“I have a baby. Should we go by train or plane?” we hear you ask. (You asked, right?)
Sure, on the surface, a plane seems smarter: mostly because it’s fast. But if you’re not yet a fan of train travel, prepare to be converted: train travel with a baby is a pretty solid choice.
Admittedly, there are some downsides: travelling by train is often more expensive than driving (especially if you’ll be wanting a car at your destination), not all countries have good train services (yes, we mean you Australia), and sometimes, the trains themselves are slow (at least until you factor in all the wasted time where you’d be fudging around at an airport if you were flying).
But, for those that do (hello Europe), train travel is a great alternative to car or plane trips.
Train or plane? Let’s compare:
PLANE: With a plane trip, there’s security and/or customs hoo ha; all time and energy intensive processes to be juggled while keeping your baby happy.
TRAIN: Buy your ticket, step onboard. If there are customs procedures they are generally way faster than an airport (compare the Eurostar train service from London to Paris versus the check in procedures from Heathrow to Charles de Gaulle).
PLANE: ‘Buckle up’. Your baby will need to be strapped in on take off, landing and during turbulence, and be taken out of the bassinette if they are sleeping and the seatbelt sign comes on.
TRAIN: No seatbelts, no take offs. (This also means no keeping their ears depressurised like on flights – although we tell you how to deal with that in this post on babies ears on planes.)
PLANE: You have to get yourself to the airport, which often involves a hassle-filled (and expensive) transfer. Then, when you arrive, you have to collect all your bags (half of which will have inexplicably ended up in the ‘bulky items’ section), do the long wait at customs again if you’re travelling internationally, and get yourself to your accommodation which is probably NOT right near the airport.
TRAIN: You’ll often leave from somewhere central, and arrive somewhere central. Your bags will be with you, so just head onto the platform, and take the (likely) short jaunt to your accommodation.
And for some variety…
CAR: You have to drive, which means you need to figure out where you are going, stay the course AND hope your baby is happy in the back strapped into their car seat.
TRAIN: While we want to say you can just sit back and relax, you DO have a baby under one. So you can walk up and down the aisle with them in a carrier (like an Ergo) to keep them entertained, or follow behind them as they crawl or walk. You may even get to have a coffee in your hand at the same time. Still, better than driving.
CAR: If your baby is over six months old, and mobile, you’ll need to stop roughly every two hours for about 45 minutes so he or she can play and stretch out.
TRAIN: No stops needed as the baby will probably be happy for at least three hours of train travel in one go. Often, they can play the whole time, assuming you’re happy to let them roam with you up and down the aisle. (Keeping a baby contained on your lap for long once they are over about six months is of course, unrealistic regardless of the mode of transport.) Of course, if you’re on a Swiss train, many of those even have playgrounds onboard in the ‘family’ car. Yes, we are serious. It’s awesome.