Traveling in a bus with your child

When you’re in a foreign country or an unfamiliar city, it’s important to be ready for anything. For example, you may wish to take a short trip by bus, either as part of a tour or simply to get around town. Bus travel has its perks, including affordability, but also significant drawbacks—especially when you’re traveling with a toddler.

After all, you are unlikely to have the bus all to yourself; most of the time, you’ll be sharing it with quite a few strangers. And a bus—unlike your car—may not come equipped with all the child-wrangling supplies you’re accustomed to.

Aarav asleep on our bus tour in Naples, Italy
Aarav asleep on our bus tour in Naples, Italy

For these reasons and many others (such as the nauseating nature of bus travel down bumpy roads), this isn’t something we recommend doing often. Frankly, buses represent our least favorite way to travel. Yet it’s something you may wind up doing—so what should you know before you board? A short bus ride that takes you just a few city blocks is no big deal, but for longer distances, we have a few tips and suggestions.

Our Tips for Traveling by Bus

First, let’s talk booking. Just like with trains and planes, we recommend trying to book your toddler their own seat—their own space where they can stand up, lay out their toys, and just generally get comfortable.

A bigger issue with booking: We discovered that some bus lines will actually require kids under a certain age to be in car seats. (Age, not weight—an important distinction.) They literally won’t let you on if you don’t have a car seat—but here’s the rub: The buses don’t always have a way for you to attach foldable car seats, which means you need a big, bulky car seat… something we ultimately don’t recommend.

All that’s just to say: Check the car seat requirements for any bus travel you plan to do.

One advantage of sitting in the back of the bus. You can make fun of people that still own blackberries

It might matter which seat you pick. Unless sitting in the front helps you keep from feeling nauseous, we’d generally recommend sitting in the back of the bus, where your child might be a little less disruptive, or at the very least you won’t feel like you have as many eyes on you. And also: The back of the bus is usually closer to the bathroom! (More on that in a minute.)

As for keeping your toddler happy (and mom and dad sane) during bus tips, we’ll just point you back to our comments about car travel and plane travel, and in particular to the toys and apps you can use to keep your kids engaged. Bring a few of these along for the bus ride, in your child’s bag.

Of course, buses aren’t likely to have snacks, and they certainly won’t have milk—so pack whatever food and drinks you need. Obviously, eating a meal beforehand is ideal.

Another consideration is the bathroom situation! A lot of buses don’t have bathrooms, and when they do, they are usually fairly small and unpleasant. Check the bathroom situation in advance, and if your child is potty-trained, double and triple check that they use the bathroom before the trip starts. You might also have your child wear a pull-up for the bus ride—just in case!

With those basic guidelines, you’re ready for the bus—assuming you’re brave/crazy enough to travel that way.

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