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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,


CrisisCritical Fri 12-Jul-13 14:15:23

"Complimentary" tickets eh? Oh I do love a train ticket that says nice things about me. Think you might mean complementary.

[really smug emoticon]

Trills Fri 12-Jul-13 14:15:56

Gin and tonic in a tin from M&S has more gin than Gordon's.

Trills Fri 12-Jul-13 14:16:11

(yes that is a train travelling tip)

KatieBMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 12-Jul-13 14:23:52

blush thanks CrisisCritical

gazzalw Fri 12-Jul-13 16:46:26

We do a small backpack for each child complete with books/comics/snacks/enough water to last the trip (and some extra just in case of delays.../a family type game like miniature Cluedo/playing cards and colouring pencils and books for the younger one. Plus DW and I would both have our tablets fully charged and ready to roll for watching films/YouTube online. Also a map to show the train route so that they can see how much distance we are covering.....

Favourite places for a day out are less than two hours each way - York (just about) for a really fab day out which makes us feel as if we've really been far away and done different things. Otherwise, Cambridge, St Albans, Brighton or Bournemouth all fulfill our brief to combine fun with culture and an enjoyable change of scene!

I would always err on the side of caution with snacks and drinks just in case there's some type of delay and the buffet car runs out (it happened to us once when DW was 7 months pregnant!) of provisions...

Also, DW always packs a facial spritzer, a Cologne stick and a damp flannel to wash grubby hands and keep cool, calm and collected....

And never underestimate going for a stroll along the length of the train with younger children.....once an hour seems to really help break up a very long train journey!

MegBusset Fri 12-Jul-13 17:11:21

Actually "complimentary" is the correct spelling. Definition 3 here

"Complementary" means additional.

CMOTDibbler Fri 12-Jul-13 17:15:26

We like going on the train, even though the line from our town is terribly unreliable due to the single track sections.
My tip is to pack luggage into several small bags as the luggage sections get so full. That way you can put bags under the childrens legs or above your seats. Stuff on the train things into a carrier bag in the top of one or more bags so it can easily be pulled out without an unpacking palaver.

MegBusset Fri 12-Jul-13 17:15:57

Anyway... I love train travelling with the kids. Take colouring books/pens, magazines/books, food and drinks - it's really expensive to buy them on the train.

ShatnersBassoon Fri 12-Jul-13 17:24:33

We have started a tradition of travelling to my mum's by train in the summer holidays, simply because it's a lot more fun than a car journey even though it takes more than twice as long.

My top tip is to give older children the task of checking the timetable and looking at the travel information boards when we have to change trains. A little bit of responsibility goes a long way and has so far ensured I get one of the children 'on my side' for the duration of the journey.

Pascha Fri 12-Jul-13 17:35:44

I like Trills' tip smile

aristocat Fri 12-Jul-13 17:35:46

We love the train too, we take a snack and drinks each and DD will take a book. DS might play his console but they enjoy looking out of the window too (as do I). We take Top Trumps too and fit everything into a small backpack - not too much to carry smile

DD has been studying timetables recently so she was very keen to help with journey planning last time we went on a train. We would go to Coventry/Birmingham/Worcester/Chester and London.

Third Trills tip smile

Where possible, book in advance and try to get first class seats, especially if travelling with small children. The seats are bigger, you get a table seat and tea / coffee is included so you don't have to go to the buffet car.

When travelling with a toddler try to make sure they are quite tired as the train tends to send them to sleep (or it does mine and all my mindees) take lots of snacks, drinks, crayons, toddler friendly apps on phone and stickers, magazines with plenty free tat and books.

We have a toddler back pack which all DD's food and drinks fit into so she can delve in there. It has a lead so we can go for little walks around the train too.

Arcticwaffle Fri 12-Jul-13 18:05:23

A few train-travelling tips I learned the hard way:

If travelling with a family on a popular line on a Saturday in summer, do book seats. Sitting on your rucksacks in the corridor may take you back to student days but your small dc may get squashed underfoot.

If travelling by train in Italy don't take snacks to eat. Even if you caught a 7am train and thought you could breakfast on the train. It's not done at all.
But in the UK packing a picnic passes the time nicely and that's OK.

If taking small dc on the train and you have the great idea of making them each carry a small backpack with their own essentials in, do ensure it doesn't contain the whole Sylvanian Family collection. It costs a lot to replace that when it's been left behind on a train. Pack cheap disposable toys and books.

My dc don't usually get comics or magazines so a train journey is a chance for them to buy one each, usually with cheap plastic toys (to fit my point above). These are quite useful if you're travelling light.

Sometimes it's surprisingly good. Going on an overnight sleeper with an active 10 month old was actually fine. I don't know why but this was one of the easier train journeys we did.

Arcticwaffle Fri 12-Jul-13 18:08:39

Another tip. If you're a family of 5 and therefore have to book a set of 4 seats around a table + one spare, do beat your DP to the lone seat. And relax, listening to the distant cries of Uno, Snap etc.

iwantavuvezela Fri 12-Jul-13 18:14:04

Definately like others have said a backpack full of tricks! Pens, paper, all those party bag toys are good to stuff in. We have a travel set of hangman which is great fun. Innotab good as well. Stickers and sticker books, magazines all help.
As well as activities lots of little snacks to break up boredom.

Hanginggardenofboobylon Fri 12-Jul-13 18:33:52

My tip - it's probably cheaper to drive

hernow Fri 12-Jul-13 18:47:59

grin Hanginggardenofboobylon grin

Boysboysboys Fri 12-Jul-13 18:48:13

Get a friends and family railcard, it's cheaper for us to get the train than drive, take snacks and pens. Play eye spy. Take alcohol in a hip flask.....

orangeshortbread Fri 12-Jul-13 19:01:03

Taking a flask of tea or coffee saves money on buying hot drinks at the station!

Buy drinks and snacks before going. Charge kindle.

Wherever possible travel by car wink

Wiifitmama Fri 12-Jul-13 19:56:48

We travel everywhere by train. S much nicer than a car as the kids can get up and move around. Lots of snacks, a backpack each with books and toys, electronic toys like iPods, DS's etc. nothing else needed really as they just enjoy the travel!

majjsu Fri 12-Jul-13 20:03:54

Making the journey fun is key, from colouring books to stickers, playing games from I spy to small board games. Having a picnic on board. Also take an IPad or DVD player too.

We love visiting Durham, York and Edinburgh.

Train travel can cut out the hassle.

LadyMaryQuiteContrary Fri 12-Jul-13 20:25:10

Headphones and a nintendo ds so that he doesn't inflict repetitive sounds on the rest of the carriage shame the other people with loud music can't do the same. A little bag with snack and a drink, and a book incase the battery runs out but pack light so that you don't have to lug it around with you when you reach your destination. We play a lot of games on the train too, like i-spy or who's the first to spot a cow. We've travelled first class a few times so didn't need snacks and a drink (oh, those were the days). We travel to London quite a lot, that's great for a day out. Virgin used to do a kiddy pack (back pack with stickers/colouring), that was lovely.

Planning ahead is important so you know which platforms you need to get to and how long you have to get there in case you have to change trains. It can be a real nightmare to lug a buggy and bags to another platform in 5 minutes.

tanfastic Fri 12-Jul-13 20:29:44

Download a good film and take the iPad. It's a godsend for keeping child amused during a five hour train journey from Blackpool to Oxford smile

Allalonenow Belgium Fri 12-Jul-13 20:30:17

I enjoy train travel, I always take a snack and a drink with me.
If the journey involves any changes, I print out sections of the timetables, so if there is a delay Ive got a good idea of other possible connections.
I also have a look at station plans beforehand, so that I've got a rough idea of whereabouts I need to get to in the station for the connection. It's amazing where stations like Crewe hide platform 15B.

I agree with Trills though a ticket inspector once told me I couldn't drink my M&S G&T as I was on a football special, he relented though I'm pleased to say!

Always book in advance to save money and to reserve seats. Nothing worse than maneouvering kids and luggage the entire length of a packed train looking for non-existent empty seats! shock

Use rucksacks rather than suitcases wherever possible, they can be squashed onto the overhead racks and under seats rather than discovering too late there is no room for cases in the luggage section of the carriage hmm and more importantly, they leave your hands free. I used to wear 2- big one on my back and small one containing purse, tickets, phone etc slung frontwise Left one hand for DS and one to carry the folded buggy when navigating stairs and escalators just pray no-one pushes you from behind

If you can budget for it, use taxis rather than public transport to get you to the station. Cuts the stress and uncertainty of train travel by about 90%. Nothing worse than being stuck on a stalled tube or bus knowing your train is due to leave in 10 minutes <bitter voice of experience>

Get a family and friends railcard.

Bumpstarter Fri 12-Jul-13 20:53:10

Ask politely insist to be moved to the first class when the air conditioning breaks down.

BreadNameBread Fri 12-Jul-13 21:02:34

If you book ahead of time train tickets can be amazingly cheap.

Remember to glare and tut at anyone making a noise in the quiet carriage.

I love travelling by train.

BreadNameBread Fri 12-Jul-13 21:05:40

There are lots of good train apps. I use the National Rail one which shows all the train companies. If I am meeting my Mum (from a CrossCountry train smile then the apps give all the info I need - the time of arrival and the platform.

dahville Fri 12-Jul-13 21:18:16

I like travelling by train as opposed to the car because we don't have to stop every 2 hours to give the baby a break from the car seat; it allows us more freedom.

For our toddler we bring paper and crayons, snacks we know he enjoys and our smart phones, fully charged, so he can look at pictures or watch videos. All baby needs is milk and nappies ;-)

Melissakitkat Fri 12-Jul-13 21:21:41

Hi, we have just got back from a 2 week train journey across Europe with our 7 yo dd. we went from London to Paris to Munich to Vienna to budapest to Bulgaria then on the way back we also did Zurich. We mainly went on overnight sleeper trains and it was all rather civilised and easier than we thought it would be. Also quite cheap though the most expensive part of the journey was eurostar.

For the uk part - we used our friends & family railcard - such a bargain!

We also took our iPad with some films on it in case of boredom but barely used it. We did though play lots of games of hangman. Another game at train stations was a version of 'where's wally' where one of us had to name a colour then we had to try to see someone wearing that colour.

Snacks are very important - most of the overnight trains provided a free breakfast and water but on top of that I kept a bag full of both sweet & savoury items. We also collected receipts and pamphlets on the way to put in a scrapbook.

Other top tip is children's ear defenders as some train platforms can be quite loud.

We also took a bad for dd and it had a special pocket on it to put her bear in which kept it safe and looked so sweet.

Hth, mel x

Melissakitkat Fri 12-Jul-13 21:22:05

Bag! Not bad!

Pack snacks, drinks, something well charged for a movie and ensure everyone over the age of 18 months has their own seat. Not sure if it works for CrossCountry, but for other East Midlands companies you call up with details from national rail and will make sure to book tables for larger groups - very good for larger groups and keeping an eye on everyone. Very lovely.

Puppypoppet Fri 12-Jul-13 21:29:31

We love travelling by train. We like to book about 12 weeks in advance to get the cheapest rates. Most recent trip was to Edinburgh which we really enjoyed. Top tips - bring along a few snacks, small toys and possibly Nintendo DS / borrow parents smartphone for games. Remember to take along wet wipes and tissues (in case WC not well stocked!!). Also nice to take along a comic or book or two for DCs.

Being based in York we are pretty much in between Edinburgh and London so they are our favourite destinations, but also like Newcastle and Durham.

Check and double check before making your Internet booking. Especially when booking after 3 glasses of Sauvignon Blanc blush Manchester can look suspiciously like Manchester Airport after a few drinks. This can really mess up your holiday plans and costs a bloody fortune to put right.

Actually, that's not so much a holiday tip as an admission of my complete incompetence. Oh dear blush

teabagpleb Fri 12-Jul-13 22:10:30

If planning long journeys, sign up to the rail company's email alert for when they cheap tickets come out (East Coast and Scotrail do this), so the minute you get your email you can book your £19 sleeper to Scotland or whatever.

If you didn't reserve seats for your toddlers, get to your terminus-starting train early and the lovely staff will help you get to an unreserved table - no idea why they put all reserved seats right next to each other and then have an empty carriage, but they do.

I'd agree with taking your own food and drink - train/station food and drink can be very expensive and not always much choice. Also take stuff to do on train. Books, colouring stuff, puzzle books etc.

Taking a train-nerd ds with you can also be useful. As in, they will know enough to ensure that you are at the right part of the platform to get onto your pre-booked coach! grin

scoutfinch1 Fri 12-Jul-13 22:50:34

Don't try and travel on a friday evening- nightmare. Any other time train is an easy way to travel even more so if you plan ahead and know which platforms you need for any changes etc.

sharond101 Fri 12-Jul-13 23:19:33

We have just moved near the railway and 1 year old DS now waves at every train going by. Looking forward to travelling to Balloch with him and the steam train from Fort William will be awesome.

Tommy Fri 12-Jul-13 23:43:32

on the first train journey I tool the DSs on after DS1 had learned to read, I printed out a list of all the stations we would stop at and he had to tick them off as we passed them. For some reason, he really liked this and got very excited when the name on the station sign matched the one on his sheet grin

HairyPoppins Sat 13-Jul-13 00:06:02

Take a handheld fan if it's a hot day. If nothing else, arguing over whose turn it is will take your mind off the broken air con - fond memories of a delayed trip from Edinburgh to Devon as students one scorching hot August.

Always reserve seats, and practise your special look for anyone who suggests children under 10 can sit on your knee and won't take "we have a reservation and you don't" for an answer.

When travelling alone, weekend upgrades often work out at less than the price of a coffee and an hour of wifi, ask about availability or listen to announcements.

We like going to the seaside by train, and make the most of ferry connections to the islands, it makes the trip more special to go by train.

mirai Sat 13-Jul-13 01:17:19

CrisisCritical, that is hilarious! Complimentary with an "i" means both given free of charge and expressing praise. Pride before a fall, eh... wink

courgetteDOTcom Sat 13-Jul-13 03:12:12

get the friends and family ticket even if your children are under 5 as it's cheaper.

I travelled with two under 5 and booked a child ticket and a table, it meant that I never had to have two on my lap as they had enough space to share.

courgetteDOTcom Sat 13-Jul-13 03:14:44

If you've got kids and baggage, ask the help desk or ticket office if there isn't one, for someone to help and to ring ahead for you. An extra pair of hands is always useful.

Thevelveteenrabbit Sat 13-Jul-13 07:22:20

Don't pick the only direct train to London on the first day of half term without booking seats - you will be sitting on the floor with a lot of other people!
Have written a scavenger hunt for the children to do - looking for things out of the window. A white House, sheep, cows, tractors etc that kept them occupied on the way to York.

ifindoubtnamechange Sat 13-Jul-13 09:23:04

I love travelling by train, a lot more straightforward than flying and time is similar between Edinbrgh/Glasgow and London as you just get on and go, no lenghty security. DD is 2 but I would take her pushchair to strap her in for a nap, otherwise she won't relax enough.

Don't take your kids into the quiet carriage!!!

Onetwo34 Sat 13-Jul-13 09:29:16

Take lots of small snacks, lots of small toys, have a couple of apps on your phone or tablet for the children!

And have paperback books to read and an activity book, stickers or colouring in.
I factor in the possibility of a long delay. Usually we just look out of the window and talk about what we see, and everything packed is unused, but if you do get delayed, you'll appreciate your things. It's easy to carry it all in a big rucksack, and children like having their own little bag.

Reserve seats.

I think slings just edge out prams for train travel, but that's because of the escalators in busy stations I usually change at. If you wouldn't go via any escalators, a pram would possibly win! Depends if you need it at the other end of course.

I love going places by train. Much less stressful than driving because you can all interact so much more on the journey, you can even get some homework done! And I really like seeing all the scenery. Even ordinary journeys between boring, everyday cities can have some stunning views.

GetKnitted Sat 13-Jul-13 10:00:19

We just travel short distances or on heritage rail for a treat. Top tip, wait until the little ones are old enough to play quietly with a book, activity book or dvd (if there are sockets!) that's another tip, only travel on routes with new trains

Banderchang Sat 13-Jul-13 10:03:34

I regularly travel cross country (north east to Somerset) with my 4 year old on the train. Top tips are:

Get a family railcard and buy 2 tickest (even though a 4 year old could go free). This works out cheaper overall than 1 full price adult ticket and means that you can book 2 seats (essential for a 6 hour journey).

Always book seats. We travel in term time on weekdays, and still the trains are always full.

I got DS a mp3 player loaded with talking books and some child's headphones, so he listens to stories while I read my kindle.

He has a backpack of cheap things to do, and we change activity around every 30 mins. We do sticker books, dot to dot, colouring, play doh (not so good - too messy), i spy, etc.

Take plenty of snacks and drinks so you don't need to rely on buying stuff at train prices.

Jcee Sat 13-Jul-13 12:36:22

When travelling with a toddler, you'll think it handy to book the table seat for you both but don't, book the airplane style seats so you can trap them in the seat by the window both sit together and not aggravate others at table seats

As others have said a bag of toys, comics and snacks helps pass the time and will be cheaper than train prices, and a trip to buffet car for you to buy a coffee will seem like the height of excitement for a 4 yo

snowymum12 Sat 13-Jul-13 14:26:38

Lots of snacks, toys that don't clatter too much when they are thrown around (we've got some amazing Lamaze things that are perfect), a favourite toy and a little bit of a prayer before we set off!

Book seats in advance.

Put luggage in hold and everyone visit the loo.

Get settled in seats, snacks , and magazines come out, I usually buy one of those art attack ones, that have things to make attached to the front (make sure you've checked the magazine before you leave home in case you need to take Pritt stick or safety scissors, voice of bitter experience)

Once fed up of that, quick tidy up, visit loo then get the laptop out and put a movie on (low volume so as not to annoy anyone) my two usually fall asleep during it.

superbagpuss Sat 13-Jul-13 17:29:37

get seats with a table
then you have space to spread out, do colouring etc

also a charged tablet can help time pass

when I was small I was taught how to read timetables to pass the time, now I can plan any journey any time grin

PiHigh Sat 13-Jul-13 17:42:29

I often take the kids out on train trips during the holidays. We sometimes do day trips with Dh but that tends to be much less often as the additional cost often means it's as cheap to take the car.

I always pack a little rucksack each for them with drink and snacks in. They enjoy carrying them but I always take a bigger rucksack with my drink and stuff in so I can put their bags in it if they get tired. I might pack colouring things if it's a longer journey but for shorter ones they're quite happy to look at things out of the window. We'll sometimes do "Can you see a <insert name of animal/building>?"

One of the kids favourite places is the NRM in York. It's so handy to get there by train and free to go in.

Spottybra Sat 13-Jul-13 19:02:25

Take the iPad l

clopper Sat 13-Jul-13 19:15:15

Book well in advance and use a family railcard for the cheapest fares. I use the trainline and explore different journey options e.g. splitting journey into two, look at single and return ticket prices.Sit near to toilets and book a table seat. Take a rucksack with small toys, magazines and comics.....and wetwipes. Use a small case with wheels. use a map to 'track' the journey with the kids and see how far along you've travelled.

JaquelineHyde England Sat 13-Jul-13 19:16:37

Book as far in advance as you can.

Get a family and friends ticket.

When you book remember it may work out cheaper to buy two singles instead of a return.

Book seats and if travelling long distance (say over 4 hours) pay the extra for first class.

I have done Hastings to Aberdeen a few times with 3 DCs under 8 and booking first class saved us a fortune in the long run. As from London to Aberdeen all our food and drink was free and served to our tables. We had sandwiches, hot food, crisps, biscuits, fruit and every drink we wanted including any alcohol served to us at our seat. It made the trip really special.

Also remember to bring your chargers as most trains have power points you can use, which is one less thing for you to worry about.

glorious Sat 13-Jul-13 20:08:29

For smaller children sling and train beats car travel hands down and avoids stress about where to put the pushchair smile . My DD won't sleep in the car but finds trains very soothing.

babsmam Sat 13-Jul-13 20:11:07

We do the back pack thing too. Lots of different activities and games. They love the feeling or being responsible for their own stuff. Have a grown up, if possible, for each child if you are going somewhere busy or with lots of changes. Although tbf mine are still young and I know this isn't possible for all.

babsmam Sat 13-Jul-13 20:11:49

Oh and a special train pic nic.

DreamGirly Sat 13-Jul-13 20:15:33

If your planned journey involves changes, look at booking each section separately - I recently saved £138 on a return journey to Cornwall this way,and get to travel most of it first class!

Hopezibah Sat 13-Jul-13 22:05:00

We mainly only travel to London for days out as that is really easy to get to by train and the kids find it a real adventure. We would love to brave it and go further afield, maybe travelling to a holiday venue by train rather than car as I think the kids would really love that and it would beat the stress of getting stuck in traffic for hours on end.

The kids would have more freedom and flexibility to move around on a train (my youngest hates being couped up in her car seat for hours but when on a train loves to smile at other passengers and make new friends!).

We would have the chance to do those 'special-time' things that we don't get enough time to always do day to day like play their fave board games (we have travel sized versions of most of them) and read books together. A notepad and pencil can provide hours of interactive fun with games like hangman, and making squares with dots (can't remember what that game is called). A small pack of cards can also provide lots of fun too.

For a day out, I would recommend packing light - perhaps just a good book for the journey once the novelty of spotting other trains has worn off. But for longer journeys then snacks, food and a selection of travel games is a must. Your favourite cuddly toy can also be a good companion to share the adventure with!

Get kids involved with pressing buttons for doors / lifts at the stations, checking tickets, timetables and train times and they will enjoy the adventure even more.

We use the train absolutely loads, and did family holidays with train journeys of up to 7 hours even when the dds were tiny.

Tips - if you can possibly upgrade to first class (we could only afford it once or twice) it is great because you can use the comfortable lounges at the station, as well as getting extra leg room etc on the train.

- take plenty of things to do for all. The dds used to like little notebooks to write/draw in, as well as a magazine or two plus a pack of cards/Top Trumps etc. We never had DSs or laptops or anything like that, or even mobile phones.

Yes to picnics - including sucky sweets. smile

We used to make lists of things to 'spot' from the windows too.

Oh and wet wipes are always useful!

overthehill Sun 14-Jul-13 00:55:22

We don't have a car now but always preferred to travel by train even when we did: as others have said, much less stressful as can get up and walk around, go to loo, swap seats eg 'change shifts' so that parents can look after different children/get a break from reading to them/helping with homework (best to have a table, we find) and look out of the window/play I Spy. It's greener, you don't have the stress of getting stuck in traffic jams, the expense of car parks or the stress of getting lost/not being able to find anywhere to park/the car breaking down. It's also great that dogs can go free, and ours will sit under the table for hours. Last time we went on a 7-hour journey to Cornwall the guard kindly told us when we'd be stopping for a few minutes so that the dog could water a few lamp-posts on the platform!

As someone else said, Virgin used to give away travel bags and I remember once they contained a series of booklets with objects to spot out of the window eg cows, horses, a yellow car, church spire etc. When you'd finished you could get it stamped by the guard and I think if you did so many you could send them in and get a t-shirt - so perhaps Cross Country could produce something like that to encourage train travel.

We used to take crafty-type things eg with fancy paper, scissors, glue etc and plenty of scrap paper for drawing and playing games such as hangman and battleships. My dc's are now teenagers and tend to read a book/do homework (dd) or play on phone (ds) - how stereotypical!! - but we still take games such as Uno, a pack of cards and travel versions of backgammon, nine men's morris etc. I'd second the comment about having the charger handy as there are nearly always power points on modern trains. We also like people-watching as this can be very entertaining!

Family railcard makes it a lot cheaper, and as well as comparing price of singles and returns, you can sometimes get it cheaper if you buy two lots of tickets eg once when going from York to Coventry I was being asked for a small fortune but when I tried York to Birmingham and B'ham to Coventry it was about a third the price! Also if you book online there are all kinds of helpful things like it tells you what platforms the trains arrive on and depart from (if you need to change) and you can usually download a plan of the station so you can see where the platforms are.

If we're going somewhere that doesn't have a station I'll use Traveline to look up a timetable including trains and buses, and it even gives you a map of how to reach your destination.

We also take a flask, water and a picnic, which apart from being cheaper is really important to guard against eventualities like there being no buffet on your part of the journey, but we always had a tradition of buying crisps from the buffet as a treat. Many trains have trolleys that come past, which can be useful if your child has gone to sleep/you've got several and are on your own, but it's also a way of spending time and breaking up the journey to go to the buffet car.

Great to travel to the seaside by train eg Weymouth, Scarborough, Blackpool in order to avoid inevitable traffic jams and parking problems, and you can actually answer the children in an informed way when they ask "Are we nearly there?". Check special offers as you can often get a discount eg on the Sealife Centre if you travel by train.

Also remember that if your train is delayed by a significant amount of time you can claim compensation, which comes in the form of rail vouchers and which you can put towards your next family day out!

I'd forgotten about the Virgin backpacks! The dds used to love them.

primroseyellow Sun 14-Jul-13 01:07:32

When travelling to London on my own with two under fives (one on foot, one in buggy) I took a wrist strap as older DC was very lively and likely to run off. I was afraid of losing him. Wrist strap was attached to me or buggy. Unfortunately DC wasn't used to wrist strap and went into meltdown in the middle of the concourse at Euston - full blown lying on the floor waving limbs about and screaming. Attracted much attention .... I didn't dare risk the tube and when I eventually succeeded in getting them onto the bus that would take us to our destination he was so exhausted he fell asleep. Relief. But for me the wrist strap was essential at that stage.

Wuldric Sun 14-Jul-13 01:29:53

Ensure you take games, food and chargers. Book seats in advance. A first class ticket means nothing on Cross-Country, so travel economy. Also, a table for 4 only has two electrical sockets so you might need a gismo.

There is no cure for signal failure at Dunbar. Nothing will help.

It will almost always be easier, more flexible and cheaper to drive. Always providing you can avoid Dunbar.

skyeskyeskye Sun 14-Jul-13 01:32:49

Take a Nintendo DS (fully charged...) and a couple of games to entertain the DC. Take plenty of drinks and snacks to save money. Play some spotting games out of the window, cows, tractors, pink houses, etc etc. Allow plenty of time for everything and double check all the times etc! Take a good book for yourslef

hermancakedestroyer England Sun 14-Jul-13 08:48:12

I love travelling by train. It's always an adventure. You can play similar games that you can play in the car such as find the first cow in a field for example. I have older Dcs now (8 and 10) so it is easier. When they were younger I used to take small pots of snacks and drinks for them to munch through - colouring books etc. Also get them to draw something they can see out of the window.
It's a great prize.

hermancakedestroyer England Sun 14-Jul-13 08:51:44

Travelling to London is always a winner. So much to see and lots of it for free. Big parks for the Dcs to play in and the train companies often offer 2-for-1 offers with attractions in London which helps cost wise. Also the travel cards especially friends and family are great for this time of the year as it greatly reduces the cost of travel.

Firewall Sun 14-Jul-13 09:26:26

We love travelling by train when we can! LO loves it! But the biggest stress is finding a place for the buggy, especially if it only comes apart in two parts and those parts are too large for the luggage racks and then fining a place for everything else that comes with travelling with a toddler.

We always pack lots of snacks, biggest tip is to travel off peak and to guess times that are quietest.

We love travelling to cities by train.

Babycarmen Sun 14-Jul-13 10:53:44

Colouring books, ipod/ipad/iphone games (supervised and watch the charges!) travel games, I put disney songs etc onto an old ipod for DD (5) and she loves sitting listening to them, keeps her quiet for ages!

AnneEyhtMeyer Honduras Sun 14-Jul-13 11:53:37

Take a she-wee so you don't have to get close to the dirty loos. I have never seen a clean loo on a train.

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 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

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 Brazil 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!

VerlaineChasedRimbauds Mon 15-Jul-13 12:41:12

Book your tickets on the CrossCountry website rather than the Trainline - then you don't have to pay a booking fee! Tickets are the same price.

ChippyMinton Mon 15-Jul-13 16:26:36

I haven't read the thread so apologies if I duplicate everyone else's answers.
1) Book seats, preferably four-facing with a table.
2) Split luggage into wheely bags that the DC can handle, and will fit in above-seat racks.
3) A Nintendo DS each, and games the DC can share, will promote amusingly raised eyebrows from fellow passengers when, the children, apparently engrossed in their own gadget, all break out in synchronised laughter or groaning grin. Don't forget the earphones.
4) Freeze drink bottles overnight to ensure long-lasting supplies of cold drinks.
5) Take a picnic (but not one with anti-social smelling contents such as egg
6) Wear shoes that slip on and off easily for trips to the loo.
7) Wet wipes and kitchen roll and empty bags for rubbish/vomit.
8) Use a railcard, or book early or convert tesco vouchers for the best ticket prices.
9) Know your arrival time and the station before your stop so you can get ready to disembark in plenty of time.

We travel by train a fair bit, into London and on days out, and have ventured abroad too. The French have double-decker trains, which are brilliant for getting a good view. The best destinations are the ones where the train deposits you in the heart of the city or resort - London, Paris, New York, Washington DC - into an iconic station building bustling with life smile

Theimpossiblegirl Mon 15-Jul-13 19:01:22

Get a Friends and Family Railcard.
Book tickets in advance- there are savings to be made.
It's often cheaper to travel off-peak and quieter.
Book seats.
Take plenty of food and drink.
Don't sit in the quiet carriage when travelling with loud children- people will hate you.
Take a selection of toys and games to break up the monotony.
Never travel without wet wipes- even if your children are older.
Take a good book for when the children are happily occupied.

unquietmind Mon 15-Jul-13 21:10:33

Rail card is a must
Packed lunches and discount vouchers for national snack eateries
List of free or cheap exhibitions
Books / headphones and mp3 / nothing big or expensive
Drawstring bags for everyone to collect their own memories/ items
Book in advance and shop about

Our faves; york london edinburgh anywhere in wales chester

DoubleMum Tue 16-Jul-13 13:17:39

Book seats at weekends and holidays, and do argue with the people who sit in them anyway despite the fact they are reserved. Shout if necessary. HTH.

NettleTea Tue 16-Jul-13 13:46:38

we often go up for a day out in London, or to visit friends. I second the use of an ipad, they are so lightweight and the batteries last ages, so well suited for a back up plan of entertainment after watching the world go past. If its a long way then a pic nic is an essential. DS loves his DS, so that again can keep him entertained for hours.

ninilegsintheair Tue 16-Jul-13 13:56:02

I havn't read the thread but my tip would be NOT to book seats in the quiet carriage when travelling with children. By their very nature kids are noisy and you'll only end up getting stressed with trying to keep them quiet and passengers around you will end up stressed as well with the noise!

Jims Tue 16-Jul-13 14:56:30

My DH regularly commutes with our 3 year old by train despite it being twice as expensive as the car! the nursery is by his work. They love it.
He always takes a book and a drink with him.
I did a 7 hour back from glasgow to reading with ds1 who was 2.5 then when 8 months pregnant which i wouldn't recommend. The first train was late so all my pre-booked assistance and reserved seats got lost. Thank goodness for enough food without needing to try and get through the packed trains plus a borrowed ipad. i got a 50% refund on that one!
Btw Virgin do passenger assistance in those circs. Scotrail didn't as i wasn't disabled. The cross country train at the end was horribly busy so i would always try and reserve seats again for that journey.

choccyp1g Portugal Tue 16-Jul-13 15:13:15

Friends and family railcard is fantastic value.
Make them carry their own little rucksack.
For older children, buy the Sunday newspaper and let them hae the sport section.

choccyp1g Portugal Tue 16-Jul-13 15:14:27


CelticPromise Tue 16-Jul-13 19:22:58

Book ahead to save money. you can get bargains even on the sleeper.

For a long journey a tablet/mini DVD and headphones is good for little ones.

Little bottles of wine are cheaper in the supermarket and you can usually get a plastic cup on the train.

If you're struggling most people are very kind and helpful, like the lady who swapped seats with me to allow DS to have a seat instead of squashing onto my lap.

Leave the buggy at home if you possibly can.

defineme Tue 16-Jul-13 19:37:00

Always book a table seat and I take 1 thing per hour of the journey eg just went on 4 hr trip North with 8 yr old twins and took:
1.picnic games of connect 4 and pass the pigs 3. activity book(stickers/colouring in type) 4.reading books.
That plus wipes, sweets and magazine for me fitted in a small rucksack.
Trips to loo seem to take up a lot of time too.
When they were toddlers I took a small tub of playdo-that kept them going for ages.

michelleblane Tue 16-Jul-13 21:30:03

I love travelling by train for a change. Book through Red Spotted Hanky using Tesco tokens and it works out very reasonable too. Last summer when our grandchildren were staying, we went to York and Durham and Edinburgh on the train. I took drinks and snacks with us (stations and trains are expensive). Katie (7) had a little backpack with coloured pens, puzzle book and storybook. Oliver (11) had his PSP game console, and Nicole (14) and our son Stephen (16) were happy plugged into their IPods. They loved the selection of snacks we had with us, (some of which they had helped to bake beforehand). The whole journey was a bit of an adventure and they couldn't wait to phone their parents in the evenings to tell them about their days!

mummyofcutetwo Tue 16-Jul-13 21:57:50

I always feel I've got to carefully plan ahead to make sure nothing is forgotten as I worry about other travellers having to put up with the musings of a bored five year old and his frazzled mother! If you've forgotten something for a train journey there's nothing but putting up with it as it's not as if you can get the train to stop at a shop for you.

I make sure we've got (more than) enough food and drinks for the journey as the thought of walking along a moving train to the buffet car with a five year old and a toddler is more than I can bear. I try to make sure that the food is yummy and nutritious but isn't anything that will send the children berserk!

I make sure all phones, iPods, iPads etc are fully charged before the journey and put the chargers in the "hand luggage" so if we're lucky enough to be on a train with power sockets then they be charged up if needs be. I always try to have a new game, book or film on the iPad. For films I try to choose something that will appeal to both boys. Headphones are good idea too.

I take pencils, notepads, magazines, puzzle books and a cuddly toy for each of them to snuggle up with should they fancy a nap.

Journeys really give us a chance to talk about allsorts of random things, which is a lot of fun.

trice Tue 16-Jul-13 22:10:22

We love travelling by train. Book ahead, use a railcard, pack a picnic, book table seats.

Try to take all your bags and coats when you get off. Tricky when you have several children.

We like visiting York, Durham, Newcastle, Edinburgh, London, Manchester, Leeds, Bournemouth and Filey. We love a weekend away.

nenevomito Tue 16-Jul-13 22:11:38

My top tip: Never, ever, ever travel on First if you can avoid it.

pussinwellyboots Wed 17-Jul-13 10:03:40

So, do you and your family travel by train?
We do as the dcs enjoy it and it makes for a relaxing journey but it is prohibitively expensive most of the time and travel by car works out much cheaper - if this were ot the case we would use the train a lot more.
What would your top tips be for other MNers travelling with their LOs?
Try to plan ahead and bring exciting snacks/ sticker books etc for the journey. Don't try to walk to the on board buffet with little ones in tow.

Are there any essentials you take with you? Maybe snacks or activities for your DCs? as above usually snacks and simple activities - but do try to pack light.
Or is packing light the key to a stress-free journey? Our local station only has stepped access to the northbound platform so we try to travel without pushcharis etc.

How about your favourite places to go for a family day out by train? Where would you suggest travelling to?
We've been to leeds for the day a few times (dales railcard offers) and are planning to go to Edinburgh zoo by train over the holidays. Also DH sometimes takes kids by train to local large station to watch steam trains coming in.

BornToFolk Wed 17-Jul-13 10:21:53

Reading this thread carefully as I've got a 4 hour train journey with DS (5) coming up at the end of the month.

My best tip so far has been to use Tesco Clubcard vouchers to buy the Friends and Family Railcard. The Railcard costs less and then you get 1/3 off fares. It's paid for itself with one trip.

As far as entertainment goes, I've stocked up on cheap sticker books at The Works. I plan to take a couple of travel games like Guess Who and Pass the Pigs and I'm also going to print out a map so that DS can track where we are. I'll also take his Leappad and my Ipod touch for emergencies. And of course, a picnic lunch and plenty of snacks.

I'm also going to try to convince both DS and me that the train journey will be fun and exciting and not something to be endured.

hjmiller Wed 17-Jul-13 10:32:22

Pack mini-change kits, put a nappy and a mini pack of wipes inside a nappy bag. Do a few of these then you don't have to lug a huge change bag down the aisle when going to chnage the baby on a long journey (works for planes too!)

namechangeforaclue Wed 17-Jul-13 15:11:16

Take things for the children, snacks, games, cards, colouring in and money for the bar trolley. Take the kids for a little wander every hour or so.
Think up games like "spot the dinosaur poo" (black wrapped bales of hay)
And did I mention money for the bar trolley?

ChocolateMama Wed 17-Jul-13 16:14:37

I love taking the children by train. It is a fantastic adventure. We take a packed picnic with us, and plenty of books and games, and then settle down for the journey. We have family in the North of England so this is a regular trip for us. It beats the car every time....

unadulterateddad Wed 17-Jul-13 17:13:15

Get a railcard to make it cheaper and give the child a digital camera to take pictures/make movies with. There are no end of interesting things you can see out of the window and it can keep children entranced for hours taking pictures.

ataraxia Wed 17-Jul-13 20:34:50

I once went on 3 train day-trips in 3 days: York, Buxton and Chester. Each was great!

yegodsandlittlefishes Wed 17-Jul-13 21:10:32

Reserve seats, and put an adult next to each small child, or older children together if they will be happy with that. My children are teenagers and the last time we went cross country (Cheltenham - Aberdeen return) they packed their homework revision, phones and earphones, chess board, nintendo lite and games, books, coloured pencils and drawing paper, scissors and glue. Although we didn't get the table seats, it was still good to get seats near each other. We played some pencil and paper games, and they looked after my bag when I went to the loo, I bought them what they wanted from the trolley and was able to get their cases off the rack & ready near the door to avoid blocking the gangway or missing our stop.

I took my crochet and managed to half complete a single blanket and for when that got too boring, a book, and also took photos with my phone, bought the wifi connection for the duration of the journey and shared our progress on a 'a day in the life' thread on a little message board of internet friends.

Pack food, snacks and drinks, often the sandwiches run out before the trolley gets right down the train.

When getting on the train with suitcases or large bags, be sure to get them stowed out of the way. Then be prepared to show your tickets to whoever is sitting in your reserved seats and ask them to move. The seat numbers are usually found above the seats and on the seats, on the aisle side.

Pack your phone charger and reserve a window seat for very long journeys - you can plug it in to charge.

If you plan to take a buggy with you then do any journey plans using tools designed for disabled travellers to check buggy access. For example or the step free access option on the TFL search page.

goldenretriever Thu 18-Jul-13 07:25:39

Bring lots of stuff. Whatever the kids like, a few toys, ipad etc and some food unless you have really deep pockets! Enjoy the view and try to relax!

AngelieMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 18-Jul-13 09:34:50

Thanks for all your comments so far!

Do you have a journey booked with CrossCountry this Summer? The train operator would like to find a Mumsnetter who is planning on using the train over the summer with their family to be a case study for them. This will involve things such as taking pictures of you and your family on the train and talking to CrossCountry about your experience for them to possibly share your experiences with media.

If you're interested in helping out please PM me for more info

tamalyn1 Thu 18-Jul-13 14:19:03

having 3 children and living in which is miles from anywhere, i always prepare in advance for a train ride. i ask them to pack their fave backpacks with a picnic (drink, sandwich, crisps, breakfast bar and some fruit) and their fave toys eg colouring books, army men, teddy etc, i also take my ipad with their fave games - colouring apps, music and videos just incase. we then try and book a table seat so we can play some card games too. i always renew my family and friends railcard so i can get some fab ticket prices and we are currently planning our london trip and visit to Legoland!!

janekirk Thu 18-Jul-13 15:10:56

We use Family & Friends Rail card, travel at cheap rate times, make the most of 241 offers at attractions, particularly when visiting London.

Letitsnow9 Thu 18-Jul-13 15:33:30

Take little handheld fans (you can led ones which are even more fun for kids)

Maggietess Thu 18-Jul-13 19:48:01

Like people have said, individual backpacks with games. I always try and include one that scores points for looking out the window and spotting something.

If you have toddlers have a look online (Pinterest is good) for things called Busy Bags - you make up some activities into ziplock bags and produce different ones at different times. I LOVE them, both for getting things done round the house and for travel. Our favourite was magnetic dolls - you can buy magnetic paper and then there's patterns online that you can print onto the paper and cut out dolls and their clothes. Tiny tin to store them in that works as the metal for the magnet. Hours of fun!

Also I made every meal into the snack pot version so it takes longer wink - pinwheels instead of sandwiches in one pot, cubes of cheese instead of putting it in the bread in another pot, raisins in another, grapes in another and so on. They get the same as they would in any lunch but you can produce them every 15 minutes when someone says I'm bored and it all stretches out much longer!

And finally - invest in a cheap as chips buggy that's light and umbrella folds to store anywhere. You'll be so much happier than lugging your beautiful iCandy/Bugaboo/Quinny and smacking it off your shins and everyone around you!

Helspopje Netherlands Thu 18-Jul-13 19:49:09

bring a car seat when travelling with an infant - marvellous place to put them down and they wedge in perfectly to an airline seat

sealight123 Thu 18-Jul-13 20:30:12

On weekends, when my boy is working, me and my daughter Livvy get the train to Granny and Grandads in my hometown sunny Saltburn-by-the-sea. The collection of trains for one trip amounts to 3-4 hours of is already difficult to keep my 2 year old daughter entertained for 20 minutes, nevermind 4 hours..but after a few trips I have discovered what works and what doesn't (well for us atleast)-

-Bring as little as possible to carry, especially if you're alone, to ensure that your attention can always be on your child rather than if you have lost a bag or left it on the last train.
-We always bring our buggy (easily foldable ofcourse) to act as a pack mule when moving between trains
- A bag for myself with the
-A bag full of activities for Olivia- small toys, colouring books and crayons, small books, bubbles (always a great distraction) and a travel buddy (teddy)- Which we slip under the buggy
-A little packed lunch- drinks for us both and some little snacks
-And the bag that comes everywhere with us until Olivia is potty trained...the NAPPY BAAAG! Also equipped with a change of clothes...just in case

-If you're lucky enough to be traveling past the countryside a came of animal eye spy is always a keeper and just generally looking out of the window and talking about what you can see and engaging your child in conversation. Less mischief happens when they are distracted.

-At the end of the day, what works for us is planning ahead, to create as little stress as possible and enjoying the ride, rather than just treating it as a way of getting somewhere smile

daisybrown Thu 18-Jul-13 22:08:59

Always get the kids on first and get them off second.

elizaco Fri 19-Jul-13 06:49:49

It sounds simple, but a few basic card games can easily kill time. Happy Families is our personal favourite, and something the girls now always associate with trains! A few snacks of course, help too!

Cherryoats Fri 19-Jul-13 07:57:27

We have only had 2 trips on the train with a child but I would advise snacks, packing light and reserve seats with a table near where you can put your luggage. If theres a choice- only make the journey as long as you know your child can handle

noobieteacher Fri 19-Jul-13 11:34:44

We took the train and then hired a car in Scotland - saved us the hassle of driving up and had amazing scenery on the way up.

I find the train FAR less stressful than driving and you can take as much luggage with you as you want to without being charged humungous amounts of extra money.

It's also actually quite a good way for dcs to learn decent behaviour in public - there aren't that many opportunities for this if they are normally driven. Mine were surprisingly calm and well behaved.

Handy hints would be - book well in advance for the cheapest tickets, book a table seat if you can, make sure you have all your travel cards organised and checked correctly before you book, rather than assume you have the card and then have to get it renewed at the last minute.

For ID purposes, make a mental note of what they are wearing and if possible colour co-ordinate them so you can spot them easily in a crowd.

For entertainment purposes, get them a map and get them to cross off the stations as they go on.

vanillamum Sat 20-Jul-13 00:03:09

This is the voice of bitter experience. If you have kids in a Phil and Teds pushchair with a child in the bottom seat of the buggy DON"T park your buggy closest to the wall of the lift. If you can't avoid doing this just look out for the glowing distress button which is at the perfect height for little hands to reach out of the bottom seat and push! Before owning a Phil and Teds I never noticed that in all the lifts in Fenchurch St station and Kings Cross station they have a floor distress button. It is about calf height and they are fitted in most London station lifts.
You and all the other lift passengers will tut madly that the lift has broken down and what is making that awful noise...until you realise it is all due to your child.

itsonlysubterfuge Sat 20-Jul-13 20:52:41

We love travelling down to London on the train. It only takes 2 hours from Manchester. I think one of the keys to entertaining children and keeping them behaving is lots of snacks. We also walked around and picked a carriage with fewer number of people so we wouldn't disturb them. We traveled during the week, rather than the weekday. You get more room with a table seat, and you don't have to worry about children kicking the back of someone elses seat, but it does make it slightly more difficult to get in and out.

I find the best thing for taking, as far as packing goes is a husband to carry everything grin. We normally have a small carry-on suitcase and a backpack each. It also helps if you have a young one to keep them in a sling. Have fun and try to enjoy the scenery. If you can and your child is a reliable sleeper, I would try to time the journey so a little while after the train sets off it would be their normal nap time.

confusedofengland Sat 20-Jul-13 22:50:54

Make sure you allow yourself more time than you think you'll need for the journey. Whingey children & pushchairs can make things rather slow!

Also, if you have a FF baby, make sure you have a couple of ready-sterilised bottles (disposable ones are ideal) & cartons of formula to hand. If BF (I did both!), make sure you have plenty of room to do this on the train.

Book tickets in advance to save money and ensure you have a seat. Take snacks and drinks for the whole family. Download stuff from BBC iPlayer to your tablet to pass the time.

lissieloo Sat 20-Jul-13 23:38:38

We make a list of things to watch for, and the first person to finish the list gets a pound. stuff like a cow, a sheep, the sea, etc.

aloiseb Sun 21-Jul-13 00:02:48

If you are going to play word games with your child, do not start playing anagrams with station names anywhere near Newark.
It can lead to red faces - although much amusement to the other passengers. wink

MrsHoarder Sun 21-Jul-13 12:00:58

Take a soft bag which fits in the overhead space and is easy to lift. This makes getting around the station much faster than wheeled bags.

Then make sure you have nibbles and enough reading material, try to get a window seat and relax.

If travelling with a baby, try to avoid taking the buggy, a decent carrier (we have an Ergo) is much better as you don't want the baby to fall asleep right before you have to collapse it and it doesn't need luggage space.

I love taking DD1 on the train between Exmouth-Exeter-Teignmouth. It's a really beautiful journey.

I allow plenty of time to get us both onto the train - it takes much longer to negotiate a train station with a buggy.

I always take plenty of little snacks or a picnic and drinks. Lots of tiny portions of different things - breadsticks, mini sausages, grapes, blueberries, apple, cheese etc.
We take a couple of books for if (when) she gets bored looking out of the window.

The most useful thing to take is another adult to help out.

lunar1 Sun 21-Jul-13 13:37:28

Oh I do love traveling by train.

Battling to get myself and children on with a couple of bags and a folded pushchair while none of the staff around are inclined to help out.

Then fighting our way through the carriage to our pre booked seats where someone else is sat. The selfish gits never move, the staff on the train don't care, even if you can find them.

Nowhere to put luggage is also great, and last time I did find somewhere my case was stolen.

The wheelchair assistance we got when mil came to stay was fab, I waited with her at the appointed place at Piccadilly, consistently reassured that someone would be along soon to get the ramp out. My favourite bit of that trip was missing the train because no staff turned up apparently you wanted me to lift mil in her chair alone onto the train. We didn't go on our trip as I was scared about how I would get us back if we ever made it into a train.

I also love the gauntlet that is trying to get off te train with children in the few seconds the door opens for. Will the selfish sods move out of the way or will I be going on a mystery tour to the next stop?!

My top piece of advice for train travel, try flying there it's probably cheaper anyway.

When travelling with children, go to the toilet before boarding to avoid having to go on the train. I made a Peppa Pig-style check list of things for the kids to spot out of the window and draw pictures of on the journey, kept them entertained for a surprisingly long time. If all else fails, portable DVD players (with headphones) work a treat.

ScienceRocks Sun 21-Jul-13 15:45:43

I love taking the train with my two DDs (ages 6 and 3). But organisation is key.

Top tips:

Travel off peak.

Cheap tickets are usually available 12 weeks ahead of the intended date of travel. Setting up an email alert that notifies you when the cheap fares are released is a good idea if you know when you want to travel.

Two singles are often cheaper than a return. We have to go through London to get to most places, so it is usually more cost effective to book train tickets from the London terminal for the service instead of from our nearest station, and use oyster for the in between bit.

Booking seats is a must. With kids, don't book the quiet carriage! Seats around a table are perfect, especially if there is a plug socket nearby.

A pull along case is easiest to manage, plus a rucksack with bits for the journey and a cross body bag that contains tickets, money etc. this leaves one hand free for one of the children to hold while walking and the other one can hold onto the handle of the case or dangling strap of the rucksack.

Food and drink on trains is expensive. But to save carrying it all, popping to marks and spencer at the London terminal is fun.

Allow plenty of time for connections.

Take a few things to do. Cards are good, a couple of programmes ready downloaded on an iPad are even better. Sticker books are also nice, as are audio books on a tiny mp3 plus headphones and a splitter jack. Games like I spy, spotter games, word games all help pass the time. Books are obviously great too.

Take a packet of tissues and some hand sanitizer, just in case the toilets are a bit grubby or under-resourced.

I'll go anywhere I can on a train, it's blimmin' lovely smile

CheeryCherry Sun 21-Jul-13 16:02:42

We're a family of 5....<sigh>

edam Sun 21-Jul-13 16:12:17

I love trains, in theory - grew up around them, my Dad worked for British Rail and drives steam engines in his spare time.

Train journeys can be a PITA though, especially if there are delays. I do travel a lot by train with ds, though.

Top tips - if you have a season ticket for work, check whether it gives you any 'extras'. I didn't know, until another passenger told me, my annual season ticket has all sorts of benefits, inc. reduced fares within the whole South East network, for ds and dh as well as me.

If you are travelling with children, pack light - don't take more luggage than you can handle on your own. Esp. if you need to take a car seat as well for journeys at the other end. Other passengers are often very helpful, but don't rely on their existence!

Take games and distractions, preferably not too noisy - but looking out of the window and chatting about what you see is just as good. It's like being in a car, a chance for conversation about stuff to happen with kids. Something about not necessarily looking directly at each other prompts children to tell you more about stuff they haven't mentioned.

Don't let your kids irritate other passengers. Kicking seats, getting too noisy, running up and down - get your child to stop. Good behaviour is important in a public space. (This goes for adults too but sadly most of the irritating ones don't have their Mother with them to sort them out.)

Take appropriate clothes and snacks for long journeys. You never know when a missed connection might leave you hanging around on a cold platform in the evening.

edam Sun 21-Jul-13 16:14:57

grin @ babyheave, I know exactly how you feel.

LaTrucha Sun 21-Jul-13 16:32:19

Take lots of little snacks in tiny little pots or bags. They're an activity in themselves. Big bags also always split and get abandoned.

Take a toy they only have on train journeys (I have travel hungry hippos).

Different small colouring / activity books so there is always something new. It is even possible to do cutting and sticking on the train.

They also love those little UHT milk cartons. Don't ask me why.

Solopower1 Sun 21-Jul-13 18:09:06

Don't sit on the wet paint at the station. Not a good look.

ThePskettiIncident Sun 21-Jul-13 20:09:22

Tips: take a bag of toys, take plenty of food and water and book seats in advance.

No trains near me, but I love the coastal railway near Exeter and Dawlish as the views are so pretty.

Mycatistoosexy Sun 21-Jul-13 20:56:19

We use the trains a lot and to be honest as my one year old son is completely hyperactive, I find letting him stand on the fold-down table and wave at everyone, the only way to get from A to B.

edam Sun 21-Jul-13 21:03:08

Solo, I wish I'd read your top tip before I ruined a brand-new jacket...

Solopower1 Sun 21-Jul-13 21:49:46

There is some very recent paintwork on a country station platform in Stirlingshire that will forever retain the imprint of my bum. And there are some very ruined trousers in my bin.

PatsysPyjamas Sun 21-Jul-13 23:00:06

We travel by train a lot. I regularly make a 4.5 hour journey with my 2 kids. It is ALL about the preparation. With young children, you really do need to keep them occupied every second. I get special treats like magazines and little cakes. You7 think up endless ways of killing time - having a drink is a whole activity, don't waste it on doing alongside something else! Having said that, I actually quite enjoy train travel. I can't wait until my kids are older and can sit listening to their headphones while I sit back and read the paper and drink coffee. Bliss!

For me, the stress is about disturbing other people. That is why I live in hope of a designated family carriage on major routes. There would be space for pushchairs and extra luggage, colouring in sheets and crayons, even the option for entertainment on special days eg face painting or storytime. Stamp books for older children to collect journeys in (stamped by conductor; 10 stamps = a reward). Kids meals in the buffet car. A ramp down on to the platform to help young children/ buggies get on and off safely. Folding tables (like the disabled seating has) to allow younger children to sit on laps without being squashed in. This would make the journey more pleasant for families and other customers alike. And - business head on - encourage families to pre-book their seats. I kind of think train companies are missing a trick when it comes to families.

Sorry, you didn't ask for all this, but I have spent a lot of time on Cross Country trains! When mine were really little I used to spend journeys planning a child seat which would be suspended from the back of the seat in front and rest on the drop down table, so babies and young toddlers could sit facing the parent while not taking up an extra seat (obviously I was fantasising about having my hands free to drink coffee at that point).

Solopower1 Mon 22-Jul-13 05:37:16

Great ideas, Patsy. But one of the most important things when travelling with kids, imo, is to have clean toilets. As it is, we have resorted to putting toddlers in nappies, even if they are already trained.

Even the small stations should make it easier for disabled people/families to cross the lines to other platforms. Dragging buggies up and then down stairs is really hard, and impossible if you are in a wheelchair.

Kveta Mon 22-Jul-13 06:21:10

we only use trains abroad now, after I did a London-Glasgow return trip with DS when he was 5 months old, and I couldn't feed him comfortably in the seat I was allocated, so ended up sitting on the floor for much of the journey. Then he went down with a nasty gut upset after the journey. flying is a) cheaper and b) a shorter time, so we always fly when doing long distance UK journeys now.

Top tip for using czech trains though - pee before boarding, as their toilets are vile.

winnieangel Mon 22-Jul-13 06:36:26

Sorry, this is not wholesome but know theLondon to Edinburgh trip well:

Book a table / window seat with a plug socket
Buy wifi vouchers
Have favourite movies on laptop / tablets / mini DVD
Pack yummy packed lunch
Make a couple of trips to food carriage - fun & breaks up journey
Bring a pillow for sleepy heads

PatsysPyjamas Mon 22-Jul-13 06:39:08

You are right about clean toilets, Solopower. My family carriage will have a toilet at one end!

Seriously Cross Counry, I know it may not be possible to have a designated family coach, but it should be perfectly simple to have an option NOT to book the Quiet Coach. When you book online you can only choose if you actively want to be in there. My heart sinks if I board and find we are in Quiet. People have chosen to be away from excess noise, and then here we come... I want to hold up a sign saying 'we were just put here!'

I am up early to pack for a train journey - 2 hours, 2 children aged six and three, 1 adult. Wish me luck....

trains are my favourite way to travel so long as they're not packed to the rafters with over deodorised commuters.

big bonus is that i can actually read on trains without feeling sick - can't do that in a car or on a bus and coaches make me feel sick full stop because of the vibrations. i like the views and i like that so long as it's not peak time there is plenty of space. i always get a table seat if i can and always face in the direction of travel.

for the boy it's the usual story - snacks, ds or ipad to amuse him and maybe one of those overpriced kids magazines with puzzles and colouring to do.

i have travelled by train with three changes with a boy, a dog and a big rucksack and it's been totally doable. that's another bonus - being able to take dogs.

top tip - if you walk all the way down the platform you can still get away with having a sneaky cigarette.

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.

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
Plastic bag for rubbish
Monopoly deal card game

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.

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.

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

my tip is go by car

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

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.

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!

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!!

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.)

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.


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

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.

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

Book ahead to get cheaper tickets- and book seats

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!

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.

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.

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:

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)

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!!

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 :-)

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.

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.

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