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Tracy's Train Travel

When you live 700+ miles away from a good chunk of your family, long distance traveling becomes an art. My parents know the route practically by heart down here, they know which rest stops they like, where their favorite  restaurants en route are, and have on several occasion tried to beat their all-time driving record down here. (Mom is in the lead by almost an hour.)

I don't drive (yeah, I'm a wuss.) and airplanes are expensive, difficult to do with youngster and with check-on luggage fees, means you're stuck trying to pack for a week in a tiny bag. I've done it with Charlie a few times, but it was never a "fun" experience. I was stressed, she was stressed. Not worth the extra $500 per person to save a few hours travel time. I thought that meant all I would have left would be the bus. I did the bus for my Freshman year at college. It was AWFUL with just me, I don't see it being possible with a toddler. Then when we moved to Big City, we realized we were very close to an Amtrak Train station. So for just under $300, both Chucky Sue and I will travel in style up to Boston.

The trip itself will take about 12 hours, which to some seems impossibly long. I like to think of it as a car trip, without having to drive or worry about gas, bathroom stops or traffic. It takes a bit, but the rails go through some gorgeous areas up the east coast. The trains themselves are very comfortable. each seat has two outlets. The seats have tray tables just like an airplane. Every car has two bathrooms, trash cans, and a water fountain. There is an (overpriced) snack car as well as a quiet car for those not traveling with loud three year olds. Some rails, including ours, have limited wifi. It won't stream Netflix or download files but you can browse facebook, email, and whatnot. I also LOVE the train's baggage policies. Every person is allowed 2 bags up to 50lb EACH*- at no additional charge. They also let you bring a baby item for under two travelers, on top of your normal bags. Add the fact that Customer Service is amazing, fast and incredibly helpful when your bank is being a big pain in the butt? I like Amtrak- check them out!

Since we've made this trip several times, I like to think I am a Toddler Train Travel expert. But really I just lucked out with my kid. She doesn't mind sitting still for long periods of time. A single activity can keep her entertained for a long time and she can sleep anywhere. If her legs do ever need a stretch, there is a short layover in DC (same train, they just switch the engines from diesel to electric) and she can run like a wild woman up and down the cars. When she is older, we can even venture inside the station for the layover, but I don't like having to chase her all over with hundreds of strangers milling around. (Seriously, The DC train station is always PACKED. No matter what time of day we go through.)

This year is the first year I will be making Chucky Sue carry any of her own things. Last year I wore a sling and carried her onto the train, as well as carrying all the bags- she hasn't gained much in a year but enough to make the thought of strapping her to my back unpleasant. She has been practicing wearing her tiny backpack that I filled with her toys and loveys. This year there will be NO toys in my "carry on" bag. That is a huge development! The only "Chucky Sue" things in my bag are a change of clothes, her pull-ups and a coloring book that was too tall to fit in her bag. (though on second though I will probably end up carrying the all important Butterfly Blanket; for if we lose that, there is no hope for this trip to be a success.)

Chucky Sue wakes up each morning asking if the Train has "opened" so she can visit her Nonie. I am excited to be able have some summer fun with my kid and parents. The memories my parents made with me during my childhood summers are some of my favorite and most clear- I hope to be able to give Chucky Sue the same thing!

*problem is, Charlie can barely carry more than a 1lb before complaining that it's too "hebby" for her. lightweight!