London to Paris and Beyond: Eurostar Guide for Families

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

As TPG‘s resident London mum, I am fond of traveling to mainland Europe on the Eurostar with my kids. London is a great place to visit with young children with endless attractions for little ones and plenty of points redemptions. But there’s obviously more to Europe than just London, so since traveling by train in Europe can often beat flying, read on for suggestions for your family’s next Eurostar adventure.

(Exclusive photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy)

Kids Under 4 Travel Free (With a Catch)

Children under 4 do not need a ticket for the Eurostar but technically need to sit on an adult’s lap the entire journey if they don’t have a ticket. However, if you book a less busy train or an upgraded carriage there are often extra seats. You can also bring your young children to the dining car or walk the train. One TPG reader suggested finding a space on board and unfolding your stroller for your baby’s nap.

You are also restricted to only one lap child per adult, so if you’re traveling with two children under 4, as I often do, you have to buy at least one of them a seat. According to the Eurostar website, if you’re traveling alone with children and alert the staff, they will provide extra assistance from check-in to the train. I have not seen this assistance but have not explicitly mentioned that I was on my own. Don’t forget that even though children under 4 don’t need tickets, they do need their passports (it’s international travel, after all).

(Exclusive photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy)

Child and Youth Tickets

Children between 4 and 12 travel on a reduced fare called a “child” ticket and children 13-25 travel on a “youth” ticket. If the adult price is already deeply discounted, like the fares below ($46.80 each way), then the youth ticket is the same price, and the child ticket is only mildly discounted.

There are three classes of service: Standard, Standard Premier and Business Premier. Whichever you choose, be sure and pay with a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. Bonus points (literally) if you choose one that also awards a category bonus on travel, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Periodically Eurostar puts on unannounced flash sales for a few days for tickets over the coming months. If you have a upcoming trip, we suggest following them on social media or signing up to their mailing list. I just snagged tickets from London to Amsterdam for $45 each way in June for the adults with my young kids riding free.

Book Ahead and Look For Early/Late Trains

The Eurostar website highlights the least expensive tickets. Often these tickets start early in the morning or come back late. Another option, if you have found a great hotel or Airbnb in either London, Belgium or Paris, is to book a day trip to the other country. I have made several single-day trips from London to Paris and back again to avoid overnighting in Paris with this train taking a bit over two hours each way.

(Photo courtesy of Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy)
A day trip from London to Paris with my then 2-year-old.

Booking Seats

As soon as your Eurostar booking is confirmed, you will automatically be assigned seats. You can then log in to your booking and change your seat assignments so that your family can sit around a table for four (if available) or closer to the changing rooms or cafe, depending on your preferences. The seat map will show you where your seats are currently located. Also, if you are prone to motion sickness, sit facing in the forward direction (these seats often book up first).

The baby on the seat map refers to changing facilities in the bathrooms.

(Exclusive photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy)

We have had good luck in getting a table of four to ourselves on offseason dates, but remember that it can be more difficult to fit a child on your lap in this configuration if others are sitting across or next to you. In high season it could be worth purchasing all four seats, even if you have children under 4.

(Exclusive photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy)
Standard class tables for four.

There is a bit more space to spread out at the tables for four in Standard Premier.

(Exclusive photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy)
Standard Premier tables for four.

Check-in/Security

One of my favorite things about the Eurostar used to be that you could arrive 30 minutes before your train and still make it comfortably to embarkation. That, sadly, has changed. Long lines at immigration mean that arriving 90 minutes early is standard practice. However, I love that you can still carry a hot beverage through security and then nurse your coffee (for that cheap early-morning train!) throughout your immigration experience. Immigration is immediately after security so hold on to those passports. Other families reported a tight policy on removing babies from slings.

(Exclusive photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy)
Love the cup holder at security.

Travelator

Hang on to your children on the travelator. The moving sidewalk to board the train means that your stroller will become heavy as it goes up. (Technically, strollers are not allowed on the travelators, but I have always used them and see other families that do the same.) Young children start to naturally fall back on the incline so hold on tight to them.

(Exclusive photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy)

Luggage Tips

It helps to board the train as early as possible if you have a lot of large luggage or a stroller. On the Eurostar you wait in a holding area until your boarding announcement, but you may be able to go up early if you explain that you need the space for your stroller. Space in the storage compartments at the end of each carriage is limited.

On my last trip, I traveled Standard on the way out and Standard Premier on the way back and noticed more luggage space with Standard Premier. You can also fit a small item like a jacket or handbag above your seat.

(Exclusive photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy)
Standard luggage area.

Meanwhile, the Standard Premier fits this folded UPPAbaby Vista easily.

(Exclusive photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy)
Standard Premier luggage area.

Food On Board

There are lots of food options at the onboard Eurostar cafe, which are reasonably priced, considering how captive you are to their selection. As there is no liquids restriction on the train like there is at an airport, you can bring Champagne on board and have yourself a celebration, if you want. Otherwise, I tend to pick up sandwiches at a local place in London or Paris before getting on board.

(Exclusive photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy)
In Standard Premier, they serve a meal and have free wine and beer.  They do not have a children’s meal option.

(Exclusive photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy)

Virtual Reality?

On my last trip I saw this Eurostar virtual-reality headset for sale, so I purchased one for £3 (about $4). The Wi-Fi on board was terrible (make sure you have enough programs downloaded) and I could not get it to work.

(Exclusive photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy)

Bottom Line

Traveling from London to Paris, Lille or Brussels on the Eurostar (plus changing trains to go farther afield) can actually be a highlight of a family vacation in Europe, especially if train travel is relatively novel for your family. TPG readers use points to get to London and then use the Eurostar to avoid flying back out from the UK, thus way avoiding the UK’s notorious air taxes and fees.

Have you used the Eurostar as a family? Tell us about the trip.

All photos by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy

2018 TPG Award Winner: Premium Card of the Year
Chase Sapphire Reserve®

SIGN-UP BONUS: 50,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,000

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on all travel and dining, $300 annual travel credit, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre ✓®
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
18.74% - 25.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$450
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each balance transfer, whichever is greater
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.