Travelling by train can be a fun and economical way of getting your family from A to B. Here are our top tips for a hassle-free rail journey with children.
1. In the UK, up to two children under 5 years can travel for free with a fare paying adult. Additional children and those aged between 5 and 16 years are typically charged around 50% of the adult fare, although some companies may offer further discounts.
2. On the Eurostar, only one child under 4 years may travel for free with each paying adult. So if you are travelling alone with two or more children below the age of four, one will be able to sit on your lap for free and the others will need to have tickets of their own.
3. When booking tickets, ask for if your train operator is offering any deals for families. You are more likely to get a good deal if you are willing to travel off-peak. In most cases, a family travelcard will save you money, even if you will only be using it for one trip.
4. Some train operators have special bonuses for children, such as Virgin Trains’ ‘VKids’ goodie bags for children aged between 3 and 6 years. Coaches 1 and 18 on the Eurostar are family-friendly and have a number of family tables, while a few European trains, such as the French Téoz trains and some Swiss & Finnish InterCity trains, have small children’s play areas. Check what your train operator has to offer before you travel.
5. Train travel can be an adventure for young children, so seat them beside a window and let them watch the world go by. If you are travelling with a toddler, try to book seats at the end of the carriage so that they have more space to explore.
6. One of the best things about travelling by train is that children don’t have to be confined to their seats. Taking them for walks through the carriages is a great cure for irritability.
7. Pack snacks, books and toys to keep them busy. Older children will enjoy old-fashioned games such as I-spy or spotting landmarks and farm animals.
8. Children under 5 year are not entitled to a seat unless a ticket is paid for. If you are travelling off-peak on a quiet route, this will not be a problem as there will be plenty of empty seats to choose from. If you are travelling during rush hour, however, booking your child a seat will ensure they do not have to sit on your lap for the duration of your journey.
9. As larger suitcases will need to be stored in an area away from your seat, it’s a good idea to take a small carry-on for you and your child so you can keep all your essential close at hand.
10. Train delays are a part of life, so before you leave home check your train’s status at www.nationalrail.co.uk
11. Food is usually available to buy on most major routes, but this can be expensive and won’t always suit the tastes of young children. When travelling as a family, you can save money and avoid tantrums by taking a packed lunch that you know everyone will enjoy.
12. For families of four, booking your tickets in advance can save you money and increase your chances of being allocated a table – perfect for family dining and fun activities.
13. If you will be travelling with a pushchair, book your seats next to a disabled area so that, if no one needs else needs to use the space, your baby or toddler will have a comfy place to relax or sleep.
14. If you are travelling with another adult, decide in advance who will be in charge of the kids and who will pick up the bags. Pack up any toys and start making your way to an exit door at least 5 minutes before your arrival time so that you can be sure nothing is forgotten in the rush to disembark.
See more information on Travelling with Young Children.