit of a pram sun shade if you don't use it for that purpose.
- Know where everything is in your changing bag - I still remember the personal 'rule': food and drink in one end and couple of nappies, wipes, disposal bag in the other. Makes life so much easier if you just need one set of 'stuff'. Know where your ticket is, too.
- There are bottle insulators that are a cylinder shape with a zip lid and have velcro on them to hang them on a buggy. These are perfectly the right size to take most average takeaway coffee cups. Coffee cup plus buggy pushing otherwise = woefully unsucccessful.

Paleodad Mon 15-Jul-13 12:13:14

I suppose my top-tip for CrossCountry, in an effort to improve the travelling experience of train-going families, would be to immediately become a not-for-profit company or cooperative of some sort, change your name to something like, i don't know, British Rail, and begin convincing your fellow train companies to do the same...
That way you can work your profits back into the business rather than paying off shareholders, pay your employees more, and even, perhaps, reduce ticket prices for the paying public.

vickchick Mon 15-Jul-13 12:13:51

Two words- baby wipes! Perfect for cleaning sticky hands, cooling a sweaty brow and always handy for train washrooms. The perfect travelling companion... unless George Clooney is available!

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