Saturday, 15 March 2014

Tips for travelling long-distance-by-train with a very young & very hyperactive toddler.

Charlie is at an incredibly awkward age to travel with. He's not a little baby who will sit on my knee or in a car seat and sleep & babble and drink milk quietly. And he's not yet old enough to be told what to do.

He's 20 months. He doesn't understand instructions such as "sit still", "stay there", "Quieten down", "You can't do that".... and believe me, he's also not the type of child to just do all of them things himself.

He's extremely hyperactive, adventurous, excitable and will do almost anything for attention.

So, after a couple of disastrous train journeys (including the one where we were reduced to stomping up and down the train with him howling), we've now discovered various successful tricks to make long journeys (2 hours+) go smoothly and even a bit fun!

  Find 1st class.

When you find your train, and before you get on it, find First Class (don't worry. I'm not expecting you to get on to that mysterious golden seated, red carpeted coach with your little screech monkey) and then right before 1st Class starts, there is a wide compartment meant for wheelchair users. I know. You're not one. But, just like on buses, the wheelchair spaces can be used until needed by a wheelchair user. It's not our fault there are no designated pram spaces on trains. The train drivers don't mind, it makes their job easier. They wouldn't want to have to deal with a squealing toddler disrupting the train either.

Anyway... on all our journeys there have been no wheelchair users, Just a couple of other mums and dads who have realised that this is the only pram-friendly space. And, if there are other kids there, they will keep each other amused - bonus.

                                                         Comfy clothing.

 They'll let you know if they get hot, or their dungarees are digging into them. You don't want to be messing about with clothing on a train.

We bought these a while ago and they've only just started to fit Charlie. They are lovely and soft organic cotton trousers. Like PJ bottoms but with enough detail to make it obvious they're not. We paired these with a light cotton long sleeve top from H&M kids. Trains are usually well heated, so no body suit underneath, so he felt cool enough, and able to move freely.

   Travel at Dinner time.

Charlie loves dinner time! I'm guessing a lot of toddlers do! If anything is going to distract him it's food. He loved his sweetcorn & pasta from the night before, so I saved him some and put it into his snack box for the journey.  He was also distracted by his spoons (he likes to have a few, and request them by colour) and concentrating on trying to feed himself. He also wears this toddler bib from Tesco - which is seriously fantastic, it fits comfortably and it's impossible to pull off!

  Toys that do things.

For some reason, Charlie loves this little Thomas the tank engine. He won't sit and watch the program, and he won't use Thomas on his railway track - but he loves running him over any surface he can find. I think he just likes that it's a train with a face and it fits easily in his hand! We packed this into his travel bag and he spent at least 15 minutes running it over his pram bar... and then daddy's leg.


Crayons are good. Charlie loves to count them, say the colours, throw them down and then pick them all up in one hand - and sometimes he might even draw with them! It was Grandads Birthday and we were off to visit him, so here he was drawing a picture inside his card.

  Small & chewy snacks.

We tried out these 'bear fruit' snacks for the first time this trip... they were a major hit! They're 100% dried fruit, you can get different packets - this one is strawberry and cherry. Charlie really appreciated the fact that the packet had a bear on, so we had some fun with a "Bear coming to get you.... here's some fruit from the bear!" which he loved.

These kinds of snacks are perfect for journeys! Chocolate and crisps are gone in seconds, but these take a while to chew.  There are lots of them, and you don't have to feel guilty about filling your child with junk to keep them quiet. Charlie thinks they're sweets - bonus!

  Set them free.

You'll have to do a nappy change at some point (the toilet is right there in the wheelchair compartment too) and they'll be out of their pram, so take the opportunity to let them stay out for a bit. I was worried. Really, really worried. I thought Charlie would immediately want to charge around the whole train and then screech himself hoarse and cause world war three when we tried to get him back in the pram - but surprisingly he didn't, the train felt funny under his feet and he asked to be picked up straight away. Then for 20 minutes he happily stood on a seat and stared out of the window, announcing what he could see - "sheep!... truck!.... tree!"


It's possible that you won't have a completely whinge- free journey but hopefully you'll all have a more pleasant experience! It's quite fun when it goes well :).

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