Thursday, September 18, 2008

Vacation - Part 1: The Train

When I was around three, my parents took the train to Chicago. I remember is fondly. So fondly that I continued to enjoy taking the train every chance I got, from Europe, to DC & NYC, from the high speed train from Geneva to Paris to the commuter rail in Jersey. So I was super excited about our trip. We got a roomette, something that was new for me, since we thought it would be good to contain M if needed. Here are the pro's/con's/things I've learned.

Pro's -
  • Sleeper cars come with all meals included in the dining car, round trip, three free meals, including the kid who was free for the trip
  • Dinner in the diner car is pretty good, we had steak and a good dessert.
  • The sleeper berths are long enough for A to lay down on them.
  • The train is contained, and does allow for some walking around
  • There are cows out the train windows, cows go mmmooo!
  • There is also lots of water out the windows, and we love the water
  • After struggling to fall asleep on the train, toddlers love the rocking motion
  • Have I mentioned the amazing views?
  • It sure beats what I am sure would have been a 12 hour trip by car (have to stop to run around some)
  • My friend's suggestions about small wrapped gifts was a life saver.
Con's -
  • The sleeper berths are not wide enough for A to move if he is laying down
  • The food is just OK for breakfast/lunch
  • The train is not good for steady walking, and when you're already unsteady, it can be hard.
  • The train is contained, you're stuck
  • The train is party central for old people who drink too much and talk loudly when your toddler is sleeping
  • The old men need to sit when they pee, cause their aim sucks
  • Flushing is NOT optional in shared space (at home I try to conserve water and not flush every time)
  • After three days on the tracks, all of the above lack of aim gets a little nasty on the floor
Just Stuff -
  • The train can be affordable if booking early. Family/Deluxe rooms fill first, and are harder to get. A roomette is good for two adults (shorter is better) and a toddler, but maybe only for naps, overnights would have been hard.
  • We will take the train again. When M is older and can sit still some more. By then we won't fit in a roomette, so we will either do coach, or hopefully be able to afford a larger room.
  • The tall Dennis who works the Empire Builder is totally cool and fun. (though M was scared of him) the other older Dennis is kind of a pill.
  • Union Station in DC is still my favorite train station (Grand Central in NYC is second). Chicago isn't comparable.


MaryP said...

I love trains, too, and take them pretty much whenever I'd be driving more than three hours. The only family holiday trip we've taken was to the east coast (26 hours, two trains) -- and we did it sitting up. "We" being my husband and I, and my three kids, then 13, 9, and 6.

We all survived, and the kids were great, but if and when we take such a long family trip again, we are absolutely getting berths!

TOTALLY with you on the "pee con". Now imagine foolishly heading to the toilet in your SOCK FEET.

Ugh. Lesson learned...

Saffron said...

We took a trip to Montana this summer and had a great time with our 7, 3 and 1 year old. Already booked our family room for next August (yes there is only one per train car and they go fast.). It was a 24 hour ride and the meals broke up the routine (ND can be pretty flat). Would recommend it to all. Beats driving or flying!

kristen said...

Your talk of trains reminds me how much I used to love taking the train between Boston and NY (and goodness knows I made that trip many times). Pete and I keep talking about a trip to Chicago and now you've got me thinking we should look into the train... plus, I like looking at the cows too!

Rebecca said...


RookieMom Whitney said...

Thanks for summarizing the pros and cons. My then 2-year old and I almost took an all day train trip to see my parents when I was pregnant with #2, but when we got to the station, the train was running 8 hours late, so we cancelled the whole trip.

Also, funny that there were two Dennises. We had a cat named Dennis for a while and now find the name hilarious.