London - Travelcard or Cab for family of 5

London zones 1/2 - 6 days - Family of 5 (18, 16, 12 yr olds) - What do you think - Travelcard or Cab? Anyone know about kid discounts? Thanks!!

Posted by Suz
Denver, USA
223 posts

I don't have an opinion, or experience in moving a family around London. Transport for London's ticket/fare information is available at http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tickets/default.aspx. At least one of the under-18 student discounts is only available to residents. Taxi tariff info is at http://www.tfl.gov.uk/gettingaround/taxisandminicabs/taxis/1140.aspx Will you always be moving around as the complete group, or will you have times when a couple of the older kids are out together, or a kid + parent goes somewhere? That increases the attractiveness of everyone having their own travelcard. And with a travelcard you can always just hop on a bus and watch the world pass by as well as go underground on the Tube. Have fun, however you get around!

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
677 posts

If I've done my sums correctly, 7-day travelcards for all of you will cost £140, including the child photocard. You can take quite a lot of taxi rides for that amount, although I do believe you will find you've spent more before the six days are finished. It's impossible to say really because I don't know where you are staying or where you want to visit. The best I can say is I would be rather surprised if cabs worked out cheaper than travelcards. Also, with a travelcard you have the convenience of access to the whole transport system "on demand". At some times of day and in some places (and especially if it's raining), finding a cab to hail on the street can be difficult (you can book ahead, of course). Also, don't forget that if you get (paper) travelcards then you get 2 for 1 discounts at some attractions. You also get a discount on the river services. Finally, five in a traditional London black cab could be pretty cramped (how big is the 12 year old - will s/he mind being squashed between two adults on the back seat?). Larger vehicles are available if you book (and occassionally to hail). I've convinced myself to go for travelcards - but only you can really decide what suits your family.

Posted by Elicia
Mercer Island, WA, USA
30 posts

Thank you both! I think I will go with the Travelcards. We are staying in Fitzrovia and just visiting the typical sites. Hopefully one day out to the Cotswolds/Cambridge or Oxford. Any advice along those lines? We are on a budget and a river ride seems out of reach. Thank you for your generous advice! Elicia

Posted by Tim
Minneapolis, MN, USA
8636 posts

You will need to order Oyster photocards for each of your children at least four weeks in advance. Doing so will entitle them to buy half price travelcards. See the links on this page.

Posted by Elicia
Mercer Island, WA, USA
30 posts

One mom told me that she just showed up in London with photos for all and was able to get kids' 1/2 price travelcards. Do I need to get an Oyster Card ahead of time, just the process costs $16 (10 pounds) so an adult travelcard is $49 and a child's card is $24 + $16 = $40 - is it worth the hassle? Thanks!

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
2888 posts

Only the 12 year old is eligible for a child's rate. For the other family members, you may want to consider getting a 7-day card from the National Rail station so that you can use the 2 for 1 discounts. The offers can be seen here: http://www.daysoutguide.co.uk/2for1-london For the rail travelcards, you will need a photo for a photocard. You can either bring your own small photo or get one taken in a booth at a National Rail Station. You could also get a 7 day travelcard loaded on Oyster from a tube station, but that won't be eligible for the 2 for 1 discount. Look over the 2 for 1 discounts to see if you will use them to decide if you should go with the National Rail travelcard or the tube travelcard. For your daughter, I'd suggest not bothering paying to order a child's photocard in advance. You can buy a one-day child's travelcard without a photocard. The one-day zone 1-2 card for a child is only 3.40 GBP offpeak (4.40 peak). You will have to but it each day, buy you can get it from a machine at any tube station; just have cash with you.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8724 posts

regarding the photocard, daily Travelcards or standard tickets for children or adults do not require photocards on train, bus or Underground. Seven day Travelcards are considered "Season Tickets" and all season tickets require photocards. For non-UK residents, as indicated on Tim's link, childrens' Oyster photocards have to be applied for at least 4 weeks in advance and no more than 3 months in advance in order to benefit from children's rate 7 day seasons or Travelcards.

Posted by Tim
Minneapolis, MN, USA
8636 posts

I'm sorry, but Laura is wrong. With Oyster photocards, all your children are eligible to buy half price 7-day travelcards. See the link I gave in my previous post.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8724 posts

Only the two younger ones, Tim. The 16-18 Photocard expires on the 18th birthday. The 18+ one is only for students at approved schools and resident in a London Borough.

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
2888 posts

Sorry about that, yes I was wrong on the age for adult ticket; I thought it was 16.

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
677 posts

" Hopefully one day out to the Cotswolds/Cambridge or Oxford" You probably mean Cotswolds/Oxford or Cambridge as that makes more sense geographically. - you can visit either Cambridge or Oxford easily as a day trip using the train (or bus for Oxford, not sure about Cambridge). In the case of Oxford you could add on a sort of "side-trip" to see Blenheim (but its not a priority perhaps) - I wouldn't stress over choosing between Cambridge and Oxford (you might well just decide based on whether your London accommodation is nearer to Paddington Station for Oxford, or Kings X for Cambridge - also Liverpool St for Cambridge, but slower trains). Cambridge has the single prettiest view; Oxford has the single grandest view - all in my opinion, of course - but broadly they are very similar. - Combining Oxford and the Cotswolds as an organised day trip is possible and there are plenty of tour companies if that was your preference. E.g. if you visited Oxford in the morning under your own steam there are half day mini-bus trips out of Oxford in the afternoon. Alternatively there are full days trips that cover both out of London. Clearly in the limited time you only get a "taster" - which you may be content with. If you don't do a tour, then you would need a car. It is possible to get around the Cotswolds by public transport (despite what some claim), but in the little time you would have not practical to do that and see Oxford. PS I'm not sure if your question about whether you need to buy child photocards in advance if you plan to use paper travelcards (as opposed to putting the travelcard on an Oyster card) has been asnwered. I don't think you do - as your firend seemed to find - but I'm not certain so hopefully someone has the definite answer.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8724 posts

Laura, you were right - on the trains 16 is adult. 16-25's can get a card for £28 a year which gives a 34% discount on adult fares on many rail tickets.

Posted by Elicia
Mercer Island, WA, USA
30 posts

Wow, so confusing. Looking at the "Transport for London" website: For our 12 yr old: "Your child needs a valid Oyster photocard to get free travel on buses and trams, to get Travelcard season tickets and pay as you go at child rate.
A £10 administration fee is payable at the time of application." So it costs $16 to save $24, a net savings of $8? For our 16 yr old and 18 yr old (as "If you were 18 or under on 31 August 2012 You may be eligible for a 16+ Oyster photocard which gives free travel on buses and trams as well as reduced rates on Tube, DLR, London Overground and some National Rail services.") And again, it costs $16 to save $24, a net savings of $8? So for the three boys, a net savings of $24?? No sure if I want to deal with it. Only interested in the tube not bus/tram. Will look into 2/1 deals with the 1 day travelcard. Am I figuring this correctly? :) Thanks!

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8724 posts

That's correct. £10 admin fee per child sounds a lot when you are only doing it for a week but remember that you would be getting in on a plan designed for local school children who get a Zip card once when young and keep it until they finish school. The £10 gets amortized pretty quickly when they card is used for 6 years. If you will be visiting attractions which participate in the National Rail 2 for 1 program, it can really pay off to do it that way.

Posted by Jen
Charlotte, NC, USA
78 posts

I'm not entirely sure you need photos at all for this. I just got back from London with my mom (both adults). At the airport tube station, we went to the window and asked for two Oyster Cards, each loaded with a zone 1-2 7-day travel card and some pay-as-you-go money (to cover the small amount of travel outside of zones 1 and 2). These were presented to us immediately; it took 5 minutes. We then used them for a full week on the tube. The tube is what you want to use - it's super easy to navigate and probably faster than dealing with cabs.
Accoridng to the website, a 7-day travel card is about 30 pounds for an adult and 15 for a child (which i believe means 16 and under). If you plan to navigate by tube a lot, this would be the cheapest and easiest way to do it. I can't speak to the 2-for-1 stuff though...we got London Passes (I know a lot of people don't advise this, but we tallied up our planned sites and it wound up being more than worth it...especially for the line-skipping priveledges).