Yeah, I have to admit, when my husband suggested Amtrak as a legitimate travel option for us and the twins (NM to MI) I thought he was a crazy man. But it really wasn’t that bad.
We left our house and drove to Albuquerque in time for our 12:15 train to Chicago on Sunday. A friend picked us up at airport parking and dropped us off at the train station. We checked two suitcases and our carseats and carried a small suitcase and a diaper bag on the train. We got the smallest sleeper car available and hung out and held babies for 26 hours while our train chugged across the country.
And it really wasn’t bad at all. There were almost zero meltdowns. I slept on the top bunk with Clara and Jed took the bottom with Cormac. When Cormac woke to eat we switched babies. And then a few hours later, we switched again. It went well, except that four people in about 20 square feet of space gets hot and stuffy – especially on the top bunk.
•Pack light. Like really really light.
•Baby wear. Your arms will be free and you can walk around to get a grouchy baby to nap.
•Make friends. People love to tell their children to stop yelling or the baby will wake up. It’s nice to have quiet train cars because nobody wants to make the twins grouchy.
•Sleeper car. Having a private space is soooo worth the extra money. It’s like a road trip with no carseats and someone else driving. Clara loved the windows.
•Observation car. Don’t stay cooped up the whole time. You can go to public spaces and let your babies wiggle a bit more – just check under chairs and seats for quarters and skittles and other train detritus.
The train was kind of fun. Cormac is terrified of the transition from car to car, but excluding that, it was a breeze.
Amtrak has a bunch if different discounts, like student, military, AAA, etc. Like airlines, a baby on your lap is free.
When we got to Chicago, we got our checked bags and carseats, hopped in a cab and met a guy to get our rental car. This was actually a big leap into adventure land because we rented through a company called Relay Rides. It’s a person to person car rental service. We rented a 2010 Nissan Altima for $238 for a full week. That was over $100 less than the cheapest typical rental we could find. Our rental experience isn’t over yet, but so far so good.
Relay Rides tips
•Start looking well in advance. It’s a personal service, and people are flaky, so you want to make sure you have plenty of time to find the right car.
•Communicate with potential car renters. Not all the cars online are actually available to rent and communication will let you know whether the owner is actually checking their account.
•Look up cars online to make sure that they are big enough, have room for all passengers, etc.
•Bring your own carseats. This can suck (checking carseats on planes and trains isn’t recommended by CPSTs), but I’d rather travel with my own carseat than borrow from a stranger, if that was even an option. If your budget allowed, you could even buy a carseat at your destination, but we are pretty broke, so this was the best option for us.
•Always look for dents, rips in upholstery, etc. Like any car rental, make sure that any imperfections are documented prior to your departure.
The Mommy Dialogues retreat is on Saturday, and then we fly out on Monday. I’ll let you know about the rest of our adventure next week.