Taking the Kids on a Train Ride? Bring their “Blankies”.

Many of us have been on a train when kids have acted up and made at least a portion of the ride unpleasant for everybody within earshot. That’s unfortunate and, much more often than not, the problem is a lack of preparation by the accompanying adults.
The fact is, most kids love traveling by train. It’s a huge, powerful machine on the outside, but compact and friendly on the inside. You get to have your meals in a rolling restaurant and, assuming you can afford to travel in a sleeping car, there’s a real bed to sleep in at night. Really, what’s not to love about all that for a kid?
AmtrakWindowWhen I ask veteran Amtrak car attendants what’s the best piece of advice they have for parents traveling with young children, they all say the same thing: Whatever the child’s favorite thing is, bring it! No matter if it’s a stuffed animal or an old “blue blanky”, bring it! That seems obvious, I know, but the folks who’ve been there over and over again say that many parents just don’t think to do it.
The train trip can only become a problem if the kids get bored. That’s when it all goes to hell in a hand basket. So, in addition to the favorite thing, bring books, games, puzzles, and especially the electronic device with movies and games stored in it. Bear in mind that on most long-distance trains, you will not have wi-fi; and cell phones will only work some of the time.
I once had lunch in the Empire Builder’s dining car with a mother and two young kids. She had made a list of objects for the kids to look for passing by out the window—a white horse, a wind mill, a house with a broken window, a red car, a man on a tractor—with a prize for the one with the best score when they got off at the end of their journey. Smart lady … and a good mom!
The dining car is a treat for passengers of all ages and most kids enjoy the experience. I met a delightful family on my recent trip aboard the California Zephyr—a mom and dad with two pre-teen kids—and they split up when they went for meals in the diner. One child went with one parent and they were followed a few minutes later by the other two. That way, each child had the experience of having a meal with two strangers. I thought that was a wonderful, enlightened idea.
Just remember to bring what they need to combat boredom and the kids will love traveling by train … probably for life. Come to think of it, that’s what happened to me!