Living in a big city, I have learned to rely on public transportation. Parking spots are limited and often too narrow to fit my big jeep in. Not to mention the crazy, fast paced, and often mentally exhausting traffic here in Seoul, South Korea.
It is easier and more cost effective to just walk a few blocks to the subway station. Besides, my kids love to ride the subway.
After the first few trips on the subway with my children, and playing out the “What If?” scenarios in my mind, I compiled a few tips to aid in safely traveling with kids on the subway.
Preparing for the Trip
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When we travel, I also include our hotel name and phone number. If something happens, they don’t have to struggle to remember phone numbers. It also gives them a place to put their subway card.
Entering the Subway Station
Subway stations can be very busy places at times, crowded, and face paced. There are many moving components: automatic doors, escalators, elevators, turnstiles, and moving sidewalks.
Take your time. Don’t get caught up in the rush. Remind the kids to take their time on steps, through the turnstiles, and to be clear of the subway door. In the subway car, I always try to have the kids find a seat. If there are none, be sure they always hang onto a safety rail. Sometimes the trains can have rough starts and stops. It is easy to lose your balance.
Learn the emergency signs together. There are many different signs in the station. Regular signs point you to the bathroom, the platform, transfers to other trains, information kiosks, and standard exits. Then there are the emergency ones: exits, phones, first aid, flash lights, fire extinguishers, and gas masks. I make a game out of it by randomly quizzing them on finding a certain sign, for instance an emergency exit.
I also point out the Information kiosks and station attendants who have special uniforms. In an emergency, the kids know they can ask the attendants for help.
Knowing the Route
Another game we play is knowing our starting and ending points: what station we begin our adventure on and our destination. We also count the stops on the way and discuss what subway line we are on. Here, the lines are distinguished by color and numbers.
By looking at the map, they can tell me how many stops there are before we transfer to next line, and how many total stops to our destination. Both of my children’s navigating skills have amazed me. Sometimes they even beat me to the punch and know how many stops before our station.
Which leads me to our “What happens if we get separated?” plan. If the subway car is crowded or a door closes too fast and we get separated, what do you do? (I have had happen this happen in a Korean elevator, but that is a whole other story for another time.)
If anyone gets stuck on the train, they are supposed to get off at the next stop, take a seat at the first bench they come to on the platform, and wait. If anyone is left at the station, they take a seat on the platform and wait. Either way, someone will be right there to get them.
Other Useful Tidbits
Most subways have a discount child fare, as well as a special gate for stroller friendly access. Some even offer special seating in the subway car.
Some subway systems have cell phone applications for maps. You put in your starting point and destination. From there, it will give you arrival times, stops, and transfers.
Here in Seoul, most subway stations are also fallout shelters equipped with emergency supplies, including gas masks.
No matter where in the world you are, or what subway system you are using, be sure to look up their website for more local tips on traveling and safety. The subway is an easy, fun way to take an adventure in the big city with kids.
Helping them to be prepared in case of an emergency will give you all a peaceful mind.
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