Tips for Stress Free Train Journeys With Toddlers

I recently completed a journey which I was secretly dreading. It was one of those trips which had to be done just to prove to yourself it could be done.  And once the initial maiden voyage was over, it would be plain sailing from forth with.

What made my nerves even more nonsense was that I’d done this journey many times before, the exception being I had children, older children but never a toddler. An adventurous, lively toddler who loves to explore and investigate everything, a toddler who I knew would be beyond excited at doing something new, a toddler who hated to be confined and rarely sat still for more than 5 minutes .

That was the cause of my concerns.

So the very fact that we completed our little journey, Toddler, Tween and yours truly, in a spectacular and stress free manner has compelled me to share how we managed 6 trains over  7 hours on our return trip from Devon to Oxford. And share some tips we picked up along the way for anyone else considering travelling with toddlers.

secretes to travelling with toddlers


The key to my success was in the planning. I knew that to guarantee that Toddler slept for some of our journey, I booked a train that should in theory give me an hour until his nap. This meant that he could get all excitement out of his system not long after boarding and then after a little snack, would settle down to sleep. failing that, the iPad is genius for quiet time. I’m careful never to overuse it as it looses it’s appeal and is only ever brought out at as a last resort.

As we were only staying away for a few days, we made do with a wheeled rucksack. This was our saviour when navigating the platforms or walking down train aisles and was soft enough to pack into the luggage holds. And packing was a crucial part in the planning. My BabyMule changing bag is an absolute game changer for travelling. slung over my shoulders, leaving my hands free and having everything stored in the different compartments makes grabbing snacks and nappy changes simples.

 

I also made sure I had plenty of snacks, dinners and drinks for distracting any efforts to continually want to toddle around, as toddlers do. I chose snacks which would take a while to eat and hopefully not make too much of mess of clothes or the train floor, thus eliminating any further stress.  Think raisins, Little Dish GoGo’s 

To make getting on and off the train safe, I carried my toddler in a baby sling. This meant I had my hands free to carry my baby bag and suitcase. And reins are a must for more mobile toddlers. I take mine even when I’ve got the buggy as it keeps him close by while I’m collapsing it.

Any experienced parent, who’s learnt from experience,  will know that you can’t really travel anywhere without a few extra items in your parenting ammo, one of these being a few first aid items and while my mini break was hardly crossing that Amazon, the basics still applied. Along with an emergency packet of stickers, a small pot of distraction bubbles and a favourite teddy.

Mothercare parenting expert, Liz Day, recommends that when travelling, keep your child’s teddy bear safely in your hand luggage or an easily accessible bag so they are within reach to soothe and calm your tot if there are any upsets during the journey.

So now I’ve got my plan for successful travelling with toddlers I’m hoping to be a little more adventurous with our days out and short breaks. Watch this space!

secretes to travelling with toddlers

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This is a collaborative post 

 

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Reviewing the Mercedes C-Class Saloon, The Challenge Is On….

I love a challenge, it keeps life interesting and gives you something to aim for. Luckily I’m not too competitive so if I don’t succeed then it’s all down to experience with very few tears and minimum sulks.  So how does that  fit into a review of the latest Mercedes C-class saloon you ask?

My challenge was to see how it fared as a family car.


Now as challenges go, this was pretty luxurious; a high-end, top of the range car with all the mod cons a gadget loving mum could wish for. Pretty lush as challenges go, I totes admit. My only worry was the abundance of older gentlemen I’d seen driving around my Devon roads, it’s retirement central down here, which has a big baring on my observation so I did have a niggling doubt it wouldn’t suit our needs completely.

So there lay my challenge…. would a Mercedes C-Class Saloon suit a mum, teenager, tween and toddler.  We cover the whole age range right now so this was going to be a thorough test!

First Impressions

Ok, this is serious eye candy. End of. The front styling catches your eye straight away, it’s a long car but don’t for one minute let that put you off. (Keep reading and you’ll find out why.) There’s no mistaking the Mercedes quality as soon as you see it. Stepping in side, you’re greeted by a cockpit feel as you sink into the leather seats. My toddler was straight in the back, having a gander, the door depth meant no problems asserting his independence a making his own way into his seat. Time saver and toddler tantrum diverter all in one manageable lump!

Would I recommend the Mercedes C-Class as a family car? I tested it out over a long weekend with a toddler, tween and teenage. Find out how I got on.

Gadgets Galore!

First off was to get my seating position right. At 5’3″ I needed to notch the seat up and forward quite a bit. The controls are on the door and really easy to get the hang of, as well as those I’ve just mentioned, you can also adjust the depth of the seat which I could pull it back so it rested at the back of my knees supporting my thighs and still giving me plenty of room to move my lower legs. Next was to adjust the steering wheel height so I could see over the dash without it obstructing my view. Then we were good to go! Nearly.

Would I recommend the Mercedes C-Class as a family car? I tested it out over a long weekend with a toddler, tween and teenage. Find out how I got on.

There’s a central touchpad which controls the tablet style screen which sits in the centre dash and gives everything you need at the click of a button; radio, telephone, navigation and car settings such a colour and brightness of the ambient lighting. (I chose a cool blue which radiated from a lighting strip on the door to light up the door controls without being a distraction which was sooooooo chillaxing while driving in the dark.)

So with the toddler strapped into to his seat via the isofix settings, teenager commanding front seat position, tween reluctantly sitting in the back, Radio 1 selected, I’m cool like that <cough, cough>  directions set and temperature adjusted it was ready to drive.

The Drive

You select your (automatic) automatic gears  from a stick (is that the correct term?) just behind the steering wheel. A simple up for reverse and down to drive then push the button in the park. Theres no hand break so it’s foot on the accelerator and go.

Smooth was the word for the journey, smooth with bells on!

You can barely feel the gear changes and it gets up to speed in no time. We started in comfort mode but as we hit the twisty Devon lanes it was time to test it out in sport mode. The suspension dropped slightly and my god did it handle the corners superbly. I’ve never driven anything which felt so in control of the road. Barely touching the accelerator, every turn and brake gave the most comfortable car ride I have ever had. The toddler dropped off without so much as a murmur and the leg room was ample for my leggy 12-year-old.

Would I recommend the Mercedes C-Class as a family car? I tested it out over a long weekend with a toddler, tween and teenage. Find out how I got on.
Now anyone who’s had the pleasure of driving the narrow lanes going out of Beer and Branscombe in East Devon will understand my apprehension of taking a sparkly new, larger car on a jolly down roads where you often have to stop and reserve into a dug out pull ins. But I needed to see how this car would handle every situation I might find myself in, and this is where the reversing camera came into it’s own.

Would I recommend the Mercedes C-Class as a family car? I tested it out over a long weekend with a toddler, tween and teenage. Find out how I got on.
With guide lines helping you adjust your turn and giving you a much better view of what’s behind you than looking over your shoulder could ever do, I had no problem reversing to let traffic through. The same went for parking. Nothing phased me and that was where the real joy of having a large family car didn’t compromise on the possible difficulty you’d face in everyday situations.

And as a Family car?

I like to avoid any cries of I haven’t got any room, any whinging really, but the leg room thing is a concern, and the leg room in the back seats and passenger seat of the Mercedes C-Class was spot on. Comfort was at a premium with temperature adjustments for each passenger and scuff marks from the toddler’s feet on the back of the front seats immediately wipeable thanks the hard plastic back.

The doors open wide enough to get a toddler or baby into a car seat without any difficulty and if attaching via an isofix in the front seat, the air bag is automatically disabled. The isofix connections allow you to use the outer and middle seats so there’s plenty of options for positioning. It really passed the toddler test on several levels/

What really surprised me though, was the size of the boot. I managed a weekly shop and a pushchair with ease and hand bags / changing bag sat on the floor by my toddlers feet. The boot shuts by the touch of a button on the inner edge and opens via the key so no getting your hands dirty too.

Been there, done that, got the smudge marks on my face.

Avoiding dirty hands is a bonus, believe me!

Would I recommend the Mercedes C-Class as a family car? I tested it out over a long weekend with a toddler, tween and teenage. Find out how I got on.
School picks up were a dream. With the boys having no hesitation at being seen in such a cool looking car, I was able to find and park in a spot at the busy school road thanks to the parking assist. The stereo is crystal clear too, so with a Spotify playlist set up on my iPhone, I linked it to the media settings using the touchpad and we were off. There’s also 2 usb changing points as well as the cigarette lighter style charging point so plenty of places to keep devices topped up on long journeys.

Volume and telephone answer and hang up buttons are on the steering wheel but you can also select the stereo volume from a dial in the centre. With everything to hand it meant all my attention was on the road. I didn’t find the information screen a distraction, incase you’re wondering, as you can change radio channels with your left hand on the touchpad at a position which doesn’t feel at all restrictive.

As an added extra, we were lucky to have the sun make an appearance during our weekend testing out the Mercedes so I opened  up the panoramic sunroof  and let the fresh air in. It’s probably the closest I’d like to get to a soft top while still appreciating all that nature has to offer while driving!

Is It Fuel Efficient?

This is a big car, so I naturally thought I’d pay the price in fuel. Wrong! The information panel records how much you’ve used and relays it in a graph style and as you drive the information panel shows how much you’re using. I cruised along at 50 – 60 mph on the A roads & 70 mph on the motorway with an average fuel consumption of 80 mpg. You do see if dive down to the 30 mpg mark when knocking the accelerator into touch to get up steep hills and over taking but generally it sat at the 80 mark.  As a money savvy mum those stats made me smile.

And the bad……

Ok, I’ll level with you. I wanted to find a fault to make this a full and honest review so I dug deep and found it. Yes it, Just 1. There’s no rear wiper. For the best part of 2o minutes on the second day I tried every control and consulted the car manual to find where the bloody thing was. The back window needed clearing of morning dew and despite the large side mirrors giving me a clear view of what was behind, (which I noticed drop down when in reverse so you can a good view of everything around, so cool!)  I still wanted that window cleared.

Then I flicked on the rear demister and hey presto, problem solved! So no, there’s no bad points. I lied.

The Mercedes C-Class In A Nutshell

I’ll go as far to say that this has been one of the most enjoyable cars I’ve ever driven. It’s comfortable for all passengers, the drive is unbelievably smooth, it corners like a dream and it’ll get you out of trouble taking over the odd tractor or cyclist. Once behind the wheel you don’t feel like you’re driving a big car and with all the seat adjustments you can comfortably  manage long journeys with ease.

It looks good, it feels good and I felt safe. So would I suggest it as a family car?

Does a bear……….

Would I recommend the Mercedes C-Class as a family car? I tested it out over a long weekend with a toddler, tween and teenage. Find out how I got on.

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5 things I’ve learnt as a single parent 

If I’m honest, this whole single parent title still doesn’t feel real. I know  that I am one, but I try hard to not to let it define me or what I do. I just get on with being me, mum to three amazing boys. It is tough at times; you can’t make plans at the drop of a hat knowing you’ve got a partner or husband around to hold the fort. Far from it tbh, any occasion which requires childcare takes careful consideration and planning.

On the plus side, you know you do have certain times where you do have a day or night sans kiddos and this is where you really get a taste of a valuable life skill;

I time manage like a pro

I know that for the next month at least, I have definite days where I’m child free and I use those days wisely. These are the snippets of my week where I schedule the pants out of every hour to get as much as I can done. On the flip side, my weekend day with my boys are precious. Week days are spent running errands, working my butt off to keep the wolf from the door, keeping on top the housework, making sure the kids are doing homework and carring out their chores while I get the sole pleasure of any house maintenance which doesn’t require a professional.

In a nutshell, my week is chuffing, great, supersized busy with sparkles on . My planner in my co pilot and  off days just aint happening.

There are some valuable life skills I've learnt since becoming a single parent, here's 5 of them;

I roll with the punches

From the outside, I probably look like I’m occasionally lacking in emotions. (aka Cold-Hearted-Bitch) taking situations at face value, assessing the damage & rocking on. My close friends and family will tell you otherwise. But what I do have to do is be very careful not to let stress define my parenting. I compartmentalise those tricky situations and deal with them in my own time, putting them aside while I do mum stuff. If a drama doesn’t seem worth the effort I don’t give it the time of day. I’ve been through immense emotional stress, hit rock bottom and that’s my gauge. I know I can roll with the little punches as I’ve hardened up to the little stresses and as sole carer I can’t afford to give in and crumble.

I don’t feel guilty taking my mum hat off

Don’t get me wrong, I’m always a mum and even on my child free days I’m thinking about my kids. But I’ve learnt not to feel guilty when I’m not with them. That one took a lot of soul searching and long phone calls from my go-to family and friends, but I got there. Tough love (from them) wise words, hugs, tea and sympathy got me to a position where I know I need a me-time recharge for the week ahead and fun times to ease the responsibility.  I make use of every minute I’m away from them and when it’s pick up time, I;m straight back into my mum role. It’s also given me the confidence to let go little, my kids are safe and happy with their dad, and I that’s all that matters.

I’m a budget queen

Being good with your money is a must whatever your relationship status, but when you’re on your own and you have mouths to feed, children to clothe and entertain as well as a house to run, every penny counts.
Not having 2 wages coming in is completely pants but in some ways it’s actually easier managing your finances as a single parent. I have complete control of the finances. I know exactly what’s going in and out. Every silver lining and all that jazz.
I’ve learnt to rein in the impulsive spending sessions, and when I do splurge. I budget the rest of the month. And I’ve had to learn to say no. It kills me when the kids ask for things I know I can’t afford, I’ve had to drag out that tough love again and again and bargain with alternatives.
When I first took on this whole new adventure I sat down and went through all my outgoings with a fine tooth comb. I changed electricity suppliers, got rid of insurances I didn’t need. Switched to a water meter and set up a buffer account to handle emergencies. I also listened to the advice of other single parents.

There are some valuable life skills I've learnt since becoming a single parent, here's 5 of them;

I am stronger, braver, smarter than I think

Wise words from Mr Pooh. Sometimes that chubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff knows his stuff when he utters those little words of wisdom. Being a single parent has taught me that I’m stronger than I thought I was. The thought of running the helm single handed once terrified me.

How will I cope at the end of the day, when my energy is at its lowest, my patience is waning and I have no one coming through the door to share the load?

I’m not going to lie to you, it’s tough. There are days when the sofa has a magnetic pull so strong I have to fight every urge to curl up and hide from my duties. But that’s simply not an option. When those times hit, I dust myself down, push through the wall of ‘I can’t do this’ and get on with it.

I’m stronger than I think.

On the really tough days I pop a pizza in the oven, justify the lack of fresh, nutrition with a few slices of cucumber & chopped pepper on the side and we eat.

I ask for help, something which I was never very good at before. But I got brave to admitting I need help for the simple reason that I can’t let things slip, especially my health.  Sick days are not an option, I’ve just got to get on with it and look after my body and mind in the best possible way; I eat healthy, I keep fit and I practice mindfulness.

I’ve braver than I think!

And I stop beating myself up that I’m failing at this single parenting lark.

My house is clean, the bailiffs aren’t knocking on the door, my boys are happy, healthy and I haven’t hit the social services radar. I’m not doing too bad in the grand scheme of things, time to have few words with my self and see the glass as half full.

Seriously lady, you’re wiser than you think!

There are some valuable life skills I've learnt since becoming a single parent, here's 5 of them;

 

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Teaching Road Safety To Toddlers

Way back when, Tufty the squirrel was my road safety guru. As a committed member of the Tufty Club I learnt to stop look and listen each time I crossed the road, harrowing memories of Willy the Weasel and the ice cream van incident will always stay with me. Anyone who says shock tactics for the young don’t work, I beg to differ.  This was then replaced by the Green Cross Code man passive advertising at it’s best I’d say.

My quandary is, what is there nowadays to teach these important life skill to kids? With so many channels on the TV it’s hard to make sure the same collective messages are being drummed in. So it’s down us responsible adults to ensure that the kids are alright. At the tender age of 2 and ever since my boy has been rein free. (Don’t judge me, they were an absolute god send for my flighty toddler who was prone to taking a tumble when out and about only to be saved from serious knee scrapes by a swift fly back on the harness.) I’ve  been getting him to stop look and listen out for cars each time we stop to cross. I admit that my quiet little village is a safe haven to practice these skills as you’re more in danger of being taken out by a cat than a speeding car but the message is getting through very slowly.

teaching road safety to toddlers is totally different nowadays

And I mean slowly, putting it into practice really helps but living in a digital age so does coming down to his interactive level by looking at online games where you can sit to gather and work though scenarios to give kids the tools to think for them selves when it comes to road safety. Or searching out tv programmes on  YouTube. While the hard-hitting Think campaign  might be a little too full on for kids, with some even being banned until after the 9pm watershed there are gentler options which are age appropriate

The ultimate thing, though, is to talk about the traffic when you’re out, to constantly practice looking out for cars, listening and making sure they walk and hold you hand. Most importantly, repetition is boss. Each time you come to a road crossing, ask them what you should be doing to make sure they understand and then offer bundles of praise for getting it right. Finally, role play crossing the road with toys at home. Those 10 little minutes of your undivided attention will capture their minds and their emotions. It’s a key message that can never been over used.

So there you go, I hope this helps and do pop any extra advice in the comments.

Disclaimer

This is a collaborative post. 

 

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Do You Feel Guilty For Enjoying Your Kid Free Days?

So there I was, sat in bed drinking my much needed coffee in bed, mentally planning what to do, where to go and what time to do it. Weekends mean very little to me as far as relaxation time. With a toddler in tow it’s just as much all systems go as any other day of the week. Even with my kid free Saturday, while the boys are with their dad, I still seem to be cramming as much as possible into my day and night. Every second mentally scheduled,  just like any other. And it was that exact point, in amongst my dashing from A-B, that I realised my initial dread I had about being away from my boys had gone,  I was fine with the idea of kid free days. Better than fine, I realised that after a chaotic week of work and every day family routines, I needed it.

I always thought I’d struggle on the days that the boys didn’t dominate my schedule. Even pre separation, on the days when I wanted to run for the hills following a to-do, the thought of having to spend any of my weekends apart from my pride and joy filled with panic and were usually the grounding point for the nonsense of said barney. It was those days which sent my thoughts into over drive over what was really best for the kids. 2 days of just so parenting or a day of fun with mum and another with dad. Is there ever a right answer in those situations?

Who knows.

It’s a toughie and one many parents sum up when considering the pros and cons of ‘should I stay or should I go?’ But when push comes to shove you have to deal with it.

So that’s where I am now, dealing with it.

Which isn’t as hard as it sounds as once you’re in the right mindset,  you learn to accept  the situation

 “it is what it is”

As a single mum you’re on call 24/7 or 24/5 in my case (give or take a few numbers.) You do all the wake ups, the early starts and the bed times. Days you don’t fancy cooking, tough, you have to cook. Kids need help with their homework, drop what ever YOU need doing and help. Middle of the night wake ups., the lot there’s no sharing the burden.

But what makes it manageable is knowing that you will have some time to yourself on your kid-free days.

Which is why I don’t feel guilty. I do a kick ass job on those other days and I soon learnt, in the single parenting rule book, you have earnt permission to be as indulgent or selfish as you like  (within reason, the kids still always come first.)

Once word spread about my new status update,  old friends, new friends, people I’ve never met in my life offered words of wisdom, one thing they all had in common  was having been in my very, scary single mum shoes. Never in my wildest dreams was I expecting the camaraderie and virtual lift from these amazing, empathic women, Amazeballs didn’t even come close. I kept every Facebook message, every text and every email. Those who took me aside and shared their tips and support logged a memory bank of must do’s for as long as my memory will see fit.

The power of a problem shared, a collective experience and a shoulder to cry on was the silver lining in my big black cloud.  And to this day, one snippet really stood out and took me by surprise;

don’t ever feel guilty for enjoying your kid free days.

“bonkers.” I thought. I’ve never been happy to see my kids go.

Even if I’m just doing housework with my music cranked up, or sitting in bed til noon working and drinking endless cups of coffee, I don’t feel guilty having that time to myself.  The important thing is they’re  having quality time with their other parent which they need and they WANT that.

Seeing how excited they are when they walk out the door knowing that they’re not missing out on having 2 parents in their life is a bitter-sweet emotion but one which also trumps any emptiness of not having them around.  Sure the house is a little strange. Yes, it’s way too quiet, but those days when it’s just little old me, are the days I get to do what I want, to re balance the order of parenting and to recharge ready for the week ahead.

So no, I don’t feel guilty on my kid free days.

 

why I don't feel guilty on my kid free days

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