Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Part 5 - Travelling with Baby K | Train Travel with Baby

When deciding how to travel around Europe we opted for trains for a few reasons, though number 1 was probably our biggest reason:
  1. it saves time when you have to feed and change baby! (no stopping on the side of the road...)
  2. space (okay, so trains are a bit crammed, but we were able to stand and rock Baby K to sleep a few times - thanks to our Baby Bjorn carrier! But also, Baby K had some space to move around and bop around and spend some of her energy instead of being confined to a car seat
  3. ease and accessibility
  4. no navigating on the fly
  5. cost
We definitely appreciated The Man in Seat 61's  website with his tips and ideas. His practical tips and advice helped in the initial planning of our trip.

From there we spent time checking out various train websites: Trenitalia (though portions are in Italian, it is reasonably easy to figure out what everything says), TVG, the Eurostar, and Southern. We were able to pre-book most of our train trips, except for the regional trains (ex. Pompeii to Paestum and Pisa to Venice were considered "regional", but in both of those cases we were able to find the schedule ahead of time and plan accordingly. We did not have any problem getting seats on those trips).

Sadly, while in Bern we discovered that France had "shutdown" for a few days due to striking transportation workers. We were offered tickets on a "standing room only" train to Paris, which would have taken 6 hours. Um, with a 5 month old? No thanks. We unfortunately at that point stopped our train journey and opted for a flight straight to England :( We'll go back to France one day...

A few warnings and tips... 

Pre-booking trains - depending how far in advance you book, and the time of day your travel at times, you can score some FANTASTIC deals, even on the high-speed trains in Italy (for example, our Naples to Rome tickets cost us 38.00 euros for both of us, while our Rome to Naples tickets cost 18.00 euros for both). However, if you're booking the "economy" tickets, remember you won't get reimbursed for your tickets if you miss you train or the train gets cancelled due to a strike (I'm not bitter at all ;)) This is the risk of "saving" money upfront. You have to weigh the pros and cons for yourself.

Train Stations - some cities have more than one train station! Be careful which one you're booking to, for example Pisa has "Pisa Centrale" and "Pisa S. Rossore". It depends what you need, where you're staying, etc as to which is better for you - Pisa Centrale has a "Left Luggage" option and busses that run to the Tower, while Pisa S. Rossore is closer to the Tower.  Depending on your schedule and your start point and destination while travelling, one station might be more accessible than the other too. Make sure to check the map and the schedules!

Train travel between Naples, Herculaneum (Ercolano) and Pompeii - we chose to use the Circumvesuviana trains for this portion of the trip based upon recommendations from various websites. (Make sure to Google Circumvesuviana as there are LOTS of tips and suggestions on various websites). We caught the Circumvesuviana train from the "basement" of Napoli Centrale after buying our tickets from the ticket counters at the escalators heading down to the train line.  It only cost a few euros for this portion of the trip, and took about 45 minutes to get to Pompeii. We felt safe, but it did feel quite "rustic" - we were travelling with locals! This is a great way to meet the locals as this is the "commuter" train line... and with our daughter, we made a number of new "friends" (very loose term!!) Our daughter found the animated Italians highly amusing - lots of smiles and laughs, which made us even more attractive. I was very glad to have her in a Baby Bjorn carrier for this portion of the trip (an evening train ride to Pompeii!) as it made her inaccessible to those who wanted to hold her, though she did get touched lots. 

If you're going just to see the ruins, stop at "Pompeii Scavi"which is very close to the entrance of the ruins - they have a "Left Luggage" available for a small fee (you don't want to cart your bags around the ruins!) Make sure you choose the stop closest to your hotel/hostel/B&B, however, if you're staying there. We caught the train to the Circumvesuviana "Pompei" station which was a short walk to our B&B (though our host & hostess were more than willing to drive us in their van).  This is a different train station than the one that the Trenitalia trains run through, which we needed for our day trip to Paestum. 

"Left Luggage" - this is a brilliant service if you're only stopping for a short time at a place. Many train stations offer this service for a few euros PER bag - their websites usually list how much it costs. BUT, be warned, trains can be delayed slightly and other things can happen along the way (such as the Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport taking a seemingly mandatory delay of 30 minutes before bags will be available on the baggage carousel) ... and so if you're rushing to make a deadline (for example your Colesseum entry time), allow extra time for Left Luggage too as the major sites and train stations will have a long line-up of people checking their baggage, which has to be scanned for security purposes. Never have we run so fast... our poor daughter got jostled along in her stroller along the "Roman Roads" as we SPRINTED from Roma Termini to the Colesseum being the "budget travellers" that we are. :) Oh the memories!

Curious about more travel tips? Check out the rest of my series!

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