The ultimate guide to days out using public transport
17th February 2023
You don’t need a car or need to drive in order to enjoy a lovely day out. Thanks to the UK’s public transport system, there are some amazing destinations and attractions you can visit, whether with friends, family, or by yourself. From bus journeys to the seaside to train journeys to a city near you, there are plenty of options. This guide has been created to help you plan your next day out using public transport, offering everything from planning tips and accessibility advice for those with limited mobility, such as stairlift users to day-out ideas in the UK. So, click the links below to find the information you need.
- How to plan your journey
- What to pack for a day out
- What types of days out can be enjoyed
- How to save money
- Accessibility advice
- Tips for travelling with children
- Safety and security tips
- Popular days out in the UK
How to plan your journey on public transport
There are many different types of public transport available, such as buses, trains, underground systems, and ferries. When planning a day out using public transport, your destination will normally determine what type of transport is best to use, but there will be times when you can choose depending on personal preference.
Consider the following steps for planning a day out using public transport:
- Determine your starting location and your destination: You can do this by entering your address or postcode into a journey planning website or mobile app.
- Use a public transport travel planner website or mobile app to find the best route: Public transport route planners include Transport for London Journey Planner, National Rail, Traveline, Google Maps, and Citymapper. These will provide you with different route options, travel times and fare estimates.
- Review the routes and select the one that best suits your needs: The journey planner will provide you with information on the different modes of transport, such as buses, trains, trams etc, that you will need to take, as well as the departure and arrival times.
- Purchase your tickets: You can buy tickets in advance (which can sometimes be cheaper) or on the day of travel. If you're planning to travel by train, you can buy tickets on the National Rail website or at the station. For buses and trams, you can buy tickets on the bus or tram or in advance from the bus or tram operator.
- Make note of any service disruptions or planned maintenance that may affect your journey: Websites like National Rail Enquiries or Traveline provide information on disruptions, delays and cancellations, so you can plan accordingly.
- Double-check the time of your departure and arrival: Plan to be at the station or bus stop a few minutes before the scheduled departure time. If you need special assistance, you may want to get there earlier to make arrangements in advance. For example, passengers who need to use a ramp to board a train.
- Pack everything you need for the day: Check any baggage restrictions and bring any necessary travel information with you, such as rail cards, bus passes, and tickets.
- Have a backup plan: In case of any unplanned disruptions or delays, make sure you have a backup plan or alternative mode of transport.
What to pack for a day out using public transport
When looking to enjoy days out using public transport, it’s important that you pack everything you might need over the course of the day, including on the journey and at your chosen destination. What you will need depends on where you are going but a few items to make sure you include are:
- Payment options such as cash or debit card for purchasing tickets, parking, food, and drink. An Oyster Card or contactless payment card will also be helpful if using public transport in London.
- A fully charged mobile phone for checking bus or train delays, the location of attractions, and making emergency calls.
- A copy of your itinerary, including public transport timetables, departure and arrival times, and booking confirmation numbers.
- Something to drink, preferably a refillable water bottle.
- A book, magazine, music, or other entertainment to keep you occupied on the journey.
- Comfortable and appropriate clothing for the weather and destination you are visiting.
- A small bag to carry essential items such as tickets, money, jacket, medicine etc.
- Any medication that you might need during the course of the day.
What types of days out can be enjoyed on public transport?
There are so many different ways to enjoy a day out in the UK. It all depends on what time of year it is and what you are in the mood for. So, whether you want inspiration for family days out using public transport or days out for adults in the UK, here are a few options to consider as a start:
- The beach/seaside – Days out to the seaside can be a lovely activity to enjoy with friends and family, including grandchildren. You can hop on the bus to the coast and enjoy a day on the sand, eating ice creams, and exploring seaside towns.
- Countryside – Why not use public transport like a coach or train to visit some pretty countryside villages in somewhere like the Cotswolds? You can enjoy exploring these lovely areas, sit down for a pub lunch, and go for a walk amid rolling hills and country lanes.
- Cities and towns – Visiting a city or town for the day can be a lovely way to spend the day. Perhaps a trip to London sounds appealing or an old market town in your county. Hit the shops, see the sights, and enjoy a nice meal in a local café or restaurant.
- Major attractions – Family days out in the UK don’t get much better than a trip to see a major attraction such as a zoo, theme park, or aquarium. Children will have a blast and there will be plenty of amusement for the adults too. You could also consider National Trust properties too for a bit more history and culture.
ALSO READ: How accessible is the UK?
How to save money on public transport
To save money on public transport, consider purchasing tickets in advance, travelling at off-peak times, and using a contactless payment card.
Look out for a group, student or senior discounts and season ticket options. If you don’t already have one and like to travel by train, pick up a railcard, such as a Senior Railcard, or apply for an older person’s bus pass.
Also, consider using a smartcard, such as an Oyster Card, which can save money on fares compared to buying single tickets. Some cities also offer city cards which offer discounts on public transport and on other activities and events.
Accessibility advice for days out on public transport
If you have limited mobility and are planning a weekend away, it could be useful to check if your chosen accommodation has facilities such as walk in showers and accessible entrances. When you are planning accessible days out in the UK, it should be no different as you will need to check that the public transport you intend to take is mobility friendly.
Fortunately, many buses and trains provide an accessible service, and, in many cases, there will be staff members who can help you get on or off a train or a bus. Discover some tips and accessibility advice for days out on public transport:
- Contact the travel company for information and help: Call or email the travel company and check that your transport is accessible as there are coach firms which operate accessible coaches. Also check that stations and stops on your route have the equipment you need, like ramps or accessible toilets. You can also book help from transport staff before you travel. For example, if you are travelling via train you can book the passenger assist service.
- Are there step-free routes available? Many transport providers publish accessibility information on their websites, so you can find out what facilities are available and plan a route which is step-free, and avoiding escalators and stairs. You can check the accessibility of train stations via the National Rail website or the accessibility of tube stations on the Transport for London step-free tube guide.
- Order a disabled person’s railcard or bus pass: If you hold a disabled person’s railcard you can get up to a third off rail tickets. There is a disabled person’s bus pass that you can apply for and with this, you can enjoy free travel on buses anywhere in England.
- Reserve a space for your wheelchair and mobility scooter: On trains and buses, you can reserve a space for a wheelchair or mobility scooter. Companies have different policies in terms of what they can fit on their train or bus so you should check their website or speak to the business. You can check if your wheelchair or powered scooter can fit on a train here.
- Know your rights: All licensed train companies must tell you what services and facilities are available and must inform you about how you can get assistance. If you are looking at organising bus or coach days out in the UK, the law says that bus and coach drivers must give reasonable assistance to disabled people, for example by helping them get on and off the vehicle.
Tips for travelling with children
Travelling with children can be a challenge but organising days out using public transport can be even more difficult. In this section of the guide, we share some tips to support you when you are travelling on a bus, train or on the underground:
- Bring games and toys: Games or activities can help prevent children getting bored on the train or bus. You could bring a doodle board, small toys or portable game consoles. You could also try to interact with them yourself by playing games such as ‘I spy’, reading short stories to them and asking them questions about what is around them.
- Feed children regularly: You can pack simple snacks or a little lunch box which includes small bites in it such as raisins, apples, grapes, biscuits and water. Keri Hedrick, who is a freelance travel writer and the author of the Our Globetrotters blog, said: “A hungry kid is angry, but snacks can easily brighten their mood. That’s why it’s advisable to bring various snacks for feasting at different journey stops. However, remember to bring healthy snacks as sugary snacks can cause the kids to be super hyped.”
- Involve children in your trip: Talk to kids and grandchildren about where you are going to help get them involved. You could get them to plan part of the day with you, such as letting them choose a place where you can go and eat.
- Keep trips as short as possible: Planning days out using public transport can be fascinating to children, but if the journey is too long, they can quickly get bored so you should try to avoid having to travel several hours where possible.
- Pick family-friendly destinations: Pick a destination for your day out that will genuinely interest children. Theme parks like Legoland or visiting attractions like The Making of Harry Potter are both excellent options.
Safety and security tips
Using public transport is normally safe and easy, but it’s still important to be careful. Make sure to practice some of the below tips to help you stay safe when you travel.
Know where the exits are
On any form of public transport, you should identify where the closest fire exits and alarms are in case you need to get off for whatever reason. The same is also true if you are at a train or bus station and you need to exit the station in the case of an emergency.
Use a licenced taxi
A licenced taxi should have a registered licence ID number on the back of the vehicle just above the registration number plate. If you are using a cab service such as Uber, you should ask the driver who they have turned up for before getting into the vehicle.
Keep your valuables secure
Keeping valuables secure in a bag will help stave off any potential thieves.
Sit where people are and trust your instincts
If you are travelling by train or tube, you should avoid sitting in an empty carriage and when on a bus late at night you can sit near the driver. If you are sitting somewhere and feel uncomfortable, you should look at moving to another carriage or exiting at the next stop. You can also alert a member of staff if a passenger is being loud or aggressive.
Popular days out in the UK
There is no shortage of fantastic days out in the UK using public transport. If you are looking for some specific recommendations, consider some of the below. You will have plenty of fun days out planned in no time!
- Chester Zoo
- Alton Towers
- Brighton beach
London is one of the best days out in the UK and with lots of train, bus routes, an underground network and plenty of taxis that people with mobility issues can use, it is a city in which you can easily get around.
There are also lots of attractions you can visit and these range from the Natural History Museum and Science Museum to historic sites like Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament.
Charlie Pauly, the writer behind the Wanderers and Warriors travel blog, would recommend visiting Buckingham Palace and he shared some tips: “Between July – September each year the State Rooms are opened to the public and you can book your Buckingham Palace: The State Rooms Entrance Tickets in advance.
“Another great tour that includes Buckingham Palace is the Changing of the Guard Walking Tour. Take in the highlights of this world-famous ceremony and follow the guard’s journey to Buckingham Palace whilst also learning about the British royal family.”
Chester Zoo is not only the most popular zoo in the UK, but it is one of the most visited attractions across the whole of Europe. It makes for a great day out, especially if you are visiting with children.
The zoo is very accessible as it has free disabled parking on-site, accessible pathways throughout, accessible toilets, and free wheelchair and scooter hire available to visitors with mobility problems.
Sam Sparrow, the travel writer behind the As The Sparrow Flies blog, speaks about some of the amazing animals you can see at Chester Zoo: “Oh boy oh boy. THE ANIMALS. Forget Lions and Tigers and Bears (oh my!) and get ready to see some incredible species from across the world. Whilst I was extremely happy to see some of my favourites – giraffes, different monkey species and elephants – I got to learn so much about other animals that I’d never really seen before.
“There are over 500 species of rare, exotic and endangered wildlife, with over 15,000 animals living at the zoo. Highlights for me were visiting the okapi (part of the giraffe family) a highly endangered and only relatively recently discovered animal and the hilarious bush dogs, many of whom were born during the last lot of filming of The Secret Life of The Zoo.”
ALSO READ: Grandparents' guide to Chester Zoo
One of the most well-known theme parks in the UK, Alton Towers is a great day out for people of all ages. If you are looking to spend a day out with your grandchildren, then there are plenty of rides and attractions that you can enjoy.
Popular rides include rollercoasters such as Wicker Man, Nemesis, and Oblivion, boat rides like the Congo River Rapids, and attractions for young children such as Andy’s Adventures Dinosaur Dig, Octonauts Rollercoaster Adventure and the Something Special Sensory Garden.
Clare, who runs the family blog Mudpie Fridays, has visited Alton Towers as part of a family day out and she recommends visiting CBeebies World and going on Octonauts Rollercoaster Adventure if you are heading there with children:
“CBeebies was everything I hoped it would be. Kipper actually went on his first rollercoaster on our visit. Another unconventional milestone was ticked off the list. His face was a picture as the Octonauts whizzed around the track. Chuckling along to himself, his eyes full of wonder with the biggest smile on his face it really was such a lovely moment to share. One I am sure I will hold dear for many a year to come.”
ALSO READ: Grandparents' guide to Alton Towers
If you want a day out beside the seaside, then you can head to Brighton Beach, a lovely location with and lots of attractions you can enjoy.
The beach boasts lots of facilities which make it accessible to people with mobility issues. There are accessible toilets, wheelchair access to the beach, accessible parking, wheelchair-accessible beach huts and wheelchairs available to hire.
You can also head to the historic Brighton Pier and arcades during a day trip which will keep your family occupied.
ALSO READ: Great accessible UK weekend breaks: Brighton
As seen on the BBC’s Animal Park show, Longleat is the first-ever safari park outside of Africa and is a perfect day out for adults and kids alike.
You can see cheetahs, lions, giraffes, monkeys and lots of other species from around the world. The safari drive is just one of the attractions you can enjoy as you can explore Longleat House and grounds and enjoy an adventure park too.
Jo, who is the author of Guilty Mother, shares some details about the safari drive: “The Safari drive through takes between 2-3 hours depending on how busy it is and how long you want to spend in each area. If you don’t fancy driving around the Safari you can book a safari bus service at Guest Services daily, these are subject to availability. There are also lots of areas near Longleat House where you can walk around instead of doing the safari.
Oxford is famous the world over for its university and for over 800 years it has been home to royalty and scholars. Nowadays it is a bustling cosmopolitan town and with its mix of ancient history and modern growth, it makes it a great city to visit.
The ancient city of Oxford is definitely one of the UK’s top destinations, as explained by Jade, from the travel blog, Jade Braham’s Odyssey: “Oxford, Oxfordshire is definitely one of the most famous and charming cities in the United Kingdom. Is the hype overrated? Heck, NO! There is a plethora of things to do in Oxford for people of all ages and with a train, bus and car access, it is the perfect city for a hassle-free day trip from whatever part of England you’re in.”
Edinburgh is a fascinating city that offers a brilliant array of activities and sights. It boasts a rich cultural heritage, with plenty of historic buildings, museums, and galleries to explore.
Edinburgh also has some of the most beautiful scenery around, providing a gorgeous backdrop of mountains, castles, and rivers.
READ ALSO: The most accessible cities in the UK
Days out using public transport
No matter what type of adventure you are looking for, where you are, or how you want to travel, there are some fantastic days out to try in the UK. So, utilise public transport as well as the advice in this guide for a day out to remember.
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This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.