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Toddler on a Train

Things are really crazy at work, and a good night's sleep is still something that exists only in my daydreams. So I'm going to be really slacking this week on posting and reading other blogs. Please know that I feel terrible about both of those things. You must know that I believe the blogging is way more important than both work and sleep, and yet I do occasionally have to prioritize work and sleep (and my family) over the blogs. I beg your pardon in this matter.

In good news, my friend (MommyEm) and her almost 17-month old girl (Dorothy) are definitely coming on vacation with us! I'm so excited! But to get to DC the day before we drive out to the beach, she will be taking a 3-hour train ride... just her and the toddler. She is (understandably) a bit nervous about how the trip will go. She will be leaving about 10:00 AM and getting in about 1:00 PM, and nap time for Dorothy is usually about 12:30, which is going to be iffy considering the excitement of the train and the trip.

Anyone have some good traveling tips for my friend? Especially for the train, which is Amtrak and won't have those seating compartments like they do in Europe. It will have a snack car, so she can probably bring the toddler to run around in there. Anyone have any good ideas? I've only done miserable car trips with no real options for my screaming child, so all I know is what the internet tells me...

Comments

Tranny Head said…
Ideas? Yes: tell her to drink early and often - and that the train won't be nearly as bad as a 3 hour plane ride because on the train the kid can get up and wander around (while she chases beer-in-hand).
Colleen said…
can she install the carseat in the train? that might help keep her daughter contained when she needs a rest from letting her wander around.
I don't know how she feels about TV/videos, but a portable DVD player saved our butts on more long car rides and plane rides than I can count.
paola said…
Dorothy may even sleep with the noise of the train. I second the car-seat or a stroller that the little one has to stay buckled up in. Otherwise, lots of books, toys, looking out of windows etc. I will need some advice myself about confronting a 21 hour flight to Australia with a 19 month old and a 3.5 year old. Aggghhhhh!
Becoming Mommy said…
The train is FABULOUS!!! We've taken 3 trips via Amtrack with Sasha and they've all been wonderful.
The only thing we've noticed is a lack of changing table facilities (both trains and stations). Tell your friend to try and snag the seats that are near the end of the car and flip them so they are facing the wall...they'll have more room. And their kid can sit/play on the floor and they can do things like have them nap in their stroller and so forth. We also bring lots of books, but mostly he has fun with his taggie---playing peek-a-boo and flirting with someone sitting nearby.
And always, always, always snag a redcap and try and get priority seating.
i dont think it will be as bad as imagined. I use to ride the train a bunch with my mom as a kid, I loved it. There also were often times young kids on the train, people seemed helpful and tolerant. If there is a viewing car that is lots of fun.
My Buddy Mimi said…
We actually had very good experiences on trains, although naps were definitely more iffy. You can walk up and down the aisle as opposed to being stuck in the seat, and there are people and a never-ending supply of things (cars, cows, look Mommy!) zipping by the window.
Karen said…
Benadryl, and plenty of it. And it's doctor recommended, too.
Don Mills Diva said…
Work, sleep and family over blogs?!?

Are you sure about those priorities?...:-)
&BabyMakes75 said…
De-lurking to comment... I found your site from an AskMoxie link -

In the last 2.5 years, my now 3-yr-old and I have taken four, five-hour Amtrak trips together.
I can honestly report that it can really be a terrific experience.

A Dozen Things I Learned:
1. Infant and Toddler "time" is finally in your favor! What I mean is, you know how pre-baby getting out the door took, oh, a minute, but suddenly, post-baby, it takes fifteen plus the time to strap baby into car seat etc etc? Well, a simple act of walking with infant to the dining car, talking about the colors on the signs, looking out the window, getting some pretzels or bottle of water, or even a really great Amtrak veggie burger, (believe it or not!), can easily take up 30, probably 45 minutes. Settling into a seat - 20 minutes. Hey, there is an hour already!

2. Bring a completely new toy or small item that your child has never seen before. I prefer these pipe-cleaner-type toys that are coated in some type of waxy substance called Wikki Stix because child can bend and create with them. When my son was about the age of your friend's child, these *really* entertained him. I was amazed! (I bought them at a store called Learning Express but you can find them online.) Another cool activity are those pseudo-watercolor books that you just add water to. Most drug stores such as CVS sell them for a few dollars. Bring some cotton swaps for this purpose and just wet the cotton swaps. Lots of fun, entertaining, and at least 15 minutes!

3. Allow something that isn't "normally" allowed such as wearing pajamas or, gasp!, a little bit of "candy." (Doesn't actually have to be candy, can be mango slices or something not seen before but introduced as a special candy that is for really special occasions like this one. If you're okay with actual candy, perhaps a trip to a health food store before the trip, (done by a solo or stealth adult), buy the m*m style candies made without yucky dye or accept, gasp, your child will survive if you feed actual candy. (I did find that my child goes nutzo upon ingestion of chocolate so I bought some carob items and cookies/crackers he'd never seen before. Crackers with shapes can be a real time-sucker in a good way to point out the shapes and can you find this shape, etc.)

4. Accept that nap isn't going to happen. It is quite doubtful. Perhaps the night before the trip, another adult, (daddy?), can be on night-duty for the child so that the day of the trip, your friend can be okay that she won't have some down time during the trip while her child doesn't nap on the trip. Sure, trains are soothing and there were parts of two of the trips that I took that my son actually did nap, but it is a hit-or-miss, especially b/c the conductor makes fairly regular announcements.

5. Baby-size damp washcloths in zipper-style baggies. The bathrooms will probably be yucky and for just wiping hands, the washcloths are the trick and won't dry out hands like wipes can. Also, I find that having an extra damp washcloth can soothe any boo-boos, real or imagined, such as lightly bumping head on a tray table. This can be especially effective if you don't already use washcloths because of the surprise factor. Also, if the child has a special doll, toy, etc. then the child can then be in charge of wiping that special thing.

6. Talk about steps in the process. For this age, I think about three steps is good. For example, while waiting in the station for the train to arrive, talking out loud to the child, okay honey, first we're going to find a place for our bags, then find a special seat, and then see what we see out the window. What are we going to do first? Oh, right, we're going to find a place for our bags first. Repeat ad nauseum. I recommend breaking things into three steps. This is true even if the child isn't really verbal. I think it helps my son with lowering anxiety on something unfamiliar.

7. a book your child hasn't seen before but that you definitely have pre-read to make sure nothing scary in it :-)

8. If all else fails, they sell decks of cards on the cafe car. Go for it. But don't get sucked into buying the "kids' pack" or whatever they call it. It is just a coloring book and crayons which you'll probably bring anyway or, if your child eats them, decide against unless you want rainbow-colored poop.

9. Speaking of poop, if possible, learn to change your child's poop when he/she is standing up. (I never mastered this but I know some who have.) If not, bring a large changing-pad to lay child down in the yucky bathroom and wipe it down after. If just a pee diaper and not poop, just change in the seat. (Be careful if your child has a history of peeing again when diaper is opened!)

10. It is a gamble to sit near the bathrooms for their sometimes, uhm, authentic odors but that is typically where there is more room. One time, I brought my son in his Bjorn, and all the other times in a fold-up umbrella stroller. ALL strollers are too wide for the aisles so if child is sleeping when you board you either need a sympathetic train attendant to get you on the car where there is space available right at the front of the car, (usually for wheelchairs but rarely used), or you'll unfortunately have to wake child and carry to seat. It isn't as terrible as it sounds. Count on being able to board with child in stroller and then once on board having to fold it up. Train attendants or other passengers will help you if you ask. The place where you fold it, at the ends of the cars, is the same place you'll store your major luggage. Unless you absolutely must have a car seat at your destination, (perhaps you can borrow one for your friend so she doesn't have to lug one?) I HIGHLY recommend against bringing a car seat carrier for a 17-month old on a train. Under six months, possibly, but not at this age/weight. Given that there aren't seatbelts on trains, the carseat won't be strapped into anything anyway. Bjorn or umbrella stroller is the way to go. I've seen others try to navigate with large strollers with great difficulty.

11. Pack three bags. One is a rolling suitcase with all items needed for the actual trip. Nothing in the rolling suitcase should be needed by mother or child while on the train unless repeated poop-sposions. Bag two is regular diaper bag, scaled down to really only carry changes of clothing, actual diaper changing items, and a few gallon-size zipper bags for soiled items. Bag three is the key one - the one you can't live without on the train - it is the train bag. This bag has all the snacks and toys and a new tshirt for you, (you never know), a blankie or sweatshirt for child, perhaps a sweater for you, (air conditioning can be high sometimes). Your child should know there is a special, surprise train bag but shouldn't know more than one of the contents of it. The purpose of the three bags is that you can leave the main bag at the front of the car, you can leave bags two and three at your seat with you and when you want to walk to the cafe car, you only need to bring the train car with you; same as when you go to the toilet you only bring the small diaper bag.

12. To end my list of dozen, remember to smile. Unexpectedly really nice things have always happened to me while traveling with my son on trains including some teenagers who I initially thought of as snarky offering to buy me a soda and snack while my son was napping and I took them up on it.

Thanks for reading! Sorry for being so long-winded, hope this helps.


PS: I've never has a portable-DVD player with me and my train rides have been longer than three hours. Unless your child really requires a video to calm down, (and some do, that is totally okay), then skip it because you don't need to pack the extra weight. But if you do, almost all seats on the cars so have AC-plugs so you don't have to worry about battery power. Oh - I just remembered - addendum to the not having a DVD thing, I do use a digital camera, so another "if all else fails" advice is to take pictures on the camera, show child the pictures, repeat, repeat...

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