Travelling With Your Child Who Has a Different Surname to You

It is not uncommon for a parent to have a different surname to their child. I for one, do not share the same surname with my boys. My children’s father and I are not married so I still have my maiden name but my children’s surname is the same as their fathers. There are  millions of children living with cohabiting, unmarried parents.
This can become a problem when travelling abroad with your children and your partner is not with you.


Two years ago I was travelling from Malta with my three boys and my mum. At the passport control I was asked what my relationship to the boys were. I told them I was their Mum and they asked why I had a different surname to them. I had to explain that I was not married to their father and that myself and my mum had been on holiday with the boys for half term and their father was at home in England. They even asked my son, who was 8 at the time, who I was to him. He answered without a thought, looking rather puzzled by the whole situation but later on he did ask me why they were asking him such questions.

I was lucky on this occasion that I was not turned away, but they do have the right to refuse entry/exit as a duty of care to protect children and to screen for child abduction.

The passport system does not recognise that children might have different surnames. The child’s passport only lists their name, date and place of birth. There is nothing on their that shows the border control who their parents are. The passports are out of date and have not kept up with the modern family.

The man at border control said that by looking at the children he could tell that they were comfortable in being with me and that next time he strongly advises me to bring along documentation to prove that they are my children and a letter from their father stating that I can take them out of the country.

The madness of it all was that I had already got them out of the country with no problems but it was getting back home that was the problem. If I was refused to exit the country then I wouldn’t have been able to bring my boys home to their father.

UK passports should make it easier for families to travel, not make it difficult. It isn’t the most important issue but it can delay the process at the border control and it can be very humiliating experience. Not only for yourselves but a knock on effect in delaying the people behind you. It’s stressful enough travelling with young children and then you have to prove that your own offsprings belong to you in front of others around you. It’s unfair that unmarried parents are being subjected to harassment and delays because they choose not have the same surname as their children. What if a parent is divorced in a unpleasant situation?

Last year I travelled to Paris with my children, again on my own and not with their Father. I took along their birth certificates –  which has my name on them, proving that I am their Mother. We travelled via Eurostar and changed at Lille. We managed to get through the border control for France without them asking any questions but taking only a few steps and we was at the UK border control where they asked for proof that the children were mine. This time I had come prepared and handed over their birth cerificates and although they were happy with the documents I was handing over they advised me to also carry a signed letter from their Dad. How this makes a difference, I don’t know! Anyone can write a letter and pretend that they are the other parent to the child. Maybe it would have to be signed in front of officials in order for it be acknowledged as parental proof.

Parents do not have to go through this embarrassment of proving their parental right if a simple piece of data was added on to the child’s passport. In order for me to apply for the children’s passports I had to send of both parents passports and details to the passport agency. So, it should be on file somewhere, and it’s no good being on file in an office in England if it can not be used at border control. I don’t want to carry the child’s birth certificates with me whilst travelling, but to save the embarrassment of being harassed at border control, I have to.




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!


Should children take up a seat on a train?

Recently I saw a discussion on a Facebook page about Children taking up seats on the train and leaving adults to stand.

“Am I being unreasonable to think that small children shouldn’t take up tube seats?” Was the title

Now I travel on the underground throughout the city of London at least once/twice a week with my three children aged 3, 7 and 12. So I was intrigued as to what the general public thought of this, as I read through the comments I was quite shocked to read some of other people’s views. Some people agree that children should be standing and giving up their seat to an adult as they have paid for the seat and not the child! HHmmm.

I was brought up with respect for others around me; always hold a door open for others, allow the elderly to go before me, give my seat up on public transport to those who are less able than me, never to push and shove on a busy street and always to say please and thank you. I have carried on the way my parents brought me up with my children and I should hope that when I am not around and they are out with their friends that they carry on with the courteous manners that I have taught them. Children learn from us adults and to gain respect we need to give it out too. If others are courteous to them then hopefully they will learn the right way to behave.

When we travel into London on the tube, we mostly all have a seat for ourselves. The carriage is always pretty empty but by the time we arrive into the City, it starts to get busy. Not too busy for the children and I to make room for others. But on the way home is another matter. When we step foot onto the tube coming back home it is normally packed and we don’t get to take a seat. I stand with my three children, bags banging into my 7 year olds face, people stepping on my 3 year olds feet as they can not see him down so low. Yet people who are sitting only occasionally offer their seat to my youngest. They sit and watch him cry, other passengers have tutted at me before and roll their eyes in my direction, as they watch my children struggle with their balance and fall all over the train. Are my children, aged 3 and 7 not less able than adults? Yes! they have had a busy day at work and yes they have paid for their journey but what is safest? A young child falling over, getting squashed and being stepped on or an able-bodied adult who can reach to hold on to the bars to steady their balance!?

When on a busy train I have:

  • Placed my youngest onto my lap so others can sit
  • Asked my 12-year-old to stand so other passengers can sit (even though he pays for his travel, it’s courtesy after all)
  • Placed two of my children onto one seat to make room for others to sit
  • Given up my seat and stood in front of my children so that the four of us have only taken one seat in total so other can sit

What other passengers have done for us:

  • Sat and tutted at me for travelling during rush hour (We want to get home too you know! The reason why we are in London at 5 in the evening is because one of the children have attended an audition)
  • Watched my children struggle with their balance and some have laughed as they have fallen over
  • Rolled their eyes at me with disgust, What am I not allowed to travel with my children?
  • Watched my 7-year-old take a seat on the floor because he is too tired to stand
  • Knock their bags into my boys faces. One man even dragged his heavy suitcase over my sons foot, causing him to cry and leaving him with a bruise. Why? Because my son couldn’t move fast enough out of his way as he was trying to head for the door
This is my eldest when he was 9
This is my eldest when he was 9, I was standing holding the younger child

I would like to say “thank you” to the very rare passengers that do allow my 3-year-old to sit down and what does he do in reply to their kindness, He always says Thank you!

When a train is very busy it is particularly risky for children to stand. I have no problem with my 12-year-old standing on a train, even sometimes my 7-year-old. They can both balance and understand that they need to hold on but even for their ages it is dangerous. When a carriage is packed with passengers both standing down the aisles and near the door ways and the train approaches the platform. Passengers who are getting off begin to make their way towards the opening door in a surge. When there are quite a few people among that fast-moving rush it can become unsafe for young children to be amongst them, as they could be forced along with the movement and end up on the platform away from their adults. This has happened to us, but thankfully as I screamed out my son’s name, a kind lady pushed back on to the train just as the doors were just about to close.

I would always offer my seat to the less able and so will my 12/7-year-old but I do believe that My 3 year old should sit! It’s not very comfortable for him to sit on my lap as he is a fidgeter and can sometimes kick out so It is safe for other passengers legs for him to sit by himself with me standing in front of him

What do you think?

Am I wrong?


My Top Tips to Stress Free Car Journeys with Children

As a family we do a lot of travelling around in the car whether it is to drive to our holiday destination, to visit family or just for a day out. We go on at least 5 journeys a year, where we can all be sitting in the car for a total of 8 hours, getting sore bottoms and numb legs. I think now after 9 years of car trips with my children, I have cracked the secret to keeping them occupied.

Embarking on a long car journey can be a stressful time in itself but when you are travelling with young children it can be even more irritating to your nerves. You have to deal with the boredom, the arguments, the “I’m hungry!” and “Are we there yet?” It can be a very emotional demanding time so the first thing i do when i know that we will be spending some time in the car is to make up a plan of which i would like to share with you.

Here are my top tips

  • Plan the journey first, don’t just rely on the SatNav because as we all know, them weird technical devices can sometimes send us down silly little roads that normal cars can not withstand the bumps and inclination of the vertical slope that 4×4’s can easily tackle. Knowing the route will help you to travel stress and argument free with your partner resulting in the atmosphere in the car being calm. Try and involve the children in the planning too, they will enjoy this and also teaches them navigation.
  • Make a pack lunch up for your children, I have bought my boys their very own little wicker basket lunch boxes that i place a carton of drink (not fizzy, as this can make a bit of a mess if shaken up), piece of fruit, a box or raisins, a packet of crisps and a sandwich in.
  • Take extra juice along with you in a drink bottle, the motorway stop overs can charge the earth for a small drink and driving can be thirsty work especially if the weather is hot.
  • Let the children pack up a bag of their own with their favourite things in it, like colouring books, pencils, story books, comics and small toys.
  • Investing in small pocket travelling games is a good idea too. We have a game of chess which is small enough to place into your pocket.
  • Allow the children to bring along one of their favourite teddy bears, it helps them to become comfortable especially if they like to cuddle up to it when they are falling asleep.
  • I Pads are ideal for travelling with, just remember the car charger because you don’t want it to run out of battery half way to your destination. We download their favourite music, games, learning apps and videos onto it prior to leaving. Make sure they have a pair of headphones otherwise it could get quite loud.
  • Take a long a small travelling cushion for when they forget about the excitement of travelling and fall asleep, this will protect their little necks especially if you have to brake sharply, it also stops them from getting aching little pains in the neck and back.
  • If you are on a long journey stop every 2-3 hours so you can stretch yours and their little legs and also for a little pitstop.
  • Keep the children occupied with playing games with them, like Eye Spy, The Alphabet Game, The shopping List Game and The Car Registration Game.

Eye Spy – Play it with items inside the car or out, great for any age.

The Alphabet Game – Choose a topic and go from A-Z listing names within the chose subject.

The Shopping List Game – Start with “I went to the shops and i bought a ______” Go through the alphabet starting with the letter A, then each person adds a new item to the list in alphabetical order for example ” I went to the shops and i bought an Apple” second person ” I went to the shops and bought an Apple and a Bouncing Ball” etc. This game is great for the memory and fun too.

Car Registration Game – Try and make up names from the registrations on the cars that are whizzing past you, see who can make up the funniest.

  • Make sure there is spare clothing to hand just in case of little mishaps happening. we occasionally have to deal with bouts of car sickness especially when the little one was suffering from reflux.
  • Always keep a pack of baby wipes in the glove compartment to wipe away any spills or messy hands
  • Discuss about where your going and what you will be getting up to, this can get them excited and will help them look forward to where they are visiting.

I hope my tips have helped you, if not and your journey is still a nightmare you can always just stick in some cotton wool in your ears and try to forget they are in the back 🙂

Don’t let not having a car stop you from exploring the beautiful isle why not hire a car instead here (, you will also find some more top tips when travelling with youngsters on there too. I am adding this post into a competition run by Travel Supermarket and Tots100 for a chance to win £500.

Thank you for reading my post and If you have any tips to share with me, I would love to read them just comment below.