Traveling by train can be both an economical and beautiful way to experience different areas.
There’s no reason to have to leave the children at home when you’re planning a train trip.
When you are traveling with infants, finding sanitary, private places to change diapers can be a challenge.
Are there baby changing facilities on a train? For the most part, the bathroom facilities on trains are equipped with baby changing stations. There are also private sleeping room options that cost more than coach seats but offer a level of privacy that traveling in coach doesn’t.
Traveling by train can also provide a low-stress way to travel and allow you to meet fellow travelers from around the world.
Stress levels can be raised if we don’t know what to expect when we get to our chosen mode of transportation, so let’s talk about some ways to handle your infant’s needs.
What Kind of Trains Have Changing Facilities?
Whether you’re traveling cross-country or just across town, your odds of finding a changing station will vary.
Some commuter trains may have accommodations, while others will not. Most long-distance trains will have restrooms and changing stations.
Let’s take a closer look at what you can expect.
Do Commuter Trains Have Bathrooms That I Can Change a Baby In?
Well, that all depends. There are two different types of commuter trains.
The first is the local that makes stops every couple of minutes. These trains typically do not have bathrooms on them.
People who use commuter trains are usually traveling short distances within the same metropolitan area, so the assumption is that you expect to be on and off the train within less than an hour or so.
Because of the fast-moving nature and massive number of people these trains accommodate, on-site bathrooms are not considered a necessity.
These trains also tend to be very crowded, depending on the time of day. If you must change your baby’s diaper when you’re on a local commuter train, your lap is going to be close to your only option.
The second type of commuter train is the high-speed transit between large metropolitan centers.
Take the train between Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, PA for example. These types of trains actually passenger trains that you would use for vacation transit but do not make all of the stops a general train ticket would include.
These commuter trains are usually fitted with restroom facilities, which also typically include a changing station.
What About Diaper Changing on a Cross-Country Train Trip?
There are many benefits to taking a long train trip. Among them, you get to:
- Experience scenery you wouldn’t if you were driving. Trains follow routes that many interstates don’t, which gives you a completely different view of the terrain. (Not to mention that if you’re driving you don’t exactly get to gawk at the things going by the window.).
- Take a bathroom break when you, or your child, needs to – you don’t have to wait to find a rest area, service station, or restaurant. There are also attendants on the train that are there to keep the facilities clean – you don’t get that as much in rest areas.
- Take a stroll to the snack or dining car without losing travel time. Even if you bring your own food on the train for your trip, you would still have to stop to get everything handed out and settled if you were driving.
- Have plenty of family time for games and bonding.
- Walk your infant in safety when you need to offer him some comfort.
What if I Want More Privacy for My Child and Me on Our Train Trip?
Privacy is an option on many trains. As with any other type of travel – airline or cruise liner, for instance – it comes with a higher price tag than reserving in a coach seat.
That said, the higher price tag offers some definite luxuries, which may include:
- Fresh linens
- Meals included
- In-room recliner
- Assigned attendant
- Semi-private bathroom which may include a shower
NOTE: A bathroom can be a lifesaver if you are traveling long distances with one child or more.
Train Accommodation Options for Long-Distance Trips with Children
Depending on the type of train you’re on, Amtrak.com indicates that there may be up to four different options for various levels of these amenities:
- A Roomette. These rooms are for up to two travelers. They have two seats, one on each side of a large window, a bed and an upper pull-down bunk bed. These may or may not have a private toilet, but not a shower.
- A Bedroom. This option can accommodate up to three people, but two would need to share the lower bed. These rooms offer a private bath with shower.
- A Bedroom Suite. The bedroom suite is two adjoined bedrooms offering convenient private group travel for four to six travelers. As this is really two separate bedrooms, this option offers two private baths.
- The Family Bedroom spans the entire width of the car and has two picture windows. The sofa and two comfortable seats convert to beds, and the two upper berths fold down from above. These rooms do not include private baths.
- Accessible Bedroom option. Those needing an Accessible Bedroom can book one of these lower-level rooms, which provide ample space for a wheelchair. They include a private toilet, but not a shower.
Aside from the obvious benefit of being able to lay down on a bed to sleep, another benefit to splurging on your own space is your kids can leave their Lego tower and coloring books in progress without you having to worry about intruding on other travelers’ space.
Sitting in Coach on a Train? What to Do When a Diaper Needs Changing
There are several things you can do when your child’s diaper needs attention. Amazon.com offers several different options:
- A four-in-one diaper bag (Affiliate link) including bassinet and changing pad. You are allowed two carry-ons which would make this an invaluable tote. If your child is under two, your diaper bag doesn’t even count as one of your two allowable carry-ons!
- There are several portable changing pads available that would provide sanitary options for diaper changes.
- Your stroller is allowed on board. It also has the same exemption as your diaper bag. As long as it is under 50 pounds, you are allowed to bring it without counting it as one of your two personal items.
- A blanket you bring from home – just for this purpose – will give you a clean place to lay your infant on the floor when you need to take care of soiled diapers.
- The wheelchair accessible bathroom also has a larger floor that could allow you enough space to care for your baby and to dispose of the soiled diaper.
Tips for Train Travel with a Toddler
Toddlers are natural entertainment for many. While infants may sleep a good part of your journey, your toddler may have a little more energy – and even an outburst or two.
- Accept the kindness of strangers. True, not everyone will be as enamored by your child’s anecdotes as others, but you will find that fellow travelers are kind and helpful when your child needs some extra attention. If someone offers to entertain your child for a bit, and your gut doesn’t clench at the thought, let them give you a bit of respite.
- Amtrak.com offers half-price tickets for children between 2-12. They also offer tips for easing travel for parents who are traveling with children. In addition to the discounted tickets, adults traveling with children are offered pre-boarding to allow for the extra time usually needed to get settled.
- Children love traveling by train. They can get up and stretch their legs; they can look out the window and see all kinds of interesting sights. Remember this when you are feeling stressed. Take a walk. Visit the conductor, if possible. Talk about why there is no caboose!
While toddlers and young children can get a little stir-crazy and have their meltdowns on the road, their ardent sense of adventure is contagious. They bring such joy when you get to experience the journey through their sense of wonder.
Experiencing Travel on a Train with Your Children
Exposing your children to the excitement of exploring new territory teaches them several important life skills like the following two:
- Travel helps children adapt to change and become flexible at a faster rate than other children who aren’t exposed to travel. Children are resilient, and travel helps them develop and exercise this skill.
- Children who get to travel at an early age also quickly learn that although people may look different and may have customs that are not the same as their parents’, they can find common ground with almost anyone. Anywhere. They learn that friends come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and they get to experience life in the classroom of living.