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Bring one pair of comfortable walking shoes as well as a pair of sandals or Tevas. Before you leave home, break in your new shoes so you're not uncomfortable on the road.

Going by Train & Bus

Travel Tips

From "Trouble Free Travel with Children" by Vicki Lansky

Chapter Seven

If you don't travel by car, your destination, your budget, and your personal inclinations will help you choose among three alternatives: the airplane, the train, and the bus. Flying is the fastest, a real blessing for long-distance travel with babies or toddlers. Despite lack of space for babies and baggage, and possible (or should we say, probable) delays and discomfort from changes in cabin pressure, it's the easiest way to go.

Train travel offers the advantages of the passing scenery and a bit more freedom of movement, but it has its disadvantages, too. Riding the bus is probably your last choice--but it costs the least, and it will get you to corners of the country where planes and trains simply don't go.


Train travel often offers spectacular views of the countryside, usually of more interest to adults than to small children. It also allows more freedom of movement than either air or car travel, although if you're on a long trip, you'll find sleeping accommodations cramped. Although it can be pleasant for adults, don't delude yourself - a long train trip with an active toddler can be very wearing.

Though it's fun to explore the bathrooms and the doors of the trains, it's important to encourage caution while walking along the aisles and the bi-level stairways.


Train travel is relatively inexpensive. Amtrak offers family fares that make it even more attractive.

Adults: Full fare. Each adult is allowed 2 children's fare tickets.

Children 2-15: 50% off when accompanied by adult

Under 2: 50% fare to occupy own seat; Free if child sits on adult's lap.

Children under the age of 8 may not travel unaccompanied. Ages 8 to 11 may travel unaccompanied under certain conditions and must pay the full fare. Prior written permission is required from the person in charge at the station where you board.

Reservation procedures vary depending on where you're going. On some long-distance routes you can reserve a private compartment for your family. This is an added expense, of course, and you'll have to decide if it's worth it.

Amtrak also offers a variety of family tours including combination rail/sail and air/rail packages. On a limited number of eastern trains, car carriers are included.

For wheelchair assistance call the Special Services Desk at least 24 hours in advance. Special diet menus can be requested if made 72 hours in advance of your trip.

For the specifics of your particular route, brochures, and timetables, call or write:

Amtrak Distribution Center
P.O. Box 7717
Itasca, IL 60143
800-USA-RAIL (800-872-7245)
(800-523-6590 TDD/TTY)
from Canada call (800)426-8725
Email: at

To travel by passenger train in Canada contact Via Rail Canada at (800)387-1144 (from the U.S.)

* Consider taking a night train and booking a bedroom to get you where you're going while the family sleeps. You will also get complete meals with a bedroom booking (except for Slumbercoach).

* Get to the depot early if you haven't reserved a compartment. Your reservations will not be for specific seats, and you'll want to be able to find seats together.

* Try to get seats directly in a row. Many seats face each other or turn to do so.

* Check whether a dining car will be available. Most are only on long-distance trains. When available, reserve an early dinner seating with the kids. Snack-bar service is available in the Cafe and Lounge cars on shorter trips. Consider bringing your own snacks and sandwiches to save money and to be sure the food will appeal to your child as the dining room may not work for you.


Bring all baby-care items and foods you need with you. You won't be able to buy them on the train. Fruits and vegetables are also hard to come by.

* Plan to bring no more luggage than you can handle by yourself. Porters aren't always available. If you do need special assistance, ask the conductor to call ahead for a porter to meet you at the platform. Some Amtrak stations have free luggage carts, but you can't always count on their availability at busy times.

* Take a narrow umbrella stroller so you can walk your baby up and down the aisle.

* Wedge a backpack with a metal frame or stand on a seat to let a child see out the window, or bring your car seat. Either can be used as a booster seat in the dining car.

* Watch your mobile toddler closely. Playing or running in the aisles is annoying to others--and dangerous. Encourage cautious walking, as rough places in the tracks can throw anyone off balance easily.

* Warm food or formula by putting the container into running hot water in a bathroom basin. Or ask food-service people to warm bottles and baby food for you. Or bring an electric bottle warmer or small hot water coffee pot. (Bathrooms have electrical outlets.)

* You must wear headphones to listen to radios, tape players, or TV's on the train.

* Remember that each passenger car will have a water dispenser.

* Consider carrying your own small towel, washcloth, soap or even toilet paper since every train might not be adequately equipped.

* Because temperatures in trains vary, request pillows and blankets. If you are only on a day trip or sitting in coach all night, these might not be available. Consider bringing your own.

* Do tip train personnel who are helpful to you.


Bus travel is the least expensive kind of public transportation, but it's also the most difficult with very young children. Cramped quarters, frequent stops, and a stuffy atmosphere make buses less appealing for everyone concerned, especially on long trips.

All children under the age of 5 must be accompanied by a passenger 12 years of age or older. Children ages 5 through 11 traveling unaccompanied, and those aged 12 and older are charged the full adult fare.

Those under 2 travel free on your lap. Kids 2 to 4 years of age pay 10% of the adult fare and get a seat. (If you wish a seat for one under 2, then you pay 10% too.) Children under 12, when traveling with a full-fare adult, are charged half the adult's fare.

* Be prepared to hold your baby on your lap for the entire ride if the bus is full. There are no other accommodations for infants, unless you purchase a second seat.

* Practice changing your baby in your lap. The bathroom on a bus is too small for it.

* Bring everything you'll need for the baby in a small bag that's easy to handle. If the bus is crowded, you won't have much room for carry-on luggage.

* Try to get the seats at the front of the bus where your child will be able to see out the windows more easily.

* Pack a transistor radio with headphones to entertain your child. Reception is especially good near the windows.

* Take food, at least for the children. Meal stops are limited in time and not always at places you would choose.

* Carry your own motion-sickness bag, just in case. Buses don't provide them.

Treat all modes of travel as an adventure--a special occasion. Your attitude and your sense of fun will determine much about the quality of your travels.

Call 800-255-3379 to order "Trouble Free Travel with Children" (by Vicki Lansky) by credit card, or send a check to Practical Parenting, 18326 Minnetonka Boulevard, Deephaven, Minnesota 55391. Call for a free catalog of books by Vicki Lansky.

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