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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,


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 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 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.

breatheslowly Wed 17-Jul-13 21:32:51

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.

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