Wondering if anyone can help me with the delights of booking rail travel. I'm trying to book 2 journeys for myself and my 4 year old daughter. The website says under 5s travel free but I don't particularly want her sitting on my lap for 3 hours and there doesn't seem to be a way of reserving her a seat next to me except by paying another fare. Are there any experienced rail users out there who know how this all works?
As far as I know there is no way of having another seat except by paying another fare!
However, I have travelled a fair bit by train with ds and havo only once had to have him on my lap. If forced, it can actually be more relaxing to have ds in the seat and kind of stand over him (only with an aisle seat).
Talk to the booking agent - they do seem to pack all reservations into one coach at a time - see if they can find you a coach that isn't too packed.
We always booked seats for ours, even when they were under 5. A short journey it wouldn't matter, but we did journeys of 5-6 hours and I wouldn't take the risk.
We have always had a family railcard and it has generally been fairly cheap to pay for an under-5 - I know you shouldn't have to, but it's the only way to guarantee a seat. I have been on journeys where harassed-looking mums are trying to contain one or more children on their laps, and it's no fun for anyone.
When ours were very young the railcard discount was much more generous, we used to be able to book seats for them for £1 each. The only thing I can advise is to book as far ahead as possible and see if you can get one of the ultra-cheap fares, then you mightn't mind quite so much paying for a 4 year old.