No denying that there is something magical about kids and train travel. For years, my 8-year-old has been nagging me about riding a train. To me, the process seemed so complicated and stressful (maybe even more so than flying), but I finally caved last month and booked our family a vacation to Jefferson City, Missouri by Amtrak Train. But is train travel with the family worth it?

Why you should take your family on an Amtrak train travel adventure. Photo: Becky Davenport, Budget Traveling Mom

Why you should take your family on an Amtrak train travel adventure. Photo: Becky Davenport, Budget Traveling Mom

 

Train Travel with Family

The idea of traveling by train seemed so nerve-wracking to me. How was it possible that I can fly across country, but stepping on a train seemed like a daunting task? With the support of my fiance (or his convincing me),  I made my 8-year-old’s dreams come true. We booked a small train trip from Kirkwood, Missouri to Jefferson City, Missouri with Amtrak.

All Aboard Amtrak Train

All aboard the family train travel adventure on Amtrak. Photo: Becky Davenport, Budget Traveling Mom

I seriously thought this would be the most complicated trip ever, but to my surprise the Amtrak schedule was extremely easy to work with and very family friendly.

Just hours before time to leave, I looked down at my tickets and realized either Amtrak or I had made a huge error on booking – the tickets said that my fiancé and I were the children and our kids were the adults. While no big deal booking wise, I was not sure they would let me on the train claiming I was a child. I phoned the customer service number, and within seconds the representative had my tickets corrected and emailed back to me. Deep breath, that was too simple and stress free!

We arrived at Kirkwood, Missouri – about an hour drive from my home – only to discover there was no parking at the train station – ugh! I decided I would go in the small station and ask the front desk. Upon entering the building, I discovered the station was manned completely by volunteers who are overly excited to have families traveling by train (especially from their station).

I explained to the man my parking situation. His response was: “Oh, this is no big deal. We have free parking available. Let me give you a map and a slip for your car.”

Seriously, free parking?  The last time I traveled by plane I paid more in parking than I did for my plane ticket. This is really being too good to be true. (NOTE: Unfortunately, not all train stations offer free parking! Please check with your departure station on parking options before checking in.)

All Aboard: Stress Free Amtrak Train Travel

Car parked, bags ready, the train station attendant informs us that our train, the Missouri River Runner,  was moments away. Oh the nerves were high, this was about to happen, we were boarding that train, there was no turning back.  The train arrived the conductor stepped off, we handed him our tickets, and our chubby little cheeks were beaming with excitement as we boarded that train.  It was a total “Polar Express” moment, only without the snow, Santa Clause, and Tom Hanks.

Situated in our seats, the 8-year-old discovered all the amazing scenery that Missouri has to offer: “Mom, we don’t see those things by car!”

Electronics welcome on Amtrak with plug and play stations. Photo: Becky Davenport, Budget Traveling Mom

Electronics welcome on Amtrak with plug and play stations. Photo: Becky Davenport, Budget Traveling Mom

The 12-year-old discovered that Amtrak is way better than traveling by plane, because she could charge her electronics, use their Wi-Fi, and still chat with her friends while she was away from home.

The fiancé and I decided this was amazing because we had two smiling faces and we were making memories that would last for a lifetime.

Three short stops later, we arrived at Jefferson City, Missouri , grabbed our bags from the overhead, and departed the train car.  The conductor said his farewell to us. On the platform, local law enforcement were present to ensure safety of travelers, and the Jefferson City Station volunteers offered assistance to passengers with their travel needs.

Traveling with Amtrak turned out to be simpler than taking a three hour road trip with my two kids. Why did we not do this sooner? Before even leaving Jefferson City to return home, we were already planning our next train adventure.

Amtrak Train Travel – Is It Worth Taking the Family?

Since returning from our short train trip, I have been bombarded with questions. Excitement and curiosity surround the topic of train travel — and lots of questions!

Was the trip expensive?

Actually, no – our tickets with Amtrak cost $104 round trip for a family of 4 – that is equivalent to 4 tanks of gas in my Ford Escape.

Can you move around on the train?

Yes, Amtrak has a dining car, in-car restroom facilities, and they allow you to move around as needed.  The 8-year-old says the dining car food is way better than any snacks mom could pack. I will add the glass of wine on my ride home was perfection!

Who took your family picture on the train?

Stress free evening departure on Amtrak family train travel adventure. Photo: Becky Davenport, Budget Traveling Mom

Stress free evening departure on Amtrak family train travel adventure. Photo: Becky Davenport, Budget Traveling Mom

I shared over social media a cute photo that the conductor snapped for us.  I found Amtrak’s staff to be very friendly and family oriented – they had the time to sit down and talk to you – which made the trip so fun and educational.

Were there creepy people on the train?

HaHa!  No there was not.  I was probably the creepiest person on the train, snapping selfies with my kids and fiancé.

Was the train dirty?

NOPE!  I actually thought the train was cleaner than the last plane I flew on – they had little liners on the seats that protected you from spreading germs (or head lice).

What did you do with your bags after you check out of the hotel?

Good question! We traveled with backpacks as I was prepared to carry my bag all day (I dreaded this).  I booked a room at the DoubleTree in Jefferson City, Missouri for our stay. Moments before hotel checkout, I called customer service to check if the hotel would hold our bags while we roamed the city.  The hotel was excited to help us out and even served us warm cookies for our walk around the city. When we returned to the hotel, we were given more cookies for the train ride — and yes, this was a hit with the kids!

Would you recommend train travel for all ages of kids?

Yes, because of the power outlets for the electronics, even tweens and teens will enjoy their ride.  The small children will love the excitement of train, as all moms know there are dozens of kids’ series and movies based around trains.  I do, however, suggest starting small and going big. Check the Amtrak schedule and test your family with just an overnight train trip. Then if you really enjoy it, plan a longer train adventure.

Riding the Amtrak Train - Taking the Family