Bought 2 round trip tickets with Amtrak to see my sisters and celebrate a gender reveal party. Scheduled departure time from KC was 8:15 am with arrival time in STL of 1:30 pm. We had FIVE whole hours in the train – myself and a 3 year old. FIVE hours of entertainment seemed daunting at first but with the right tools you can equip a toddler with many, many distractions for a successful first long distance train ride.
Not gonna lie, I was extremely nervous imagining anything and everything that could go wrong on this trip. Running out of things to entertain a toddler with a short attention span. Not enough snacks to eat. Or the fear of a toddler not wanting to ride the train at all.
Luckily for us, Mia absolutely loves Thomas the Train. As soon as she saw the train in her sight the rest was history. How was our trip successful? I had a variation of tricks i cycled through at any moment I noticed boredom radiate from Mia.
Here are my tips:
- Arrive at least 30 minutes before departure time. Parents with little ones need to stake their claim on prime seating which means getting as close to the front of the waiting line as possible not to compete with other train riders who may not be as nice about giving their window seats as others. And believe me, we witnessed people who weren’t as gracious and giving.
- Pack light. With toddlers who never stand in one spot for more than 5 seconds, you have to be able to keep your hands free in the event that the kids need to have their hands held. No one wants a running toddler near trains. You also don’t want to carry heavy bags and end up with a sore body while taking care of a toddler too.
- Show patience. Everyone is going to be in a hurry one form or another. You don’t want to seem rude or impatient because then people will more likely not be as nice to you as you would like them to be, especially when competing for a good place in line or in the train. Our conductor noticed Mia and I were getting cold waiting for the train back to KC and took us to the front of the line to go in first. There are good hearted people in this world and for that we are grateful. Mia thanked the conductor for being so nice.
- Be kind. If you’re like me and your kid experiences their first train ride, sometimes they aren’t as determined to climb up or down the slightly steep stairs leading in the train. Show kindness to the train conductors and they might be more willing to help your kid up and down the stairs like the conductors who helped Mia and I out.
- Bring snacks. If your kid is like mine, she’s used to snack time when she’s bored or hungry or both. I packed chips, crackers, carrots, cookies, and gummy bears. I also packed 2 bottles of water. There’s food in the train, but I was hesitant to move from our seats in case anything happened. Besides, I had the snacks lined up so when Mia asked for them, it only took 3 seconds and she had access to them. No one wants to be around a hungry toddler, let alone in a 5 hour train ride.
- Invest in a good pair of noise cancelling headphones for you and your kid. The train is loud and you don’t want to be stuck listening to other people’s conversations. Mia loves her headphones we bought at Walmart the morning of the trip. It gets the job done. I listened to podcasts the entire trip but only had on headphones on one ear hole so I paid attention to my surroundings and could hear the conductor through the speakers telling us each upcoming stops. You always want to remain alert in case of emergencies.
- Wear comfortable clothes. Five hours in a train means you’re going to need to feel at home for those times and nothing screams uncomfortable more than wearing clothes that you’ll want to change out of before the trip is over. Leggings, sweaters, and sweat pants are what you want to go for.
- Bring a tablet – in our case, we brought Mia’s iPad. I downloaded tv shows and movies on Netflix so when the WiFi signal wasn’t the best or there was no signal at all, she still had something to watch and entertain herself with. The Amtrak hit several rural counties with little to no signal so there are those challenges we avoided. I also downloaded her favorite Disney show soundtracks for music just in case Netflix didn’t work. There were also games we downloaded in advance directly on the iPad.
- Bring toys, books and puzzles. For when screen time is up or the kids need a break, toys, puzzles, books and coloring books will do the trick.
- Bring a blanket because you don’t know whether or not it will be too cold in the ride. It’s also helpful for nap time. But never take a full nap because you may miss your stop. That is one fear of mine.
- Have your Amtrak tickets saved on your Apple wallet for easy access because the conductor does ask for them as soon as the train moves to the next destination.
- Let your family and/or friends that you’re meeting up with know what your Amtrak reservation number is so they can also track you on their end. Amtrak allows others to update status of train and possible delays as long as they know your reservation number.
- Let them have the window seat. It’s simple. You’ll see their eyes light up with pure joy seeing everything out their window. This alone could take half the ride’s worth of entertainment. It also helps you stay in control so they don’t try and sneak out away from your sight.
I honestly felt the most relaxed knowing I had control of the situation and knew that Mia was enjoying her trip as much as I did. It was relaxing, entertaining and completely worth the ride. We are so impressed that we will be taking the train more often as long as the weather is nice. Thank you for a great first train ride for my Mia girl, Amtrak!!!