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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

KatieBMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 29-Jul-13 10:30:41

Thanks for all your comments, the winner of the prize draw is...

CelticPromise

Congratulations, I'll PM you for your details.

lolancurly Mon 29-Jul-13 10:10:14

The first time I travelled to Mousehole in Cornwall, I took my four children on my own on the train from London - my sister came along with her two daughters and we set off from Kent up to London first. The children played all the usual pen and paper games of naught's and crosses etc and told each other jokes and eye spy. The great thing about the journey was that the little ones could have a cuddle on mummy's lap and a snooze whilst having a snuggle (you can't do that in a car). We could all get up and stretch our legs and go to the loo without having to stop as you would do by car. It was a big adventure as we didn't get down to Penzance until late evening, and it was dark as it was autumn. It was exciting for the kids to arrive on holiday in the dark to a new and strange destination; there is something romantic and old school about train stations. We had a big picnic that we ate at our table on the train and the mummy's could have a coffee too - the whole journey was more relaxing for us mummy's, than it would have been if we had our DH's with us. We chatted and even had a sneaky g and t, which we definitely couldn't have done if we had driven down. The train journey down to Cornwall was the start of our adventure and holiday - we all felt like Harry Potter setting off to Hogwarts whilst we waited at Paddington to board our train.

Turnipvontrapp Sun 28-Jul-13 23:08:38

Only been to London on the train with the kids and it was very busy so couldn't sit together as a family which would have been nicer.

Took snacks and games for the kids but they were more interested in looking out of the window and the other passengers.

Ipods or ipads would keep them entertained too.

Would like to travel more by train as it is more relaxing than driving.

rainbowbrite1980 Sun 28-Jul-13 21:19:23

And the best time to book for the cheapest seats is 12 weeks before you travel, just as the new tickets are released :-)

rainbowbrite1980 Sun 28-Jul-13 21:17:49

A Family and Friends railcard is worth its weight in gold if you travel by train a lot. I manage to travel with my children at a lower price than I'd pay if they weren't with me.

If you are travelling alone with small children, pushchair, luggage, you can book assistance from the rail operator, as long as you contact them more than 24 hours before you travel.

Take a flask of coffee - otherwise you'll have to take everyone with you to the buffet car, juggle hot coffee and baby on the way back...also pack plenty of snacks and bottles of water for the children.

If you are travelling with children who are too young to pay for a ticket, on a long journey it is worth considering buying them a ticket anyway so you can reserve them a seat - with a family and friends railcard, this doesn't cost much and is well worth it not to be stuck without enough seats. Book a table if you can, it gives somewhere to set out activities for the children.

We use the papier mache suitcases you can buy for crafts to build a little small world play type activity to keep the children amused - they are perfect, and keep little bits and pieces safely together. They are also good for keeping lego kits together.

We do take a small rucksack each for the kids, with their drinks and snacks - and some things for them to do. It helps to vary what's in the rucksack, and to have a few things that only come out when you travel by train so that the kids get excited about seeing them again.

Things we have included:

Books
Card games (snap, happy families, memory games)
Wikkistix (or a pound shop version) - those bits of string covered in wax that kids love to build things with
Small lego kits
colouring books
Wipe-clean workbooks
Sticker books
Comics/childrens magazines
Smallish art kits like scratch art
Pens and pencils for writing, colouring and drawing.
travel games - guess who, scrabble, snakes and ladders (small magnetic kits)
Home made wipe-clean colouring pictures (print out and laminate)
Jigsaws

It's good to take things that take a long time, and have a list of ideas the kids can choose from e.g. write a story about going on a train, draw a picture involving 3 named items...)

Games that don't need special equipment

Eye spy
"I went to the shop and I bought..." each person adds an item, and the next person has to remember all previous items
Pick a letter of the alphabet and take turns with girls/boys names, animals, places...etc etc
Simon says
Bing-bong (first person says "bing", second person says "bong", third person says their name - keep going til someopne hesitates or gets it wrong, at which point they are out)

And don't sit in the quiet coach!!

VivaLeBeaver Sun 28-Jul-13 19:24:25

Oh, another tip. East coast mainline, the trains shut the doors two minutes before departure. They do at Newcastle station and York anyway.

VivaLeBeaver Sun 28-Jul-13 19:23:09

I go to London quite a bit by train, sometimes for work and sometimes for days out sightseeing or shopping.

My top tip would be if you're travelling with a suitcase prebook a seat near the end of the carriage if possible. You can then keep an eye on luggage in the end of carriage luggage rack easily. With East Coast trains you can select your seat like on an aircraft, not sure if other train lines are the same.

If you forget to take something g to entertain the kids with the alphabet game is good. I get dd to tell me something she can see that starts with A, then B, etc. keeps her busy for ages.

Gallantry123 Sun 28-Jul-13 19:14:36

Encourage your older teen kids to become independent and visit their auntie at Uni. Send them as a pair and give them a budget. A trip to the newsagent at the station beforehand for magazines and they love it!

Tyranasaurus Sat 27-Jul-13 15:01:33

Book ahead to get cheaper tickets- and book seats

Pollaidh Thu 25-Jul-13 19:57:34

Try to make sure children aren't sitting under heavy suitcases on racks - if one fell it could do a lot of damage.

First class if possible - book in advance. Usually has snacks, tables for playing games, bigger seats, sockets, but don't book the quiet first class carriage.

Take baby sling and rucksacks rather than pushchairs. Crayons, paper, magazines, snap cards, apps on phone/tablet, books, plenty of food and drink, baby wipes, change of clothes.

SlangWhangering Thu 25-Jul-13 16:43:18

Don't forget to teach your 17 year old how to read a timetable. Otherwise he will look a right pillock.

Don't forget to teach your 20 year old that trains leave on time and if you are not on the platform you will miss it.

Don't forget to teach your ' 20 year old that platform 9A is NOT platform 9 and you will miss your train if you are on the wrong platform.

Don't forget to tell your 16 year old that if you don't have a ticket you will get charged a penalty fare, even if the normal conductor usually lets you pay on the train.

<<sigh>>

The infuriating thing is that we have lived abroad for most of my DCs lives and they have managed unaccompanied long and complicated plane trips involving overnight layovers and third world countries but they seemed not to have learnt the basics of UK train travel. I laughed so hard when my 17 year old called from the station to ask me to explain the time table. grin

ILoveAFullFridge Thu 25-Jul-13 10:38:15

If you're struggling to get comfy bfeeding in a seat with a fixed table, just lean forward and rest the baby on the table. Keep the arm supporting her head around and under her in your normal position. I've done this many times (and at many tables, not just on trains) and my babies never got sick from doing it.

Best tip is to travel outside peak hours. IME older dc more-or-less entertain themselves, either with window-gazing or with things that we have encouraged them to pack and bring along for themselves, and all we have to do is feed and water them, but younger ones can't sit still for too long and need to explore.

Lambethmum Wed 24-Jul-13 19:36:42

Ask where the wheelchair carriage will be before the train pulls in if travelling with a pushchair/pram that you want to keep with you and ideally have booked seats as well in case the space is already full. Try to travel with another adult if you have more than one under 2!

GladbagsGold Wed 24-Jul-13 10:19:11

Oh yes and one more; Trunki do brilliant back packs that turn into car seats - useful as booster seat to see out of train window and great if part of your journey involves taxis.

GladbagsGold Wed 24-Jul-13 10:17:38

I am very lucky and have children that love travelling and cope well with disruptions and so on. I have taken them on work trips with me since they were tiny.

My tips are:

Make sure they can carry all their things themselves so no one ends up laden down and tripping over bags while changing trains.

Do not take any toy that rolls.

Refer to other passengers as 'ladies and gentlemen' - i.e. 'Let the gentleman on first' or whatever - I've found they immediately warm to you as a family when they hear respectful language rather than assuming you and your brats are going to spoil their journey.

Never allow your children comics except when on a journey, on the way back, as a reward. This then becomes the most amazing thing ever and keeps them happy at the end of a long trip.

Teach them how to use the tube, from when they are tiny. Its not difficult but I know so many adults who are needlessly scared of it.

I have preschoolers and work on the principle that distraction and excitement can go a long way to making things run smoothly. With a bit of planning you can work this to your advantage with train travel.

We talk up any connection with Thomas and Friends, e.g. which train is which? can we find the Fat Controller? etc. Once on the train it's snacks, colouring in, and looking out of the window. And of course, having your tickets ready for the conductor, and buying something from the trolley (just like Maisy.)

Piffpaffpoff Tue 23-Jul-13 18:37:38

My kids love a train journey - we often go to Edinburgh for a day out.

My tips are : sit near the toilet because they will want to go, a lot! Take plenty of drinks and snacks. Stash a few comics or little toys to pull out after an hour or two when they are getting bored.

We're hoping to go to London soon, a 5hr journey. Should be interesting!!

teabagpleb Tue 23-Jul-13 18:29:55

Nearing end of 5-hour journey. Failed to get toddler to sleep at all - she slept from London to Newcastle last week - but best entertainment has been jumping on my lap in the vestibule, and getting from the buffet extra cups and milk cartons and sticks to play with, and a cup of ice. Presto - water play fun!

Ds age 4 got to choose a new special toy set. Best £16 I ever spent! Didn't even want another for the return from Edinburgh!

JsOtherHalf Tue 23-Jul-13 11:42:27

I have a soft backpack that opens like a suitcase;I wear it when changing trains. DS uses his trunki to sit on, so I pull him alongside me when we are in a hurry.

JacqueslePeacock Tue 23-Jul-13 09:21:07

An option NOT to book the quiet coach would be great. Horrible to find you're in there with small children and everyone glaring at you.

Don't travel on busy routes at commuting times with small children. Having done both sides of it, I think littlies and commuters just don't mix well.

Take lots of snacks, small quietish toys and books. But don't be surprised if they are all ignored in favour of walking up and down the train, playing with the fold down tables and hiding under the luggage rack.

My 22mo DS's favourite thing to do is to go to the vestibule when we're pulling into a station and push the button to open the door for the other passengers. He would happily do this at every station between London and Edinburgh if he had his way (and someone to lift him up to reach the button). If he is getting fractious he can be distracted by talking about how long it is until he can next push the button! I do realise this might stop working when he gets a bit older though. grin

LadyMilfordHaven Mon 22-Jul-13 23:26:24

my tip is go by car

MrsOgg Mon 22-Jul-13 23:25:52

My top tip is a little idiosyncratic. When travelling with a very friendly 1-year old, try your best to sit opposite the particularly charming family of 4 who entertained my son for the best part of 2 hours on the Birmingham-London train back in April. I basically didn't see his face the whole train journey and he had an absolute whale of a time. If you are the family with twin pre-teen daughters, and the father showed my son a video of an elephant on his phone, I didn't tell you at the time but I LOVE YOU.

Failing that, sit near a good looking young woman. My son LOVES girls and will spend 20 odd minutes playing peekaboo round the edge of the seat while I mumsnet on my phone.

Other (possibly more useful) tips:

- if you're breastfeeding it can be a real pain in the bum getting in a comfortable position - I found that seats with tables didn't work for me and ended up sitting sideways on with one leg across the aisle (luckily, that was a quiet train). Lots of ticket inspectors will let you sit in first class to breastfeed if you can't get a comfy position in 2nd class and there's space.

- if you're carrying your baby in a sling, when taking him out of it DO NOT DO NOT exuberantly lift him up in the air if you are standing partially under the luggage rack as you might brain him. I didn't do this, but it was a very very near miss and made me feel nauseous with worry afterwards.

- if at all possible, use a sling or backcarrier instead of pushchair. I do this all the time anyway, but it is SO MUCH easier faffing around interchanging at big stations or crossing over footbridges etc at smaller stations if the baby's on your back rather than on wheels. Quite sweaty in this weather though.

- emergency chocolate buttons. 2 packs, one for you, one for baby.

Punkatheart Mon 22-Jul-13 18:11:17

Actually I enjoyed the smaller child phase - it was easier in some ways. Lots of i-spying, wrapping up presents to open at intervals, doing puzzles and competitions. It's the teenager who is the problem. So more fool me - I try and engage her by getting her to write letters to magazines and earn a bit of money. It means I have some (sulky) conversation and she gets some extra pocket money.

Slubberdelatrinae Mon 22-Jul-13 12:03:26

We are travelling from the North West down to the South of France all by train in 24 hours this summer so I will be reading through the tips on here.

Our dds are 8 and 9 and have their own rucksack with their own stuff in which includes
Nintendo ds and headphones
Reading book
Some sort of puzzle book
Water bottle
Small soft toy

I also carry
Fruit/snacks
Sarnies
Wipes
Plastic bag for rubbish
Monopoly deal card game
UNO

My tip would be give each child their own back pack with a new comic, drink, pack of sweets, and their favourite toy.

We travel by train a lot and enjoy going to York, or to the coast.

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