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travelling on your own with a toddler - practical tips?

(16 Posts)
bossykate Fri 20-Jun-03 15:33:41

hello everyone

i'd like to take ds away somewhere next weekend.

i can, but don't very often, drive - so was thinking i'd like to travel by train. plus it would be easier to keep ds amused on the journey.

however, i've realised there could be a few glitches in the plan.

would probably go to the mainline station by tube. we have a techno and while it is very maneuvrable, i can't manage it all that well with one hand. would i be best off taking a rucksack to keep hands free? i've got a trolley case which just might work, but i don't see how i would manage stairs/escalators with both a case and the buggy. or would a simple shoulder strap holdall type bag work best?

also, if i get a taxi at the other end, it would mean ds wouldn't have a car seat. what do people think about that? think i know the answer!

any practical tips for managing the travel/luggage and buggy very much appreciated.

thanks in advance

Lindy Fri 20-Jun-03 15:43:30

Hi Bossykate - all I can say is good luck!! I had to take DS on a train last week - it was only an hour's journey but it wasn't easy!! I kept luggage to an absolute minimum - one ruck sack - I was meeting my mum & knew she everything I needed (in my attempt to keep it light I even forgot a spare nappy & DS desperately needed a new one but I pretended I didn't notice!!). I personally couldn't have managed a buggy as well.

DS amused himself by constantly doing 'peek a boo' with the chap in the seat behind - fortunately he was very tolerant but, no joking, DS kept it up the whole hour; apart from walking up and down the carriage (with me behind him of course) saying hello to every single passanger - and then trying to demolish the walking frame of a disabled passanger. It was a holiday destination train so most of the passengers were elderly & very good natured ...... if it had been a busy commuter journey ????????? !!

It was the longest hour of my life ........... much easier to drive !!

Sorry, you asked for advice and I've just been moaning!

Lindy Fri 20-Jun-03 15:47:10

Bossykate - sorry, haven't even answered your questions regarding the tube & the taxi - I couldn't manage the underground with a child - but plenty of people obviously do. Could you take a taxi to the main line station? If you book in advance can you request a car seat?

Why not stay at home, much more relaxing!

Marina Fri 20-Jun-03 15:55:04

Definitely go for a holdall that has rucksack straps - Tula do them, from John Lewis. We have a nifty one which has a matching daysack that zips onto the front, so you can connect the two while travelling but then have a small (if unglamorous) bag for daily use.
I've done London-Carlisle-Edinburgh on my own with the Tula-buggy-little horror combo and it has worked OK.
Reserve a seat for each of you on the train, paying child rate for your ds if the operator won't do you an extra seat reservation gratis (Virgin do, bless them - or did for me). Double-check it is a table seat. With any luck your fellow table-sharers will blench when they see you both and run off somewhere else, leaving you the run of the table.
At the other end, if you are concerned about ds in the taxi, you could try having a booster seat with you (should fit in top of Tula) and a seatbelt diverter thingy (think Urchin or GLTC sell these). It's not ideal for an under three but it is better than nothing.
I'd seriously contemplate a taxi from home to the mainline station, by the way...we do a lot of public transport in London but I never got on with buggies and escalators.
Ds will love the train, mine certainly did. He did not shut up for the whole four hours...
Oh, and as it is likely to be hot and you cannot rely on the aircon working on Inter-City trains these days, take lots of bottled water and wipes to keep you both cool and on speaking terms.
I have cheekily posted an alternative hotel scenario for you on the Malmesbury thread...

whymummy Fri 20-Jun-03 16:41:20

hi bossykate,you`ll be fine,take a rucksack and the buggy,i travel a lot on my own with two children and i`ve had to run from one terminal to another for connection flights do the scalators with buggy,bags and kids,get taxis,etc there`s always someone to give you a hand anyway, hope you enjoy your weekend!!

SamboM Fri 20-Jun-03 16:42:24

Hi bossykate. I go in London taxis with dd and her buggy, you are allowed to put them in rear-facing with the baby in it. Loads of places have London style black cabs now.

WideWebWitch Fri 20-Jun-03 22:12:05

Hi Bossykate, FWIW, here are my tips:

* May sound obvious (and probably is) but take small cars, dinosaurs, books, crayons etc with you in an easy to get at bit of your bag so you can produce them at various intervals.
* Agree, try to get a table seat and remember to set up a barricade for toys at the end of the table or you'll spend half the journey grovelling about on the floor, also agree, try to book seats but you shouldn't have to pay for your ds, so let's hope you get kind bookers like Marina did.
* I'd agree that people do blanch at the sight of you and may leave the seats opposite free, marvelous!
* Take water and snacks in case of no catering and bribery items if you usually use them.
* Rucksack is a good idea for keeping hands free. I've always found people quite helpful with helping get buggies on and off trains outside of London (and in London sometimes).
* Go for a walk along the train if it gets too much or go to the corridor if you need to give him a bollocking. Let's hope you don't but IME train carriages have this way of being very very quiet the minute you want to tell your child off and it can get embarrassing if 100 people are listening to you
* Some trains have family carriages, although these may not be in use outside the school holidays. Ask about them and if you can get in one of them, do. They provide crayons, expect noise and mess and, best of all, they're full of other parents.
On the taxi front I think I'd prob risk it with an ordinary seatbelt since I don't think many cabs have child seats. Don't know what else to suggest on that front really. Where did you decide to go in the end? Hope you have a lovely time, wherever it is and HTH.

mammya Fri 20-Jun-03 22:35:48

Hi bk, I always travel on my own with dd, we've been to France several times, and Germany once. I'll second the Tula bag with the small rucksack that zips on it, I've got one, very practical. Otherwise the only other thing I wanted to add is that the newest black cabs have an integrated child seat, you pull down the "seat separator" (sorry, I'm finding this really hard to explain...) and you sit your child on this, it acts like a booster and then you can just use the normal seatbelt. I don't know if I'm making myself understood here, but the driver would be able to show you. Hope it all goes well anyway!

tigermoth Sun 22-Jun-03 10:29:53

bk, it is do-able.

Here are my tips. Hope they are not too obvious:

Try to have an early night the night before. You need to feel on top of things to enjoy the travelling. Likewise, leave your destination before tiredness sets in, so you are not exhausted during the journey back.

Definintely take a rucksack type bag. Pack some carrier bags inside - lightweight and good for messy emergencies. They will double as sick bags if the train journey does not agree with your ds.

Do not worry too much about escalators. I have travelled widely with a buggy on the tubes and have found people are very happy to help. Also, lots of tubes have lifts to the platforms. The jublilee line is especially good. Phone up London Transport to find out what stations have lifts. You might be able to plan your route around this. Of course you can't guarantee they will be working on the day

It is possible to balance a pushchair on a single escalator step for either an upward or downward journey. So you won't need any help. Sadly I only got the hang of this 6 months before my youngest son stopped needing pushchairs. I found it too frightening for ages to hold onto the pushchair and keep it level while the lift descended. It can work, though. In the end I did it.

However, it is much easier to hold onto the pushchair while the lift ascends. As long as you can bear the full weight of your child plus pushchair, that is.

Agree about bringing some toys for the train journey. Think about buying a new toy or toys to be extra sure of travelling with a happy son. This is where cheap plastic toys come into their own - lots of visual impact, fun to open and very lightweight so easy to pack away. The surprise element and the unpacking all help while away the time, and that's before you son starts playing with them.

Also take favourite sweets/ biscuits etc as an emergency standby - travelling is a time IMO to relax rules on healthy eating. Pick things that take some time to eat if possible. Ice creams are of course good mood enhancers, especially if the train is hot. Hopefully they will be on sale. That reminds me - pack a plasitc pelican bib!

I can't add more to the taxi advice, and can't think of any other tips for now.

Honestly, you'll be fine, bk. Once you done one trip like this, is will seem so much easier the next time.

tigermoth Sun 22-Jun-03 10:33:23

ps - can you pack as much as possible in the luggage holder under the techno? the less you have to carry yourself, the better.

hana Sun 22-Jun-03 10:35:50

my little girl loves stickers!! We make a long plane journey to Canada a few times each year and this keeps her amused for long stretches of time. The smaller the sticker, the better. I also wrap up a few little presents ( books, play-dough, dollies) and she always loves opening them.
Don't have much advice about manouvering with a buggy though. Good luch with your mini holiday

kmg1 Sun 22-Jun-03 18:59:09

Trains are fantastic with kids bk. I have 4 hr+ journeys on my own since they were born .. A journey with ds1 aged just 2 and ds2 aged 8 weeks sticks in my mind!

Firstly - Where are you going? Do you NEED the buggy? If you are staying with friends, get them to beg, borrow or steal a buggy from someone else. Buggies really are hard to manage on and off trains.

You can book help at stations getting on and off, but they aren't necessarily reliable, so make sure you can cope on your own.

Keep you luggage down to the absolute minimum - guess that goes without saying. I always make sure the travel bag fits in the top of my large rucksack, so that if necessary I can carry everything on my back with two hands free for the kids.

PS It does get loads easier - mine are now 4 and nearly 6, and still love trains. It's a dream way to travel IMO

kmg1 Sun 22-Jun-03 19:03:22

After-thought. How old is ds? How far are you going?

Also, what trains/route are you travelling on? Do you know what the rolling stock is? Some of them, sprinter types, you can just pushy a buggy on without folding it up - simplicity itself. Done it with a double buggy and tiny baby and two toddlers! Park the buggy in the space for bikes, and they can travel sat in that.

Finally (!) Do ask for help. Most people are more than willing to lend a hand, but sometimes are hesitant to offer. Getting on and off especially, can be tricky.

Batters Mon 23-Jun-03 10:47:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

bossykate Mon 23-Jun-03 16:16:36

these tips are fantastic, thank you. i'm very used to the tube, but obviously not usually with luggage as well.

i'm really looking forward to ds & I going off for a mini-adventure somewhere and these tips will be invaluable.

think i also need to practice driving a bit more so am less wimpy about motorway trips tho'!

thanks again everyone

kmg1 Thu 26-Jun-03 21:14:30

bossykate - I hope it goes well for you! When you come back, do let us know your tips, and what worked and what didn't.

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