Posted tagged ‘travel with kids’

9 ways to get a seat on the tube

October 28, 2011

"That's my seat! Mum the bear's on my seat, get the bear off."

Here’s a tongue-in cheek list about how to travel with children on the tube – inspired by half term trips on the Piccadilly line. For info about my book Homemade Kids with lots of sensible ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly parenting, click here.

How to travel on the London tube with small children

1 Let the kids run around. It’s boring if they have to sit still.

2 Whatever you say, say it LOUDLY. Better still, shout.

3 Feet on seats. That’s a rule.

4 Share snacks. Crumbs aren’t a worry – they just add to the pointilist floor pattern of each tube carriage.

5 Swear at your kids, especially if they sit down quietly and start reading a book. What will happen next? They might become an intellectual or campaign against library closures.

6 Park your buggy across the aisle. That way the little one’s can’t escape, and the Bugaboo/Bee can’t tip up.

7 Life’s not fair, so make sure that you tell several of your group that they are being “stupid”.

8 Pervert old school nursery rhymes. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words just don’t excite me…” Keep repeating.

9 Leave a few memories: empty sweet and snack packs are ideal. Well there aren’t any litter bins on the tube platforms are there?

Verdict: it can be hard travelling with young children, but try not to make it an all out war against the other passengers!  BTW if you are ever going to London either ask for a group discount at the tube ticket office, or if it’s just your family get your own pre-pay Oyster card. This makes all journeys cheaper and children under 11 years travel free. Get your 11 year old their own Oyster (it’s called a zip card) and they can have discounted tube journeys and free bus trips in London.

Back to reality

September 1, 2011

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This blog is temporarily about travel and homeschooling.

Years ago – the sort of time scale (20 years?) that I left between leaving the Solomons and revisiting them – Soul2Soul was the most listened to dance band in London. It’s not island reggae, but I quickly began to enjoy their music, and especially “Back to life, back to reality…” It’s an anthem with meaning!

Today the travelling ended. The passports are locked up. There are no plane tickets or plans or reservation vouchers to guard.

In short, we are back home with milk bottles on the doorstep and a lawn to mow. Everyone is beaming – even now with jet lag when it’s 6pm but feels like 11pm. Actually I’m not beaming, I’d have been v happy to stay in the Solomons for months, no years, longer. I miss staying with ML and her lovely family, the beautiful food and those blue skies.

London at 5.26am when we landed was grey and a tad cold.

Back home I’ve tackled the jobs that build up after three months away – the mountain of post especially. I’ve also done the family washing (suds’ law), mended the wooden dugong and helped Nell sand her carved dolphin (woodwork), buried poor Snowflake our pet mouse who, once dead, was placed in the freezer and fortunately didn’t get defrosted in the new microwave. The microwave is not technically new – it’s from a neighbour who gave it to our housesitter Christina, and I guess we should play with it to see how useful it is, or not. I’ve also picked up the dog from kennels where he ended up for the final week of his staycation and amply reapplied red mite barrier to the hen house in a bid to tackle these horrible pests before the hens arrive home. Then, in case the pesky critters had crawled on to me I removed all my clothing and did another load of laundry…

So busy at home, though upsettingly I’ve found out that my uni teaching hours have been halved.

Reality is like London weather (I’m thinking it never rains, but it pours). What I have to do is ignore all the inconveniences and find some good tricks to recall all the happinesses and lessons learnt over the past three months travelling. In short: smile more, listen more, do more and realise how lucky it is to be born with a British passport, in Britain.

Back to the here and now
Here’s what the girls are feeling as they settle back to breakfasts of butter, granary grains and lashings of marmite!

NELL: “I don’t want to tell you what I learnt because you’ll think I was really stupid. But… I can now picture the globe and all the countries and think about their different climates and realities. I learnt that in the Solomons the sky is much clearer, that might either be because of less pollution or where it is positioned.

“I found that it is a lot easier to breathe in a hotter place if you have asthma which is incredibly annoying as I do not like hot climates – they are too hot. In fact I spent about half an hour in a cool house in Singapore which had fake rain. I loved it, I could have stayed there for one whole day. I learnt that the countries all around the world have different currencies that can be more or less than English pounds, so if you visit a different country it is quite hard to know what you are paying – whether it is a rip off or not – unless you have taken time to learn about the exchange rates. I also found out that England is one of the well-off countries compared to the Solomons and other small Pacific islands because there they still have houses made of leaves, without proper windows (but that’s because of the climate). No one complained about being poor. People make their own houses which is extremely impressive. And I think a TV would be very expensive, and not everybody has one. But in England if you don’t have a TV or computer it would seem quite weird.

“I was really excited when we got on the plane to London, even though it took 13 hours from Singapore. But it actually seemed pretty quick because about 10 hours of it I was asleep! When the plane arrived at Heathrow airport I was really excited. It seemed really strange seeing all the lights of London compared to Honiara, which is about the same size as a tiny town in England which hardly anybody knows about. Anyone from there who has come to London would probably think it is one of the biggest cities they’d ever seen, and they’d be right. the UK has 60 million citizens, whereas Australia which could cover most of Europe only holds 20 million people. It’s really strange because you’d think they could fit a lot more people in. I think I know why – it’s because most of Australia is uninhabitable, for example we spent three days crossing the Nullabor Plain on a train which is incredible. We boarded in Perth, I felt like we should have got on the train in China or Russia or somewhere just from the amount of time it took.”

LOLA: “Going around the world I’ve learnt so many things. Like people are so kind and I’ve learnt a different language. I’ve learnt about different animals, and volcanoes. It’s hard not to when you see one. I’ve seen many things on my travels but I’ve come to realise that none of them hold the same place in my heart as my home. That sounds really cheesy! I think it will change me for good, I think I’m more relaxed but I think I’d like to put more effort into the things that I do, because I see now I’m so lucky to live in England and get these experiences and opportunities in things like music, riding. The classrooms in my school are so different to the Solomons. In the Solomon schools everything is bare. There are no posters, no carpets, no proper desks. Half the kids didn’t seem to even have books. And the books in the library at one of the schools I visited had all been eaten by white ants! People say state schools aren’t nearly as good as private schools, but I think state schools in London have so much more stuff, like computers and posters and paint on the walls, than the private school we went to in the Solomons. However the kids there really concentrate and learn so much better because they know it’s the only chance they will get. In England you have to keep going to school until you are 16, but in the Solomons you can get failed from school at 11; 13; 14; 15 and 16. To have a chance in life it helps to stay at school until 16!”

Where to go on holiday?

March 18, 2011

I’ve just been reading a copy of Conde Nast Traveller – the most aspirational travel mag on the planet. That said the April issue is full of clever ideas (and some surprisingly affordable) about how to make use of having children to entertain during the later than ever before Easter school holiday. This post is by Nicola Baird

Do you realise you could still teach the kids to ski, say at the delightfully named Yeti Club in Switzerland (reachable by train, see the man in seat 61 for journey ideas here?

Or that you could reward yourself for sitting poolside for a winter of swimming lessons by finding the warmer weather on the beaches of Cyprus and Turkey? (The feature is on p21/april 2011/Traveller).

My last published piece on travel with kids was in The Observer, see the link here if you want to know where I think the best youth hostels in the UK are. That piece was written in 2007, but I still really like the huge, family-friendly YHA at Ambleside in the Lake District – although I’m always slightly shocked by how full their car park seems to be. Taking a holiday with a car seems to me to be very similar to most people’s lives with the daily stresses of finding parking spots (and the right change), plus the heart-beating challenge of taking the third left on a busy roundabout just as your six-year-old starts asking about the facts of life.

Made your choice yet?
Of course I don’t know where you should take a holiday, but if it gives you and the family a chance to live a little differently then go for it. And by different I’m thinking downshifting choices rather than spa-chic and toddler pedicures.


My top 10 holiday pleasures
======================
1 Getting up without rushing

2 Eating breakfast much later than normal

3 Going for slow play walks in the woods, ideally with a dog and enough companions to ensure that when the kids want to build a den the rest of us can chat… or just arrange to come back

4 Trying out cafes and local specialities (laverbread is seaweed!)

5 Taking a night walk with a torch, or a mix of star and moonlight

6 Paddling in streams – getting shoes off wherever possible

7 Learning something about a place or a thing. So why are Cox’s the only apples with seeds that can be heard to rattle?

8 Painting – with anything and everything, mud, gloop, watercolours, bits of charcoal, hen feathers dipped in oils…

9 Trying out a new language, ideally one that Facebook recognises

10 Writing “wish you were here” postcards, and not actually meaning it. That does sound mean, but it’s nice to be holidaying with the people you really want to be with…

Enjoy your Easter holiday plans
As you can guess, I’m staying put because my list of 10 can be lived out very well very close to home! For other ideas about fun things to do with small children see my book Homemade Kids: thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. Or share your own ideas here.


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