Like a lot of people living in London, Alex and I don’t have a car. This means we’re at the mercy of the capital’s public transport system and south London train stations with steps, stairs and no lifts. This was fine when it was just me who had to get from A-B, but not once I factored in a small, screaming person plus pram and all the additional paraphernalia. For the first few weeks after Eliza was born it seemed impossible; how were we ever going to get anywhere?
However, there are ways and means around everything and you do get used to it quickly (with some forward journey planning). So here are some tips from my experience for slightly easier London travel with a small child in tow – for whether you’re bringing up a baby here or just visiting the city:
- Use a sling or baby carrier; it’s so, so much easier to travel on the underground, especially if you’re by yourself…
- …and make sure you buy a small, light pram that you can lift up and down steps and fit onto buses. After doing a lot of pram research when I was pregnant, we chose the Bugaboo Bee, and it’s been brilliant so far (even I can carry it by myself, and I’m about as far away from the world’s strongest woman as you can get). I’ve been pleasantly amazed at how quick people are to offer a hand, but you can’t guarantee it
- Plan your route around London train and tube stations with lifts or step-free access (such as Clapham Junction which has a lift on every platform). I’ve written before about the Mumderground iPhone app, an accessibility guide for using the tube with a pram, and there’s also TFL’s accessibility tube maps, including the step free tube guide, and the avoiding stairs tube map, all of which help to plan a less problematic route
- It can be easier to get a bus rather than the tube or train, as most buses have designated space for wheelchairs that you can use with a pram if the space is empty (but you’ll have to get off or fold yours up if someone in a wheelchair gets on, of course). Some of the newer busses even have space for both
- But buses often won’t let you on if they already have two prams on board, so try and get on the bus at a stop where it’s less likely to be busy (even if it means walking slightly further away first)
- On that note, walk where possible. In London there’s always something interesting to look at, plus you both get some fresh air. But take a rain cover!
- Alternatively, why not stay around where you live and explore your local area instead?
And finally, three tips;
- Black cabs will take prams in as they are without folding, so don’t panic if you get stuck and don’t have a car seat
- Faced with a big, scary gap from train to the platform, it’s much, much easier if you get off trains with the pram backwards
- And having a baby on public transport can be a surprising conversation starter, so be prepared to do the one thing you never’ll have never done before in London – chat to strangers…
I’d love to hear if you have any more advice (especially any tips for travel with toddlers or more than one baby!)