Tips for Traveling with Kids on Amtrak

Tips for Traveling with Kids on Amtrak

California Zephyr

If you’ve decided to skip the traffic of the highways and long lines at the airports for your next family vacation, you’re smart. In fact, Amtrak even offers a 50% discount off train travel for your kids to make the decision even easier.

So if you’ve got the snacks, stroller, and stuffed animals packed, let us give you some last-minute expert advice. Here’s some important tips to remember when traveling with kids on Amtrak.

1. Know Your Reservation
If you’re just taking a quick day trip, you’ll likely have a coach reservation. This means you and your little ones can sit anywhere on the train. At some of our busiest stations, where customers queue on the platform, Amtrak staffers will ask passengers needing assistance and those with small children board first. Take advantage of this so you can sit together. If you’re going on a longer trip and have booked a sleeper car, your meals are included and juice, tea/coffee and water are always available to you. Go here for more information about our sleeper cars.

2. Lend a Hand

You don’t have to stay in your seat the whole time! Older kids think this is awesome, but little ones need an adult guiding them through the aisles to ensure they stay upright. Also, shoes are required at all times for everyone’s safety. This also improves balance and grip when moving around the train. If you’re traveling with kids on a long distance trip, bring a comfortable pair of shoes that your tiny travelers won’t mind wearing.

3. Listen for the Horns
Part of the magic of traveling by train (for those young and old) is the iconic “choo-choo” sound. Kids love hearing train horns, and our engineers love sounding them. Prep your kids for the sound before they board for their trip. It will quickly become a fun game to listen out for the horn and “choo-choo” along with it. As a side note: If you’re traveling overnight or during your child’s nap time, be prepared for the horn to sound in the background. For most kids, this fades into the background early in the trip.

Kids on train4. Pack Snacks & Games
There’s tons to see outside of the train windows, and your kids will love watching the scenery whiz by. One mom even said her kids totally ignored their tablets during her trip. Wow! Just in case, though, come prepared with snacks and entertainment. Before you leave home, download a train-themed movie for your little ones to watch while they ride the real thing!

5. Take Potty Breaks Anytime
Each train car has at least one bathroom, and most are equipped with a diaper station. So forget the hassle of pulling off at a rest stop, and enjoy the freedom of potty breaks anytime! If you have older kids who can go by themselves, there’s a trick to knowing whether the facilities are occupied. A light will illuminate when the restroom is being used and go out when it’s empty.

6. Arrive Early
Our staff is happy to help you and your family. Arrive at your station about 30 minutes ahead of time so you can get settled, snap some pics and watch the train pull in. Before leaving for the station, make sure to download our app for iPhone and Android phones and check your train’s status. If your kids are really curious, you can even access our live train map and track where your train is. It’s pretty cool, we have to admit.

7. Bring a Stroller for Free

Like turtle doves or your favorite shoes, your carry-on baggage should come in twos. Each bag can weigh up to 50 lbs. Please see an Amtrak agent or one of our (free!) Red Caps to help you check your additional bags. If you’re traveling with infants under the age of two, you’re also allowed items like strollers or diaper bags that will not count toward the carry-on limit.

Where are you going with your little ones? Tell us in the comments below!

Read More All Aboard!: Kids Travel at Half Price & Other Tips for Cheap Tickets




I am wondering about carrying on a car seat... I am visiting a place for a few days and my 3 year old needs a car seat and my 5 year old a booster; how does that work??

Paul Everett Vinson
Paul Everett Vinson

My first railway journey was at the age of 8 months. I travelled in a Pullman sleeper with my mother out of Houston on the original streamlined "Texas Eagle" in the 1950's. So, I started as an infant train traveller.


Unfortunately, this has not been my experience. I am up in the middle of the night fretting about our next trip because it was so difficult and dangerous to get our one year old twins on and off the train. I was forced to board last, offered no help or advice as to how to safely get two barely-walkers and the tiny stroller they need up the stairs without leaving one of them dangerously stranded on the platform or in an open car. When trying to leave the train I was stranded on the empty car and told there was no way to get them down until a brave employee carried them dangerously down the stairs in their stroller so we could finally go home. They are not yet big enough to sit in seats by themselves safely. But there is no way to keep them in their stroller or car seats because the accessible spots are filled with baggage and we are not permitted to reserve one since we lack certification. I don't understand why this has to be so hard. I really don't want to buy a second car when there's a perfectly good train.


@Rwollen That sounds like a terrible experience!  I am so sorry.  I hope this is not typical and you are able to enjoy your next trip. 

As for getting help, sometimes you just have to wave your arms and bring attention to yourself.  I have found that often the train car attendants and folks working on the platform are always happy to help, but don't always recognize that I need that help. Grab someone, and explain what you need.  If you are going to be doing a lot of train travel with twin babies Id look into getting a CARES harness. They are designed for use on an airplane, but will work with train seats also, fit in your pocket or diaper bag and can be used to attach a harness similar to a car seat harness to the adult seat.  Our baby carrier backpack always comes in handy on the train when im trying to get kids and stuff up those little stair cases.   
On our last trip (just a few days ago!) there was a family who had their babies car seats attached to the train seat by way of tie down strap (through the carseat belt path and around the back of the seat!). I think if I were traveling alone with an infant Id do that next time!