Yesterday, I took the train with my daughter to go to Grama’s house for Christmas. We have done this trip several times now, so we have our system down, but that’s not to say that it’s ever easy. It’s do-able. It’s 8 hours. It’s not fun. We manage.
-People smile at her, What a cute baby!
Oh people, you don’t realize if you are nice to her that she’s just going to keep coming back to see you. You’re fine with that, you say? Oh, we’ll see about that.. after the 11th time she stops at your seat to see what you are up to. Not so cute anymore, huh? I told you so. Shut up and watch your Office reruns on your iPad and try not to let my kid see it.
-There is a critical toy-per-hour chart for each child at every age.
You can’t burn through all your toys in the first 30 minutes (though you will really be tempted too). You have to pace yourself. You also have to leave the most interesting toys for last. That last 2 hour window might kill you. For some reason, no matter how long my trip is, if it’s over an hour, the last hour always sucks. I know some people who buy new toys for their trips. That’s nice too. For my daughter, nothing beats tearing apart my toiletry bag and putting things back in it over and over and OVER.
You would think that schlepping bags and a kid would be awful, but even with all the back strain, it’s really good to get off the train for just a little while (our layover is usually only 30 minutes) and grab a drink/snack. If it weren’t for our having to change trains in Toronto, I would seriously lose my mind after the first 5 hours of the trip.
This particular layover my kid spent running around the Via terminal in Toronto like a prisoner who’d done months in solitary experiencing a sunlight meadow for the first time. I was trying not to leave my bags “unattended” lest they be stolen/reported to the authorities, but she’d just take off and there wasn’t much I could do.
-Pack a bottle of water, snacks. For yourself too.
The food and beverage on trains, if they even have them, are so overpriced. You’ll probably need to buy a stupid bottle of water anyway, because your kid will have knocked yours over on your lap and an hour later, you’ll be parched in your mouth but damp in your lap and $2.50 won’t seem so bad. But at least you’ll have saved yourself the first $2.50.
-The critical napping window.
You should consider carefully when you want your child to nap. It helps to have your departure/arrival at times that don’t interfere with napping. Sometimes you don’t really have a choice and ultimately, it’s up to your kid if they will or won’t nap. However, I have been able to successfully tweak nap-time by a combination of bedtime and wake-up variation that I usually get my toddler’s necessary train nap to come about 30 minutes to an hour into our trip. This is most ideal for us because it leaves us plenty of time for her finish the nap as well as fewer stops during that nap that might waking her up.
-The last hour you’ll probably spend walking up and down the aisle anyway.
This is where taking the train beats car trips soundly. When all else fails, you can just walk back and forth from the front to the back of the train saying hello to all the baby-friendly-now-totally-annoyed people you met on your first pass. You’ll also discover EVERY feature of your train: the trash compartments, the seat bases, the variation of decor in each car, the window blind technology…
-There will be about 30 minutes where you swear you will never ever do this again.
But it sure beats the hell out of flying, even though it takes a bit longer. So you endure.