How to keep kids busy on long train journeys

Kintbury to Salzburg in 40 seconds!

In the summer of 2019 we had a multi-generational family holiday booked on the shores of Mondsee, Austria. Mondsee is one of the many lakes that make up the spectacular Salzkammergut region near Salzburg. The family was to be together for 5-6 days and we aimed to add on to it to create a two-week holiday.

Enjoying time with aunts, uncles and cousins in the mountains
Mondsee, Austria

Rather than fly and rent a car, or drive our own car out there, we chose to travel by train. We bought Interail passes and created an itinerary. Our trip took us from our home village in England to Salzburg (where we rented a car for our 5 days on Mondsee) then onto St Anton and finishing up in Paris before our final trip home.

You can read about how we spent our 4 days in St Anton here, and more details about a family-friendly hike here.

You can read about our fab, family-friendly bike tour of Paris here.

We spent a total of 29 hours on trains during our holiday, moving on from each location every three to six days. Apart from our overnight train (from Cologne, Germany to Wels, Austria), none of our train journeys were longer than four hours. We really enjoyed the pace of travel and surprisingly didn’t get bored on the trains. So how did we entertain ourselves? Here’s a brief rundown of the ways we kept busy.

Food

Buying brezen (pretzels) in Salzburg

Eating to stave off boredom has to come at the top of the list. We packed picnics for our journey and a large variety of snacks. Splitting lunch up into more than two elements meant we could dip in for more food every hour or so. Half a sandwich at 11:30am, followed by a pretzel or some crisps at 12:30pm and the second half of sandwich 45minutes later, and so on. Top snacks for our journeys included dried and fresh fruit, nuts, crisps, homemade sandwiches, pretzels (the fresh ones) bought in Austria, Mannerschnitten (wafers layered with hazelnut/cocoa paste) also bought in Austria, salami sticks or other cured meat and vegetable sticks. We brought our own reusable non-plastic shopping bags with us which not only proved useful for shopping but also for carrying our picnics around with us.

Games

An early round of Consequences on the Eurostar from London to Brussels

When we were lucky enough to sit as a four around a table we played card games, Dobble and Uno. We also enjoyed many rounds of Consequences (the drawing version) creating some very silly characters. Hangman, squares and noughts and crosses were also deployed.

Writing and drawing

Both boys had a sketch book and a notebook. The 8yo set them the challenge of writing down every single station we would pass through, as well as adding the train name and company logo to the page. The 6yo was less keen on all the writing but engaged with it up to a point. They also drew and coloured in the flags of all the countries we passed through. There was diary and story writing occasionally as well as general drawing, often inspired by an activity we had done or were going to do.

Reading

To be honest the 6yo didn’t often entertain himself with reading, but the 8yo did.

Tablets

Probably listening to ‘Shotgun’ by George Ezra for the thousandth time!

Both boys have their own tablets (the 6yo has an Amazon Fire kids tablet; the 8yo has a Samsung Galaxy Tab A). They have television programmes and films loaded onto their tablets as well as games. They both also have music now on their tablets. They’ve created their own playlists of their favourite tracks. This was a game-changer for us. The 6yo would often listen to his music while watching the scenery pass by. The 8yo listened to music while he read or looked out of the window.

Trains, no planes and one automobile

Kids never get bored of trains, right? Our whole summer holiday was booked based on this premise, but what was the result? As we disembarked from our Eurostar back into Kings Cross at the end of our trip, the 8yo asked when we would take a holiday by train again. Thumbs up all round!

Next year, when we travel from Canada to Argentina on our Grand Adventure, we’ll be on the look out for more tips and tricks to stave off boredom during long car, ferry, plane, train and bus journeys. What are your favourite ways to pass the time when you’re travelling with kids?

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