Whether you’re planning your next family staycation, a fun weekend away with the kids or an adventurous day trip to keep the little ones entertained, train travel is the perfect way to enjoy a car-free trip.
With lots of fascinating sights to see along the way, as well as comfortable seats, free onboard Wi-Fi, and no need for any emergency toilet stops, travelling with kids by train couldn’t be easier.To ensure a smooth-sailing trip for all of you, we have put together a list of the best tips for traveling with kids on our trains.
Best tips for traveling with kids on our trains.
To avoid hassle and to save money, it’s often best to book train and attraction tickets in advance. Read our family train tickets guide to see where you can go, which ticket types to get and how to save.
Prep your kids before the ride
Train travel with kids is a thrilling experience, but it can be overwhelming and daunting for tots at times, too.
The best way to combat tantrums, panics and any mishaps is to prepare children well ahead of the trip by explaining how busy stations can be and how important it is to stick together at all times.
Get them excited by letting them know what the journey will entail and what happens once you reach your destination. There are plenty of kid-friendly YouTube videos on the topic of getting the train for the first time, which can help them feel prepared and excited to travel. Otherwise, you can read them stories about trains and public transport. Things are often daunting for children because they don’t know what to expect, so using material that helps them create an image in their mind can be incredibly helpful!
Can children travel on their own on the train?
We suggest you follow guidance from the British Transport Police, which states that children and young people should ideally be accompanied by a responsible adult on the train.
If your child has to travel alone or with other children, talk to them beforehand about station safety and what to do in emergencies. Plan ahead and write down which station they’ll be arriving at and what time, as well as who will be meeting them. Advise them to:
- Stick together at all times
- Listen closely to announcements and follow instructions both onboard the train and in the station
- Keep away from the platform edge and off train tracks
- Find a member of staff to talk to if they need help
Research train station facilities
Research our station facilities ahead of your journey and swap stress for a seamless family travel experience. You’ll be able to find out whether there are toilets (including those with baby changing facilities) and station Wi-Fi, as well as the opening hours of our ticket offices.
It also pays to know whether there are shops at the station to pick up essentials like water, snacks and books, or whether you need to get organised and come prepared with these items for your train journey. You can also find out about car parking options and use the SWR app’s car parking availability checker to prevent any parking panics.
Prepare for getting on and off the train
Getting on and off the train is something most of us don’t think about. But adding children to the mix can pose a few challenges!
Have a chat with your kids before the journey and make sure they’re aware of station safety. The gap between the train and the platform can sometimes be quite large, so ensure there’s an adult free to offer a helping hand. Find more station safety tips in our mums to be guide.
Travelling with a pram or pushchair
If you’re bringing a pram on your journey, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- While in the station, make use of lifts wherever possible. Otherwise, a member of staff will be happy to help carry your pushchair up and down any steps. Please be advised, staff are not permitted to carry pushchairs with children in, so your little one must walk or be carried by yourself
- Use the wide-aisle gates to get through the ticket barriers
- Turbulence from passing trains can cause a pushchair to roll, so remember to apply the buggy’s brakes as you’re waiting for your train and keep back from the platform edge.
- If you’re the only adult travelling, ask a member of staff for help when getting onto the train. They’ll help lift the pushchair so you don’t have to struggle by yourself. Once again, please note that children cannot be seated in the pushchair as it is being lifted
- Some stations have short platforms, meaning you can only disembark from specific carriages. If you’re stopping at a short platform station, check with a member of staff that the coach you’re boarding will allow you to get off at a short platform
- When on the train, fold up your pushchair if you’re able to and store it in the luggage compartments
- If you’re using the wheelchair space on the train to park your pushchair, keep in mind that you may have to move if the space is required by a wheelchair or scooter user
Can I book assisted travel for my pram?
If you need help getting onto the train with your buggy, feel free to request assistance using the Assisted Boarding Points service. A member of staff will be ready to help transfer your pushchair to the train.
Can I get assisted travel for my train travel?
If anyone in your family has a disability, you can book ahead for Assisted Travel if it would give you peace of mind. Staff will help with everything you need, from navigating the station to using a ramp to get on the train. They’ll guide you to a seat, or if and where appropriate, the designated wheelchair areas which can be found on all of our trains.
You can use our Assisted Boarding Points to easily contact a member of staff for assistance. Simply scan the WhatsApp QR code or use our WhatsApp number to send information about where you are, where you’re travelling to and what kind of assistance you need. The train guard will then be notified, so that when your train arrives there will be somebody ready to help you.
We encourage those with non-visible disabilities to wear a Sunflower Lanyard so that members of staff are aware that you may have additional needs.
The day of your train journey
With children to look after, the last thing you want is to miss your train – so make sure you’re not late! Last-minute toilet stops and even the time spent putting on coats and shoes can soon cause a delay, so aim to set off early.
Ideally, you want to arrive at the station at least 20 minutes early. If you have purchased an Advance ticket, make sure you within plenty of time for your booked service.
Getting there early also gives you the best chance of securing a spot where everyone can sit together. If you’re a family of three or four, our table seats are perfect for picnics and fun activities.
How do you occupy kids on a train?
Train travel can be exciting for kids. But although suggesting looking out the window and playing ‘I Spy’ will get you so far, it pays to have some extra tricks up your sleeve, particularly on longer journeys.
There are lots of ways you can keep kids entertained on the train. Get creative with activities like cards and mini jigsaw puzzles that work well on our tray tables. Travel games like Scrabble, Monopoly and the classic Connect4 are also great options. Or why not download a guessing game app on your phone like Heads Up to get their minds ticking? All of our trains offer free onboard Wi-Fi, so if your game requires an internet connection, then you’ll be ready to go!
Games are a great way to pass the time, but winding down is just as important. Download a few of your kids’ favourite movies and shows before your journey, then let them choose which ones they’d like to watch on the day. Comfort shows can help soothe children who feel distressed in an unfamiliar environment! We suggest bringing headphones along so as not to disturb other passengers.
Window Seater storytelling experience
Kids are likely to be fascinated by the ever-changing scenery that rolls by out of the train window. With lots to hold their attention, why not give the scenery some context with a Window Seater audio guide?
Available free of charge on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, these immersive guides use Geotracking to tell stories and share facts about your exact location, with a range of subjects including history, geography, art, culture and community. It’s a fun way to learn and get the children’s’ eyes off the screen for a while!
Pack plenty of drinks, snacks and essentials
If the little ones get hungry, the tears and tantrums begin. So, ensure you’re prepared for a long train journey by stocking up on all the essentials. Have enough water to hand to keep children thoroughly hydrated on long train journeys, and come armed with plenty of snacks for when everyone gets peckish.
Kids love a picnic, so make it part of the adventure with their favourite sandwiches, sweet treats, juice cartons and more. Be prepared for every scenario by packing other essentials such as napkins, wet wipes, plasters, hand sanitiser and spare clothes for spills and accidents.
Make the most of the onboard facilities
The best thing about travelling on a train is that passengers can get up and walk around. This is ideal when travelling with children, who as we know, aren’t always the biggest fans of sitting still.
Our trains have great onboard facilities, including plenty of toilets on most services, comfortable seating areas and free Wi-Fi, making train travel with kids as enjoyable as possible. We don’t offer a catering service onboard, but you’re welcome to bring along whatever snacks and meals you fancy.
For more information about our station and train facilities, download our app before your journey commences.