Public Transportation With Children | Tips and Tricks


I had actually been thinking about going without a car for a few years before we finally made the decision. A major part of why we put it off for so long was due to having young children. If you have ever left the house with a child, you know exactly what I mean. Now that we are taking public transportation a lot, without a car of our own, there are quite a few things I have picked up to help make traveling easier. (Learned them the hard way, which helps it stick better) We’ve taken just about every type of mass transit available in Los Angeles and here are some of the things I have learned to help make those trips go a little more smooth.


While the idea of taking public transportation can be daunting, the idea of doing it with kids sounds even more difficult. They have a lot of needs and you don't want them to be uncomfortable, because that will mean more work for you. Here are a few tips to make the variety of transit options you have, a little easier when you travel with your children.


The Bus

  1. Make sure you all use the restroom before you leave your current location. Some bus rides are long, sometimes there is traffic, and sometimes you can’t find a public restroom. With kids though, this should probably apply to anytime you ever leave anywhere.
  2. Learn your bus fares, apply for student passes, and know what age your child needs his or her own fare. Maximize your savings.
  3. Plan your trips so that the one which ends in more baggage comes last. Save your arms the struggle of carrying your groceries any longer than you have to.
  4. Try not to run errands (especially grocery trips) during busy times. It’s hard enough to stand on a crowded bus, you don’t want to have bags in there with you too.
  5. Have the kids pack one book, activity, or electronic in their backpacks, along with a snack and their water bottle. This should reduce boredom and complaining.


The Train

  1. There are restrooms on the larger trains (Amtrak, Metrolink). Always, always, ALWAYS have your children use them before you reach your destination. Nothing bums out your trip more than missing the next bus because of a bathroom break you could have taken on the train.
  2. Aim to board early and scoop up the family seats, 4 seats that face each other. Many have tables.
  3. When the train starts to slow down and approach your stop, get your stuff and get down by that door. Stops are quick, make sure everyone, and everything, gets off the train safely.
  4. Pay attention to which side you sit on to maximize your scenic views.
  5. Bring your own snacks, the ones on board are pricey.


The Subway

  1. Be prepared for loud travel. I wasn’t.
  2. You should probably avoid this (if possible) if you are claustrophobic. I’m not, but still, it was weird.
  3. Arrive early enough to make sure you properly identify your line and get on the right train. We didn’t.
  4. Be aware of everything around you. Be safe.
  5. Have the kids ready by the door as you approach your stop.


Light Rail

  1. Identify your line by it’s final destination, it may not be the major stop you are getting off on, but it doesn’t mean you are getting on the wrong one.
  2. Be ready by the door as you approach your stop.
  3. Match information on your smartphone to that at the station. There are not many employees around to ask for help.
  4. Pay attention to the stop announcements so you don’t miss yours.
  5. Follow the service on Twitter for live updates on delays and such.


Uber and Lyft

  1. If you know you will be using this service, bring your car seats.
  2. Make sure you don’t click the “Pool” or “Line” options. (Unless you only have one child)
  3. Limit what your kids bring with them to reduce risk of anything getting left behind.
  4. If you have a lot of groceries, and your driver helps you unload, TIP THEM! Even UBER.
  5. Call your driver to your pickup location just a few moments before you are ready (ex. right after checking out at grocery store). You have to be connected and then they have to get to you. This will save a little time. Be ready when they get there!


These tips are all based on our own personal experience living the last 6 months without a car. We didn’t have a lot of experience with public transportation prior to #LALifeWithoutACar. These are the most important things we have learned so far. We live in Los Angeles, things may be a bit different where you live, but most of these tips will apply anywhere.


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