How to travel around London with children – the really easy way

October 23, 2013

Tiny Eliza in a taxi

Really tiny Eliza in a taxi, last year.

It’s an understatement to say that getting around London with very young children can be pretty tricky. Last year I wrote my tips to navigate public transport with a pram, and it seemed to chime a chord with a lot of parents who live in cities and don’t drive. Train stations are notorious for never having escalators or lifts, the tube is easily overcrowed, buses are often full or just don’t stop, everyone tuts and often no-one helps.

We were approached by Hailo to see how getting from A-Z with a B A B Y in a cab compares to using public transport. So without a car, could this be the answer to every parent’s city transportation woes?

So what is Hailo?

  • Hailo is a mobile app that you can use to call a normal black cab, wherever you are in London
  • The Hailo app is really simple; it pinpoints your location on a map, then finds all the taxis in that area. You then click to book the nearest one
  • Once you’ve booked, it tells you how long the taxi will take, and gives a countdown to its arrival. You can also click to call them if you need to get in touch e.g. if you move location
  • It tells you the registration number of the taxi, name and photo of the driver so it’s really easy to pick them out. It also tells you when they arrive so you know to look out for the cab
  • It costs exactly the same as a normal black cab journey – there no extra charges
  • You can pay using cash, but once you set up an account it will charge it to your card – so no need for scrabbling about for change or extra stops at the cashpoint

And why would Hailo be useful for parents?

  • We use cabs a fair amount – whereas pre-baby, it was all about getting home from a drunken night out, now it’s usually to get home when we’ve been away. There’s nothing worse than not being able to find one, or having to wait in a massive queue, when you’ve got a baby who just wants to get home and play. But Hailo makes this whole process a lot easier
  • The cab will come to you (minimal waiting around, no hoiking a pram up and down steps to get to the station). It’s great if you’re juggling lots of bags, a pram, and a wriggly small child
  • As it’s a black cab you can take a baby in a pram so no need for a car seat
  • All the drivers we had were super-helpful with getting the pram in and out of the car
  • Hailo cab drivers will also take women in labour to the hospital
  • Top Hailo parenting fact; the Middletons used a Hailo cab to go to the hospital to see Prince George the day after he was born

So how did we get on? Here are the journeys that we took:

Journey 1: Clapham Junction → home

After a weekend at my parent’s house, Alex came home on Sunday and Eliza and I got the train back the next day. From Clapham, it’s one train ride home. However, after a solo two hour journey with a restless toddler who refused to sit on the seat and shouted “boooobie!” at all the wrong, quiet moments, I just could not face another train ride, especially one that involved then carrying the pram and our massive bag up the steps at our local, lift-less station. I used the app to call a cab; it arrived within five minutes, the driver called us as soon as it was booked and then again once he arrived, and helped us in and out. We were at our front door in half an hour.

(An aside, one of the biggest mysteries of London life has to be – why are there NEVER any normal taxis at Clapham Junction aka the world’s busiest train station? We’ve always struggled when getting a taxi back from there).

Journey 2 & 3: Home → Clapham Junction, Clapham Junction → home

We used Hailo to make our way to and from the station when we went on holiday recently. We had a suitcase, a giant bag, various other bags, and an Eliza in a pram. It would have been a nightmare on the train. The only time we encountered problems was on the way back at Clapham, where the app kept telling us there was a taxi in the area (there wasn’t). We had to wait about 15 minutes to book. but got one in the end.

Journey 2: Crystal Palace → Crystal Palace

OK this is a totally lazy one, and didn’t involve children in any way. I went out for dinner and drinks with my friend Gemma. I would normally get the bus back, but it was dark and raining and to be honest, I’d had some wine and I just couldn’t be bothered. I thought I’d see if there were any cabs in the area. There was one, so we were both home and dry really quickly.

So what did we think about Hailo?

It doesn’t take much common sense to work out that getting a taxi is a lot easier than getting the bus or train, especially with a pram and a baby or toddler. Of course it is. But on those opportunities where you need to take a cab, Hailo makes it even easier – you don’t have to faff about trying to hail a taxi in the street or having to call for one when you’re not too sure what the name of the road you’re on is. And you don’t have to pay with cash (as someone who never seems to have any, this is great).

The service does depend on there being taxis in the area – there aren’t often many driving around where we live, but we are quite far out in London terms so this is to be expected really – although saying that we did get lucky with the above journeys. The only real problem we had was our morning journey back from Clapham after our holiday we had to wait for about 15 minutes before there was one in the area. I imagine you wouldn’t have this problem in more central London, or at busier times though. And the service is growing as more taxi drivers join up.

If you have a small child, all the related paraphernalia, lots of luggage, are on your way somewhere, or at the end of a long journey, getting a cab is a lot easier than battling with public transport. And using Hailo makes it even easier. Sure, taxis are most expensive than the bus – that’s a given – but on certain occasions, anything that can make your life as a parent easier is a bonus. And Hailo does just that.

Thanks Hailo – we were provided with account vouchers to try out the service. However, we’re keeping our account open and definitely use it next time we need a cab.

2 Comments

  • LovelyNursery

    October 24, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    Hello Gillian, thanks for post because getting around London with very young children can be very tricky. I find it educating. This post is helping a lot of mummies. Cheers. 🙂

  • Heathrow Taxis

    October 28, 2013 at 11:39 am

    I’ve lost count of the number of mothers I’ve picked up with prams who, when they sit down, just let out a big sigh knowing they’re on their way home finally. I’ve also had a few tell me about their bad experiences with public transport too.

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