Do you sleep on the Sleeper Train? More importantly, do kids sleep on the Sleeper Train? We took our tots on the Caledonian Sleeper down to London and all is revealed.
Visiting London from Scotland with preschoolers in tow is kinda a big deal. A 1.5 hour flight seems a lot of drama just to get to London (no offence London). We were offered to try out the Caledonian Sleeper train with our tots. Some folk thought we were mad to attempt it, others were curious and were keen for me to be their travel guinea pig, but I was certainly curious to discover if I could get to London in my sleep! Here are the tips from our journey.
1 – Check the Departure Times and Tickets – Regarding our Aberdeen/London route, the Aberdeen train departs at 2143, the return Euston train departs at 2115. It sounds late for wee kids but works pretty well. We dressed Mr Child and Junior in their pyjamas, brushed their teeth, gave them milk and children’s tele, just like any other night, and had them bedtime-ready for boarding the train. Mr Child fell asleep on the sofa and had to be carried into the taxi, Junior ran around like a wild thing, delighted at the opportunity to stay up late.
In terms of tickets we booked a ‘family ticket’ with two interconnecting cabins. Don’t worry if you’re a large family, children are never expected to share with strangers, so if you’re a family of five you will get three cabins (six berths) at no extra cost.
2 Enjoy the Lack of Paperwork – We arrived with our tickets, that was it. No boarding passes or passports. Simples.
3 Equally, Enjoy Check In – As we pushed our buggy up the platform we were cordially met by a steward and directed to our carriage. Once there our designated steward checked our ticket, took our juice and coffee order for the morning (included in the ticket price) and any additional breakfast requests (we ordered a tub of porridge for £3.50). Compared to an airport check in this was civilised, no snaking queues, no hassle. It had the air of checking into a hotel, how lovely.
4 Pack What the Heck You Want – It’s great be able to pack liquids over 100ml, not worry about the ‘one piece of hand luggage’ police or care about the weight of large bags. In that respect packing is an utter delight and much easier than packing for a flight, but the cabins are a squeeze so don’t overdo it. We managed to fit our folded buggy and several bags into our cabin so it can be done. It’s also a sheer delight not passing through security – I appreciate security is there for a reason, but airport staff are occasionally so rude. Receiving no requests to take my buggy apart was joyous.
Top Tip – As the cabins are a squeeze you don’t want to be rummaging in a various cases for your kid’s toothbrush. Pack one small overnight case for the entire family, and leave your main luggage untouched. I was very smug I’d done this.
5 Remember Size isn’t Everything – The cabins are small, they’re designed primarily for people to sleep in, so they contain two bunks, a sink and a folding table. Drinking water, and a small pack containing an eye mask, earplugs and soap awaited us. To our tots each cabin was a train wonderland. Attempting to climb the stepladder to lay claim to the top bunk had one brother pitted against another – how relaxing. Sleep was forgotten the minute we arrived in the cabin as they scarpered around the compact space. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE EXCITEMENT YOUR KIDS WILL EXPERIENCE ON THE TRAIN! As the Sleeper departed at 9.43pm they were high as kites.
6 Think About Food and Drink – As the train chugged out of Aberdeen many folk head to the lounge car, which dishes up meals and soft drinks as well as alcohol. Children travelling on the Family Ticket receive free fruit. Because our priority was getting the kids to sleep, we’d packed our own nibbles rather than socialise. When the tots finally succumbed to sleep at 10.30pm (finally!) we cracked open a cheeky beer and a mini bottle of prosecco as the train rumbled on. (Couldn’t pack that on an aircraft!). We also brought some of our kids’ breakfast favourites: Scotch pancakes and dry Cheerios for the morning. This saved some pennies and time.
7 Sleep – The most important thing – do you sleep on the sleeper?! I experienced a quality night’s sleep. The train makes some noises, in the same way an aircraft or car has its own sounds. This doesn’t bother me, I’m a mum, and always desperate for sleep. The kids slept as normal i.e. the little one woke once wanting ‘Mummy’, nothing unusual here, so I climbed into his berth and cuddled him to sleep. The beds were comfortable and the cabins cosy. The novelty of sleeping on a train didn’t bypass me, I thought it was strangely exciting too. To travel whilst I slept was such a great use of time.
8 Don’t Worry about Waking Up – If your tiny human alarm clocks don’t wake you up, then the stewards will arrive with your fruit juice, coffee and any breakfast choices you made. Good Morning!
9 Think Hygiene – Toilets are available at the end of each carriage. The cabins don’t lock from the outside so when it comes to nocturnal toilet visits you have more piece of mind travelling with two adults i.e. I could nip to the facilities or take a child to the toilet without worrying about my sleeping second child. Showers aren’t currently available. I thought this would really bother me, I love a piping hot shower, but at the time I just got dressed and got on with it. New rolling stock is coming out next year. This is a huge step forward as the most luxurious cabins will include a double bed, shower and ensuite toilet. We’d naturally love to try the new, improved service.
10 – Think About Your Arrival Time – When the train pulls into Euston at 0747 the tube network is obscenely busy on week days. Travelling with tots and a buggy, it made sense to arrive on a Saturday morning or use the bus network once we’d arrived – we did both. The great thing is you arrive right into the heart of London (not Heathrow, Luton or Gatwick), and as you arrive early you can beat the queues at some of the most desirable tourist attractions. If you’re looking for things to do with kids read our Top Family Friendly Experiences in London.
The main thing for me is the ease of the journey and the fact that you travel in your sleep. My time is precious, and squandering hours in an airport with miserable kids isn’t my idea of fun. Price wise, the Sleeper can be comparable to flying depending on when you book. If the price is right I’m genuinely not sure if I’ll fly to London again. The Sleeper train worked really well for us and I’d genuinely recommend it. My little boy still talks about it. Choo choo.
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