10 tips & tricks for using public transportation with your baby

Back in January the three of us visited family who lives about 1,5 hour away by train. Great weekend, but getting there and back was not an enjoyment. We don’t own a car and though we’ve often talked about it, it’s not something we’re planning on buying in the near future. But when we do contemplate it, it’s on occasions like these, where we visit family or friends that live outside the city and nearby suburbs.

We live pretty central in Copenhagen and like most “copenhagernes” we usually walk everywhere or ride our bikes (when Eva is not with us. We don’t own a cargobike either and she’s not big enough for a bike seat yet). It’s easy and very convenient and on the plus side we get some fresh(ish) air and some exercise. When we on occasion don’t feel like walking or we estimate that walking a certain distance will take too long we just go by train or bus. Usually the busses leave every 3-10 minutes and the trains every 5-10 minutes, so getting out the door a few minutes later than expected doesn’t throw of the whole day. It’s so convenient and we’re rarely late despite having to bring Eva along.

It sounds nice and easy, right, and it actually really is. That is however until we have to visit friends and family that live outside the city. Then we have to really plan ahead and to be honest that’s not our strong side. And with unknown denominators like “does the elevator at the trainstation work” or “will Eva fill her diaper with what use to be her breakfast just as we’re locking the door” it can be quite stressful. Especially if you’re use to be able to leave whenever you’re ready – and not when the clock tells you to. I’m guessing that’s why so many people have cars but with a public transportation system that works this well (at least by international standards) it’s not a necessity for us in everyday life. Plus cars are so expensive!

We did make it on time this particular weekend, but just barely. We had to storm out the door, my hair still wet (and it was below freezing point) and almost forgetting half our stuff. After that weekend we’ve learned a lesson or two about travelling with public transportation with a baby, and the last time we visited the same family members as in January, getting there and back was such a breeze. I therefore decided to share some of the things we’ve learned. I mean, we can’t be the only new parents that has to learn all over how to use public transportion when bringing their baby along?

The top 10 things we’ve learned about using public transportion with a baby

This is what we’ve learned in the last 9 months:

  1. Pack in advance. Always pack in advance (the day before would be preferable if you’re going away for a few days) and get everything ready before you sit down to drink that cup of coffee that you’ve been craving ever since you woke up. 
  2. Bring a happy baby. Well, at least try your best at keeping him/her happy by meeting the basics needs. An easy baby to bring along is a baby that has been fed, changed and is perhaps even sleeping. If your baby is like ours and won’t sleep on the train or bus no matter what (it’s just too exciting) then try and leave when he or she would normally be up and about. And remember to bring along a lot of snacks, some toys and your full attention.
  3. Use a baby carrier whenever possible. If you don’t need a pram or stroller and you own a wrap, sling or any other baby carrierer use this instead. It’s so much easier getting around, especially in rush hour and you don’t have to find the always well hidden elevator. Plus you have your hands free (use a back pack as your diaper bag), don’t take up a lot of space and if your baby gets fussy it’s so much easier to handle.
  4. Check the weather. Snow means everything is slippery and that trains or busses might be delayed and rain often means more people are likely to take the buss (at least in Denmark where every one rides their bike), so add 15 more minutes to the plan,
  5. Know your intiniary and have a back-up plan. Make sure you know your fares and itinirary; when and where to transfer, how long to wait, how long to walk and so on. And if possible always have a back-up train/bus (especially during rush hour). It can really relieve some of the stress of running late.
  6. If you need help, ask. People are usually willing to help, but they need to be asked first (at least in Denmark). If you’re fx having a hard time getting the stroller in and out of the train, ask someone if they could help you. The worst they can do is refuse, but that’s never happened to me. In my experience people will gladly help, but of course don’t ask the old lady with her walker to help you lift your pram.
  7. Check to see if there’s a special pram carriage on the train/metro. If using a pram or stroller always check if there’s a special carriage for prams (and bikes) so you don’t have to carry it up the stairs in the train (especially important if your baby is sleeping and you don’t want her/him to wake up. And yes, we’re talking out of experience),
  8. Use a foldable stroller. Remember that using a pram or stroller takes up a lot of space, so it might be a good idea to invest in a stroller/pram that folds up easily like the umbrella kind. It’s not an requirement to fold your pram or stroller in the busses in Denmark, but I’ve heard from friends who’s been travelling with their baby, that it is a requirement many places outside of Europe.
  9. Don’t leave home in a rush if you can avoid it. Plan to leave at  least 15 minutes earlier than you really have to so there is time for the unexpected diaper change or an elevator that doesn’t work. And take your time to double check that you’ve locked the door and turned the coffeemaker off, as you’ll not have time to go back and make sure it’s done. And if you’re like me it will probably nag you in the back of your mind the entire time you’re away and until you’re home again (this sadly happens to me way to often).
  10. Don’t stress. Even if you’re behind schedule or the bus is delayed. It just makes everything worse and your baby will pick up on it. If your baby is crying, try and comfort him/her the best you can, but try not to think too much about what other people are thinking. As long as you are doing the best you can, there isn’t much else you can do. I do find that talking out loud to Eva helps me deal with the situation aswell as signaling to the other passangers that you’re dealing with the situation the best you can. I’ll say things like “I know you are tired, but we’ll be home soon. It’s been a long day, but you are doing so great”. It might not always be helping Eva, but it’s helping me to unwind a bit.
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Waiting for the train in the snow. Eva was luckily asleep, but woke up just seconds later wanting to get up…

On that particular weekend in January we had Eva in her pram. Usually we would have prefered having her in a wrap or carrier, as getting on and off with a pram can be quite the challenge, especially in rush hour (though it is doable). This time however we needed the pram for her to sleep in – both for her naptimes, but also for the night as we’d decided to spend the night. And having to bring the pram along made our plan much more vulnerable for changes. Just on the way back we experienced not one, but two elevators that didn’t work and we had to use the escalators instead. Luckily we had to go up and not down!

Despite the challenges we’re still not getting a car just yet though we might change our minds when we decide to have more children. But right now we don’t need it in everyday life. We both use our bikes to get to and from work and most things are in walking distance. And though it seems that a car will give us more freedom I think we both prefer the exercise to the convenience. Even when it’s raining or snowing.

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