Disastrous solo mum travel in Manchester with twin toddlers
Every six months or so, I head into my nearest city, Manchester, alone with my twin toddlers in their buggy. I usually come away feeling a bit overwhelmed and sad that it’s not a very child friendly place, but I have always been determined to visit every now and again for a day out in the hopes that things will get easier. Manchester is a wonderfully vibrant city and there is always lots going on, and there’s never a shortage of things to do, but it’s far better for adults than children. Last time I went to Manchester with twin toddlers, it was a bit of a disaster! Here’s what happened…
Getting to Manchester with twin toddlers
My journey got off to a terrible start as soon as I stepped onto the train. What should have been less than a half an hour journey took well over an hour, and thanks to it being a match day, the train was so full that there wasn’t even space to walk round to the front of the buggy when the twins got distressed from the noise and heat. It was a general disaster and the last ten minutes of the journey were spent with both of my children uncontrollably screaming, and me not being able to get to them to properly comfort them. It was heart-breaking, and the second I stepped off the train I burst into tears from being completely overwhelmed! While this wasn’t a Manchester specific problem, I do find that public transport is unbearable on match and event days so it is ALWAYS worth checking ahead to see if anything is going on. On this occasion, I stupidly didn’t check, and wouldn’t have made the journey if I had realised how busy it was going to be!
One of the best things about Manchester is the community. As I calmed myself and the twins down on the train station platform, a couple of incredibly kind people came to make sure we were okay – one lovely lady even gave each of the twins a biscuit! Once calm, I made a quick plan in my head, and ventured on into the city. All I wanted to do was visit Manchester Art Gallery where the twins could walk around on their reins, and have a child friendly bite to eat.
The feeding rooms in Manchester
I made a quick pit stop in a Marks & Spencer’s feeding room – this is absolutely worth knowing about if you’re ever in the city. There are a couple of lockable private rooms with changing tables, a sink, and an arm chair for breast feeding mothers. There is enough room to park up a double buggy too, which is a massive bonus! Here, I got the twins into new nappies, gave them snacks and let them stretch their legs for a few minutes while I sat in the comfy chair. There is a similar ‘baby room’ in the Boots in the Arndale Centre, if the M&S rooms are all full. I don’t think it’s quite as nice, but still totally fit for purpose and a Godsend if you just need a little baby friendly place to sit down for a few minutes.
Manchester Art Gallery
Before long, I made it to Manchester Gallery, an absolute favourite of mine. Many years ago, I worked in the archives underneath the gallery, and some of my favourite paintings are displayed here so I love popping in. By the time we arrived, I needed to do another nappy change, and this is where things got interesting. There are baby changing facilities in both the men’s and women’s bathrooms, but my double buggy wouldn’t fit through the door! I explained this to a member of staff, and we thought the only real option was to use an accessible toilet. I found a vacant accessible loo, but it wasn’t actually very accessible at all – my buggy only just fit in. Once inside there was hardly any room to manoeuvre, let alone change a toddler. There was no changing station either, which meant I had to use the floor. Luckily, I never go anywhere without a playmat which meant I had something soft and clean to lay my toddler down on, but I was decidedly unimpressed at the whole situation.
Following this changing debacle, I wasn’t really in the mood for art, but I got the twins out anyway on their reins. There are some child friendly spaces around the gallery, and I think this had the potential to be quite a good experience, had it not been for the disappointing changing facilities. There is a lift that makes the whole building totally accessible too, which is worth noting as a lot of places in Manchester are still completely inaccessible.
I left the gallery and headed over to St Peter’s Square. This is a beautiful part of the city, overlooked by the Central Library, and would be a lovely place to let my twins out to walk, if it wasn’t for the trams.
Wagamama – St Peter’s Square
I opted to take the twins to Wagamama – we love the child friendly nature and kids’ menus – it’s usually a massive win. I asked to sit outside and the staff member at the door immediately told me that he wouldn’t bring me high chairs. I didn’t want to sit inside as previous experience has shown me that the buggy doesn’t easily fit, so I left, bewildered. I actually got in touch with Wagamama about this, and received an apology, but apparently putting high chairs outside is a health and safety risk at this branch. I’m still not quite sure why, but in the email I received, I was told that there is definitely a table inside that we would fit the buggy next to – I suppose I’ll try that next time!
After all of this, I was fed up. Manchester is pretty inaccessible, and it’s definitely not an easy place to navigate alone when you have two toddlers in a twin buggy. I didn’t want to face another train, so instead I opted to go and spend the night at the in-laws house which was nearby and empty as they had gone on holiday. We used a tram to get there, and this was straightforward – thankfully! I have always been a fan of the Manchester tram system, which seems to be a controversial opinion, but it’s quick and efficient!