How to travel by public transport in London, with a baby

October 2, 2012

What’s the best way of getting around public transport in London, with a baby and when you have children in a pram?

Travel tips for getting around London on public transport with a pram, and small children

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!)

Also: things to do in London when you’re two, how to get a Baby on Board badge and how London changes when you’re a parent

24 Comments

  • Rachel

    October 2, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Nothing to add really, but I agree with your tips. Our pram is just a little too wide for the bus which is infuriating. I have to get on at the front, touch in my oyster card, get off, get back on at the middle. And it’s amazing how many mums are unsympathetic to my plight and get annoyed at me.

    I found that if I have to have my pram with me, I carry the baby in a sling anyway, making the pram more manoeuvrable, especially on trains.

    Still haven’t worked out how best to get out of Victoria to the mainline station though. That makes me stressed every time I do it…

    1. gillian

      October 4, 2012 at 5:40 pm

      I don’t think there is a good way out of Victoria tube station really – it’s all a huge amount of steps whichever way you go (I’m amazed they’ve never put a lift in, especially with all the work that was done recently…) That sounds like a nightmare with your pram! It’s so true about the other mums – so many of them take up all of the bus space and then get really huffy when they need to move for you. All fun and games 🙂

  • Susanne@babyhuddle

    October 4, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    What a great post! And great timing too as we’re planning a trip to London soon! Eek!
    x

    1. gillian

      October 9, 2012 at 3:53 pm

      Thank you! It’s fine if you have someone with you (to help carry). It really helps to plan the route ahead. Hope you have a great trip! x

  • Mari

    October 7, 2012 at 9:21 am

    Great informative post, thanks so much for adding it to the BritMums #MBPW

    1. gillian

      October 9, 2012 at 3:53 pm

      Thank you! x

  • Louise Lloyd

    October 8, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    I just found your post via the BritMums #MBPW

    I haven’t really got anything to add, just wanted to say what a great post it is! I used to commute to central London from Hampshire every day with my daughter when she was a baby (she went to the nursery that was attached to my work) and I just learnt to know the best places to stand on the platform to get straight into the best carriages and always just walked with a lot of purpose!!

    I always had the odd (male) cityworker commuter that would hiss and say loudly “why is a mother bringing a baby out in the commuter times” I would say loudly back to my daughter “Oh I do wish people were not so miserable first thing in the mornings!”

    1. gillian

      October 9, 2012 at 3:56 pm

      That’s such a good comeback! You do get such odd comments / looks for daring to take a baby into central London – next time I hear something I’ll give them your response. A nursery attached to your work sounds great though, so handy (plus you’d get to drop by any time you wanted wouldn’t you?)

      1. Louise Lloyd

        October 9, 2012 at 5:07 pm

        It was great, yes we were allowed to pop over if we wanted to, and often if I was walking between buildings and they were out in the garden I got to wave and say hello too so it was lovely! Also meant if they ever called because she was ill I was instantly there. Thank you for stopping by my blog and for leaving such a lovely comment xx

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  • Kate

    October 14, 2012 at 8:02 am

    Good tips! Public transport with a toddler is much the same – just with added snacks/books/toys/other distractions. Oh, and embarrassing questions (“What’s that sitting next to you?”). I blogged about it back in January, and then did a week ago about how much easier it is to just use a sling (but then I have the luxury of leaving the toddler at nursery and just taking the baby….!)

    Not sure if it helps!

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