I’m a planner – I like to know what we’re doing, where we’re going and how long it’ll take, well in advance. I’m learning though that life with a toddler doesn’t always allow you to be so structured in your ways. As such, I’m trying to be more spontaneous when it comes to days out and activities with the family, like our recent last minute train trip to Brighton.
As it’s one of the nearest seasides to us, we tend to go to Brighton a couple of times per year, however we’ve not had chance during 2016. The stars recently aligned though to give us the nudge we needed to head south for the day. The missus had a week off work as she waited to start a new job, we’d eventually hit a spell of nice weather and Thameslink had been in touch to offer us a day out on them.
We usually drive to Brighton, so were interested in seeing how hopping on the train compared to our usual journey. Looking at the time, it was going to take us longer by train, but we didn’t have to think about things like parking or actually make the effort driving.
So, with our bag packed, we headed off on our family day of adventure to the seaside. Here’s what we got up to:
Train Journey – London To Brighton
We got the direct Thameslink train from London St Pancras to Brighton. We’d just about managed to avoid rush hour – although arguably it’s always rush hour in the Capital – but the train was a little busy. This seemed to be because the train stopped at Gatwick Airport, so there were a fair few passengers – with suitcases – on board.
We managed to find an empty seat at a table which I popped the sprog onto – this resulted in the fella in the seat next to her offering his to us. And they say that chivalry is dead. I’ll definitely be using Toddler L again to score myself seats!
The journey was 1.5 hours in total, which for me, is a pretty acceptable length of time for a spontaneous day out to the seaside. As every parent knows though, 1.5 hours with a toddler can often feel more like 150. Toddler L has been on the train a few times, but these journeys are often shorter in duration. However, as she – and us – had a bit of practice last week as we’d been on a plane, we didn’t expect her to be too much trouble.
Still, preparation is key. We’d made sure that we’d packed a number of things which would keep her entertained on the journey should looking out of the window become tiresome. Toddler L was on top form, switching between food, a sticker book, the tablet and interacting with other passengers to keep her entertained on the journey.
We arrived in Brighton before lunch and set out on our spontaneous day at the seaside.
Brighton Toy And Model Museum
Our first stop on our Brighton adventure was the Toy and Model Museum. Located just a couple of hundred yards from the train station, this gave Toddler L the perfect chance to explore after being ‘restrained’ for the last few hours.
Arrived in Brighton thanks to @tlrailuk @gnrailuk. Our first stop on our spontaneous family day out to the seaside is The Toy And Model Museum. Toddler L has been loving looking at all of the trains, planes, ships and cars – she’s definitely her grandad’s granddaughter. Ahem, geek! #summertrainfun #ad
Described as “a treasure trove of toys and models”, I’ll be totally honest and say that this isn’t the type of place we’d have gone pre-Toddler L. However, Toddler L loves all things trains, planes and cars, so we thought this would be right up her street. And it was!
Set under the Victorian railway arches beneath the station, the place is full of old toys and models. There’s some stuff which dates back to the 18th Century, but the majority is from the early part of the 20th Century. This includes things like Meccano construction toys, Corgi die-cast model cars and Marklin model trains. It was just a shame my dad wasn’t with us as he’d have loved it. Then again, he might have loved it a bit too much which would have been embarrassing.
Toddler L enjoyed dashing from display case to display case checking out the old toys inside. She particularly liked the model railways complete with moving trains and the puppets which had recognisable characters such as Mickey Mouse. In total, I think we did three laps around the museum – a must-visit place if you have kids who enjoy looking, exploring and making “choo-choo” noises repeatedly.
On leaving the museum, we had a wander down to the seafront via North Laine – one of my favourite parts of Brighton. Consisting of over 400 independent shops, boutiques and restaurants with a really cool, chilled out atmosphere, you can literally buy anything as there’s such a huge mix of stuff.
Now a bit of a tradition from the time when my bro lived in Brighton, we went into one of the junk / antique shops to have our photos taken in a vintage photobooth. We have more photobooth photos than the ones below, but these are the two times when Toddler L has been involved – looks like she still doesn’t know where the camera is…
British Airways i360
We made our way along the seafront – as Toddler L napped in the carrier – and towards Brighton’s newest attraction, which had only opened a few weeks before. Looking like a giant, shiny Polo mint on a toothpick, the British Airways i360 is the world’s tallest moving observation tower. Designed by the same people who did the London Eye, it makes an interesting – and controversial – addition to the south coast skyline.
I went to buy tickets online the night before, only to find that you need to buy them three days in advance. This meant a 20 minute queue to buy tickets on the day – which wasn’t the worst thing in the world – but I’d advise to book online if you plan to visit. Although we were booked onto the 2.40pm ‘flight’ they said that we’d probably make the 2.20pm as the actual queue wasn’t that big – they were right.
Designed to give visitors a different view of Brighton, the i360 slowly glides up to 450 feet high – not too far off the height of the Gherkin – to give 360 degrees views for up to 26 miles. The glass pod is actually 10 times as big as a capsule on the London Eye, meaning that it can house 200 people at once.
Despite this, it did feel a bit like a mad rush to find a window spot. We found one which overlooked the now derelict West Pier and took plenty of photos as we ascended. People did move around, but there was a bit of a ‘this is my window view’ mentality, meaning that we didn’t really see the entire 360 degrees – I imagine this would be worse if it was at the full 200 person capacity.
Still, the views we saw across Brighton were pretty cool – particularly as the weather was so nice – and the engineering, architecture and design put into the i360 is to be marvelled at. After reaching the top, we decided to have a sit down on the seats around the central column so that Toddler L could finish her half-eaten, warm tuna sandwich – mmmm. The ‘flight’ took 20 minutes or so, and although we probably wouldn’t do it again as it’s surely ‘more of the same’, it was good to have experienced it.
Admiring the views from the top of @BA_i360 – the world’s first vertical cable car – on our day trip to Brighton thanks to @tlrailuk @gnrailuk. At 450 feet in the air and with the sun shining, the views are pretty awesome! #summertrainfun #ad
A photo posted by The DADventurer (Dave) (@the_dadventurer) on
Beach And Pier
As we’d not been on the beach yet, our next stop was to chill out on the
sand stones. I love Brighton, I really do, but I always feel a little bit cheated if I don’t get sand in my sarnies. Still, Toddler L enjoyed the rocks. She played all of the childhood classic beach games such as throwing stones in the water, seeing how many she could hold at once and filling her – and our – pockets with pebbles. Who needs a bucket and spade?!
Following this, we wandered back up the beach towards the pier to grab an ice-cream. Although she’s mastered how to eat a Mini Milk, the uninterrupted sunshine and subsequent melting of the Mini Milk, meant that Toddler L struggled more than usual.
To be fair, I did too. By the time the missus had brought me my ice-cream, it had already half-melted and I found myself holding the cone nearly horizontal to keep my Mr Whippy up (that’s not a euphemism). Being the greedy guts that she is, it wasn’t long before Toddler L had latched onto the missus’ ice-cream. I keep telling her that she needs to eat faster around a toddler.
After this, we had a quick wander on the pier – mainly because I needed the toilet – but we soon needed to head off as time was cracking on. Most disappointingly, I didn’t even manage to go into the amusements, which is a must-do for any seaside visit.
Train Journey – Brighton To London
We made our way back to the station just as the Thameslink train was pulling into the platform – perfect timing. The missus informed me that her Fitbit said that we’d nearly done 9km which helped to explain the general knackeredness, tired legs and faint smell of BO.
Our train was just after 4.30pm and was surprisingly quiet. The train we were on looked brand new – it turns out it was one of the hi-tech trains which only started operating a few months ago. I’m not much of a train spotter, but I was pretty impressed – it felt really spacious, had information signs showing which carriages had capacity, plus had large toilets with baby changing facilities – Toddler L’s bowels made sure we tested the latter.
Our journey back to London went really quickly, mainly because of the three strangers who adopted Toddler L as their own. These good Samaritans – otherwise known as Lizzie, Jenny and Jane – entertained her for the majority of the journey. It just goes to show that humanity isn’t all doomed!
When it came to taking the train over driving, it’s definitely something we’ll consider again. Although driving to Brighton from our house usually takes less time, jumping on the train did make the journey more relaxing as I didn’t have to worry about stuff like traffic or where to park.
We’d had a really nice, last minute break to the seaside. As we usually do the same sort of things when we go to Brighton – look around the shops, play on the beach, walk on the pier etc – it was good to check out two attractions that we’ve not done before. It also showed me that we can sack off some of the usual planning and do a few more spontaneous trips.
Have you been to Brighton before? What are your favourite things to do on a day trip to the seaside? Have you tried out the new British Airways i360 yet? Let me know below!
N.B. This is a collaborative post written with Thameslink. We were provided with train tickets and entry to Brighton Toy And Model Museum and British Airways i360 to share our day out to Brighton.