Living in London, we don’t have a car. We rely solely on public transport or lifts from our extended family. Or our feet.
We have family in Hertfordshire, Surrey, Gloucestershire, Liverpool, Manchester, even as far north as Sunderland. We know trains.
But trains with a wriggling, bundle of joy is new territory. Gone are the leisurely, lazy hours staring out of a window, catching up on a good book or watching movies on our iPads. No, no.
In the last nine months, we’ve learned a thing or two about trains and babies. Mainly, that if you can avoid it, do. But if you can’t, here’s what we know so far about having a baby on a train:
If you’re not sat by one, move. If there’s no seats available by one, stand in the disabled area or vestibule. Baby Girl loves to watch the world go by & in tunnels is delighted by her reflection.
2. Doors (& their buttons)
On Virgin Trains in particular, the doors amuse Baby Girl for a long time. You open the doors by effectively a touch screen pad; press it, the lights flash red, the door slides open into the wall. Where did it go? Here it comes again… Press the button, the lights flash red. But where did it go? Here it comes again…. Press the button…
Baby Girl thought it was the best game in the world. And opened the door for anyone who came by.
Then we found a different door button.
And a different type of button.
We also found a big, red emergency button in the wheelchair area. But we swiftly moved away once Baby Girl noticed it. Even the tiniest of fingers can’t resist a red button.
3. Where to sit
Book your ticket in advance & reserve a seat. Tick the options to be near a luggage rack & near the toilets (you can earn your Mama Badge or Dad Badge for a Train Change. Lucky you.)
Open Returns give you flexibility so you’re not rushing to make a specific trains, but it can be quite stressful if the train is busy, trying to find somewhere to sit with a baby & all your gear.
At the end of carriage is ideal so you’re not traipsing all your gear through, bashing someone with the carseat or your baby spitting up over your shoulder onto someone’s head.
There’s also usually wheelchair seats, which, if not in use, you can park up your buggy, have plenty of space to swing your baby round by their ankles & keep them amused. (Swinging by ankles, optional.) You’re also able to quickly duck into the vestibule if bambino is having a bad day. Rather than having to do the walk of shame down the carriage.
If your baby is standing, however, a table seat is handy so they can stand on the seat, lean against the table & stare out the window to their heart’s content, saving your arms a bit.
4. This crack in the seats
If you’re lucky, you’ll have someone pleasant sat behind you who entertains your baby for you with funny faces, smiles & perhaps even a game of peak-a-boo. If not, then your baby will still be entertained by the gap. They’ll just irritate the people behind you instead & so you’ll have to entertain them in a different fashion, preferably far away from Mr. Grumpy in the seat behind.
5. Baby transport options
If you can leave the buggy at home, do it. Take the carrier. It’s just so much easier.
If you need a carseat, however, both carrying the car seat freestyle & wheeling it on the pushchair, in our experience, have their downfalls. Carrying it is just a pain & takes up a useful hand. But it also makes the buggy really heavy, which can make navigating public transport more difficult if it’s not easily accessible. (Especially if on your own, as I’ve been a few times.)
And then you lose the carseat attachments that hook it safely onto the buggy…
A bonus of carseats on trains, however, is it gives Baby Girl her own little contained area. And when travelling on my own, I have somewhere I can strap her in & know she’s safe while I put our bags on the luggage rack, or take my coat off or whatever I may need to do. It also gives your arms a break should you be lucky enough for bambino to sleep. (There’s always hope!)
6. Toys & Snacks
When all else fails, bring out the toys, rice crackers, biscuits, apple slices – whatever your baby loves.
If you can, bring something new or that they haven’t played with for a while. Something with novelty will keep their attention for longer.
Personally, I don’t worry so much about Baby Girl’s routine while travelling. Peace & harmony is the aim of the game people. If that means she has a bottle when she’d usually have lunch & then 4 rice crackers & 12 grapes an hour later, so be it.