Tags: public transport
A fun day out with your little ones can be enormously rewarding all round; have you ever considered an outing to watch aeroplanes? You might think that airports are only for international commuters and holidaymakers, but they are often easily accessible to anyone to simply turn up and watch to explore what is going on.
Parking costs at airports can be prohibitively expensive, but they are generally well served by public transport, with buses and trains bringing people in. If getting to an airport by public transport is too complex from where you live, try driving to a nearby location where you can pick up a bus or train for the last part. Many airports have special recreational visitor centres, some with family activities running regularly.
If you don't live close to an airport, then do some research to see if there are any airfields nearby that allow you to enter and watch light aircraft coming and going. Airfields won't be serviced by the same public transport network that airports benefit from, but there is quite likely parking available on site and it may also be free. Airfields often have a public terminal which you may be able to access and may well have a nice coffee shop for you to sit in, overlooking the airfield.
The highlight of an airport visit will be watching planes take off and land, but airports offer plenty more to observe too. Watch planes being serviced - loaded with bags, meals and fuel; look at the check-in desks with bags flying everywhere; and watch the crowds of people coming and going. Use the day as a point of conversation to talk about air travel and worldwide destinations and undertake related activities on your return.
Do remember that airports and airfields are sensitive about national security, so don't park or loiter in places that you shouldn't be or you may well find you are moved on by authorities or the police.
Public transport in the UK is run by a variety of commercial companies and there are generally different fare structures and rules in place across different modes and networks. On the whole, though, children under the age of five years can travel for free, without any ticket or form of identity. There is usually a limit to how many children can travel with a single paying adult, that limit is four. In London, children aged 5 - 10 can continue to travel free on services provided by Transport for London, (buses and trams) but they may need an Oyster Zip card to prove that they are under 10.
Given that public transport is easy and cheap for little ones, why not consider taking them on an outing on a bus or a train? ...or why not see how many types of public transport vehicle you can ride in a day? Can you go on a regular bus, a 'double decker' and a train? If you live in the right area you might be able to add on an underground train or a tram even?
In London there are other fun and slightly different systems including the Docklands Light Railway, river buses and the brand new cable car cutting across the river between North Greenwich (O2 Arena) and Royal Victoria (near Excel). The river bus provides a wonderful way to travel from Docklands into the centre of London, with services as far out as Hampton, Kingston, Putney and Richmond. The river bus is by far the cheapest river ride available on the Thames.
Pack a picnic and plan a round trip using public transport. The children will love it and you will explore and see new places and experiences along the way.