Mind The Gap – Travelling on the tube with children

Travelling on the underground in London can be daunting for any adult who has never done it before. It can also be very stressful, especially during the busy rush hour, but it needn’t be if you prepare your self.

Living on the outskirts of London means that we travel into London a lot of times. Sometimes we go after school during the week to get to auditions and other times we travel on a weekend just for a day out. We are so used to travelling during the rush hour that it just seems natural to us. There are some stations and routes that we will avoid at the busy times, which may mean walking through the streets to get to the next station  but they are never that far away from each other.

Travelling with a baby or young children across London can be every adults nightmare, It can also be very challenging but it is definitely possible and enjoyable.

Here are some of our tips on travelling with children on the underground

  • Grab your self and Oyster card or if you can use your phone or bank card if cantactless is set up on it.

-Children under 11 travel free on the tube, overground, DLR , TFL rail and buses if they have a 5-10 Zip or travelling with an adult (under 5 travel free)

-Children aged 11-15 can travel with a Zip oyster photocard. They travel for free on buses and trams and get a reduced rate on all other TFL service

-If you’re visiting London and travelling with children aged 11-15 who haven’t got a Zip Oyster photo card, you can still benefit from reduced rate travel for them. You can get a discount set on an Oyster or Visitor Oyster card that will allow them to pay as you go at half adult-rate for up to 14 days.

Apply for these cards online prior to visiting

  • Remember always to tap in and out at the stations on the yellow card reader with your card. If you manage to walk through a barrier without tapping out after your journey, you will be charged the maximum fare
  • Plan your route. Take a look at the underground map online or download an app. We find the app to be very useful, not only does it tell you if there are any delays on any of the routes but it also plans your route for you and tells you how long each journey will be.
  • Grab a map at the station and give to your child to look at and study. When on the train tell them your destination and see if they can work out the route.
  • Try to avoid travelling during rush hour. With commuters moving around the city, expect the trains and stations to be overcrowded between 07:30 and09:30 in the morning and between 17:00 and 19:00 in the evening. This said, I have also found some stations on particular routes in zone 1 to start getting busy at 4.30.
  • When travelling with babies, try taking a light fold away buggy/stroller or use a sling. It will make your trip a lot more easier
  • Be prepared to walk up lots of stairs. There are also lots of escalators to use.
  • When using the escalator stand on the right as people walk up on them on the left. Keep young children in front of you.
  • Take a look on the map for step free access stations. Sometimes its easier to travel to your destination by using the nearest step free station and walking the rest
  • If you are travelling with more than one child, tell them that as soon as you get off of the train and on to the platform to wait against the wall. Platforms can become extremely busy. You don’t want to be dragged along with the crowd not knowing what direction you actually want to go. We always wait against the wall and then look for the way out sign or where to go for the next line.
  • I know it’s scary but I have always told my children that IF they ever get left on the train to get off at the next station and wait on the platform against the wall for me to get them. I also tell them that if they get off of the train without me to wait on that platform and I will come back for them. This has never happened to us, but the trains do get very busy and sometimes a small child could become disoriented within a crowd of people.
  • Tell your children to always wait behind the yellow line until the train has stopped.
  • If there are two adults when travelling, always have one at the front and one at the back when walking through the stations and even through London streets. Think of a sandwich, keeping the children in the middle. I travel with my three children, who are now 15, 10 and 6. It is always me first and my eldest last.
  • Walk around London from one station to the next, instead of going by tube. For example; although travelling from Oxford Circus to Piccardilly Circus can take a few minutes on the train, it does only take 11 minutes by foot. Think of all those lovely shops and building that you will see.
  • Carry water with you. The trains can become stuffy and hot, especially in the summer. Also have a snack in your bag.
  • If you are going to be on the train for a while, play some games with them to keep them occupied. We like to play the station alphabet game or I-Spy
  • When standing on the platform waiting for the train to approach, wave to the driver. they always wave back and the children love it.
  • Use the wider ticket barriers, they will have much more room for the family to get through. They are marked with a blue wheelchair symbol and normally have an attendant close by.

Remember where ever you go in London; on bus, tram, tube or river boat to enjoy your self. Have a great trip and Mind the Gap!