We recently returned from a trip to Paris and instead of flying, we decided to go from London to Paris by train and try the Eurostar with kids. Not only did the journey eliminate the stress of flying (which – let’s face it – is really stressful right now!) but it was a fun and affordable way to travel. This post has everything you need to know about taking the Eurostar with kids, from booking the tickets to what to expect on the journey.
What is the Eurostar?
The Eurostar is a train that travels under the English channel to connect the UK to mainland Europe, specifically France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. It’s a high speed train so the journeys don’t take more than a few hours and are a fantastic alternative to flying.
Where does the Eurostar travel to and from when traveling from London to Paris?
The Eurostar has a number of different routes that operate throughout the year, but the London to Paris route is one of the most popular. From London you depart the UK from St Pancras International station and arrive in Paris into Gare du Nord. Oh, and if you’re specifically looking at heading to Disneyland Paris, then you can take a train directly there from London too! Check out my post on visiting Disneyland Paris with kids here!
London St Pancras is a large station in central London and easily accessible from the London underground system as well as rail networks from across England. This makes getting there fairly easy and affordable, especially if you’re already staying in London. If you’re a Harry Potter fan then leave a few extra minutes to pop into Kings Cross station next door to St Pancras; they have a Harry Potter shop and there’s a fun photo op at Platform 9 3/4! Check out this post on other Harry Potter locations in the UK!
In Paris, Gare du Nord is similarly easy to access, and you can get to other parts of Paris quite easily using their Metro system.
The journey from London to Paris by train takes approximately 2 and a half hours, with the majority of the journey being through the French countryside. If you’re nervous about the part where you travel through a tunnel under the ocean then don’t worry, that part of the trip only takes about 20 minutes!
What to expect at the train stations in London and Paris
Food and drink options at St Pancras and Gare du Nord
Both St Pancras and Gare du Nord are pretty great when it comes to amenities, with both offering multiple shopping and dining options. In the case of both stations, I think the options are significantly better before you go through passport control so I would stop and pick up food or do your shopping first.
One of the best things about traveling by train is that there are no liquid restrictions! This means that you can bring through drinks (as well as all your other liquids) without worrying about squishing things into a tiny quart-sized bag. While there are food and drink options onboard the Eurostar, the range of options at St Pancras and Gare du Nord are better and more affordable so I would stock up before getting onboard.
Passport control and immigration at St Pancras and Gare du Nord
When traveling from England to France you obviously have to go through immigration, and this means that you’ll need your passport to travel (your passport must have at least three months left on it to enter France).
As with any form of immigration, lines can be long and it’s best to arrive early with plenty of time. We traveled during summer and it was quite busy, with lines over an hour in both London and Paris. Expect to have to show your passport (in Paris we had to do so twice, once to officially leave France and again to officially enter the UK) and go through security just like you would at an airport.
The great thing is that you go through immigration at your departure station so once you arrive at your destination, you’re good to go!
How do you book the Eurostar and what are the fare options?
Eurostar can be booked easily online by visiting their website. Fares differ greatly depending on the time of year you’re looking to travel, the time of day you want to go, and how early you can book tickets. Unlike airfare, Eurostar ticket prices are unlikely to go down so it’s best to book as soon as you know your travel dates. Tickets are flexible and can be changed up to a week before travel with no change fee.
There are three different fare options: Standard, Standard Premier, and Business Premier, with standard being the cheapest option.
Standard includes two pieces of luggage as well as one piece of hand luggage and a pretty standard seat. This was the option we booked and it was fine for us; we weren’t traveling with much luggage since we were based in the UK anyway and just traveled for a few days, and we didn’t mind the standard seats. Drinks and food were not included but we could have purchased them, and we took all our own snacks anyway.
Standard Premier includes the same amount of baggage, but the seats are more spacious (and can include a table) and a light meal with a drink is included. I equate this to an economy comfort product; a bit more comfortable and some food included. The price difference between this fare and standard can be quite low so if you’ve got the extra funds and you want to be a bit more comfortable for the journey, this is a good option.
Business Premier is the most expensive option and is usually quite a bit more than Standard. It includes an extra piece of luggage, free cancellation any time, a priority queue through departures (meaning you don’t need to get there quite so early), spacious seats, a hot meal served with champagne, and access to a business lounge. I probably wouldn’t pay for this option whilst traveling on the Eurostar with kids but otherwise I think it’s a nice splurge and I’d definitely consider it as a luxury option.
When you’re booking your tickets, have a look at the price options to see what works for you. For us, the journey was so short that we were okay with the cheapest option, but it’s definitely worth checking out the options.
Our experience of traveling from London to Paris on the Eurostar with kids
Getting to London
We were traveling from Warwickshire into London, arriving into Marylebone station. If you’re coming into London from other parts of the country, then it’s likely that you’ll come into a railway station and have to then make your way to St Pancras. The easiest one to come into is Kings Cross since it’s right next door, but otherwise check to see how far your station is from St Pancras.
We chose to walk from Marylebone station to Bakerloo Underground station, where to caught the tube to St Pancras. The day we came into London was the hottest day of the year so there were multiple cancellations on the trains; this meant we left as much time as possible to get into London, and then to across the city as well.
It also meant we were trekking through the city in 100 degree temperatures while dragging suitcases – not ideal, but we made it work and got to St Pancras with a couple of hours to spare!
St Pancras station
We decided to get lunch at St Pancras and were told that the options before departures were better than after (this definitely turned out to be correct!) We picked up sandwiches, salads, snacks, and drinks from M&S Simply Food (which I’d highly recommend – selections were great and prices were pretty reasonable).
There is very little seating at St Pancras and it was packed the day we were there, but we managed to find a few seats to sit and eat. There were table service restaurants if you wanted a sit down meal, and other places to get snacks and drinks. There were plenty of shops to browse as well.
Immigration and passport control was well signposted and it took us about an hour to get all the way through. At our time of travel, we still needed to show proof of our Covid vaccines so we had those plus our passports checked multiple times. Our passports were then stamped with a cute little train stamp!
We then waited over an hour in the departure lounge for boarding to be called. The lounge has bathrooms and a couple of places to get coffee, but otherwise you’ll just be sitting and waiting. Once boarding is called, you make your way to the gate and find your seats on the train.
On the Eurostar with kids
Since we booked the Standard fare, we had regular train seats with two seats on either side of the aisle. This meant my two kids were sat together and I was sat next to a stranger. Not a big deal, but something to consider when booking tickets and working out who will sit where.
We just traveled with carry on sized bags that fit in the overhead storage racks, but there were racks at either end of the carriage for larger cases. You could fit a small bag under the seat in front, but any other bags would have to be stored.
When it comes to entertainment on the Eurostar, you’ll want to bring it with you! There is complimentary WiFi but it’s very spotty, sometimes not working for as long as 30 minutes. It worked out fine to just check emails (as long as you’re patient!) but definitely wouldn’t work for streaming movies.
I would suggest downloading everything you can in advance. My kids brought their iPads loaded with movies and TV shows from Netflix and Disney+, and I had downloaded podcasts to my phone. I also packed books and activities for the kids in case they had enough of screen time.
There are outlets to plug in devices but there are only two; one for a British plug and one for a European. Luckily my seatmate had a European plug so she used that one and I used the British one, but the outlets by my kids seats didn’t work at all. I wouldn’t count on either the WiFi or the outlets being working during your trip; charge devices beforehand or bring battery packs, and prepare for no internet connection for a few hours!
We packed snacks to eat if anyone was hungry, but I did walk down to the dining car closest to our seats to see what the options were. There were snacks like chips and candy, as well as hot meals like soup and risotto. You could also buy non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks.
Bathrooms on the train were basic but clean. There were two at the end of each carriage and we never had to wait for them.
Gare du Nord station
When we arrived into Gare du Nord, it was incredibly hot and busy; Europe was experiencing a heatwave and getting off the train was like climbing into an oven! We grabbed out bags and headed out of the station. The plan had been to take the Metro to our hotel, but we were hot and our train had been delayed, meaning we arrived later than we were supposed to. We decided to find a taxi instead.
The taxi rank was quite an experience! There was a long line, and there were uniformed employees asking people at the front of the line how many were in their group before calling taxis forward from a long line. It seemed quite straightforward but then random parties started being pulled out of line to get in taxis first depending on their party size.
Since we needed one for five people (three adults and two kids, plus all of our bags) I assumed we’d be waiting a while. At one point though, the employee organizing the taxis asked for a party of four and no one stepped forward, so I mentioned that we had a party of five but two were small children. He called us forward to the front and put us into a taxi; it was a squash but we all managed to find a seatbelt and felt safe enough to drive through the city.
We probably waited about 15 minutes in the taxi line but I’m sure people waited much longer. If we were to go back, I’d definitely skip the taxi and take the Metro; this is what we did on our return to the station and it was not only quicker, but much more affordable.
On our return trip, we had more time to explore the station and there were some great shops and places to eat. Immigration and passport control also took about an hour on this end, and there was very little once you got through departures.