There’s always a sort of poetry in train travel presented in novels and memoirs, documentary films and dark comedies. I had been looking forward to my train journeys through the United Kingdom: to watch the hills flow like waves; to watch the castles rise from mediaeval rubble; to count sheep as the vibrations of the locomotive lulled me to sleep. But with kids there was no sinking into the rhythm of the hills; no enjoying castles; endless kilometers of uncounted sheep. The journey was fine. The kids, for the most part, were good, too. It was the luggage. The luggage was awful, especially when we had six train trips in nine days and every other leg had, on average, one connection.
We didn’t have much luggage. Just a stroller, one car seat, one Snap ‘n Go combination stroller/car-seat, a suitcase, a rucksack, a small backpack, and a purse. With backpacks worn and items piled onto strollers, it usually required me to make three trips from train to platform.
But the whole routine of getting the luggage on and off was physically and mentally exhausting. I always began with the thought: what if the train pulls away while I’m still on the platform grabbing the last set of bags and my family’s inside? When I actually boarded the train, I’d spend a good twenty minutes folding up the strollers, stuffing bags into the luggage compartment, and standing stupidly for another ten minutes without a place to put the car seat. By the time I stowed the luggage and sat down, it was usually time to take everything off the shelf, reassemble the strollers, and plan for disembarkation. We’d then race across the station, find our transfer, and again I’d be confronted with the task and fear censure from my wife: “I never want to travel like this again.”
Considering what we put the kids through, they were impressive: my eldest daughter colored and fell back in love with Sesame Street; our baby napped. Sure there were tantrums in the aisles–usually the toddler, but on occasion, I couldn’t resist–and the incident of the projectile vomit. But there were a few sheep where the hills rolled and the castles towered, too, which I finally enjoyed after I got the hang of the system. And of course there were headphones for when my wife told me how she never wanted to travel like this again.