Ask the Expert: should I travel on London's public transport with young children?
Travelling on London's public transport system with young children can be a bit tricky at first, so reassure yourself with these travel tips from expert Jo Caird.
Pushchairs (strollers) on the bus
Even an activity as mundane as taking a bus, Tube or local train can be a scary experience the first time you attempt it with young children or a pushchair. There’s space on most buses to park a couple of buggies, though if someone in a wheelchair wants to get on, they take priority and you’ll either have to fold your pushchair or get off and wait for the next bus. If it’s just you on the bus, try and position your buggy so another one could fit in without you having to get up and move it mid-journey.
Pushchairs on trains and the Underground
The Tube is a trickier prospect than a bus, but it's worth it in terms of increasing the range of locations you can reach. When using stairs, you’ll find yourself relying on the kindness of strangers. A reassuring number of people usually offer to help when they spot you at the top of a flight of stairs with a buggy, but it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes you have to pluck up the courage to ask, but the vast majority of Londoners are happy to help once you have their attention.
If you are getting off a train and see stairs, be quick and ask for help before all the other passengers have rushed away – getting stuck on an empty platform and waiting for a helper from the next train is no fun.
You might be worried about taking a pushchair on escalators for the first time, but it's actually fairly simple. As you board an escalator going down, keep your focus on the back wheels, positioning them against the upright of the step; the front wheels will be hanging in mid-air. To board an escalator going up, position your front wheels against the upright of the step, holding the buggy handle up high so the wheels are level (this time the back wheels will be in mid-air). It’s a good idea to ask somebody behind you to be ready to help, in the (very unlikely!) event that something goes wrong.
Some stations have lifts (elevators), which are the safest and easiest option when travelling with young children. Normally, signs for lifts are clearly marked from platforms.
Finally, try to be organised enough to avoid rush hour (approximately 7am-9.30am and 5pm-6.30pm). Some of the most stressful times I have had with my baby girl were on super-busy buses and trains, having mistimed my journey home. The London Underground in particular becomes incredibly crowded: not recommended.
Expert advice courtesy of: Jo Caird, Londoner and freelance travel journalist. You can find more of her tips for travelling with babies and toddlers at www.babyadventuring.com