We recently travelled to Edinburgh from London, by train. For our weekend trip, train travel was a much better option than driving in the car. Just four and a half hours from St Pancras international to Edinburgh Waverley; and a fast, clean train with stunning coastal views once you head north of Newcastle -Upon-Tyne.
We’ve taken a few long train journeys with the children. Here are my top dos and don’ts, to make the journey more fun.
- book ahead, book table seats. Train travel is so much easier if you have space to spread out, and a table for doodling, drawing and stickering.
- take along some good books. Our current favourite books for travel are the updated versions of the classic I-Spy books. Titles include On a train journey, which encourages kids to look out of the window and see if they can spot other trains, castles, cathedrals, cows etc, and gain points for each spot. For those children who are old enough to get lost in a good volume, you could take along railway-themed titles, like E. Nesbitt’s The Railway Children or The Polar Express by Chris van Allsburg.
- build a sense of anticipation into the return journey, as well as on the way out. On our trip, we were travelling to see family in Edinburgh, and the outward journey flew past. Everyone was excited; the kids were looking forward to seeing their cousins. On the way back, however, we were all tired and miserable about having to say goodbye. We ended up quarreling and getting cross with each other. If we’d had something to look forward at home – a new film to watch, or perhaps even a special family dinner in a local restaurant – we could have focused on that, rather than on how long and dreary the return journey seemed.
- make sure you all wear comfortable clothes. And yes, that can include some (disposable) fancy dress items. I know, I know…. it’s fun, though, eh?
- give the children all their snacks in one go. For any journey longer than an hour, having ‘snack breaks’ at regular intervals is a way to break up the time. We like to hold the less healthy snacks back in case of frayed tempers or meltdowns. Nothing cheers up a grumpy child more than a chocolate finger. And we always travel with a packet of emergency Haribo.
- sit in the quiet carriage. In the UK, a quiet carriage is a space where people aren’t allowed to shout, or use electronic equipment. Sounds tempting? But you have kids with you. They will screech and howl at some point. ‘Nuff said.
- rely on the buffet coach for meals. Most UK trains stock only a relatively limited range of food, so if you’re blessed with picky eaters then it’s worth taking along a picnic of their favourite sandwiches or pasta salads. Having said that, trains are renowned for their wicked line in bacon sarnies and microwaved cheeseburgers, so if you don’t mind them having a greasy treat or two you could offer those to your kids as special ‘party’ fodder.
What are your top tips for train travel with children?
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