For a change this last weekend I decided to try out travelling back down south on the train instead of driving. I do enjoy driving but it can take all day with stops to do a 250 mile drive and this can be tiring for all of us especially me! My children do have DVD players they can take in the car to entertain them whatever scare stories the Daily Mail may publish. There is no way I can concentrate on driving and trying to entertain 2 young children and referee fights!
Armed with a Family and Friends Railcard I advanced booked our return tickets and reserved us a table and three seats (as my nearly 4 year old is a bit big to sit on my knee I purchased him a ticket even though he could have travelled for nothing without a seat). Virgin gives options of quiet or normal carriages and asks whether you want a power socket. I obviously didn't choose a quiet carriage and opted for the power socket for charging my mobile phone!
Before travelling I got the children to choose items to take to entertain them on the journey - magazines, books and activity items. I also decided to take my laptop so they could watch a movie if they wanted to. These were all packed in a small rucksack I could carry on my back. In a separate wheelie suitcase I put all our clothes for the weekend. These were kept to a minimum so that the case wasn't too heavy. I would have taken one of the kids' Trunkis but remembered the warnings about railway platforms and left them at home! Another small wheelie suitcase was packed with a perpetual picnic as thirsty and hungry children are a nightmare on long journeys and food is expensive at stations and on trains. This bag was small enough for my daughter to be in charge of.
One thing I did make a mistake with was not checking that the journey didn't require a change and we had to get off and on again at Crewe. The main problem with travelling with small children is that there is a large gap and high step to get on and off the trains. My 3 year old was very nervous about getting on board and had to be lifted up. Luckily the two small wheelie suitcases were very light to handle and also fitted easily under our table.
The good thing about taking the DVDs was that the children were quite happy to remain in their seats for the journey. I got complimented by the gentleman sharing our table on how well behaved my children were which made me feel good. The children didn't make too much use of their other entertainment tools but we did have conversations about things we could see from the train. They got the hang of the train toilet close and lock mechanism and my son managed to avoid any accidents on both legs of the journey.
On our return we had nearly an hour at Euston as we caught an earlier train than expected after visiting friends. This is quite a long time to hang around in a busy public place with small children. Luckily they can use the toilets for free (cost me 30p!) and there are cubicles big enough for an adult, 2 children plus baggage. There is also a waiting room so you can sit safely and not worry about the children being able to stray easily.
The return leg was a much emptier train as it was a Monday tea time so we had the table to ourselves. The conductor also told us that there were children's entertainment packs available for free from the shop in our carriage. These were in little red rucksacks and had activity books, games and colouring in them. Apparently they aren't always available so they don't advertise them.
I have to say that I arrived in both directions a lot less physically tired than when I drive. So will I do it again? I probably will but not having a car at your destination can make it problematic.