Child Oyster Card 101 (and Other Underground Tips!)

Travelling to London with kids and wondering if you need a Child Oyster Card? Looking for London underground child fares? I have good news…

Children can travel for free or receive a big discount when travelling with a fare-paying adult.

Do I need an Oyster Card for Kids?

Nope, not for young children. You don’t need an Oyster Card for kids or a separate ticket. Simply go to the wider side gate (the one used for luggage) and tap your own (adult) ticket/card and walk through with your child. Older kids may need one (see below).

London Underground With Kids

Age 0 – 11 years old

Free travel on most public transport services when accompanied by a fare-paying adult, or with a 5-10 Zip Oyster Photocard.

Age 11 – 15 years old

Free or discounted travel with a Zip Oyster Photocard, or a Young Visitor discount.

Age 16 and 17 year old

Discounted to half the adult rate on Tube, DLR and London Overground journeys with a 16+ Oyster photocard. 

London with toddlers

London with Toddlers, Babies and Pre-schoolers

Children under five can travel free at any time on the TubeDocklands Light Railway(DLR), busestrams, London Overground, Emirates Air Line and MBNA Thames Clippers river bus services. They must be accompanied by an adult with a valid ticket.

London with toddlers

On the Tube, simply go to the luggage gate and tap your own (adult) ticket/card and walk through with your child. It’s as simple as that!

For the river bus services families need to purchase a Family River Roamer ticket, which allows unlimited hop-on hop-off river travel for two adults and three children after 9am.

My top tip for travelling in London with toddlers and pre-schoolers? Pop an ID bracelet on their wrist. That way, if the worst happens and they get lost someone will be able to easily track you down. There are loads of different version out there, but I like these simple ones.

I doubt it’ll happen, but it’s an extra bit of reassurance in a busy setting and anything that makes a travelling parent less stressed is worth it in my opinion.

Travelling on the Tube with a Buggy

Avoid the Central, Waterloo & City and Bakerloo lines if you can as they’re not as geared up for buggy travel. All the others have a bigger areas that can be utilised. You’re allowed to use wheelchair spaces, but you’re supposed to give them up if they’re needed by a wheelchair user.

Many of the stations have step-free access and this Step-free guide shows all stations where you can get between the platform and street step-free, or change between lines step-free.

Nuna Demi Grow Review (Nuna Double Stroller)

Travelling on the Bus with a Buggy

All London bus routes are served by low-floor, buggy-accessible buses. This means it can drop level with the kerb so you can scoot on. If you’re using a double buggy you’re allowed to get on the bus at the back exit doors, but you need to check with the driver first.

Travelling on the River Bus with a Buggy

Buggies are welcome on board all MBNA Thames Clippers River Bus services. Boats are boarded via a ramp and have space buggies.

Travelling on the Emirates Air Line with a Buggy

Folding buggies are permitted on the cable car as long as they are not put on the seats and do not cause a blockage to gangways, lifts or passages.

Recommended reading: Shrek’s Adventure in London

London with Kids aged 5 to 10

Children aged 5 to 10 can travel free at any time by Tube, DLR, London Overground and some National Rail services in London, as long as they travel with an adult who has a valid ticket/pass.

Feeling brave?! Up to four children can travel free with one adult or if they have a 5-10 Zip Oyster photocard.

Children in this age bracket can travel unaccompanied and without a photocard on trams and buses.

Children aged between five and to 15 also pay child rate fares on the Emirates Air Line.

Recommended reading: Family Packing List

Children aged 11 to 15

Children aged 11 to 15 years can travel free on buses and trams and at child rate on Tube, DLR and London Overground services, provided they have an 11-15 Zip Oyster photocard.

If you’re visiting London and they don’t have a photocard you can ask for the Young Visitor discount to be set up on an Oyster card. This allows a child aged 11 to 15 to travel at half adult fare for 14 days.

Children aged 16 and 17

16 and 17-year-olds can access child rates for a 7 Day, Monthly or longer period Travelcards, plus bus and tram passes provided they have a 16+ Zip Oyster photocard.

They can also access half price adult tickets for the Tube, DLR and London Overground journeys.

Recommended reading: 10 Easy Ways You Can Help a Travelling Parent

London Tube Tickets

The easiest way to travel is to simply use your contactless bank card to tap in and out. You’ll be charged an adult rate and won’t need to faff about with tickets or passes. You can find out which cards are accepted, London Tube fares and more about London Tube Tickets here.

Recommended reading: The Best Card for Travelling

London Underground Journey Planner

I think it pays to plan ahead as it minimises any potential stress. Who wants to try and navigate a map with a toddler hanging off you? Not me!

I’d recommend planning your journeys with the London Underground Planner. It’s the official route planner and is free, simple and super helpful. It’ll tell you the best way to get from A to B, including times and walking distances.

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London with kids
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