Choo choo! Trains with Toddler

In March 2017, we sadly said goodbye to my Uncle. While he had been sick with emphysema, his passing was both a sad yet peaceful one. Shortly after his passing, my husband had to travel for work, before we had news of the funeral. As a result, I found myself needing to travel to attend a funeral in Montreal with my daughter by myself.
Have I mentioned how much my child hates car rides? Since she was about 6 weeks old, she has spent many car rides crying and screaming. She doesn’t always do this, but when she does, it can be very stressful and tiring (for BOTH of us). As with many children, trains have been the source of awe and inspiration for my child for a long time. So, when it came to choosing whether to drive or take the train, we chose to train in.
Mind you, there are some specific challenges to travelling with a 2 year old on a VIA rail train across a portion of Canada alone. Firstly, we needed to bring our car seat, because she would need one for the car when we got to the other end. Further, we were going to have a transfer at Union station in Toronto, so everything had to be easy enough to move on my own, while holding baby (if at all possible). Still, the benefits of being able to focus all of my attention on little one while we meandered to our destination was more than worth it.
Here are the benefits and drawbacks to long train trips with a toddler, (in my humble opinion):
Benefit 1: Trains are exciting to kids. Seeing them approach and then climbing on and watching the scenery move is also a nice experience.
Drawback: the excitement and novelty wears off after about 10 minutes. Then there are the other 6 hours to figure out what to do…


Benefit 2: In the event of a tantrum, it is very easy to find a distraction and provide soothing. Plus, the staff on the train do everything in their ability to help (I’m pretty sure they just didn’t want to ruin the ride for the other passengers, but whatever).
Drawback: It’s not a relaxing trip like it would be when travelling on your own. I was constantly playing, entertaining, distracting and following up the aisles. I was less tired than if I had been in a car with a crying child for 7 hours, though.
Benefit 3: You can request assistance at stopovers to aid with your luggage and car seat.
Drawback: if it’s not a direct transfer (it often isn’t), they will presume you will then keep your luggage (and yourself) in one spot while you wait for the next loading time. Unfortunately, with a toddler, sitting in one spot for 2 hours was NOT going to be possible. I convinced the baggage handling station to hold onto our car seat until we were ready to board.


Benefit 4: Sometimes your child will fall asleep long enough for you to order a beer and start to drink it.
Drawback: Sometimes your child will wake up 2 minutes after you’ve received said beer and want to play. But drinking that beer would not have been possible if I had driven down!
To train with toddler, or not to train?
All in all, taking the train was a peaceful experience. There were times, especially on the trip home (when the novelty of the train had worn off), that 2 year old tantrums abounded. But, overall, the train was painless, though a little stressful with luggage and car seats and keeping a human alive. The benefit of the car would have been loading all those things up and not having to unload them until we reached our destination. I would probably do that trip again if a car seat were not required.