Travelling with toddlers by train in Germany

About a month ago I started to use the German railway system for travelling. I did four trips across Germany in two weeks with my 3 year old daughter.

THE HARD FACTS

1. Cologne – Hamburg

With Intercity trains (IC) you can reserve seats in the family area (for an extra cost of 9€). This extra cabin is not so different to the usual cabins – 6 seats and a table, but you do have a little bit more space than with a usual 2nd class seat. Unfortunately we had a delay of 54min and in one carriage the air conditioning was not working.

2. Hamburg – Cologne

Again we travelled with IC trains. This time we had 2 seats in the usual 2nd class cabin. The train was overcrowded, and had a 15 minute delay.

3. Cologne – Basel (CH)

This journey was with Intercity-Express (ICC) – hoping it will be third time lucky. We had 2 seats in the family area, and found a couple of adults without children occupying the space. The space for luggage was directly next to us, so no lifting backpacks over the head, which was great. And our train arrived on time.

This journey was great for travelling with a toddler, it is only 3.5h and my little one got her own train ticket. With this she could choose a little train to play with, a colouring book and crayons.

4. Basel (CH) – Cologne

ICC trains – 2 seats in the family area, again, adults without kids were occupying these special seats so I highly recommend to reserve! Unfortunately delays are quite usual with the German train system – this time 20 minutes. My little one got another little train with her kids ticket.

There is a rumour in Germany that no one is using the train anymore. Either it is not true or there are not enough trains, as all the trains we used where quite full. We saw many people standing for their journey.

GENERAL TIPS FOR TRAVELLING 

Deutsche Bahn
– Check out the Bahn Card  offers. It was worth us buying the BahnCard 25 for 3 months when we travelled to Hamburg.
– Avoid changing trains, first of all it is easier when travelling with a child, second with all the possible delays you might miss the connecting train.
– Travel with a backpack.
– Seats in the family area are limited so book early.
– Even if you do not get a seat in the family area, make sure to reserve a seat. Otherwise you might not sit at all, as the trains tend to be overbooked.
– Inform yourself beforehand where your cabin is and step in the train close to your seat, quite annoying for everyone walking through the aisle with all the luggage.
– Register at the Bahn programme, you get at least one upgrade to a 1st class seat and can collect points for premiums.
– If you bring a stroller, make sure it is a small one that is easy to fold.

IC trains
– Bring snacks and toys. Despite using the term ‘family area’ there is nothing special offered for kids.
– Do not expect friendly staff or help nor WLAN.
– Diaper changing facilities might be far away.

ICC trains
– WLAN is available and the staff  were friendly and helpful.
– Toilets were better than on the IC trains.
– Kids get their own train tickets and a voucher for a little train to play with, a colouring book and pens.
– The ‘Kleinkindbereich’ we passed looked quite nice actually and was more separated from the rest of the passengers.

Honestly I’m not sure if I’m convinced about train travel with little ones.  Sure if you need to travel alone with your child it is maybe easier than travelling by car, because children can move around, but with all the delays and difficulties I really don’t know if I’ll do it again.

*****
Julia, a native of Bavaria, is Founder of the travel blog Travelingkinder


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