Tips and tricks when travelling with kids
Travelling with kids on any mode of transport (apart from maybe a pedalo or Ferris wheel) can test your powers of parenting endurance.
Travelling with kids on any mode of transport (apart from maybe a pedalo or Ferris wheel) can test your powers of parenting endurance. You can’t leave them at home (that’s pretty illegal), so they’re going to have to come with you. Travelling by train is much easier than car; the kids don't spend the journey looking at the back of your head, while you sit in the front fuming about traffic and roadworks.
Perhaps you’re one of those responsible adults in the running for the title of WonderMum or SuperDad? Maybe you relish the prospect of ‘quality-time’ with your offspring and all the ‘learning opportunities’ an enclosed space offers?
For the rest of us, who feel like we lurch from one chaotic moment to the next, here are some downright handy tips and tricks to make a train journey with children fly by.
Prepare for the mission
Make it easy on yourself; if you can be flexible with your travel time, then go off-peak. Generally, the trains are less crowded and you’ve got more chance of bagging seats with a table, if they’re available. On some services, you can book your seat when you buy your tickets. You then arrive at the station with your posse of travel companions, and we’ll have your seats reserved, ready and waiting for you.
Some adults have spent a long time on this planet; their wide-eyed enthusiasm is buried somewhere under the rubble of life, work, paying bills, and being put on the naughty step once too often. Children, however, find wonder and joy in the simplest of things, like having a common or garden picnic.
A picnic on a train is like on another level. So pack your kids favourite nibbles and nutrients, or you can head for the on-board shop (an adventure within an adventure), or just wait for the trolley laden with refreshments to wend its way past your seat. A kind of ‘stop me and buy one’ service.
Don’t be tempted to over pack. Lay everything out and think - will we really need that? Be brutal, be selective. Remember you’ll probably be the one lugging it around.
Let the children pack their own little backpack or suitcase. They’ll feel grown-up and it’s less for you to carry. Obviously just check they’ve not packed anything that needs to breathe, like the family pet. But snacks, a favourite toy, reading book or magazine will come in very handy.
Diversion up ahead
Pack a healthy supply of distractions. Maybe surprise them with a new toy. And there’s always the perennial classics, Duplo or Lego - both perfect if they’ve got a table to build their creations on. You can build a DIY Lego pack pre-journey – your kids will love this great project on Pinterest. Pop in a notepad, crayons, books, a pack of cards, Top Trumps etc or a good mini-travel game to keep tiny minds active and to while away the time.
If you trust them with your phone or tablet, while you’re at home, download a few of their favourite apps, films, or cartoons, so they don’t have to rely on Wi-Fi for a bit of screen time.
An on-board adventure
So you’re on-board, settled in and you’ve marked your territory. Get you bearings and locate the nearest toilets, just in case they have a little ‘emergency’.
Talk it up – just enjoy time with your kids, there’s no law against it and it may turn out they like having a bit of a chinwag.
Tell a tall story – kids love stories and even if you’re not a great storyteller, you can vaguely remember little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk or Cinderella. It doesn’t have to be accurate – it’s your story.
Try a simple card game – just guess the card colour. Get it right three times in a row – and they get a treat, whoever collects the most treats wins.
You are now arriving at…
Make a swift exit
A good arrival should always be accompanied by a relaxed, stress-free exit. The secret to this bit is don’t leave it too late. In fact, packing away and preparing to get off can be an activity in itself (hey, tidying up is fun) so start well in advance. Double check you’ve not left anything, or anyone, behind.
Once the train as come to a complete standstill take extra care as you get off the train. Sometimes it’s better to get your luggage off first and then help your child on to the platform.
Now you’re in a busy station, with lots of other people getting off and on, so make sure you keep them nice and close to you. If you have more than one child with you, encourage them to hold each other’s hand, and if you’re with your partner – it’s a good idea to have one of you leading and one at the back.
Now you’ve accomplished your mission and arrived with your nerves intact, you can look forward to the return journey.