Our most recent travel adventure was taking us from Baltimore, MD to my hometown of Springfield, MA. We were going up to visit family and celebrate my adorable niece's second birthday. My husband, Brad, was not able to attend this trip so I was faced with the option of driving, or taking a train with our 6 month old and 2 year old. The choice was pretty easy to make. I've been on many long car rides with Anastasia and knew my 6 hour drive would quickly turn into 9 or more hours with all the stopping I would have to do for Oliver. Not to mention our route would take us straight into New York City and the last thing I wanted was to be stuck in traffic with two cranky kids. I've never taken a train long distance before so I needed to make sure I did my research and was prepared. Mainly I needed to know how our luggage would be handled, if I would have assistance loading and unloading, and if our journey would have transfers.

When REsearch Goes Wrong

My first step was to make sure this option would actually work for us before I purchased any tickets. I selected a route that did not have any transfers as I did not want to worry about transferring our luggage onto another train, especially with a very small layover window. Plus none of our options included checked bag service which meant I was responsible for loading and unloading all of our items onto the train.

I knew we would need to bring both car seats, our stroller or our wagon, at least one piece of luggage and two diaper bags. What I was unsure of was where to store our items since checked bag service was not an option. I called Amtrak and was told getting help loading and unloading wouldn't be an issue As Baltimore Penn Station had Red Cap service and they could add a special service request to our Springfield stop.

Closer to our trip I called Amtrak to make sure our special service requests were added on to our tickets. This is where the nightmare began. I was told that there was no assistance that could be added in Springfield. Not an extreme worry because my mom would be on the platform to help with the kids. I was then told that our car seats would not fit onto the train. This was a concern as I needed both car seats at our destination. I spoke with a couple of different representatives, each with a different version of what could and couldn't be accommodated. After being told to "collapse the car seats down and store them under the train seat" and "I would just show up and see if the seats can fit", I decided to turn to my local mom group. Usually I am pretty weary about accepting advice from large groups but at this point I figured I had nothing to lose. Some very helpful moms were able to confirm that they have traveled on these two trains with car seats or have seen it done, and offered a couple other travel tips for our journey. THANK YOU for mom groups! With that confidence boost I was ready to see what was to come.

Departure Day

We arrived at Baltimore Penn Station about an hour before our train was set to depart. I wanted to have plenty of time to get our things into the station and grab some Munchkins from Dunkin Donuts for Anastasia. This turned out to be just the right amount of time for us as we had about 15 minutes to sit, chat and relax before heading down to the platform with our Red Cap employee. The Red Cap service made boarding really easy for us and assured us that all of our items would fit just fine, which they did! Turns out the train cars have a certain amount of empty space at the front or back of each car, which you can see in my Instagram video. One of the spaces was designated for passengers with wheelchairs, while the other space was just open space. After a quick goodbye the train doors closed and we were on our way! 

The first leg of our journey was the busiest with many commuters traveling between Washington DC and NYC. We sat in a quad (4 seats facing each other) with a lovely lady who happened to be a daycare teacher! After about an hour I decided to make our way up to the cafe car for a heavier meal. We were about 3 cars ahead of the cafe car. I learned very quickly how difficult it is to move from car to car with two kids, and found myself getting some motion sickness. It was a relief when we finally made it. I ordered mac and cheese for Anastasia and a ham, egg and cheese sandwich for myself with a bottle of water. The food was surprisingly good for prepackaged, microwaved food! There was a pretty good selection of snacks, fresh foods, and drinks. They even had alcoholic beverages. The meal car did have tables that could seat a group of 4 comfortably.

We ended up taking our food back to our seats, and after we passed NYC we moved into a different row with just two seats. The quad seating is great for a family but it didn't have fold down tables for snacks and activities. Plus the leg room in the quad seating was a little tight so you find yourself bumping legs with the guest across from you, which can be a little awkward. The seats themselves I found to be comfy. I didn't have any issues with sitting in them for a long period of time. The rest of the journey went by pretty smoothly. We did have a couple of diaper changes and bathroom breaks. I was happy I packed my travel changing mat as there were no changing tables. The handicap bathrooms did provide plenty of floor space to change a diaper which was better than having to change him in my lap.

Arriving at Union Station in Springfield, MA proved to be an interesting challenge. My mom was running a few minutes behind and was going to miss meeting us for the train. The train conductors were aware of the items I had on the train and luckily for me the train was going to be stopped for a few minutes. One of the passengers on the train was gracious enough to wait on the platform with our items until I was finished unloading, which took maybe 2 minutes.

Safety Tip: if you are traveling with littles DO NOT put them on the platform until you are ready to get off the train. There is a gap between the train and the platform that is just big enough for them to fall into. Plus once those train doors close you are stuck on the train.

Return Day

My mom drove us to Union Station early so we had plenty of time to get breakfast and make our way up to the platform. We found that our train was at the station early but wasn't yet boarding. A few minutes before the doors opened an employee came over to assist us. Apparently this station does provide assistance on an "as needed" basis. I explained to him that we were told no accommodations could be made, and he assured us that it was added to our ticket notes, and that special accommodations could be made at that particular station (good to know!). We were seated in front of the flex (empty) space where our items were placed. Not having seats in front of us meant plenty of leg room but no fold down table for Anastasia. However, the rest room was a few steps away and the cafe car was in the next car.

The return trip went smoothly until we arrived in Baltimore. I made sure to buy a small pillow for Anastasia this time so she could nap comfortably as on our journey up she wasn't able to nap at all. Approaching Baltimore, Brad assured us he was waiting on the platform, and Anastasia was so excited to see him. During our journey we had been asked, and confirmed, numerous times that we needed Red Cap service. I was told they would be waiting for us outside our car when we arrived. To my disappointment there was no Red Cap employee in sight, and Brad was waiting much further down the platform. The train was scheduled for a 5 minute stop and already about 1 minute had passed. I immediately tossed one of the diaper bags onto the platform and went back to start grabbing the other items, but it was too late. The doors closed and we were off. Brad had just made it to our door when they closed. The train conductor came back around and was very surprised to see us still on the train. I explained that there was no one to assist us off and the train was not stopped long enough for me to finish unloading myself. Meanwhile Brad was talking with the ticket counter and Red Cap service who confirmed that the train was not stopped for very long nor was the Red Cap employee on the platform to assist us. To say we were angry and flustered was an understatement. Not having the Red Cap employee there was one thing, but the train being stopped much shorter than scheduled was even more frustrating.

We were offered to get off at the next stop and to be put on another train returning to Penn Station. We opted to have Brad drive and meet us at the next station instead as it was about a 20 minute drive for him. Taking the returning train would've added an additional 40 minutes onto our travel time. Not to mention having to unload, load, and then unload again with two kids (no thank you).

Would I do this again?

Absolutely. Despite the hiccups with our trip I would 100% choose to travel by train versus driving. The cost to take the train was about the same as the cost to drive for this specific journey, but our travel time was hours shorter. I didn't have to plan stops for potty breaks or diaper changes, stops to stretch and eat, stops for gas, or sit in traffic. The kids were way more entertained and content on the train than in a car. Anastasia loved looking out the window and having me by her side to play games, watch movies and nap on. Oliver was more than happy to sit in my lap and play along with Anastasia and I.  The trips to the bathroom and cafe car were a bit bumpy but manageable. Overall, it was a very enjoyable experience made even better by the kind passengers we traveled with.

My Travel Must Have items

There were a couple of items I bought specifically for this trip that made life so much easier: a LapBaby and Car-Seat Belt Strap. The LapBaby is a baby belt that allows you to secure the baby in your lap. This was so helpful when I was eating or playing with both kids, and needing two hands free. The Car-Seat Belt Strap turned our rolling luggage into a dolly for the car-seat! So while Anastasia sat in the Radio Flyer 3 in 1 wagon along with our infant car seat I was able to tow the convertible car seat with the roller luggage, and have Oliver in the Infantino Baby Carrier! I was able to store one diaper bag in the wagon as well and carried the second bag as a backpack. Even without help at the Union Station stop I was able to get both kids and all of our items off the platform and into the main terminal! And yes I felt like a super mom!

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