Train Trips with Babies: a quick survival guide

Laila is really, really good on trips. Then again, they’ve been European trips: she either sleeps through them at night or in a car  and if she’s awake on a train, it doesn’t matter much because the length of time from Point A to Point B is minimal.

Going on a trip to Luxembourg!

Going on a trip to Luxembourg!

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Dad look! I can see myself!

les filles en train

Going to see the French family in 2012. This green thingy is bothering me!

It’s not like an American road trip from South Florida to Virginia, or Louisiana to Oregon or Tallahassee to Ohio. Some of my favorite trips take all day long. Our European friends gasp when we tell them that a three-day weekend is a great opportunity in America to go from one side of the nation to another. Tallahassee to Charleston, anyone? It’s only 6 1/2 hours. That’s nothing. For a French person, it’s a good opportunity to only go halfway. Dinner lasts 5 hours, remember!

For anyone traveling anywhere in France with a bébé, I would recommend purchasing the Carte Enfant+ discount rail card. It costs €70, but if you’re smart about it, you can make it pay for itself… before you even buy it.  When my parents came to visit Paris, we decided to visit my French family in Normandie as well, and of course we decided to take the train. Between the four adults our tickets were already costing more than €400 Euros. We added the €70 Carte Enfant Plus and it took the price down to less than €300 total. The Enfant + discount was applied to the tickets since we bought them together. (!) Wahoo! The Carte Enfant+ applies a 25-50% discount anytime travelers book with a baby kid up to 12 years old, and the child gets a free seat. (Kids under 3 can travel for free without the card, but they have to be seated “au genoux” or in your lap.) Don’t have to tell me twice!

So after a few trips with a baby under my belt, here’s our list of survival tips:

1, One of the great things about a train is that you’re not really separated from your luggage. Travel lightly, but realize you can pack the spare change of kid clothes in the front of your suitcase and forget the massive baby bag. Take your chic Prada bag with you instead to cancel out the mom vibe  balance your parental sensibilities with some sanity-preserving style. 

2. Don’t show your baby how the reading light works. (It’s located between the seats.) You will regret this. Big mistake. Huge.

3. You can book your seats during the ticket booking, although for many fares, this is not a required step. Take advantage of this opportunity to snag a block of seats closest to the baby changing room. You and the rest of the passengers will appreciate your foresight when that diaper bomb hits. 

4. Pack snacks or dinner. There is a dinner car and the Enfant+ discount card gives you a 15% discount to food on board, but packing ahead saves money and ensures you’ll have something your kiddo loves.

Just eatin' my Pomme Pote.

Just eatin’ my applesauce in a bag. Moi j’adore les p’tits dros.

5. Expect to fully enjoy your globe trotter for the entire length of the ride. Read between the lines: you will not get any reading done. Should Junior fall asleep, go ahead and dive into that Grisham novel. But do it as a special treat- otherwise you’ll just be disappointed because your Little Darling was too disruptive as they turned the reading light off and on. Off and on. Off and on. See point #2 for reference. 

This last bit is our personal preference- plenty of people will disagree with it. Oh well. It’s my blog. :-) A train ride is an excellent opportunity to teach Babycakes a bit of patience, but an iPad or laptop will usurp that opportunity. For that reason, even though we love our technology, we try our hardest to entertain Adelaide with good old-fashioned toys: a book, silly faces and the train window. Maybe this is why she was so preoccupied with the reading light…

¡Amo el tren!

¡Amo el tren!

As it turns out, Luxembourg is awesome. More to come later. What are your kid-friendly train travel tips?

À la prochaine…

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