Things I Wish I Knew Before Navigating Public Transportation With a Stroller

Whether you grew up in a small town, the suburbs, or the city — odds are at some point you’ve encountered public transportation. But if a car is your go-to mode of transportation, hopping on and off buses and metros with a stroller might feel a bit overwhelming. Don’t worry!

A little research and preparation is all you need to set your mind at ease to take on travel with kids. Here are 7 things you’ll want to do before taking on public transport with your kiddos.

1. Map out the route before you go

You know the feeling— bags are packed, the kids have their shoes on, and you head out the door. But, you forgot to check how you’re getting where you’re going. Skip the unnecessary stress and panic by making sure you know your route before you start getting ready to leave! Of course everyone knows the standbys, Google and Apple Maps, but have a look around to see which maps app suits you best.

Moovit has all local mobility options in one place! You can see all available routes, see nearby transit lines, view all lines in your city, and you can get real-time updates about arrival times, schedules, and alerts. It works with buses, trains, subways, Ubers, Lyfts, scooters, bikes, and more.

Citymapper works globally and instantly compares your travel options in real time. They have recently improved map performance in their app, so what you see is even more accurate to where you need to go. Be sure to select the “step-free” option if you want the app to only show you routes that don’t require stairs.

Like the other apps we’ve mentioned,TripGo is available for just about every kind of transport you’d want to take. You can even sync the app with your exact departure and/or arrival time to make sure you know exactly when you’ll be getting places or when you need to leave.
2. Get info on accepted payment methods

You did it. You made it down the elevator, kids in tow, and you’re about to hop on the metro. You just need a ticket! Then, there’s that sinking feeling when you realize it’s cash only, and you’re fresh out of bills. We’ve all been there. Do your research before you set out on your journey to see what payment methods are accepted for tickets. Even better, buy them ahead of time, if possible! Your future self will thank you. 

3. Check for discounted rates for kids

While you’re doing your payment research, be sure to check if there are discounted rates for kids! Here are a few cities making that happen:

  • Paris: kids under 4 ride free
  • Barcelona: kids under 4 ride free
  • London: kids under 11 ride free
  • Rome: kids under 10 ride free
  • New York City: Up to three children under 44 inches tall ride for free when they're with a fare-paying adult
  • Chicago: kids under 7 ride free
  • Seattle: youth can ride free with an ORCA card

If you’re visiting a city, then you can use that money for other exciting things on your trip! Don’t throw away money if you don’t need to.

4. Choose routes that have elevators, if needed

Many popular maps apps (Google Maps, AccessNow, Citymapper, etc) now have the ability to filter for routes that have elevators, or at least are handicap accessible. This can be a game changer if you’re traveling with a stroller, especially if you’re by yourself. If you aren’t able to use an elevator, luckily the Traveler is a great option if you need to quickly fold up your stroller and get a workout in by carrying it up or down some steps! And, of course, if someone offers to help, don’t be afraid to take them up on it.

5. Involve your kids

Even for adults, public transport can be overwhelming! Especially if it’s in a new environment. Do your best to involve your kids in the whole process, so they can not only get excited about it, but so you can help calm any nerves they might be experiencing. This can be anything from letting them scan tickets to teaching them how the system works. This could be a fun and exciting experience for everyone!

6. Build in some margin

Sure, Google Maps says you can get there in 15 minutes. But, do they know how slowly kids tend to walk? The entire experience will be a lot more stressful if you’re also racing the clock. Be sure to build in a little time so you can take things at your own pace and not be worried about getting there with no time to spare. It’s also worth noting that some bus systems require you to fold up your stroller before getting on! It could be worth making a quick Google search before your journey to see if your city requires this. If so, take a minute to get everything set up, so you’re not frantic when you hop on. Take a deep breath, rearrange anything you need to, and step on with confidence!

7. Be patient

We know it’s easier said than done, but remember to be patient when taking your kids on public transport. After all, it takes a couple times to get the hang of it. You’ll probably make a couple mistakes along the way, and that’s okay. It’s a learning process, so be sure to give yourself and your kiddos grace as you’re figuring it out.

Looking for more travel tips? Head to the blog!