Visiting London with a baby and a buggy has always been a daunting prospect for me.
I’ve tried a couple of slings but never really enjoyed using them, plus now that my youngest daughter is nearly one she’s getting pretty heavy – close to 20lbs.
I don’t fancy lugging her and a big bag packed with nappies, wipes and clothes. Sometimes you just need to not be laden with stuff.
And yet we all know that the London Underground and trains in general are just not ideal places for buggies and small children. Yes, there are efforts to make them more accessible, but all in all it’s still very difficult getting around and the number of stations with step-free access is shockingly low.
But I wanted to go to an event on a day when my eldest was in nursery, so I thought I would give it a go with just the one child, so I’m taking it a bit easy on myself.
I took my Bugaboo Chameleon3 which is not the smallest of buggies and isn’t a one-piece fold. However it was amazing, and it all worked out great, with a little help from some lovely fellow travellers.
Here are my top tips for travelling with a baby and buggy into London:
Can your buggy hack it?
The answer is yes, it can. My Bugaboo Chameleon3 handled the journey no problem and it’s not the smallest or lightest of buggies on the market.
I would worry about taking my Baby Jogger City Select into the city with me with both kids. If my husband were with me to always help carry and keep the kids happy it would be a different story. But it’s just a very cumbersome and bulky pushchair. It’s certainly not one for rush hour!
I also have a Maclaren Mark II, which is extremely lightweight. The only downside with it is the basket isn’t as roomy, so I can’t get my big changing bag under there.
I love with the Bugaboo how I can stash everything I need for the day into the basket and then am not laden with bags for when I’m getting the buggy off and on the train.
Of course there is something to be said for having an umbrella fold buggy that you can sling over your shoulder when it comes to steps. My only worry with that option was I would be carrying a buggy, a baby and a big bag down steep steps. But maybe I will try that one at some point, it’s what you’re comfortable with.
The main thing to do is think about what stuff you need to take with you and how you will physically move everything on and off the train.
Plan to the last detail
Don’t just look at the lines and disabled access, look at whether you’re going to have to switch to different branches of the line and if there are steps for all the stations and platform changes you might need to use.
The Northern line caught me out because the track splits off in to a few different branches and I needed to switch to get to my destination.
Transport for London has a section online for travelling on the tube with a buggy. Check it out. There’s also a map showing where the stations are with the best access, use this to plan your day.
Leave extra time
When you’re taking your first trip into London you need to leave plenty of time to allow for all of the lifts and the struggle to get off and on trains.
Work out how long your journey would take on a normal day without a child in tow, including all of the walking, then add a decent amount of extra time.
Avoid rush hour
If you can, don’t travel early in the morning or late afternoon. The tube is unpleasant to be on at these times even when you don’t have a buggy and a baby crying and squirming to escape.
It’s hard enough getting the buggy on and off trains without adding huge crowds of people too. Most people will help you by giving you space, but when the tube is congested there’s not much people can do to help!
Avoid the peak times, don’t aim to be on the tube until after 9.30am and don’t use it after 4.30pm. This is when it will be really packed.
Pack your bag the night before
Write down a list of your essentials that you need when out and about with your baby. Pack it the night before and then double check it in the morning. Don’t forget a drink for yourself. Check my blog post about what to put in your changing bag.
Get a FREE printable checklist of what to pack in your changing bag by popping your email address here:
Snacks are an easy way to distract your child if they’re getting bored or fussy. Try breadsticks, a banana, cubes of cheese, grapes (sliced lengthways) or packs of Organix snacks or similar.
Buggy books that attach to your pushchair are brilliant because they won’t get lost and your baby can’t chuck them on the floor.
Take a few small things that might distract your child during the journey. Don’t pack anything big or bulky.
Escalators are possible but scary
Transport for London doesn’t recommend taking a buggy on the escalators and it’s easy to understand why.
I managed to do it by pushing the buggy forwards onto the steps, then having two wheels on one step and the front wheels on the step above. I then had my two feet planted on different steps to brace myself.
It’s a bit nerve-wracking so I suggest avoiding this.
Ignore the haters
At some point you will be on the receiving end of a few dirty looks. People might even tut and roll their eyes.
It’s such a shame that the stress of the tube and the rush to get to wherever they’re going leads some people to forget that others might be having a tougher day than them.
At the end of the day, you’re the one with the small child to worry about, keep safe and lug around with you. Judgey McJudgey Pants only has their briefcase to fret over.
Just shake it off and move on. Don’t allow yourself to be embarrassed. Your child has as much right to be on the train as anyone else.
Say thank you
Despite the few people who will behave as described above, there are many more people prepared to step in and give you a hand. People are actually really kind!
So when someone offers to help lift your buggy off and on the train or get you up a flight of stairs, say thank you!
I hope these tips help you on your journey around London! Happy travels.