If you follow me over on Instagram you might have seen that we're been visiting Norfolk lately where my parents and younger brother recently moved to. We havn't stayed with my family in a while as they previous lived in Aberystwyth and both places happen to be a four and a half to five hour journey. I'm reminded after visiting though how good it is to spend time with family and how we really should try to make an effort despite the travel time. To those in larger countries like the US or Australia I bet it doesn't really seem too far at all!
I know it seems odd to many that neither Tom or I drive and I suppose for two people in their 30's with two children it might be a little strange. I have started to think about learning this year (although the thought gives me the fear!) but if I'm honest we've not really ever had a need strong enough to stop us traveling by train. I know things would be different if we didn't live in a city (and central enough to walk or cycle everywhere) and in many ways I wished I'd kind of been forced to learn by living somewhere I needed to but I can't imagine using a car on a daily basis where we are now. That being said I totally get the idea of it being more convenient to drive somewhere further a field, especially if we needed to take a lot of gear with us (like festivals!).
We use the train as a family so much though and have yet to have a bad experience. I thought I'd share some of my tips to train travel in case it helps any of you who might have been considering a trip via train rather than car!
Somethings are probably fairly obvious, like not traveling at peak times (for both the price and your sanity!) or booking in advance to grab a cheaper ticket but there are some other things we find useful that you might not have considered. We have used a Family & Friends railcard since Wilf was born which gives you a third off the total price. You don't actually have to pay for a child until they are five but by buying them a ticket with the card it actually makes the price of two adults much cheaper too AND it insures your child has their own seat.
We use the Trainline app on a daily basis as there is an inner city train in Bristol that runs regularly through some of our favourite areas and our own neighbourhood. It's useful for checking train times but also shows routes and platforms meaning that you know where your next train is and can plan your trip easily without rushing about. You can also pay using the app and pick up the tickets from your local station straight away. We used it on our recent journey and it meant we could hop on our train in London easily without having to hang around looking at screens to find our platform. It also has live updates if a train is delayed and what time it's expected to arrive.
In terms of keeping Wilf busy on the train I'm guessing these are things people do for any methods of transport but we love audiobooks. We have pretty much the whole Roald Dahl collection and he listens to them through the iPad with his headphones. We also download a movie on BlinkBox so that it can be watched offline, for long journeys that kills two hours and he currently has the patience to sit through a whole one happily without getting bored. I think I-Player and Amazon Prime also have download options so you can watch things without WiFi.
Whenever we get on a train Wilf declares he is thirsty and hungry (even if we're just jumping on our inner-city train or the tube and travelling for a couple of minutes, ha!). So we always make sure to have water and snacks with us, we carry raisins, fruit and dried cereal but also a treat like a Kinder Surprise because he can play with the toy on the journey along with the few we bring along with us.
People often comment on how well Wilf travels and I think it's because he is so used to it. He actually gets pretty sick in cars (even ten minute taxis) in a way it's worked out quite well, although I think his travel sickness will be something he grows out of, hopefully!
Whilst we were in Norfolk I did intend on taking much more pictures than the collection above but a combination of bad weather and simply relaxing with my folks meant I only took a few. We visited the picturesque town of Ely though and I'm eager to go back in sunnier weather, and Cambridge too.
Do you travel by train? How do you find it?
This year, Trainline customers can also purchase mobile tickets on select routes, with both advance and on-the-day rail tickets now available - all from within the Trainline app. Mobile tickets means no more paper tickets or long queues at the collection point. For a list of mobile ticket enabled routes, please visit here.
this post was written in association with the Trainline App who kindly paid for our journey but all opinions are my own