Monday, April 9, 2012

Independence or: Riding with Boys on Trains.

When you're a mom with a supportive, helpful husband, it's easy to become used to always having that extra pair of hands in unusual situations.  Going shopping?  It's easy with two people!  Need to run to Ikea?  No problem with Daddy along!  I'm sure this changes as you add more kids to the mix, but for now, this is my reality.

30th Street Station, Philadelphia

My sister comes home this weekend for her spring break and Easter vacation, and I wanted to surprise her at the airport with my parents and Elliott, of course.  However, Jason has to work, so we'll be using Amtrak to get to Harrisburg.  I've taken this train probably one hundred times, since I used it in undergrad and grad school.  However, I've never done it with an infant, stroller, car seat, and baggage in tow.  I booked my ticket, and I called Amtrak to ensure I can actually carry-on all the things I need to.  When I did, the Amtrak rep also added a note to my tickets that I would need assistance, so Elliott and I will get to board early and have someone to help me get him and his things on and off the train.  Jason helped me get into the station and such at Philly, and my dad would be on the other end to do the same thing, but there are certain places non-ticket holders can't go.  I'm so glad I called ahead.

Here's my plan:
 - I have a travel system, so the car seat and Elliott can ride right in the stroller.  I'll use a backpack as my bag (Jason will be down on Friday, so I just need the necessities), and Elliott's diaper bag.  The only thing I'll actually need to carry is the car seat base (so we can ride in the car once we get to Harrisburg).

 - I will pack as light as possible for myself.  Normally I'd need things to keep me occupied on the train, but I think I'll have enough to pay attention to.  If I have room / weight to spare, I may bring a book or some crochet for the car ride to Baltimore.  Maybe.

 - I also packed as light as possible for Elliott, which is a whole different definition of "light."  I'll suck it up and wash bottles as needed so I can bring fewer along.  Bottles probably take up the most space in a diaper bag.

 - I booked the train so it will be after Elliott's first nap, but at a time when a nap is possible.  If he doesn't nap on the train, he'll sleep on the way to Grandma and Grandpa's, or on the ride to Baltimore.  He has some guaranteed nap times, basically. He sleeps really well in the car, and a lot of the sources I've read say similar kids sleep well on trains. I know I do.  Perhaps he'll take a cat nap!  (Edit: Nope.  No train napping.  Too many stops for him to get settled.)

 - I also brought my wrap, just in case I needed to part with the car seat and stroller on the train itself.  He also enjoys being wrapped, so if he gets fussy, it will help. I didn't need to use it this time, but it's a great option to have.

So, let's review and add some tips:

1. Call ahead and let the train line know you'll need assistance. They were very helpful and it made transitions on and off the train very smooth. At Harrisburg, they even let my dad come down to the train to help me.

2. Book in advance, if possible. You don't want to schlep down to the station with all this gear in tow to find that the train is too crowded.

3. Now is a good time to learn about minimalism in your own packing. It really helped me figure out what I REALLY use on a trip and what I don't. It was more beneficial to pack extra books for Elliott than to pack an extra set of clothes for me.

4. Don't forget the car seat base! You'll need that once you get to your destination. If you travel with any frequency, a car seat bag might help with this awkward item.

I hope this helps. What do you do to make traveling with your little ones easier?

- M.