Our Clark Griswold-esque Train Trip to Louisiana

Waiting for Train 59 to arrive.
Waiting for Train 59 to arrive.

Just like in the Steve Goodman song states, we are riding on the City of New Orleans. It’s been a fun slice of spring break for the family to experience travel and history via the underrated phenomenon of train travel.

Anyone who travels with children understands the logistics involved in planning a trip. From time of day to car seat rental to carry on luggage (because you have to carry their packs, too, when they are little) to managing tantrums should they arise. without a doubt, it’s a project. Just planning it is. Then the trip begins.

This spring break we decided to drive a few hours to Kankakee, IL and catch the train there. It’s been 12 years since I took a train trip, but I remember the chaos of a big city train station and chose to forego dragging kids through Chicago’s in order to transfer trains. Besides, Kankakee is in the song and is fun to say.

We cut it close, time wise. I had the app on my phone and the train was on time, though we were slowly getting there with several stops. After stern direction in the car to the kids to do as we say and hold a hand, and a quick strategy on who was getting which kid and which bags, we were on the platform at 9:15 pm just minutes before Train 59 came rolling in from Chicago.

A few minutes to spare on the Kankakee platform.
A few minutes to spare on the Kankakee platform.

The Conductor leaned out hollering, “Sleeper- car here!” And we walked to the end of the platform to board. Pumpkin climbed aboard with Hubs, then up the narrow steps to the second floor whispering excitedly, “It’s a secret passageway!” We sat in our roomettes across from each other.The kids put on some motion sickness wristbands (just in case) and took in the creepy foggy night outside the window before laying down to sleep.

Looking out the window - excited to be aboard.
Looking out the window – excited to be aboard.

Day 1:  success. I recommend sleeper tickets on Amtrak, 1 backpack per person with tablets, chargers, books, cards, toiletries. We brought one small suitcase for everyone’s clothes.

Let your kids explore the bathroom, and laugh about how it’s different and you need to hang on! This will hopefully prevent an upset kid on the toilet when the train is rocking to and fro.

So far the kids find the train like nothing else they’ve experienced: a car, plane, hotel, restaurant, all wrapped into one! We are riding on the City of New Orleans.

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