Adventures with Baby – Amtrak to Washington DC

Nick and I love to travel, and we are doing our best to keep this up even with Caleb in tow. Not long after he was born we both got the itch to go somewhere. About 6 weeks after my c-section I was feeling a million times better, and we decided to book our first trip a couple weeks out.

Method of Transportation – Amtrak from Cary, North Carolina to Washington DC (about 6.5 hours on the train) T

rip Length – 3 days, 2 nights

Child’s Age – 2 months

Season – Early May

1. Stroller w/ Infant Carrier Car seat – This was our most important item. Caleb rode all over the city in this thing. We also would have needed the car seat if we had traveled in a cab. We checked the stroller when we got to the train station, and picked it up when we arrived.

2. Travel Medicine Bag – This is my “just in case” bag. Thermometer, diaper cream, baby Tylenol, bulb syringe, gripe water, nail clippers, etc.

3. 6 onesies/rompers/outfits– We brought so many clothes, and didn’t really need them. We did have one diaper blowout that required a change of clothes, but otherwise we only needed one per day, which is typical of a day at home as well. Being a new mom I was terrified of running out of clean clothes, so we probably had twice this many.

4. Diapers and Wipes – I brought way too many of these too, but I prefer to have more than enough of essentials like this. We could have bought more if we ran out, but we knew we wouldn’t have a car and I didn’t have any idea what kind of stores would be close by. I like this travel pouch of wipes. It is bigger than my regular diaper bag case, but not as big as the box I keep at home. I have also discovered that even though it isn’t marketed as reusable, we have filled it several times for various trips. The flexible packaging also makes it easy to pack.

5. Diaper Bag – I got this diaper bag pre-baby, and once he arrived I decided I didn’t like it. The messenger flap made it too hard to get stuff out while I was wearing it. But, for trips where we rely on the stroller it is perfect!

6. Large Rolling Suitcase – We packed everything we needed in one suitcase (plus Nick’s backpack and the diaper bag). This made walking to the hotel possible. If we had had too many bags we would have needed a cab.

7. Blankets – We used these Aden & Anias blankets throughout the trip. They are super soft and cozy in the stroller, and I like that they are thin so you can customize how warm the blanket is by folding it (flat when it is warmer, folded once or twice for when it is colder). They also make great nursing (or pumping) covers.

8. Boba Wrap (or a similar wrap style carrier) – Caleb spent almost the entire trip in this carrier, especially on the train. It would have been amazing if I had known how to nurse with him in this carrier.

9. White Noise – Caleb has always slept in his own room, and we had no idea how noisy he was while he was sleeping until this trip! We shared a hotel room, and I didn’t sleep at all the entire time because I heard every tiny noise he made. If you are used to this already, this may not apply to you, but I wish we had brought our white noise maker! We use a iPod and docking station that plays playlists made up of crashing wave tracks.

10. Manual Pump – I used this during most of the trip so that I didn’t have to lug my double electric through the city. It is small and fits well in the diaper bag. I pumped while Mr. Lion fed LL during most of the trip. I seriously wish we could have avoided this process as it was such a pain, but it was much easier than carrying around the pillows that I needed at the time to be able to nurse efficiently.

11. Bottle Brush – At the time of this trip I was still having trouble nursing, especially in public, so we relied a lot on bottles when we were away from home. Unfortunately I forgot to bring a bottle brush, and spent a ton of time trying to clean bottles with paper towels. They never got quite as clean as I wanted them to, and I got frustrated in the process.

What Went Well –

Caleb was the perfect age for this trip! He was still very sleepy, so he spent almost all of his time in the stroller or wrap snoozing. Nick and I were able to get out of town and feel like ourselves again with minimal disruption to Caleb’s day. He won’t be old enough to really enjoy the DC experience for quite some time, and it was a place that Nick and I had never traveled as adults, so we got to see some non-baby related things that we were interested in.  It helped us break out of the newborn fog, and also gave us some confidence early on that travel would be still be possible!

Taking Amtrak was awesome! 6.5 hours is the perfect distance to make taking the train worth the expense, especially when going to a place that has public transportation. With Caleb eating so often, it would have taken foreeeeeeeever if we had driven, plus we would have had to deal with driving/parking in DC. We are suburban folk, and city traffic makes both of us nervous. We were able to avoid that stress. Flying would have been a bigger hassle and too expensive for us, so this was a nice compromise. Parking is free at the train station, and we are lucky to have one about 10 minutes from our home.

The actual experience of being on the train was also wonderful. They have Wi-Fi and outlets at every seat, so we were able to use the iPad and laptop to stay busy. Caleb slept pretty much the entire time, either in the wrap or car seat. We splurged on business class so that we would have a bit more leg room. While he was in his car seat we were able to put it by our feet, but when he was in the wrap we were able to keep it in the storage area above.

City view from our hotel room

We stayed at a hotel within walking distance of Union Station, so when we got off the train it was easy to get there. They had pack and plays available, and it was set up for us, with sheets, when we arrived. After we checked in, we unpacked some, and then were able to head out to the National Mall, which was also walking distance away. The only time we needed to take the Metro was to get to the National Zoo, although taking it was one of the highlights for me! I get so excited about public transportation. 🙂

Checking out the animals at the National Zoo (Caleb is very interested, can you tell?)

An added bonus to this trip was that, once we were there, everything except our meals was free! There was so much to do and see and we didn’t have to pay for admission to any of it. And since we didn’t have to purchase tickets to anything in advance, we were able to take our time and go with the flow.

What Didn’t Go Well –

Unfortunately, we didn’t get the memo about calling the train station or checking online to see if departure was delayed. We arrived at the train station bright and early, only to discover that they were about 2 hours behind. We were able to go get breakfast during that time, but we could have used the extra sleep had we known!

Changing diapers on the train was pretty tricky. The bathrooms on Amtrak are not stellar, and they are very small. There were not any changing facilities that I could find. We ended up changing him in our lap, which for the most part was fine because he was so small. This would be a challenge with a baby who is more wiggly. Do-able, but difficult.

The food on the train was not good. I would definitely recommend bringing food with you. We did go down to the dining car for the experience, but the food available was overpriced and totally not worth it.

Once we got to the city we seriously underestimated the amount of time it would take to do just about everything. Because we were delayed, we got there later than we expected, but we still wanted to see the monuments. We knew that the second night we would be completely exhausted by dinner time, and I wanted to see the FDR at night. Since all of the monuments are fairly close together on the opposite end of the mall from where our hotel was, we set out to see all of them that first night.

This was not possible, and we almost killed ourselves trying. It also started getting colder outside than we expected, and Caleb was not dressed in enough layers. We probably should have taken a cab from the hotel to the other end of the Mall instead of walking. This would have saved us a couple hours, and we would have been able to see more. If we hadn’t been delayed we probably wouldn’t have had a problem. We ended up not getting back to the hotel until close to 10pm, which for us was very late.

Stopping to enjoy the pretty day and feed LL

Overall this was a great trip! Although exhausting, we came back refreshed and feeling alive again. We didn’t see even half of what we wanted to see while we were there, but it was good for us to learn early that doing things with baby is not quite the same as without. We are so glad that we are still able to do the things we love, even if it is different now!

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