We love everything about traveling around Europe by train. We love the simplicity of train travel and we love being able to see the countryside at our own pace.
On previous trips to Europe, we put together loose itineraries but rarely made reservations ahead of time, unless we required a fast train or long-haul/overnight train. But traveling with a baby requires better planning, so we made sure our most recent trip to Europe was organized prior to arriving.
Fortunately for us, this time around we partnered with Rail Europe and they took care of our reservations (and we are very grateful for that!). We’ve used Rail Europe train passes before, so we were familiar with the process. However, this was the first time traveling by train with Baby B (this year has been filled with firsts!), so we were unsure how he would react to spending hours on a train. We’re happy to report that he also loved it!
There are many reasons why we prefer train travel to alternative methods of transportation, so we thought it would be helpful to put together a list of reasons why we like traveling around Europe by train with a baby.
1) Traveling By Train With An Infant Means Food and Privacy
Babies need to eat – a lot. Well, at least Baby B does. He’s still breastfed but he also eats rice cereal and pureed fruits and vegetables. I loved that I could easily breastfeed, be discrete and most importantly be comfortable.
To make his hot cereals, most trains are equipped with a bar-buffet car or an attendant, so we were able get hot water. It also meant that we could get coffee, well needed after dealing with baby jet lag.
We had first class tickets, so most of the fast trains came with a meal and beverage service included (at least they did for the breakfast trips that we were on). This may not sound like a big deal, but when you’re spending 40 Swiss Francs for breakfast it certainly helps the travel budget.
2) Passengers are not stuck to one seat
Unlike being confined to your seat on an airplane or car, traveling by train allowed us to get up and move around as we pleased. When Baby B got upset, we walked with him and let him play on the floor.
Many of the trains had several empty seats, so it gave us lots of space to move around. We were traveling with a lot of items – stroller, car seat, luggage, baby bag, food bag – so it was nice to offload our items on a different seat and not feel cramped.
Being on the train also meant that Baby B did not need to be stuck in his car seat. He HATES his car seat and rarely lasts longer than 15 minutes before he freaks out. We actually chose the train over a car pick-up by a family member. The thought of a 2 hour drive from Luxembourg City to Reil, Germany made us very nervous, so we passed on the generous offer and opted for the train instead.
3) See the countryside and stop at different train stations
Baby B loved to snuggle up to one of us and look out the window to watch the countryside pass by. The movement kept him interested and it had a calming effect on him – he often fell asleep once the train got moving.
Time seemed to fly by as we passed through vineyards, open fields, mountains and centuries old villages. Had we not been on a train, we never would have seen these places and we would not have enjoyed the journey as much.
4) No maps, no parking, no stress
We sometimes make the mistake of only comparing train travel to airplane flights; when in reality, renting a car is another viable transportation option.
However, we don’t like fumbling over road maps while trying to decipher street signs that are written in foreign languages. Securing a parking spot in European cities can also be a challenge and parking can be very costly, so the thought of departing and arriving from a centrally located station is quite appealing (most hotels in Europe are located within walking distance to a train station).
Trains are also a heck of a lot faster and don’t require you to stop for fuel.
5) Trains can be faster than planes (and more convenient)
On the surface, flying from one European city to another seems like a faster option. But in reality, when you factor in the time it takes to travel to the airport, clear security, wait to board the flight, air time, offload the aircraft, baggage claim, and travel to the next hotel, it can often take much longer than originally planned.
Sure, the flight time is only an hour, but it takes 5-6 hours of travel time go from hotel door to hotel door. This is a big deal when you’re trying to plan around baby’s nap time.
Most of the hotels we stayed at were located within minutes of the central train station, which saved us a lot of time, money and headache. Traveling with a baby can be frustrating at times, so eliminating unnecessary stress is well worth it.
Let me tell you, trying to secure a baby car seat in a taxi is not fun during a European heat wave!
On train travel days, we would wait until 45 minutes before departure time before leaving our hotel room. This gave Baby B more time to roll around and play in the comforts of the hotel room. It rarely took longer than 30 minutes to exit the hotel, walk to the train station, board the train and find our seats – leaving us 15 minutes to spare.
6) Trains are often cheaper than planes (and car rentals)
Europe is known for cheap airlines. However, when you factor in all the extra costs, it can add up quickly. Taxis and extra baggage fees can quickly tip the scale and make that cheap flight not so attractive, especially if you have to purchase a seat for baby or pay the additional fees for the stroller and car seat.
We made this rookie mistake the last time we were in Europe. Rather than look at the TOTAL cost (we had to stay at an expensive airport hotel one night), we only compared the ticket prices. This is not always the best approach, so make sure you find out what airports these discount carriers depart from.
Or, consider taking the train.
7) Change travel plans easily, without penalty
This recent trip to Europe had multiple occasions where travel plans needed to change. Nothing major, but we needed to adjust departure times to accommodate changes in our itinerary. Babies don’t always follow the game plan, so flexibility is very important.
Because we had the Eurail Global pass, we didn’t need to worry about anything. As long as the train did not require a reservation, we simply took whatever train we wanted.
There were no additional costs for changing trains, no phone calls or cancellation procedures, no hassle.
8) No airport security
We saved the best for last. There’s no sense in sugar coating it – airport security sucks!
Now, take that awful experience that you’ve sadly become familiar with and amplify it 10 times – that’s how much airport security sucks when you’re traveling with a baby.
Security staff wants everything put through the x-ray machine, which means we had to take all of Baby B’s items out of the stroller basket, fold up the stroller and place it nicely on the belt, all while holding him and taking off our shoes, belt and personal items. Then, after we passed through the metal detector, our items piled up at the other end, with the next passenger’s items quickly following.
Of course, the other passengers give us the evil eye, like we’re purposely trying to inconvenience them. It just sucks – and we have yet to come across a helpful security agent that likes their job.
Train travel is a much different experience. Having no security meant we boarded the train within minutes – no hassle, no stress – perfect for baby travel.