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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,


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!

TerraNotSoFirma Sat 13-Jul-13 15:38:33

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 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 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 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 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.

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