August 07, 2012

All Aboard!

I planned a few travel adventures for the twins and I this summer.  It started with our massive roadtrip in May, and ends with our most recent adventure - a train ride to Nebraska.  The twins love trains, and are at an enthusiastic age, so I thought this summer would be the perfect opportunity to plan a train adventure.  I scheduled it to coincide with Lucas'
 trip to Haiti (did I fail to mention Lucas was going to Haiti? Sorry).
Let me share some things that I learned on our trip:
- Excited children will have a difficult time waiting for the train at the station (no matter how cool of a station it is - exhibit a).  Moving outside to watch for the train will help. but will cause everyone else in the station to panic and move out too.
A friendly fellow-passenger offered to take a family pic. 
 Can you see Ryan's face?  He is so excited!  And behind us you can see the conductor who is getting ready to yell the classic, "All aboard!"
- packing periodic surprises (like on our road trip) helps, but for the majority of the trip, they will do this:
- Trains provide MUCH more room for seating (and playing) allowing for me to easily sit with the twins (when there were only 2 seats side-by-side) and for the twins to have tons of fun playing (even building a tent with their trays at one point!)

- People on the train are generally more laidback and enthusiastic about raveling with kids (partly because a lot of them are traveling with their kids).  The one exception is when your kids are holding up traffic on the stairs and the people behind them are the smokers trying to hurry out to get the most out of their smoke break.  Do NOT get between the smokers and their smoke break.
- The observation car is cool for a change of pace, but if you do not head over shortly after the conductor takes your tickets, you will not get a seat.  People in-the-know go as quickly as they can to snag seats and keep them the entire trip/evening.
- The Dining Car requires reservations.  Those with sleeping berths get first pick at reservations.  If you are riding in coach (we were) on a sold-out train you will likely not get a reservation before 9pm.  So don't tell your kids how cool it will be to eat in the dining car...or they will be disappointed...although eating the food from the Cafe Car in their "tents" will help softn the blow.
- Stopping to change trains might be an adventure.  Our stop at Union Station in Chicago included:
*The twins being terrified as we walked between 2 trains inside the train...building.  I ended up carrying all of our luggage and both of my terrified twins more than once.
*Teeny bathroom stalls - if you are trying to fit in yourself, 2 children, and all your luggage, be prepared to get stuck.
*Noisy bathroom hand dryers that frighten noise-sensitive children.  Don't forget your hand-santizier or you will be paying $5 for a tiny bottle at the station store.
*An illusive hot-dog stand (that ended up being outside the station).  I regret the 20 minutes I spent on a wild goose chase around the station.
*An accident on the escalator - It did feel steep.  And then a guy behind us fell backwards and couldn't get up as the escalator took him to an ever-steeper, upside-down incline.  If you scream a lot, the station security will come and help.
*The WONDERFUL Great Room at the station.  A haven.  Lots of sunlight,
Benches where we could set down our luggage and rest,
and a relaxing place for us to eat and run around.

We spent most of our time there.  I highly recommend anyone else with kids and luggage do the same.
- Get to know your seatmate.  I sat next to Santa.  He never actually gave me his name but he was big and round and jolly, he had the classic white hair and beard, he spent the last 70 years driving livestock (as in a sleigh of reindeer), and he not only knew everything about every highway/interstate in the US but he also can tell you exactly where an address is anywhere in the US (as in where it is located on its road and which side of the road it is on).  Totally Santa.  I shared our snacks with him...just in case...
- You will see cool things (where the freighters - Poppy's boat - dock in Gary, IN, the Mississippi River, beautiful train stations).  Get pictures...better ones than I did at least.
- Getting kids to sleep on the train can be difficult.  Be smarter than me and just snuggle with them to begin with.  They will sleep sooner and you will enjoy the snuggle time.
(note: sleeping on the train was one of their favorite things!)
- No matter how many times you tell your children the name of the train you are riding, they will be convinced it is actually a train from one of their favorite train shows (In our case it was Chatsworth from Chuggington)
- Train-themed books from the library will up the excitement.  The classic "Little Engine that Could," is officially a new favorite.
- The trip was just as long (longer if you count the stop in Chicago) as a car ride, but so much more enjoyable that it felt like less time.  The best part was that I got to BE with the twins the whole time, and that helped the time go by faster.
- If your kids are like mine, they will love traveling by train.  Ryan kept saying, "Mommy, this is so cool!" and Allie told me her favorite part of the trip was spending time with me.  Aww.  And their first-hand experience with trains has made them truly train-obsessed.  If they want to spend hours putting together empty boxes to be their "train" and taking turns playing conductor, I'm happy!


Anonymous said...

Gigi and Papa were so glad when you got here safely. A plus was you were the first ones off too. makes Gigi want to take a train trip too.

Kelsey said...

Ha! Told you it was awesome! :-)

Anonymous said...

It sounded like fun and Nana has never been on a train so I hope we can plan this trip again and I can go. Maybe next time Lucas will be out of town :)
Thanks for letting us always be a part of your adventure Kim. Many prayers were said that day. Hugs from Nana

Anonymous said...

The BEST part of this train ride was that it headed to Nebraska!! What JOY to see such gorgeous kids!! And next time you visit it will be directly to Friend Nebraska. Yay!! Hope you 'sardines' arrive home safe and sound later today!! Tons of love, Grandma and Grandpa

Anonymous said...

I will have you know this made me want to go on a train ride myself!! haha!

Anonymous said...

Life is good!! God is great! What a wonderful trip full of memories!! Nebraska next stop!! Yay! Love and prayers, Grandma