20 Tips For Riding Amtrak With A Toddler

If you live along the East Coast like I do, chances are you’ve taken an Amtrak train at least once. Over the years, I’ve traveled up and down the coast on Amtrak more times than I care to count, but the majority of those trips occurred in my childless days, aka the “easy” days as far as traveling is concerned. However, I’m happy to report that riding Amtrak with a toddler isn’t too bad, in fact it can actually be enjoyable if done the right way! I’ve compiled a list of 20 tips to help guide you in the booking and packing process, navigating the train station and the actual trip! Good luck!

20 Tips for Riding Amtrak With A Toddler

Booking: 

  • If possible, avoid peak hours and holidays if traveling alone. Trains are frequently sold out, crowded, and hectic – not the ideal situation for traveling with a young child.
  • Be sure to check the length of the trip when booking, regional trains generally stop most often and they’re not always the cheapest option.
  • Infants (under 2 years of age) ride free with a ticket paying adult (18 +), children (2-12) can receive a 50% discount off the cheapest adult fare. Each adult is allowed to travel with up to two children at the 50% off discount rate (visit Amtrak for more detailed information).
  • If possible, book travel with your child’s nap/eating schedule in mind to avoid dealing with a cranky passenger.

Packing: 

  • If traveling alone, pack light and efficient – depending on the length of your stay, try to implement a one bag per person rule.
  • A light weight stroller or baby carrier are a must to help trek through the train station and entering/exiting the train especially if you’re traveling with a non-walker.
  • If you bring a stroller, utilize the handles and underneath compartment to hang and store items – just don’t forget to balance the weight of your child and any bags, otherwise the stroller will tip.
  •  Pack an ONBOARD bag to include everything you might need during the trip to avoid visiting the over-head storage compartment. Include snacks, entertainment, blankets, etc.
  • Wear a cross body bag or wristlet if you are traveling alone with a baby or toddler to keep your personal items safe and insight.

Train Station:

  • Arrive at least 30 minutes before your scheduled train departure. Add additional time if you are departing from a large and busy train station, like New York Penn.
  • Utilize the assistance of the Red Cap personnel and other Amtrak employees to help with luggage, navigating the elevators, and entering/exiting the train.
  • Be aware of the gap between the train and platform if using a stroller, it is surprisingly wide.
  • The Red Cap personnel know train track and timing information, ask to be informed ahead of time so you can slowly make your way to the platform in a busy station.

20 Tips For Riding Amtrak With A Toddler

Trip:

  • Take advantage of the group seats, they are reserved for families.
  • If the train isn’t sold out, your toddler might be able to occupy his or her own seat, it’s the luck of the draw.
  • Seats at the front of the car are reserved for handicap passengers, but if no one is utilizing, pull up your stroller and let your baby face you. It is a great way to travel, but please be mindful of the other passengers’ needs before you sit.
  • Amtrak trains have electrical outlets lining the walls – great for charging, but be careful with young ones.
  • Most trains have a cafe car for picking up snacks and drinks, not a lot of of healthy options for the kids. Note, Acela trains have rolling food carts which allow you to stay in your seat.
  • Avoid the Quiet Car if possible, anything above a whisper will elicit eye rolling from fellow passengers.
  • Infant changing stations are difficult to come by on the train, come prepared to make it work elsewhere. 🙂

Overall, riding Amtrak with a toddler was pretty painless. If you are fortunate enough to travel with a friendly crew, in my experience they have gone above and beyond to help families traveling with young children. My best advice is to take advantage of the Red Cap service, even if just to ask for train information.

Have you traveled via train with children? How was your experience?
Anna

20 Tips for Riding Amtrak With A Toddler

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11 Responses to 20 Tips For Riding Amtrak With A Toddler

  1. Lydia C Lee May 20, 2014 at 6:58 pm #

    In Europe we chose train overcame so the 2 year old could walk around a bit…trains are easy really (easier than car or planes)

    • Anna Julien August 4, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

      Yes, the train is a lot easier for that reason! Thank you for stopping by! 🙂

  2. Jessica May 26, 2014 at 11:09 pm #

    We have never ridden the Amtrak, but I want to, just for the fun of it. I had no idea that there was a quiet car. With four boys, I would be avoiding that for sure.

    • Anna Julien August 4, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

      Yes, beware of the quiet car, I rarely sit in it when I ride without my daughter! 🙂

  3. athena October 9, 2014 at 8:31 am #

    I’m traveling alone to NY Penn with my 2 year old on Amtrak this weekend, thanks for the tips!

    • Anna Julien October 10, 2014 at 5:56 pm #

      Hopefully they prove to be useful! Good luck 😉

  4. Samantha January 11, 2015 at 4:11 pm #

    Love the tips! Traveling next month on Amtrak with my 16 month old from NY to FL, hoping it goes well!

    • Anna Julien April 25, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

      Hope your trip went well Samantha, thanks for stopping by!

  5. Andi July 19, 2015 at 5:36 pm #

    We just decided to consider a train trip to RI from NC with what will be by next summer a 2yearold and a 6month old-please tell me it’s doable and we won’t rack up an impressive therapy bill attempting to regain our sanity.

    • Anna Julien September 16, 2015 at 12:19 pm #

      Andi, thanks for the comment. I don’t know how much traveling you’ve done with your little ones, but I would say the train is easier than flying. There is considerably more space for roaming around, especially if you can snag a family group of seats. I would bring a lot of entertaining and snacks for the two year old of course and the 6month old should be easier in a carrier! The train is also nice because you can look out the window and point out all the cool things you will pass by! Good luck!

  6. Nikki November 16, 2015 at 12:15 pm #

    So glad I came across this article! Like yourself I’ve traveled on Amtrak plenty of times up the East Coast but that was before my little 15 month old arrived. Our first long train ride is coming up in a few days and it will be to the Midwest. I’m hoping I can come across an extra seat for our 26 hour ride. That extra room will be lifesaver especially since we’re at the “climb all over everything stage”. I will be sure to pack her snacks! Thank goodness I still nurse, that will help a little. The diaper changing subject is what I’m a little nervous about. But I’m super excited and little one loves trains so this train trip should go smoothly.

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