Taking the London Underground with a toddler can be intimidating. Especially if you don’t have another adult with you. When my almost three-year-old and I joined my husband on a London work trip I knew that we wanted to spend our days exploring the city, but I was worried about transportation. The tube isn’t the most stroller friendly, but we made it work. Here are my tips.
Taking the Tube with a Toddler:
Bringing a Stroller
You will want a lightweight folding stroller. I have the Colugo stroller which is easy to carry in one hand or with the shoulder strap. I would use the stroller up until the point we encountered stairs or an escalator. Then I would fold the stroller (very simple and fast with one hand with the Colugo) and hold Gwen’s hand with my other hand. Then we would take the escalator together.
Based on my experience, there was almost always room to easily fit the unfolded stroller in the train. Sometimes, once we got to the platform I would put Gwen back in the stroller. Her preference was for the stroller to stay folded and to hold hands and walk onto the train and take a seat.
Elevators at Tube Stations
Be aware that not all stations have elevators (called “lifts” in British English). Even the ones that have elevators can be complicated. Some have odd elevators that you have to operate by holding down the call button to request the elevator. In this case, you have to hold it down the entire time, until the elevator arrives and opens. Then once inside you push a button to get the elevator to move, again holding it until the doors open again.
In some situations, you need to take two different elevators to get from the street to the platforms. Look to a lift map next to the elevator to tell you where to go.
Escalators at Tube Stations
Most stations have escalators. Some are very long. We happened to watch Paddington before our trip and there is a scene where Paddington falls down an escalator at a tube station. I think this helped my daughter understand that they can be dangerous.
Use the wider turnstiles to walk through with a child and stroller, or risk getting stuck in the thinner ones. Usually, you can find these on the ends.
Avoid Rush Hour
It’s best to avoid rush hour. We would leave for the day at around 10am and time things to be off the train by 5pm. There was one time when we got caught up in train delays and ended up on the train at 5:15. It wasn’t ideal.
Sometimes stations close for big events. For instance, there was a big cricket match taking place near the flat where we stay. When we arrived in the morning to try and get on the train, the station was closed – except for people getting off to go to the match.
Exiting the Station
Remember to tap on and off. Unlike the trains in the US, the cost of the London Underground is based on how far you go. For this reason, you need to tap your Oyster card or other payment method both when you get on and off the train.
Final Tips for Taking the London Underground with a Toddler
Kids ride free.
I thought it was easiest to avoid switching trains if possible. If I had to, I made sure to only change lines at stations with elevators.
A well-timed train ride could result in a nap!
Do you have any advice for taking the London Underground with a Toddler? Share them in the comments!