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What are your best tips and ideas for great days out by train with the family? Share to win a £250 John Lewis voucher, courtesy of Great Northern and Thameslink. NOW CLOSED

(270 Posts)
RebeccaEMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 24-Mar-16 13:55:28

We have been asked by the team at Thameslink and Great Northern to find out your top tips for great days out with the children on the train, your tips on travelling by train with children and how to keep the kids entertained on the rail journeys.

Here’s what they have to say:
"Family days out create lasting memories but can sometimes be costly! To help combat this, did you know that you can get 2FOR1 tickets on certain attractions around London, Brighton and Cambridge when you travel there by rail with Thameslink and Great Northern?

Thameslink operates train services to and from the heart of London, between Bedford and Brighton via Luton and Gatwick Airport, and St Albans and Wimbledon.

Great Northern connects King’s Lynn, Cambridge and Peterborough, via Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City with London King’s Cross. Metro services run to and from Moorgate weekdays, late evening and at weekends.

Kids travel for just £2 when accompanied by an adult on our great value Off-Peak tickets, plus get 2FOR1 offers to heaps of attractions when you travel by train: thameslinkrailway.com/spring

We'd love to hear how you manage to have your own great day out using the train with your family."

Please share on this thread your top train tips for all thing family - whatever it is that you do, Thameslink and Great Northern want to know*.

Everyone who posts on this thread will be entered into a prize draw where one MNer will win a £250 John Lewis voucher.

You can find out more about the Great Northern and Thameslink 2FOR1 promotion here

Thanks,

MNHQ

*Standard Insight T&Cs Apply

sharond101 Thu 24-Mar-16 16:55:47

We love the train. We live beside a railway and for my toddler it's a real treat. We do a spotting game. He has to spot so many objects from the window and he sets me the same challenge. He is also in charge of the tickets and feels very important.

clopper Thu 24-Mar-16 16:57:03

I would definitely book in advance and try and book seats around a table. Card games and spotting games are good fun and keep kids occupied. We play a sort of spotting bingo e.g church, cow etc. Charge up all devices in advance. I always like to research ahead and find out various attractions, prices and opening times. Also I like to have an idea of places to eat when we get there which helps with budgeting. ( I usually take my own snacks for the journey) It's also worth checking if there are any free events on. As far as possible I try to get a train with the least amount of changes possible with smaller DC.

PottyAboutPotter Thu 24-Mar-16 17:03:59

If you manage to bag a table on the train then dobble is a great card game to keep the kids entertained. The card game is in a small circular tin and so doesn't take up much space. We also look at the other passengers and try to guess where they are going and for what purpose. We always take plenty of snacks and drinks with us on train journeys. We often use the alphabet and try to spot something either on the train or outside which begin with each letter.
We enjoy travelling with the children on the train as it frees us up from driving and means we can chat to our children for the journey.

We took the girls on trains a lot, from when they were v small, including some v long journeys up to Scotland. They used to love it.

Top tips:
Take plenty of (none-messy!) snacks - we even had both breakfast and lunch on one v long journey! Things like Babybels, little packets of dried apricots, carrot sticks, grapes can all be brought out at various stages of the journey for distraction purposes!

Take lots to do - we were never a 'give em a DS or a phone or something' sort of family, so used to take notebooks, colouring books, packs of cards, I-Spy books (or homemade versions of them) and we'd play noughts and crosses etc. We also (showing my age here!) had a Walkman CD thingie with story tapes on.

Our best journey ever was from Birmingham to Glasgow First Class (which we got in advance for little less than standard). They thought it was brilliant and a couple of nice men in suits told them how lovely they were!

Deffo agree with trying to book a table seat - it makes a huge difference.

Givemecoffeeplease Thu 24-Mar-16 17:21:51

Snacks! Lots of snacks! And sticker books. And avoid the quiet carriage because that's not fair on the kids nor on those lucky enough to have a peaceful journey.

There is a trainline that rolls into Devon practically touching the sea. Gorgeous.

purplepandas Thu 24-Mar-16 17:36:44

Not sure I have much to add here as we also do a variety of snacks, activity books and magazines etc. Make sure that journeys are not too long to maximise the fun factor before boredom sets in. Also guessing games along the lines of, who can see an X from the window?

CMOTDibbler Thu 24-Mar-16 17:41:22

Ds is always impressed if we can really mix up our travel methods - we can cycle to the station, get the train to the nearest station to my parents, on weekends get the steam train to their town then walk to them.

On the train, lots of small things to eat, sports cap bottles of water, and a bag to put rubbish in.

Byrdie Thu 24-Mar-16 18:25:48

We've not been on ling train journeys with all three yet but we have done a few with our now 8 year old when she was younger and we treated it a little like when we prepared for a flight. The usual - snacks, colouring pads, pens, some toys and iplayer downloads of fav programmes for emergency use. I think the older they get, the more they appreciate a bit of info on where they are going and some related activities to help get them excited. Ours at under 5 seemed to find the train journey the most exciting thing regardless of the destination!

LifeIsGoodish Thu 24-Mar-16 19:02:31

Get a Family Railcard - saves £££ on fares.

Check for engineering works!

Maladicta Thu 24-Mar-16 19:08:37

Leave far more time than you expect to get to the station.
YY to the Railcard - saves a fortune.

We don't have car so if we are going any distance, it's by train. Our DD is nearly 4 & loves the train now, although she hated it until she was about 2. Our tips for peaceful travel with a small child are:
- Take snacks. Lot of them. Individual wrapped cheese portions, carrot sticks & cherry tomatoes in a little bag, dried fruit, portion packs of crackers or crisps, fruit like bananas, apples, satsumas, grapes etc. Not plums, peaches etc, as the stones are tricky to get out without a knife. Save the bags you brought it all in to put rubbish in - the train bins are frequently overflowing. Bring sandwiches too if you will be travelling over a mealtime, & something to drink, preferably not fizzy (can fizz up & make a mess) & it must be a bottle, not a can, so you can re-seal it easily. Not tremendously environmentally friendly, but if possible, all packaging must be disposable. Take paper plates etc if it will help, rather than plastic boxes to eat from.
- Pack the picnic in a small, preferably foldable, cool bag. And definitely frame it as a picnic.
- Take games appropriate to their age. Small things like cards. Also take pens & a thick pad of paper. You can play I-spy even with very young children - play with colours instead of letters - green grass, blue trousers etc. If you have a tablet or similar, download some age-appropriate interactive games, & some cartoons. A lot of trains have WiFi.
- Take a couple of books they will like. Choose books that are a similar size & shape, so they pack easily. Perhaps buy (or save their regular) comic so they have something special to do on the trip.
- Make sure you can sit at a table if you're going a long way. Much easier for activities, not spilling drinks etc.
- Last, but probably most importantly, wet wipes.

prettybird Thu 24-Mar-16 19:22:29

Book seats, definitely.

Plenty of wee games and snacks. Don't take wax crayons - if they get left in the sun or sat on, they can melt shock

Little boxes of raisins are great. If your child doesn't get sugar rushes (ds never did) and you're ok with chocolate as a treat, the wee boxes of smarties are a great treat on journeys as the sugar coating stops the mush of melted chocolate if they drop one.

Get them used to travelling, so that they also get used to going to sleep on the train wink - especially useful on the trip home grin

ILikeBigBumpsAndICannotLie Thu 24-Mar-16 19:24:14

Food. Lots of food. Small books, preferably about trains. Count things. Talk about other passengers you see through the window. Teach your toddler to shout 'Tickets please' at every stop for your own entertainment.

Keep an eye that your baby isn't leaning out of her buggy to stroke the bum of the attractive man standing beside you. blushgrin

Maddaddam Thu 24-Mar-16 19:25:52

We learned the hard way to always book seats but particularly on a Saturday in the summer hols.
Get each dc to carry a little rucksack with toys/books/snacks.
Ensure the toys in this rucksack are not several Sylvanian family groups as this will be surprisingly expensive to replace when child leaves rucksack on a train.
My dc don't get many comics/magazines but we do buy these for train trips which they find incredibly exciting.

Chiddles09 Thu 24-Mar-16 19:28:31

My 3ds love the train. One fun day out is to take a walk along a canal towpath near us, that pretty much follows the railway line to the next town, have some lunch, then catch the train back - all the ingredients for a successful day (although I will be grateful when youngest ds can walk a bit more of the way himself!)

ohlittlepea Thu 24-Mar-16 19:54:21

My Daughter is Thomas mad so we frequently use the train instead of a car, probably once a week. Getting the train means I get some quality time with her rather than becoming stressed driving and trying to entertain her in traffic. It makes ordinary trips feel like an adventure. I let her pack a small backpack of toys and always bring a couple of snacks to break up longer journeys. Reserving table seats where possible is always good. The other passengers, and whatever we see out of the window is great entertainment for her.

asuwere Thu 24-Mar-16 19:56:31

We don't go on a train often so its a real treat when we do. We have taken up our local offer of 2 kids free with every adult- makes it much cheaper. Also, as said, book in advance.
Snacks are a must for any trip. We play travel bingo, where we all have different things to spot out the windows (cow, bus stop, wind turbine etc)

foxessocks Thu 24-Mar-16 19:58:05

Lots of little interesting toys that haven't been seen before or for ages! Some train related songs ready to sing (the wheels on the train rather than bus...) and snacks, always snacks! Just looking out the window and seeing what you can see is great fun for little ones.

CheeseEMouse Thu 24-Mar-16 20:05:37

I agree on getting a family railcard - we saved more than we spent on the railcard. Also, with a tiny baby we booked them a seat and brought the car seat with us. Meant the baby could go to sleep on the train fairly easily.

missp0603 Thu 24-Mar-16 20:16:25

Seats around a table are a must. Lots of snacks that don't require utensils or create a mess, e.g. Raisins, cheese crackers, cheese, fruit. A pack of wet wipes should be close at hand! A book which has things to spot or a puzzle book. Break up the journey with a wander up and down the carriages. And if all else fails - reveal the iPad stocked with games! .

forkhandles4candles Thu 24-Mar-16 20:16:40

Family and friends placard has been amazing for us. We have no car and we loved castles. Always take snacks and mini-mastermind, packs of cards, joke books...what we call our entertainment module. The journey is great fun that way too.

Theimpossiblegirl Thu 24-Mar-16 20:26:17

I always plan ahead, using a railcard and any money off vouchers. I also take snacks, drinks and a picnic lunch, but have cash for ice-cream/coffee/cake so there is still a treat.

A comic, card game or colouring can also help stop boredom on longer journeys. I will also resort to gadgets and headphones for the sake of other passengers if need be. No-one wants to be the noisy family with the annoying children.

CopperPan Thu 24-Mar-16 20:49:47

We always book seats in advance and use a railcard - it works out to be very affordable. We travel a lot by public transport and it's far cheaper than the cost of running a car. We bring snacks, drinks and gadgets loaded up with programs and games. On some trains they have plug sockets for passengers and I always try to book those and bring a charger with me.

SquidItch Thu 24-Mar-16 20:51:03

Yy to plentiful, suitable snacks. And good toilet management - near enough, but not too near.

And I usually dig out an old ticket and let my DC hold that, as they feel important. Well, I did before they learnt to read.

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