Mellow Mummy: Staying Mellow about... Central London! : Taking life as it comes...

Thursday 8 November 2012

Staying Mellow about... Central London!

Tackling central London with children (one or more) strikes fear into the hearts of many parents. In fact, if you look back through the Mellow Mummy archives you will know that the first time I attempted central London with Lara when she was a few months old I was anything other than Mellow.

More recently, I have taken both Lara and Holly into London on my own by train and I survived! In fact, several of the other people with me that day commented on how relaxed I looked given I had taken a car, a train, two buses and then a walk with a buggy and a wiggly preschooler.

Today I was following a conversation on one of the facebook groups I participate in all about someone's first ever attempt at central London with children and the fear that ensues. It inspired me to blog my top tips for how to remain cool calm and collected when it comes to visiting the city centre with young children.

Do you need your buggy? Trust me, even with a baby or a toddler, if you can possibly cope without a pushchair or pram then travel in central London will be a lot easier. Train stations and pavements in the city simply aren't cut out for pushchairs. Unless you know your route like the back of your hand (see below) then you are bound to run into a flight of stairs or a cobbled road you hadn't bargained for. I remember taking Lara across Hungerford bridge shortly after she had learned to walk; I was determined not to take the buggy that day and it took us nearly 30 minutes to cross the bridge but she managed it and it was worth it! Being buggy-free means you can use the tube without hassle too. I tend to opt for a baby carrier instead of the buggy these days.

Know your route. Like I said, London can be tricky if you don't know EXACTLY where you are going and when. It sounds over the top and very much against the Mellow mantra but if I am travelling with a baby and a preschooler then I plan every single bit of my journey in advance these days. And I'm not just talking train times and tube maps... no. When I say "know your route" I also mean, what exit are you going to take from the train station? which bus stop will you use? if you're walking, which is the best buggy or child-friendly footpath? which platform is your train likely to leave from when you return? If you miss your train or bus, when is the next train? Only experience can give you some of these things but I know now that at Waterloo, the step-free exit is between Costa and the cashpoints and that at Paddington it is by the taxi rank. These nuggets of information will make your route plain sailing! If you need help planning your route, try which I find really useful.

Eat in peace. Always take LOADS of snacks with you on the train but also try and plan your day around meals. You don't want to have to eat on the move if you can possibly help it. I often plan my day so that we arrive in London with time to eat lunch at the station before we head on to our destination or, on our return, we have time to eat before catching the train.

Avoid rush hour. I'm not very good at this one, despite my best intentions. I always plan for us to be eating an evening meal during rush hour so that we can return home on a cheaper train ticket once all the commuters have left but almost every time I get too impatient and decide to risk the rush hour. I ALWAYS regret it. Having been a commuter in and out of London on packed trains I fully understand why no-one has any sympathy for a person with a buggy and kids. It makes your life miserable, your children's lives miserable and everyone on the crowded train miserable. Breastfeeding on the floor of a commuter train with a crying 3 year old is no fun, trust me.

Train tips. Take lots of snacks (it's worth repeating this one). Make sure your phone is fully charged before you travel. Take a book for young children to read - it seems to be the best form of entertainment I've found. Know where the nearest toilet is! If you have your buggy with you, try and collapse it and put it in the storage areas as it saves a lot of space and means you don't have to keep checking to see if it is in people's way.

I hope there is something of use to someone there! Most of all, HAVE FUN!
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