Travel savvy with your little ones

25th August 2015

The Insiders blog: Travel savvy with your little ones by Anita Brown

The Insider's View: Travel savvy with your little ones

We wanted to share some honest advice and guidance from Anita, one of our awesome staff, about how best to travel with your little nippers in tow.

Read on!

Travelling anywhere with little ones can be a challenge in itself, I often get a sense of dread when planning holidays or a journey with my 2 yr old daughter as it can become a logistical nightmare. Travelling on a train for the first time can be pretty daunting too and adding a pushchair and luggage into the mix makes it all the more tricky - So I get it! In this post. I'm going to try and take the stress out of it with all the information I can think of that may help you along the way....

Tickets

There are some brilliant deals for families, they’re just not widely known about! The biggest being.....The Family and Friends Railcard

For £30 a year, the Family and Friends Railcard gets you 1/3 off adult rail fares and 60% off kids’ fares. Up to four adults and four children can travel on one card. And they don’t even have to be part of the same family, or travelling at the same time.

You can get a serious steal if you use the Family and Friends Railcard on cheap advance fares. 
Get all the info here: familyandfriends-railcard.co.uk/using-your-railcard/are-you-eligible/

Kids under 5 go free

Yup, that’s right – totally free. However, as under-5s don’t need a ticket, they also won’t have a reserved seat. There are a couple of ways to make sure there’s a place for their little legs to get a rest.

1. If you’re feeling spontaneous every train has an unreserved coach which should have some empty seats. If you ask the station staff in advance, they’ll happily tell you which coach it is and exactly where to stand on the platform to be ready. 

2. If you want to ensure you’re under 5 gets a seat then its best to purchase a child’s ticket in advance. Grab a child ticket along with a Family and Friends Railcard (see above). This can be as little as a couple of quid, gives you both a discount, can be used for advance fares, and for bargain travel during peak times.

First Class family travel

If you want to treat the family to something special, how’s about travelling First Class? First Class has many more tables than Standard Class, which makes it easy to sit as a gang. There are a few bigger spaces to pop the pushchair, free wi-fi, plug sockets at the tables and a wider aisle space, this makes getting everyone on and off the train easier.

Use your Family and Friends Railcard and book well in advance, and you might just find a bargain Standard ticket, then on the weekend you can upgrade to First Class for as little as £10 or £15 for adults and £5 for kids.

Book online to grab a table

When you’re travelling as a family, it’s so important to sit together. Just book online at Virgintrains.co.uk and you can use the amazing new seat picker, this allows you to chose the seats and coach you want and you can make sure you’re close to all the things you want on your journey for example the shop, toilets, luggage space etc!  

Travelling with pushchairs or prams

We do have space for prams and pushchairs on the trains, but to be honest, it’s limited. The official rules state that you should keep pushchairs folded at all times and for you to store them away like any other item of luggage, however I know this is easier said than done especially for sleeps. Up until a few months ago I used to use my big travel system (not allowed to say which one!) and I managed to get around, but I must say a smaller pushchair is easier! So here’s the best inside advice I can give....

I know this may not be possible, but if you can travel without the pushchair and use a baby carrier – I promise your journey will be far easier, especially if you are planning to go on the London Underground (there are steps involved. Trust me.) My little one loved being in the baby carrier and I found this was the easiest way to travel, I then booked a table and I brought her mat and she kicked and gurgled away on the table! If pushchair/pram is a must, then here’s a step by step guide...

1. Bring the smallest one you can and if you can fold it down, it will fit into the top space in the luggage racks or can slide it under a table seat, some will fit in the overhead luggage racks if they’re compact or slim.

2. Just to put it into perspective, the average standard class coach aisle is only 45cm wide. Most pushchairs are wider than this, so bear in mind that if it’s open you won’t be able to push it to your seat.

3. If you do need to get on with the pushchair open if little one is sleeping, arrive at the station early and see one of the Station Team to help you on (there are steps up to all our trains so you will need two people to lift it), they will want you to be safe though, so please have your little one strapped in.

4. On every Virgin Train there are at least two wheelchair spaces (we have a few different types of trains on each route so it’s best to check with the station teams which coach to access and where to wait on the platform). These are the best locations for you to get a pushchair onto the train, go into the carriage and space rather than blocking the vestibule so that customers can still get on and off the train.

5. The rules around using the wheelchair space is that Virgin Trains are legally required to make the wheelchair spaces available for disabled customers, customers in wheelchairs often book in advance and the Station Staff can check if a space has been booked, however a customer can also get on at anytime without booking so if you use the space, no problem, but be ready to move if someone who needs it gets on.

6. Next to every wheelchair space we provide a wheelchair accessible toilet which is where you will find the baby changing area.

Need more help? At any time if you feel vulnerable or you’re struggling to carry stuff or get off the train, the Virgin team are there to help you, they are all trained to do this, so don’t feel like you are alone.

You can also find some more info about family travel on our dedicated Family Travel page.