Hello guys, I hope you’re all having a wonderful day! As you may have seen from my blog, Youtube channel and social media pages lately we’ve been doing a lot of travelling both abroad and within the UK – staycations as the cool kids like to call it! Of course we do have the odd child-free break but for the most part we travel with at least one child, and usually all three of them … under the age of four I should add! So, with a fair bit of experience in the travelling-with-kids department I thought I’d share with you all some tips that I have for making it a little smoother, a lot more fun and most importantly as stress-free as possible! I have done a tips for travel in general post which you can find on my youtube channel but this one in particular is focused on going via train, specifically with Virgin Trains who we teamed up with at the weekend to head up to glorious Manchester!Now as part of my job I travel via train a lot, I’m often seen heading to London for various events with either a baby or occasionally a baby and a toddler in tow but this was the first time that we’d taken all three boys and Pete came with me. I wasn’t too anxious but I knew that preparation would be key! So without further a due, here are my top tips for traveling by train with kids and there are even some added bonuses in there that you get when you choose to travel with Virgin (it’s safe to say that we’re converted!).
1 – Pack a kids travel bag – Our boys have their own designated travel bags which they’ve gotten into a bit of a habit of packing themselves with all of their essentials. If we’re going away for a long time or the journey is going to be long then we take the trunki but for shorter journeys they take a little back pack each.
Having a small backpack limits them to only bringing a handful of items and over time they’ve (and I’ve) learnt which things they’ll actually use. Our staple items are as follows:
iPad with headphone – make sure to charge it before hand and load it with age appropriate games and shows. If it does run out of battery then the trains have power sockets and also headphone docks to tune into the radio! Virgin trains also have a fab app called Beam which I’ll delve into below!
Snacks – My boys are big snackers; having a small selection of preferably non-messy snacks gives me such peace of mind, not necessarily for the journey as Virgin trains have a brilliant onboard shop full of snacks, food and drink but for the in-between stages like waiting for the train and the cab journey to the other end.
Non-messy colouring books – I see a lot of people bringing crayons, pens and pencils and my advice is seriously not to bother. No one wants to deal with pens rolling under tables and discreetly having the rub pen off the seat from your childs artistic expression – stick to mess-free books and you’ll feel so much more relaxed! There are a few varieties but the ones that we go for are the magic water ones where the colours appear on the pages and the foil ones where you scratch away the black to see the colours underneath!
Activity books – The boys love stickers so we took a reusable sticker book where the boys could make different faces; we also took a game of snap and ‘100 things to do with little children on a journey’ which comes with a wipe clean pen!
Characters – My boys are really big on imaginative play so they each took a couple of small toy cars and figures (the tiny ones that come out of kinder eggs).
2 – Don’t over pack! As tempting as it is to cater for every eventuality if you’re getting a train in the UK, especially via Virgin trains then the likelihood is that you wont be getting off in the middle of nowhere. Train stations have shops, trains have a really good selection of things and if worse comes to worse ride it out until you’re at your destination and head straight to a shop. There’s nothing worse than trying to keep your kids in check whilst carrying the heaviest bag in the world so try to stick to the bare minimum. A single change of clothes per child will do, pack some hand sanitiser so if your littles ones dummy or bottles falls on the floor you don’t need to have a spare and remember the train food service will have boiling water so don’t worry about pre-filling bottles before hand – although pre-made bottles are my ideal!
3 – Download the Beam app – As I mentioned earlier Virgin trains have their very own onboard entertainment app which is full of fab kids movies and tv shows (and adults of course). Download it onto your device at home before you travel and once you’re onboard the app is all yours – it’s free and so convenient!
4 – Make the most of deals – If you can be flexible with your travel dates and even your destination then it’s definitely worth spending a little extra time looking at which times and dates are more inexpensive. Virgin are also offering family tickets starting at just £65 for a minimum of 1 adult and 1 child and a maximum of 2 adults and 2 children!
5 – Pre-boarding service – Something that we learnt about on our trip was that Virgin offer a pre-boarding service to those passengers requiring assistance. We were kindly handed a card with a direct email address to contact them next time we book our travel, they help with all sorts including reserving the best seats for children and wheelchair users, assistance on and off the train (something I would have needed had I not been with Pete) and also providing train and rail info right up until the time of travel e.g. if there are any delays, what platform our train will be on etc.
6 – Pre book and use the fast machine – Stations can be busy wherever you’re travelling to and with any train line; pre-booking online just takes out so much stress on the day of travelling and gives you a bit more flexibility if you do get delayed on the way to the station. Virgin also offer fast machines for collection of your tickets and the staff were just so friendly and helpful, even giving the boys a little ticket wallet each!
7 – Some fab games if all else fails – If what your little ones pack only keeps them entertained for a short period of time then here are our favourite travel games:
I spy – the toddler friendly version is ‘I spy with my little eye something that is red/green/round … etc‘
Story finisher – Where each person adds a sentence to the previous persons to make a story
8 Be prepared – As obvious as this one may seem and to be honest I’ve covered it a lot in the other points, it’s one that I feel the need to mention again. Plan ahead, be prepared and cut the stress. Book your tickets ahead of time, book your parking at the station the day before, pack your travel bags and leave your coats and shoes out the night before. If you’re travelling for a long time then check your fridge and cupboards for food that will go off whilst you’re away and throw it out/ donate it. Empty your bins, close the windows, leave a light on to deter burglars, pop your OOO email on and relax awaiting your stress-free travel with kids!
So there you have it my 8 top tips for travelling by train by kids – especially stress-free if you’re travelling with Virgin trains! If you’ve done all of these things and you’re still feeling a bit anxious then please do not worry, kids have meltdowns, they play up and regardless of how prepared you are they can still get antsy so just remember that the chances are the other passengers will either have kids or simply love kids so don’t worry too much if they get noisy or want to walk up and down the aisle – if worst comes to worst let them stretch their legs, walk them to the onboard shop and distract them with snacks!
Thanks for reading!
*This post is sponsored by Virgin Trains however all content and opinions are my own