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Travelling by train with 3 month old - how feasible?

24 replies

tabitha · 11/05/2004 13:24

I'm planning to travel on my own by train from Edinburgh to Leeds with my 3 month old dd and 6 year old ds. I've never travelled on such a long journey with them and am a bit nervous about it, especially as dd is not the sort of baby who would sit quietly on my knee for the whole journey (or indeed for any period of time exceeding 10 minutes).
Have phoned Virgin Trains customer services who advised that they have baby changing facilities in the toilets and suggested that it might be an idea to book dd her own seat (will only be about £7 extra return with family railcard and saver fares) so that I can put her in carrycot or carseat on it. Anyone have any other advice, including how 'breastfeeding friendly' train companies are and which company (GNER or Virgin) would be best. Also, how easy will it be to safely store her pram/buggy on the train near to where I'm sitting and how helpful, in practice, are the guards / train managers.
Or should I just give up on the whole idea and go by car?
Thanks

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hewlettsdaughter · 11/05/2004 13:42

Hi tabitha - how long is it supposed to take from Edinburgh to Leeds? IME it's easier travelling with a pre-crawling baby than a more active one. I never booked mine his own seat. Best advice I can give is to travel at off-peak times! There may not be many guards to help but other customers may take pity on you.

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hewlettsdaughter · 11/05/2004 13:45

Oh yes, and I have breastfed on trains once or twice and never received any adverse comments (I was usually in bus-style seating though rather than those fours where people face each other).

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wobblyknicks · 11/05/2004 13:52

tabitha - booking another seat is a must - then you are guaranteed extra space to put her, and you can use 'her' legroom to stash bags and things while you can relax (a bit). If you can put her in a car seat or carrycot, that will be a lifesaver for you because she might sleep quite a bit (with the motion of the train) and then you can have your hands free.

I did a train journey from Falmouth to Croydon with dd (about 9 months) a few weeks ago and I survived, (essbee - don't remind me how I swore never again!) and that was including a tube transfer - so it can be done.

I didn't get any help from station staff (apart from one guy I roped in at Paddington tube station) - but other passengers were SO helpful. At every point (getting on train, getting off) someone offered to help - sometimes I had to look beseechingly at someone and ask but sometimes they just offered off their own backs. So as long as you're prepared to look eternally grateful, I'd say you can easily rely on other people helping you with your pushchair and other stuff. The added bonus is that they have the problem of how to store your stuff too. One bloke helped me onto the train by taking dd's buggy and my (rather huge) case, then he was struggling with putting it in the locker bit. I was standing there trying to help (while holding dd, so I wasn't much good) and in the end I got told to sit down while 3 other people helped him throw stuff around and fit everything in.

So there's always someone (or lots of people) willing to muck in and help - you just have to stand round looking helpless and holding the baby!!

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elliott · 11/05/2004 14:03

At that age I found train travelling easier than car - no stopping for feeds and you can get up and walk around - though I have never done it on my own with more than one child...
Agree that the extra seat is definitely worth it, you will then get three seats together and that should be enough to put anyone off sitting on the fourth seat unless its very busy
I'd go for GNER rather than Virgin (bigger trains and tend to be mroe reliable).
I've had no problems breastfeeding - worst experience was on a v v crowded (virgin) train - the previous one had been cancelled - the aisle was full of people standing so I couldn't get out to pace up and down and soothe ds, my only option was whipping the boob out in front of them all! Still, needs must

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tabitha · 11/05/2004 14:10

Thanks for the advice.
Hewlettsdaughter - I think the journey is about 3 hours or so and I am planning to travel off-peak.
Wobblyknicks, I definitely plan to book second seat for dd - woulds as though it would be £7 well spent. That tube transfer you were talking about sounds an absolute nightmare - if I travel with Virgin, I can do the journey in a oner, with no train changes.
Good to hear that other passengers are helpful - I don't think I'll hve any problems looking helpless or eternally grateful.

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Freddiecat · 11/05/2004 14:13

travelled by train with DS when he was 5 months once and just had him on the table in his car seat. would recommend taking multiple changes of clothing for all of you though. i was holding him facing towards me when all of a sudden he projectile vomitted all over both of us (it was a complete shock as he was not a sicky baby and that was his only projectile experience). i was just thankful he'd been facing me and not the woman opposite who was towards the end of a large and complex bit of embroidery.... No one came to help me and I had to struggle up the busy carrige to our bag holding a stinky baby and being really stinky myself. Actually I was laughing the whole time at how smelly we were!

As for breastfeeding - remember something Libby Purves said in "how not to be a good mother" that like elliot says, if anyone gives you a funny look for breastfeeding just give them the choice of that or a screaming baby! drink a can of cheap lager at the same time and they won't know what to say anyway!

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tabitha · 11/05/2004 14:14

Oops, that should be sounds as though it would be £7 well spent - I've got a fluey cold and my brain isn't functioning properly.
Elliot, I definitely think my two would put anyone off sitting in the fourth seat, unless the train was really busy

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KateandtheGirls · 11/05/2004 14:14

I've never done a train journey with a baby so young, but I've done plenty of other travelling alone with my 2 girls. Get the extra seat!!!! So much easier. Your older child is old enough to be able to follow directions, and will go sit where he/she is told (I assume) so you only have the one child that you will have to physically carry. And as others have said, it's much easier with a 3 month old than a 13 month old, say.

As for breastfeeding, just whip 'em out is what I always said. If anyone has a problem with it, that's their problem. (It's also much easier travelling with a baby who's breastfed than a baby who's bottle fed for that reason. I had one of each, so I know.)

How long is the train journey? Surely it can't be that long. It's just a little ol' country y'all got over there ain't it? (Kate the Ugly American.)

I just went on a long weekend with my 2 and 4 year old daughters to Jamaica (which was wonderful). The journey there and back was a killer though. It's really not that far from Florida to Jamaica, but for some reason it took 12 hours each way altogether. On the way home it was a 2 hour bus ride from the hotel to the airport (during which my 2 year old threw up on me because it was very bumpy). Then a 3 hour flight to Charlotte, North Carolina, followed by a 2 hour flight to Florida. We left the hotel at 7am and walked in our house at 8:30pm. Exhausted, of course, but somehow I survived (and worth it for 2 days of swim-up pool bar!).

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dinosaur · 11/05/2004 14:16

This reply has been withdrawn

This has been withdrawn by MNHQ at the poster's request.

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KateandtheGirls · 11/05/2004 14:17

Freddiecat, silly me didn't pack changes of clothing, so at Montego Bay airport had to buy us all Jamaica t-shirts (my 4 year old didn't want to be left out) to change into. But first I felt so lovely checking in with fresh vomit all over me.

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Toothache · 11/05/2004 14:19

Tabitha - Dh, ds and I travel from Edinburgh to Liverpool by Virgin trains every 3mths. We book a seat for ds using the family railcard. The 1st time we did it with ds he was 11wks old. Taking the carseat was a brilliant idea. We had a solo travel system buggy where the carseat clips into the frame so it was handy. He slept most of the way and when he was awake he seemed quite entertained by the cooing passengers around us.

The new Virgin trains are fantastic and have really good changing facilities. Also you can buy headphones for £2 to listen to Virgin radio (plugs into armrest like on an aeroplane). There is a kids radio station with Dick and Dom in Da Bunglalow which should amuse your ds for a while.

Don't know about breastfeeding though.

The luggage holders are never far from where you are sitting, but be warned the space is limited and it's best to be one of the first onto the train.

IME the staff are absolutely NO HELP whatsoever. So that is the downside.

We have had some good journeys and some terrible ones. But in general as long as the train isn't too busy then you should be fine.

GNER trains still have smoking sections so BEWARE! I booked non-smoking seats and was placed in the smoking section by mistake. The train was so busy that there were no seats we could move to so we spent the entire journey taking turns to stand inbetween carriages with baby ds to avoid the smoke!

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Crunchie · 11/05/2004 14:27

I should see much of a problem, make sure to get a seat round a table, more space and a good colouring table for the eldest. Personally I would try to feed as much as poss, and get a tired baby. Good Luck

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littlematilda · 11/05/2004 14:36

tabitha, i've travelled by train before and found it a good experience, there is always some one to help you and finding space for the pram was fine too; there should be space beside the luggage racks to park it upright. i also breast fed, did so discreetly and noone knew what was happening, i found more privicy on the single seats than on the tabled ones; too open for Bfeeding. i've travelled a few times by plane with dd at 3mnths and 6 mnths and survived to tell the tale. theres always going to be hairy moments but i find that if your comfortable with were your sitting and you feel relaxed then baby will do just fine.

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Toothache · 11/05/2004 14:39

Definitely second Crunchies advice about a table seat! The good thing is that if you book 3 seats you normally get a table.... and NOONE wants to sit with a Mum and her 2 young children, so you get 4 for the price of 3.

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Hayls · 11/05/2004 14:43

Hi Tabitha, I travelled on a Virgin train for 6 hours when dd was 5 weeks old and it was fine. However, there wasn't much luggage space and I got NO help from staff or other passengers but once we were moving it was OK. She just slept or bf quite happily. And I didn't get any coments or funny looks either!

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marthamoo · 11/05/2004 14:44

Only bit of advice I have to add is don't try and change her in the toilets! It's a little fold down from the wall changing table, you have barely enough elbow room, and there's nowhere to put anything. Plus train toilets, IME, tend to be fairly grim. I always changed ds1 on the seat - and just dared anyone to complain (no-one ever did!)

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tabitha · 11/05/2004 14:45

Thanks again everyone.
I think my main worry is just being on my own if anything goes wrong. In theory, it shouldn't be too difficult, but in practise....
Freddiecat, loved the comment about drinking the cheap lager - I know that if people have a problem with me breastfeeding, it's their problem but I would still feel mortified if anyone gave me a dirty look or (God forbid) said anything. Silly, I know.
Dinosaur, dd is the same as your ds2 - not a great sleeper during the day, so I'm hoping the movement of the train will help her nod off too.
Unfortunately, I don't have a buggy which the carseat can attach to but I can (just) fit the carseat under the carrycot when attached to the push-chair frame, so will do this and take everything else in a backpack. One advantage of breastfeeding is that you can travel light.
Ds is (usually) pretty sensible and good at doing what he's told when we're out but it's sod's law that he'll use a long train journey to prove me wrong. I'll just have to try to take lots of stuff to keep him occupied and try the kid's radio station on Virgin.

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roisin · 12/05/2004 14:42

It's be fine Tabitha - I've 22 months between my two, and have taken them both on trains regularly since they were born, (usually 4.5 hrs). Definitely book a seat - well worth the money. Virgin are making a big deal about being family-friendly atm, so you could even try asking for a free seat (reserved) for the baby.

(The first time on a train ds1 was about 4.5 months, but pretty long, and he was on my lap. I was exhausted from having him on my lap the whole time - and breastfeeding him was pretty tricky, as the train was full, and there was a bloke next to me, who was very good, and desperately trying to look elsewhere, and not comment whilst this baby was kicking him in the ribs )

If you possibly can, get someone to put you on the train, and meet you at the other end, particularly if you have a pushchair chassi which will need to go in the luggage van.

You can get disapproving looks if your kids are noisy - but ignore them. There are usually more of the friendly and supportive passengers. Don't be hesitant about asking someone to pass your bag out for you at the station, or for someone to go and fetch you a coffee from the buffet car, or whatever. People often want to help, but don't know what they can do.

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tabitha · 12/05/2004 15:25

Hi Roisin. Thanks for your advice. I booked seats last night on Virgin's website but there was no mention of seat reservations on the site (as far as I could see) so I phoned up this morning to make sure that we have seats together and round a table (we have). I have also asked for help from Virgin getting on and off the train at either end and hopefully this help will materialise.
I'm going on the 26th May and coming back on 28th, of will let you all know how it goes

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roisin · 25/05/2004 21:00

Thinking of you tomorrow Tabitha - hope it goes well!

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Soozi · 25/05/2004 22:47

I did Glasgow to Crewe and back on Virgin when DD was 5 months. I figure that up until the really wriggly stage the logistics are much the same. Here's how I coped ....

Luggage - 1 Rockatot seat, the chassis it clips into, 1 small rucsac with everything for the weekend. New Virgin trains have luggage rack in middle of carriage rather than at the door - means you have to lug all the stuff up the aisles clunking folks heads on the way. But, very many helpful people around to carry things.

Friday pm - train v busy. Had booked airline type seat but had someone next to me and it was very squashed so a table seat would be better, espec with a 6 yr old. Ended up sitting in the two free airline seats in front with DD in rockatot but had to get up when I got to Lancaster. Asked one of the staff to help stack Rocatot on luggage rack as I explained I had to move into my own seat. He took one pitiful look at me and said he'd be back in a minute. He duly came back and said that the train manager suggested I move up to "Carriage G" where it was much quieter. He then took my chassis and rucksack, another gentleman passenger took the rocatot and I carried DD all the way up to G which turned out to be First Class - bliss and at no extra charge. I had breastfed in both carriages and if anyone had given me any looks or comments I'd have been ready for them.

On way back on the Monday it was very quiet so had the airline seats to myself.

Would recommend playing the helpless mother part and everyone will come to your aid. I'd definitely do it again as couldn't stand the monotony of driving down the M6 for 4.5 hours and it was cheaper than petrol costs.

I timed the journeys carefully. There were many different ways ofgetting from Glasgow to Crewe and back and I made sure I had the most direct and quickest so each journey was about 3.5 hours. I only had to change DD once on the way down and did it on the table in the first class carriage coz no-one was around.

Best of luck

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tamum · 25/05/2004 22:52

It was a Virgin train that threw a woman off (well, not literally) a few years ago for breastfeeding because one of the passengers complained. I mention this not to put you off, but because Richard Branson wrote a really great letter to the Times afterwards saying that he had told his staff that in future if anyone was so sad as to complain about a mother breastfeeding then they should be be thrown off, not the mother. He phrased it much better than that though!

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tabitha · 28/05/2004 19:47

Hi everyone,

I'm back now and the journey was...okay - could've been better but could've been much worse. Train going down there started at Edinburgh so had plenty of time to get on. Lady from Virgin trains helped me and put pram (carrycot & wheels) in luggage compartment and saw me to my seat. Breastfed dd at start of journey and then she slept for all of 20 minutes. Was awake for the rest of the journey but for most of the time was happy enough as long as she was being held. Did disgusting pooey nappy betwwen Darlington & York and needed complete change of nappy & clothes but managed to do it in toilets. Changing table was okay but made the mistake of putting wipes & clean nappy in sink and accidentally setting off automatic water all over them
Only problem came at Leeds when station staff who were supposed to help us off train didn't materialise and I had to get me, dd, ds, car seat, pram & 3 bags off the train in two minutes. Was v stressed at that point.
Journey back was okay too - Leeds station staff helped me on train with all my stuff as did a kind fellow passenger and the train manager was very helpful too & dh met me off the train. No-one complained about dd's occasional crying or about me b/ffeding her & ds was an absolute angel - very well behaved
Thanks to everyone for all their help & suggestions.

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Soozi · 01/06/2004 11:25

Glad to hear it was a (reasonable) success. And hooray for Richard Branson - good on em!

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