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Amtrak with infant?

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
I'm debating doing a 8 hour car trip *solo* or a 13 hour train trip with my 6 mo. (also solo).

Neither sound particularly pleasant to me, but I feel like the train trip would be safer, though more tedious.

I've ridden this train route a whole bunch in the past, but never with a child, so I don't know much about infant changing stations and other such practicalities. Would this be insane to do?
post #2 of 20
I took a 3-hour train trip w/ my 4mo and it was fine. The amtrak bathrooms are pretty big, but I don't remember if there was a changing station. You can change in your lap if you have to

I hate long drives myself and neither of my kids have reliably tolerated the car. In the train you can hold baby (babywear) nurse whenever, get up and stretch, etc. I would think it would be more relaxing. But then again, I hate driving.

Remember, that long of a drive will be MUCH LONGER when you figure in the stops you'll have to make. And that baby is unlikely to sit happily alone facing the back of the car w/out being held, bounced, walkedaround, etc. Well, I don't know, neither of my kids would have.
post #3 of 20
we have taken our dd on amtrak 3 times and LOVE it. we do get a sleeper car, though so that i can lie down and sleep when she does. it is tedious holding a sleeping baby on a moving train and trying to sleep yourself if you have to sit up in a chair.
post #4 of 20
thanks for asking this...i was thinking of taking a train trip also, so i'll ask here...

has anyone taken a babe in a sleeper car? it sounded fun but is there room for 2 adults and a 5 month old? the fold down seats would seem to make really small cot-sized beds and i wouldn't be comfortable sleeping with her literally on top of me. or is there room for a carseat for her to sleep in?
post #5 of 20
Train trip. It's quite doable with a toddler (read: you don't get to sit down, ever) and would be a million times easier with a baby who is only crawling.

You can nurse whenever, you can carry them around and look out windows, plenty of bathrooms, a place to buy snacks if you don't like your own, you can nap with the baby.

Cars and babies are a horrible combination, planes and babies are worse, trains and babies are and


The sleeper car has room in the bottom bunk for one adult and a baby comfortably and two adults and a baby if both adults stay laying on their same side the whole time.

The coach seats recline as much as a reclining chair and if you put a back pack or small suitcase at the end past your leg rest, you can be fully stretched out. I did choose to use a more subtle nursing top than just hiking my t-shirt up since people would be going past as we slept. Also, if you're traveling alone with a baby, they'll note you as "1 1/2" and try to avoid sitting other people next to you. Which means that if your LO is willing to be put down at all, you can generally use the second seat to make a baby nest.

For a baby, definitely bring toys. For a toddler, bring toys, but don't get your hopes up about using them.
post #6 of 20
I know nothing about train travel. I think I'd try it, if wearing the baby in the sling was possible.
post #7 of 20
I'm in the process of moving to a place that's supposed to be only 6 hours away, but takes 8 with 2 kids- a 2.5 year old and 6 month old. We've made that trip twice since Christmas, and my kids are pretty good road warriors. We have to stop a lot to get out and stretch, or my son (the 2.5 year old) would go crazy. The baby is fantastic- she sometimes goes longer between feedings in the car than she does at home.

We're moving further away from my parents, though, so I've been looking at ways to get back to see them as often as we can. We'll be 45 minutes from an Amtrack station, so I'm curious to see other people's experiences. To me, this seems to be a much more viable option to do solo.

I've thought of a few other questions-
Can you "check" a carseat like you can on a plane?
Do you keep your bags with you all the time or are they stowed somewhere?
Meals?
When they make stops, how long are they?
How noisy are the cars?
What is the seating like?
Do they require car seats for kids?

Maybe I should have just made my own post on this? I hope I'm not offending the OP.
post #8 of 20
I did a 20ish hour trip in a roomette with me, an 18 mo old, and a 5 year old last year. The bottom bunk in a roomette would be okay with 1 person and a baby if you sleep REALLY close together, or put a bucket seat type seat on the floor next to the bed. I think there would be space to do that, but there will then not be any floor space at all until you pick the bucket seat up. I expected the 5 yo to be in the top bunk, but she started sleepwalking and I ended up with her at one end, DS at the other, and me wedged in next to DS with my feet on the toilet. Not comfortable for anyone!

With a non-mobile baby and a shorter timeframe, I think regular reclining seats might do just fine.
post #9 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by learnlovebe View Post
I've thought of a few other questions-
Can you "check" a carseat like you can on a plane?
Do you keep your bags with you all the time or are they stowed somewhere?
Meals?
When they make stops, how long are they?
How noisy are the cars?
What is the seating like?
Do they require car seats for kids?

Maybe I should have just made my own post on this? I hope I'm not offending the OP.
You can check luggage, but you will not then have access to them until you reach the final station. You don't need car seats, and actually, I've never seen a seatbelt on a train, so there's no point in a car seat unless it's a bucket seat your kid likes to sleep in. Stops can vary in timeframe, but none of ours were long enough that you could get off the train, so it didn't really matter. The sleeper car was quite quiet, actually, and the train noise is kind of soothing. The roomette was two seats across from one another with a fold out table. One seat was slightly larger, and DS sat next to me, and the other smaller with the toilet next to it. The sink folded down from the wall, as did the top bunk. Bottom bunk was made from folding down the seats. There were good YouTube videos of the sleeper cars if you look up what kind of room you're looking at on Amtrak first and then search for it on YouTube. You can put in the route name too, and get what that actual train's rooms look like oftentimes.
post #10 of 20
Can you "check" a carseat like you can on a plane? --depends on the stations you're traveling between, some have checked baggage service, for other trains you'll end up putting your baggage into luggage areas on the train. If the latter, you'll have access to your bags the whole trip. Red caps for Amtrak are phenomenal and especially helpful if you have a baby strapped to you.

Do you keep your bags with you all the time or are they stowed somewhere?--see above. There's also a huge overhead shelf and lots of foot room. You can tuck a stuffed backpack under your foot rest easily or have it past the foot rest on the floor.

Meals?--included with the sleeper cars, available for purchase otherwise, they run about 20% more than comparable meals elsewhere. You can also pack food, especially if you'll be doing a shorter trip (i.e. 13-24 hours)

When they make stops, how long are they?--depends, since they don't allow smoking on the train, with longer trips especially they'll try to include regular longer (15-30 minute) stops. Other stops will only be as long as they need to get passengers on and off.

How noisy are the cars?--a constant low thrum, quite soothing

What is the seating like?--roomy. I don't know about people who are morbidly obese, but my mom's a 3W and she fit just fine. For sleeping in the coach chairs, you'd want to put a bag on the floor past your leg rest in order to get maximum stretching out comfort.

Do they require car seats for kids? No seatbelts. They do require that you stay with your LOs at all times. My toddler had an easier time walking on the faster trains than any of the adults except the conductors.

Do they have outlets for charging phones or playing movies on my laptop if I'm bored silly with holding a napping baby? Most trains do have two outlets at each seat, some still only have a few outlets spaced throughout the train for vacuuming. You probably won't have consistent cell coverage though. If you've got a LO who hearts outlets, you might want to be ready to put something boring over them.
post #11 of 20

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Edited by GoestoShow - 1/6/11 at 8:26am
post #12 of 20
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the info. Good to know others have had ok experiences with it. I guess train would be the best option. The only way I would be willing to take such a long car trip with him would be through the night so he could sleep through it, but I'm not sure that's such a safe option solo.

I'm not sure if this route has sleeper options, but that seems like it might be out of my price range. The seats I do remember are quite large, but it would be a drag if someone came to sit next to me. So you think they really will make an effort to let us have both seats to ourselves?

And yeah, I know all about Amtrak delays. I used to make this trip about every other week.

And good advice about bringing my own snacks. I had forgotten about that.
post #13 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by odoole View Post
So you think they really will make an effort to let us have both seats to ourselves?
Definitely.

If you do have some travel flexibility, like you can get where you're going a day early or late or something, could be worth checking with your local station about if one day is busier than another for the train you'll be taking.

I have ended up sharing a seat when I traveled on Thanksgiving day. I took the train out of a college town and the whole car was full up. Ended up next to a nice student from China who completely ignored any fussing Lina did in between the times I walked her up and down, but also angled his laptop so I could see the movie on it better and he turned on the English subtitles. Since there's a snack car on most trains and you can go walking, it isn't as huge a deal to be next to someone as it is on planes.
post #14 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by sapphire_chan View Post
Definitely.

If you do have some travel flexibility, like you can get where you're going a day early or late or something, could be worth checking with your local station about if one day is busier than another for the train you'll be taking.

I have ended up sharing a seat when I traveled on Thanksgiving day. I took the train out of a college town and the whole car was full up. Ended up next to a nice student from China who completely ignored any fussing Lina did in between the times I walked her up and down, but also angled his laptop so I could see the movie on it better and he turned on the English subtitles. Since there's a snack car on most trains and you can go walking, it isn't as huge a deal to be next to someone as it is on planes.
this has not been our experience. last time we traveled we were informed the train was full and my dh and I would be in different cars. This was before they realized we had a sleeper, so it was a moot point, but it is something you need to be prepared for if you ride coach.
post #15 of 20
Not to hijack that thread, but we're taking a 1 y/o on the Amtrak next month. It'll be about a 3.5 hour ride each way. We have to take the car seat because we'll be riding in a car when we get to our destination and I know it just depends on the train we're on whether or not there will be room for that somewhere. Does anyone have a number to call to ask this? I went to Amtrak's website and called the number there, but it was just an automated thing that didn't have an answer to my question.
post #16 of 20
We've taken Amtrak a lot and there is always an area at the front or back of some cars for large items like bikes, carseats, or huge suitcases. You could call the station directly to make sure though.

I love riding the train with DS...so much less stressful than driving!
post #17 of 20
I've traveled by train a lot with my son (who is now almost 4)--some of it alone, some of it with other adults traveling with us.

If you are traveling the eastern seaboard, seats are not reserved, and you will likely have someone seated with you if you are traveling during peak time. The porters will help you with bags and the conductors will help carry them and stow them.

Most cars have a spot in the front or back of the car where larger, heavier bags can be "parked" and not need to be placed up above. Other passengers are usually really helpful to moms and little ones and will probably help you get stuff up and down if you ask, or they see you struggling.

My son is a great traveler by car and by train. The hardest part is getting all your stuff from the gate to the train and back--but, the people who are dropping you off/meeting you are allowed to go straight to the train track and help you.

My last trip, my son was conked out when we finally got off the train (it was seriously the worst trip I have ever had on the train, and we were traveling just the two of us, and were heavily overloaded due to the haul of Hannukkah gifts we were bringing home from the grandparents) and the porters not only carried all my luggage off for me, they then gave us a ride in the golfcart to the front of the building, and unloaded everything on the curb since our ride wasn't there yet.

Definitely pack incredibly lightly, and make sure you pack like you are taking a flight--one bag as your "carry-on" and the others to stow and ignore until you get where you are going. Try to avoid having to change trains if at all possible. It really sucks to have to lug the stuff twice, but it is manageable if you only need to haul it on and off once.
post #18 of 20
FWIW, my dad is an engineer for Amtrak, and I grew up riding on the train. Kids love trains, and my mom told me as a baby, the rocking and the thruming of the train was soothing for me. I say go for it Its much more comfortable than riding in a car, even if it takes longer.
post #19 of 20
I've done a lot of car travel with a baby/kid. The thing about the 8-hour trip, is that it can be more like a 10-hour trip with a kid. I found that my kid had at most 4 hours of patience for the car and then we needed a good stop - like a McDonalds with a play land for an hour. Or if I wanted to eat some decent food, than it was sit down dinner for us, plus time for the baby - to nurse, be up, etc. Just something to keep in mind. It might not really be 8 hours vs. 13. It might be more like 10 vs. 13.
post #20 of 20
I've done a lot of train travel on the west coast with babies, toddlers and now big kids. it has always gone well and people have always been helpful -- both employees and fellow travellers. Here, the seats are only reserved if you pay extra for "business class" which I don't do because those are mostly people who want to work and not be disturbed by a small child. Travelling with an infant, the only person who was going to sit down next to me would have chosen to do so -- the few times it happened the person was great. As with airplanes though, most people will avoid sitting next to a mom with a baby unless there is no other choice. When I travel solo with both kids we always angle for a "4 pack" -- 2 sets of seats facing each other, not facing the same way. Someone has to ride backwards but we can all see and interact iwth each other, there is space at our feet to play and who in their right mind would take that forth seat?

No seatbelts, so no car seats. There has always been room either overhead or on the luggage racks at the back of the car for carseats and larger suitcases. Only problem is if you are truly going alone you need to be able to carry everything onto the train, though standing there iwth a baby will almost always get you an offer of help from someone. I did a baby, preschooler, carseats, luggage and cooler once and people were incredibly helpful.

I always pack snacks, though now that the kids are older walking to the snack car and buying something is a major distraction/treat so I don't pack as much. Food is sort of typical deli stuff, not awful but not great either.

Changing baby can be a bit tricky if the train is especially jostle-y, but I remember there being changing tables in the bathrooms. Definitely take a way to clean and pad whatever surface you are using though.
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