London is an incredible city for people of all ages, so it makes sense that you would be planning a trip to ‘The Big Smoke’ with the whole family.
From fantastic museums, wonderful attractions and great food to awesome activities, magical moments and lifetime memories; even though it sounds like a cliche, there is something for everyone in London.
The only problem can be getting around, which is difficult with kids wherever you are. They are often over-excited, misbehaving, running around- you get the idea. It’s a lot for a kid to take on, and London is another level.
With nearly 9 million people calling the city home, and a very tight underground network, things can quite frequently get more than a bit claustrophobic.
Let’s take a look at some of the things you can do to make your public transport trips with the kids as easy as possible.
Book Perfect Accommodation
Choosing the right accommodation for you and the family means thinking about several things.
Firstly consider its proximity to public transport. For example if you’re looking for accommodation in the City of London, you should be searching for hotels near Old Street Station. Having easy access to a tube station will make this a lot easier!
Next you should think about where you can walk from the hotel you’re considering. Being located in the City of London means you can access plenty of the city’s attractions on foot.
How to Pay
The next thing to think about when using public transport with kids, is how you are going to pay.
Imagine arriving, as a family, to the ticket gates in one of the city’s busiest stations and half of you getting through, but the other half does not have their tickets.
Not only will you upset a lot of grumpy commuting Londoners, you’ll also give yourself an extra bundle of stress to carry around.
So here’s how to avoid the ticket fiasco.
Kids Under 5- Kids under 5 travel for free- they don’t even need a ticket!
If they are in a pushchair all you have to do is have your ticket ready and head to the wider gates where you will be allowed through by the attendant.
Kids Between 5 and 10- These lucky little critters will also get to travel for free alongside a fare paying adult, just make sure you head to the wider gates to be allowed through.
Kids Aged 11 to 15- This is where kids will start having to pay to travel- but don’t worry, there are deals to be had…
The Oyster Card
Getting an Oyster Card is pretty much essential for any adult looking to travel London on the public transport.
You can top-up your card using the app, and you get fare discounts and the ability to tap-on and off when using the tube or the buses; it’s so easy!
For kids aged 11 to 15 there is a special ‘Young Visitor Discount’ that can be used, but only with their own Oyster Card. This will give them a whopping 50% off so it's well worth it!
Avoid Rush Hour
This tip is kind of for everyone in the family- but will be especially helpful for the kids.
Rush Hour on the London Underground, bus network, and pretty much everywhere else can be pretty brutal.
Every station, bus stop, train and pavement gets packed with locals making their way to and from work.
Riding the tube can go from being slightly stressful to a living hell on earth- so maybe just give peak hours a miss…
Plan Ahead- Get the App
It can be confusing to ride the underground- I don’t know if you’ve seen the tube map before, but it looks like someone has thrown a lot of colourful spaghetti at the wall.
It can also be very difficult to navigate the tunnels and stations, so being prepared ahead of time is a great idea, particularly when travelling with kids.
There are several apps that will help you to plan a route, prompt you when it’s time to turn, leave the train or change platforms; and best of all download the route ahead of time so you never get caught out.
Think About Using the Bus Instead
It’s not all about the underground when traversing the city- the bus network is even more comprehensive!
Sometimes jumping on the bus between city centre hotspots can be a much better way to get around, and the kids will be free to move around a bit more!
Walking Can Be Best
Following this train of thought, it is sometimes best to not bother with public transport at all.
If the kids have loads of energy and need to run and scream, as kids do, then just walking is a great way to get around- and it’s free!
Explore the gorgeous parks and just enjoy London for the day.
Try to Teach Your Kids Basic Tube Etiquette
If you do need to take the tube then making sure everyone in the group understands tube etiquette will go a long way- this goes for the adults too!
Here are a few key points to remember.
- Stand to the right when riding an escalator.
- Move away from platform entrances and train doors to make way for more people- you can be assured there will be plenty of people down there with you!
- Stand behind the yellow line- particularly important for people travelling with kids, don’t let them play on the platforms!
- Let people off the trains before you get on!
Try to Keep Them Entertained
If you are on the train and getting dirty looks from grumpy Londoners because the kids are making too much noise or running wild, maybe try and bring something to keep them occupied.
Let them watch something they love, play some games or try to keep them talking whilst the train is moving.
London as a Family
There you have it, some of the key things you need to know whilst exploring London with the kids.
Make sure you plan ahead, know where you’re going and make sure everyone is as safe as possible!
London should be for everyone of all ages, so get out there and explore as a family.