Traveling Parents' Forum: Road Trips + Public Transportation

Monday, November 23, 2015



Welcome to the third session of the Traveling Parents' Forum! Today I've got five incredibly knowledgeable Mom's joining me to share experiences and tips about taking public transportation and road trips with children. Throughout the series we'll be sharing our tips, favorite products, and looking to each other for advice to make traveling with little ones easier. If you have any questions or would like to share your experience please write it in the comments below! Also, if you have written a post(s) on a similar topic feel free to add the link in the comments. You can also join our group Pinterest board to post your own articles or ones you've found helpful. Just follow our Pinterest accounts and message me to add you to the board. The more information we have the better we can travel - at least that's what I think!


We'll be chatting about a new topic on the third Monday of every month. Today's topic is 'Road Trips and Public Transportation'

November 23: Road trips and public transportation with a baby/child
December 21: Flying with a baby/child
January 18: Child jet lag
February 22: Items to make travel easier
March 21: Traveling without your child
April 18: Moving/living abroad with your child


Frankie


Unsurprisingly the most popular mode of public transport here in Amsterdam is cycling and it's not unusual to see multiple children on a bike being ridden by one parent. I think four was my record! After we found out we were expecting a baby, we didn't think "Okay, now we need to buy a car", we actually thought "Okay, now we need to buy a bakfiets". These cargo bikes - or bucket bikes! - have a large box area at the front where children can sit. You can also buy a special frame that will then hold a car seat in place, which is what we also invested in as we were really keen to keep cycling with a baby. As it happened, the first time we took our newborn baby out in the bakfiets like this, his head wobbled around so much we were a bit intimidated by it all and even though as he's grown bigger he doesn't shake as much, it's still not easy to watch him bouncing around in there. That said, he seems to love it and normally falls asleep within a few minutes. Because it's so nice to go out as a family, we try to take the bakfiets out for a ride at least twice a month. As soon as our little man is sitting up by himself then we can get a baby seat to go on the front of one of our bikes and then it will be even easier to cycle around the city with him.

At the moment our main mode of transport is walking - I'm so glad we invested in a good buggy! - though I regularly take the tram with my baby strapped to me in an Ergobaby sling. I have to say that this is definitely the easiest way to get around on trains and trams and I suspect when we take our first flight later this month I'll have the sling close by for the whole journey. Wish us luck!

Frankie has an infant and blogs about Amsterdam, travels, and writing on As the Bird Flies and Travelettes. Frankie is writing from Amsterdam, The Netherlands. You can find more from Frankie on her blogTwitterInstagramPinterest, and Facebook.


Roshan




We went in a camper van around New Zealand with our daughter as a 3 month old baby, which was easy as we could stop and sleep whenever we wanted to. See 'A family Trip to New Zealand for tips

My daughter loves public transport as a bit of a novelty, be it bus, train, or ferry. She loves seeing all of the people getting on and off and it often is more interesting than the destination for her.

Roshan has a three year old and blogs about her travels at Roshan's Ramblings. Roshan is writing from Australia. You can find more from Roshan on her blogTwitterInstagram, and Pinterest.


Marianne




“Are we there yet?” Everybody remembers road trips as a kid, and when you become a roadtripping parent yourself, you suddenly understand the frustration and annoyance displayed by your mum and dad all those years ago. My advice? Have an arsenal of games and snacks at your disposal. Road trip games we regularly play are: Eye Spy (of course), “The animal I’m thinking of” (describe an animal, the others have to guess it), “The first person to spot a…” (red truck, green road sign etc) and Sing-a-longs.  When all else fails, and you can’t face one more game of Eye Spy… I see nothing wrong with giving the kids an iPad for an hour.

The biggest challenge with taking public transport with kids is ensuring you have the right equipment. For going on buses and the underground, you’re going to need to make sure you have a light and easily foldable buggy, for getting on and off the bus, or up and down stairs into subway stations. Or stick to a baby carrier for smaller toddlers and babies.

Taking taxis with kids can be daunting too if you are used to having your kids securely strapped into their car seats in your own car. I use taxis a lot with my kids, both at home in Hong Kong and when we travel, and have made two investments that have helped put my mind at rest. For my 4-year old daughter I have a Trunki BoostAPak, which doubles as a booster seat and backpack (there are various other travel booster seats on the market), and for my 2-year old son, I use a Ride Safer Travel Vest, which allows him to use the regular seat belts safely.

Marianne travels regularly with her four-year old daughter and two-year old son, and blogs about family travel at Mum on the Move. You can see more about her travels on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.



Andrea



Hello!  My name is Andrea and I have been living in London, UK for the past 14 months. My husband and I moved here from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada when I was 26 months pregnant and I gave birth to a beautiful little boy, William, in December.  We will be celebrating his first Birthday on December 27th!  You can follow along with our adventures on my blog and instagram account.

As I have been on maternity leave, we have really tried to make the most of our time off and do a lot of traveling around Europe. 

We don’t own a car, and William has only been in his car seat a handful of times, so I cannot claim to know much about road trips, but I do have lots of experience when it comes to public transportation.

When William was about 4 months old, we took a coach trip to visit relatives in Cornwall.  What should have been a 4 hour trip turned in to 7 hours with all the weekend traffic!  Luckily William was still in the stage where he slept a lot and we managed all right.  (Aside from an undercover dirty diaper change on the empty seat next to us!)  I could see that sort of trip being quite disastrous with a youngster that is more active.  Since then, we have stuck to trains and planes for our travel!

We have traveled by train throughout the UK and France this year, and took the Chunnel from London to Paris as well.  On the eurostar to Paris, we had to book our seats in advance.  We reserved an area where the seats face each other and you have a little table in between which gave us a bit more room.  We still needed to fold down our stroller in the luggage area and then hold William on our laps for the trip.  On other train journeys, we watch as the train pulls into the station and try to find a coach that either has a handicap section, or a large area with bench like seats along the wall so that we can easily park the stroller right up beside us.  We make sure to come prepared with some small baby toys, extra food and double check the diaper bag is fully stocked.

I have found traveling locally within London to be very easy.  When we were shopping around to buy a stroller, a few people cautioned me against the large Uppa Baby Vista that I wanted to buy.  When they learned that we did not have a car and I would be using public transportation, they thought it would be too big.  It is true that the frame is too wide to fit down some bus aisles, but it is very simple to just get on through the back door, park in the stroller section and then go tap my oyster card.  The buses in London seem to have a rule that if there are already two strollers on the bus, you need to wait for the next one.  That has happened to me a few times.  I don’t often take the tube in rush hour, but I have never had to fold the stroller down and hold William due to lack of space.  I have found the Mumderground app to be invaluable.  It lists all of the tube stations and if they have step free access.  It can also tell you how many steps there may be at a particular station depending which entrance you take and which tube line you are going to.  I use that as well as the Transportation for London (TFL) website to plan my routes.  You can use the TFL website to plan a journey with your accessibility criteria.  I select “I can take escalators, but not steps” when planning a route that I will be taking by myself with the stroller. Though these websites are specific to London, most other major cities will likely have similar resources.  It’s always great when you can get to where you want via a simple, step free way, but whenever I have had to take steps, somebody always offers to help me with the stroller.

I found public transportation slightly more difficult in Paris.  Our stroller did not fit through the turnstiles in the underground stations and we had to use the intercom phone to call somebody to buzz us through a gate each time.  I’ve also written a blog post about cruising with a baby for those that are interested.

A lot of people choose to simply use their baby carrier, thus eliminating any issues using public transportation.  William is a big boy and I have become far too accustomed to the large basket under my stroller and the clips that hold my baby bag!  He also naps much better in his stroller now.   So although we may use our carrier during certain times of the day, we usually have our stroller handy as well, and never have any issues with that.

When we first moved to London, using public transportation was a huge annoyance for me.  However, now I love being able to walk everywhere with the stroller and I find taking the bus and underground to be a breeze.  The line I usually take is not busy after morning rush hour, so I find it relaxing to get on a quiet train and just zone out with a cup of coffee for a few minutes before we begin our adventures for the day.

Andrea is joining us from London where she lives with her husband and 11 month old. You can find more on her blog, In Love In London, or on Instagram.


Amy






Not many people enjoy public transport. It can be crowded, unreliable and, in the UK at least, expensive. It's the thing I dislike most about travelling in the UK. I've travelled pretty extensively, so I can give you a few tips (I also hassled my friends on Facebook for their advice for this post too!)

Buses
British buses are notoriously unreliable. We have a phrase, 'you wait ages for a bus, and then, three come along at once', and it's true. If you're planning to use buses, check to see if the local provider has an app that shows you live arrival times so you know when to really expect that bus. If you're travelling with a stroller/pushchair, remember that whilst there may be a space on the bus that will accommodate it, by law that space is for a wheelchair user. If a wheelchair/mobility scooter user boards the bus, you'll either need to collapse your stroller and travel with your little one on your lap, or leave the bus and catch the next one. Alternatively, if your little one likes the sling, leave the pushchair behind and travel with relative ease! 

Coaches
I always swear I'll never travel by coach again, and then I remember it's the cheapest option for long distance travel in the UK. That said, I will never travel with a baby on a coach. I did it once and it was pretty horrid for both of us, so coach travel will have to wait until he's a little older. Coaches don't have baby changing facilities, which has obvious drawbacks. You don't have to take a car seat on a coach, but if you do, or if you want your child to have a seat on the bus, you'll need to make sure that's mentioned at the time of booking your tickets. Infant car seats are obviously pretty easy to travel with. They are small and easy to fit. If your baby is very small, you can board without them even noticing. However, this is where it gets complicated. Bigger car seats are harder to get too and from the bus station in the first place. I was booked on the coach for a lone journey and at the last minute had to take my son. I wore him in the sling, but felt horribly unsafe. I couldn't walk around when he needed soothing and there was nothing I could do when he needed a nappy change. The whole thing was anxiety inducing and I plan to never put myself in that situation again. 

Trains
Trains are my favourite way to travel with a baby. Sure, they're expensive in the UK, but they are a lot more comfortable than other methods of public transport, and at the very least you can get up and walk around should you need to. There are no designated pushchair spots, but Coach C is often a disabled access carriage with space for a couple of wheelchairs. As with buses, by law you have to vacate the spot if a wheelchair user needs it, but I hugely recommend taking the place if it's free. Sitting in a crowded carriage with a little one on your knee can be bad enough, but in addition to that, luggage racks are usually packed full so finding somewhere to put your folded stroller might prove difficult. I take my little fella in Coach C. He can stay securely strapped in his pushchair (and sleep, if he needs) and I can entertain him easily whilst having plenty of space to move around to feed him/pick up dropped toys/rock him to sleep etc. I'm about to take my first journey with my son since he learned to walk and I am a bit apprehensive about it. I'm worried he'll not be best pleased with not being allowed to wander freely, which is why I've booked the train so I can walk him up the aisles if needs be. I'll also be taking a big bag of tricks (aka toys and snacks!) Wish me luck! 

Amy has a 16 month old and is joining us from London, UK. You can find more about her life in London on Instagram and Pinterest.

Elizabeth



Road Trips:

I recently returned from a week-long road trip to the Lithuanian coast with my husband and infant. It was our first trip as a family, and a sort of experiment for future travel. We learned that traveling with an infant certainly takes more planning than traveling as a couple or solo-travel, but it can be just as fun!

This one trip does by no means make me a pro, but I have learned my fair share about road tripping with an infant. On this trip we were sure to allot ourselves more time (add hours) for travel. Still, we got a bit lost and ended up an hour late to our AirBnB. Next time, I think we'll give ourselves even more time. 

Every three or so hours we stopped for me to nurse the baby and change some diapers. During those breaks we took the baby out of his car seat and let him stretch and get some fresh air as well. If I had known better I think I would have prepared at least one bottle because sometimes it was inconvenient to pullover the car for a feeding.

One of the biggest difficulties for me in general is deciding whether Baby ISO is hot, cold, or comfortable. This also applied in the car, as the weather was cold outside, but the car had heating. For this trip, we opted to bundle the baby up and forgo heat, especially at times that we knew we would be making relatively frequent stops (Lithuania is not a big country to drive across!). During longer legs of the trip we would remove layers and use the heat - which was much more comfortable for the adults at least! I also packed a toy, pacifier, on the go diaper changing pad (this is seriously the best thing ever!), and a change of clothes in the backseat, so that they would be easily accessible. Because it was our first long car ride I opted to sit in the back, so I could easily check on the baby. It felt a bit strange - like I was being chauffeured everywhere. Do you ride in the back or up front when traveling in a car with a baby?

Luckily, Baby ISO slept most of the time and we even decided to jump in the car when he was particularly fussy one evening! 

*A similar post to this appeared on Pink Pangea

Public Transportation:

About a month ago we went with a few friends and Baby ISO to Trakai, which is about a 40 minute train ride from Vilnius. Taking this short of a train ride was incredibly easy with Baby ISO. He slept for a bit of the ride and was happy to be held the rest of it. The most difficult thing about taking the train here was the steps to get from the station to the train (we couldn't find a working elevator) and getting the stroller onto the train. I couldn't have lifted the stroller up onto the train without help, and if I happened to be traveling by train without my husband I would have asked a conductor to help. Luckily, people in Lithuania love babies and are always happy to help with them! I also would have felt comfortable carrying Baby ISO on the train without a stroller or carseat, so if you prefer to travel light, perhaps train travel is for you!

This week we'll be taking our first flight (to Frankfurt, Germany), as well as our first bus trip to get from the airport into the city center. Wish us luck!

I have a 3.5 month old and I write from Vilnius, Lithuania on In Search Of. You can find more on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and Pinterest.



Follow Elizabeth @ In Search Of's board Traveling with Children on Pinterest.


What are your tips for traveling with children? Feel free to share your posts or advice below! If you'd like to be involved in TPF send me an email :)

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