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Planes, Trains or Automobiles: Traveling with Kids

Planes, trains or automobiles. Which is your favorite means of transportation? Most Americans, I think will say the car. The symbol of freedom. Hitting the open road, nothing in front of us but the horizon. Don’t get me wrong I got my first car at age 17. I certainly love having that freedom. But after spending 3 months in Europe traveling mostly by train, I changed my mind. Maybe it’s just me reminiscing about that European adventure. Maybe not.

We’ve taken a few trips by train lately and our kids are begging for more. I can’t blame them though. I fell in love with traveling by train that summer in Europe. Train travel in Europe is cost-effective, reliable and goes almost everywhere. I really enjoyed sitting back, relaxing and looking out the window at the beautiful scenery as it went by. I didn’t have to stress about driving on the narrow roads of Europe nor did I need to worry about the expense of it.

Clint and I on a train, Planes Trains and Automobiles
Setting off on another adventure

Here in the US train travel isn’t as popular or readily accessible as in Europe. I think it’s a real shame. Thankfully we live just outside of Boston and are able to take advantage of Amtrak’s service and we’ve done just that. We’ve taken the train down to New York City several times as well as to Philadelphia, PA, and Washington DC. My kids love it. We travel first class so we sit in the Amtrak waiting rooms and have the porter take care of our luggage. This is a bit of a perk; I’ll admit but it’s worth it. The seats are assigned just like on a plane and since there are 4 of us, we get a ‘booth’ with a table between us. This works to our advantage since the girls love to draw or color. It also helps when we eat to have a table between us.

I think Clint likes taking the train because he can relax. We also bypass all the traffic. We’ve saved ourselves a lot of traffic aggravation taking the train during holiday times. The traffic from Boston to NY before and after Thanksgiving Day would have anyone frustrated. Once we spent 4 hours to go 10 miles on our way to my cousin’s house in lower Westchester County, NY. The full drive from our house to their house is (without traffic) 3 hours and 36 minutes. You can see why we love taking the train. And with the girls connected with their apps, podcasts and audible stories, we’re all set.

on the train, Planes Trains and Automobiles
She’s listening to a story and her sketchbook is under the tickets, she’s ready

For me, another perk of taking trains is enjoying the architecture of the stations. The stations are from a bygone era in our nation’s history of architecture. The grandness of the architecture and the style takes us back to when there was a bit of opulence in the states. One only has to think of the roaring 20s to know the style of the time. People ‘dressed’ to travel. It was after all, expensive to travel.

Grand Central Stations
Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal, Planes Trains and Automobiles
The ceiling of Grand Central Terminal
Union Square Station, Planes Trains and Automobiles
Union Square Station, Washington DC

The architectural style mostly in use when train stations like Grand Central or Penn Station (New York City) or Washington DC’s Union Station were built is called Beaux- Arts. A more opulent time in our history for certain. Nowadays it is expensive to keep up with the maintenance of the buildings, but I have to admit, I’m glad they are kept up. To learn more about the history of Grand Central Station and some fun facts, take this self-guided walking tour.


BeauxArts architecture is classical in nature with GrecoRoman styling. The Beaux Arts Movement(beaux arts means fine arts’ in French) was popular in the United States from about 18801930 and reflected the wealth that accumulated during the Industrial Revolution.

Union Square Station
Union Square Station, Washington DC
Union Square Station, Trains Planes and Automobiles
Union Square Station, Washington DC

As for planes well, I think we use them when we need to. I’m not sure anyone really wants to drive across the country anymore. Oh, I’m sure people still do, but I also think it’s not there first thought if they just want to get to their destination. The preverbal “Road Trip”. As kids, however, my family drove everywhere. We drove from Long Island, New York down to Florida, Miami, and Orlando every other year to visit my grandparents. My mom’s van was packed with camping gear, coolers full of food, and bags with gear and clothes and set off. We drove. It generally took us 2-1/2 days to get down to Florida. When I was very young before my younger brother was in the picture my dad would drive straight through. Of course, then he would sleep for 2 days, but as he said: “We were there”. LOL.

I remember driving out to Colorado when I moved there, in a rental truck no less. Clint accompanied his dad on business trips when he was younger, driving all over the country. So both of us know the pros and cons of driving to our destination however, I have to admit with the girls we haven’t driven that far. We’ve driven to Long Island and Maine but I think that’s the farthest we’ve driven. Driving up to Vermont sometimes they complain about the length of time in the car. I wonder what they would be like if we said we were driving down to Florida -for the full 2-1/2 days!

When I was younger we only went on a plane to go to Europe, only. My mom’s family lived in England so we went to visit them. For my kids, there is a real thrill when our trip involves traveling by plane. They know that this means we will be traveling by planes, trains, and automobiles in one trip. We usually drive to the ‘T’ stop (Boston’s subway is called the ‘T’), take that to the airport stop, and pick up the bus that takes us to the terminal. The girls have tried to get us to incorporate a boat ride in there somewhere so we can say we traveled by car, train, bus, plane, and boat. I need to sort out a trip that includes a boat ride soon.

TWA building at JFK airport
TWA’s terminal at JFK airport on Long Island, New York

For me, planes have become a means of transportation but when I was a kid I remember getting excited to book a flight from JFK’s TWA terminal. I think even back then I was interested in architecture. The TWA terminal was designed to look like a bird flying. It closed down as a terminal but has now reopened as a hotel -all things retro TWA. I saw the news piece one night and was grateful that the building was saved. I love that building. Now I just need to book a flight with a layover at JFK so I can stay at the hotel. What a hoot that would be!

What is your favorite means of transportation? By planes, trains or automobiles? Does your next trip involve a train trip? or are you packing up the car and heading out for the illustrious ‘road trip’?

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. kmf

    Mine would be planes normally. However, I’ve done a lot of soul-searching during the pandemic and I’m embracing the road trip more and more as I take day trips.

    1. Leeanne

      On a plane, you certainly get to your destination quicker.

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