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Add a little Rosa Parks to your commute!

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A friend of mine pointed out recently that I actually know a lot of helpful things about getting around via public transit with small children in tow. These are things I learned the hard way, things that I would have paid to hear back when we decided to go car-free in 2008.*

And so, in the interest of sparing other parents from some of the more harrowing experiences we’ve endured at the hands of King County Metro, I give you my Bus List.

1. Thou Shalt Not Ever Attempt To Go Anywhere By Bus Without a Smartphone.

This may sound silly, but I’ve tried it both ways and I know what I’m talking about. If your bus has been delayed and you are going to be stuck waiting for it to show up for an hour or more, that is information you need to have at your fingertips. For an adult busing independently, this may fall under the “extreme convenience” category, but if you are trying to transport small children and all of their belongings you need all the help you can get. Think of it this way: you have to buy additional gear for your car to make it child-compatible. Busing requires some specialized gear, too.

2. Clunky Strollers Are The Devil.

I remember the first time I took Darren out on the bus by myself. I brought a full-sized diaper bag AND a purse, my baby, and a jogging stroller the size of a Chevrolet. A fellow passenger had to help me navigate my belongings on and off the bus, and he wasn’t too happy about it. I spent weeks researching strollers after that, and have finally settled on what I (and, last I checked, Bus Chick!) consider to be the most metro-friendly stroller: the Maclaren Volo. It is lightweight, can be folded down with one hand and can be worn back-pack style when you aren’t using it. Pricey, yes, but you’d pay more than this for most car seats. Now that I have two kids to transport, I stick one in a carrier and push the other in the stroller. Looks ridiculous, yes, but it works.

3. Keep It Simple

There is one phrase you will hear over and over while busing with kids: “Looks like you’ve got your hands full.” Grating, but true. You’ll be tired when you get home; you may even be a little sore the next day. Even if you are the type who normally packs everything but the kitchen sink before heading out the door, you’re going to want to travel light when you have to carry it (and, chances are, a kid or two as well!) all by yourself. This took me almost three years to perfect, but I have it down to a science now, thanks to these.

I use a double-sided travel cube and devote one side to each child. Melia’s side contains 6 diapers, wipes, a full change of clothes, a first aid kit, a binky and hand sanitizer. Darren’s side contains a change of clothes, 4 pull-ups, wipes, a first aid kit, bags for bagging up smelly diapers a snack and an stainless steel water bottle. All of those things fit into one travel cube that is about the size of a notebook, and they stay perfectly organized and accessible throughout the trip. I carry the travel cube inside a reusable grocery bag, which offers the added bonus of giving me that cool hipster edge. Or, you know, maybe more hipster meets the old woman who lived in a shoe.

4. To Thine Own Self Be True

There is only one other general thing you really need to know in order to have a a successful bus trip, and that is how to dress. This will vary depending on your climate (and Seattle is not known for its fashion sensibilities, so bear with me), but here are the basics. You need solid, comfortable, close-toed walking shoes (I have been vomited on before on the bus; this is no place to show off your cute pedicure), pants that hide dirt, and light layers. Any rain gear needs to be lightweight and compact, and if it is winter time and you care about your hair at all you’ll want a beanie. I mean it. Busing is windy business, it’s much easier to revive hat hair than it is to salvage the ruins of a hairstyle in a public restroom.

Many commuters carry dressier shoes with them in bags like this one, and swap them out once they arrive at their destination. And while I’m talking about footware, it is a good idea to pack an extra pair of socks in a ziplock bag for emergencies. If your original socks get soaked, you can swap them out for the dry pair and seal the wet ones up in the bag so that you don’t have to smell them all the way home.

Beyond this basic information, particulars like how to look up the bus schedule and how and when to pay fares vary significantly from city to city. You just have the take the leap, and hopefully enjoy the ride. Remember to consult the driver, even if you’re 90% sure you know what you’re doing, and you should be fine. 🙂


Written by GRSeim

September 20, 2011 at 7:31 am

Posted in Hippy Dippy

2 Responses

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  1. This is really wonderful advice, particularly the bit about the strollers – those jogging strollers are great, but they take up a lot of space! And I’d never heard of those travel cubes before, but they look much more organization-friendly than a diaper bag. (Granted, I treat my diaper bags a bit roughly, but it still seems to me that the thing I want should not always be buried at the bottom of the bag.)

    I am a little confused about the Rosa Parks reference, though. Could you explain it to me?


    September 21, 2011 at 10:10 pm

  2. Re: Rosa Parks, I intended to significantly expand on the last sentence of this post, but got interrupted. 🙂


    September 23, 2011 at 6:11 am

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