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My family of 8 are in the midst of our first international trip with all 8 of us – to Lisbon, Portugal and Barcelona, Spain (Catalonia?). We’ve learned a few things about what works and doesn’t work when traveling internationally with a large family. I’m sure I’ve got enough fodder to keep PWaC in blog posts about this trip for quite awhile 🙂

Traveling with kids on the subway

I have traveled several times on subway systems throughout the world – by myself, with my wife, and with 1 or 2 of my kids individually. Off the top of my head, I’ve navigated the subways in Beijing, New York, Chicago, Singapore, London, Lisbon, and now Barcelona.

The subway is one of our preferred methods of transport where it exists, because as a mode of transportation, it’s something (usually) very well defined, where I don’t have to worry about taxis or being taken advantage of, especially in places where I don’t speak the language or have another culture barrier. It’s usually cheaper as well

Leaving a kid on the subway

Fast forward to yesterday – we were on our way to the Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona, and taking the subway from our Airbnb. The 8 of us had gone through the turnstiles and were making our way down to the subway platform. I was in the lead with my 17 year old son, and my wife and the other kids were behind us. As my son and I got down to the platform, a train was already there. I yelled back to let them know to hurry because the train was here, but didn’t actually board the train because I know that I’m not actually getting on the train unless we ALL can get on the train.

My son however had no such restrictions – he saw the train there and immediately got on the car. Pretty much as soon as he did, the train doors started to close. I tried to keep them open or re-open them, but they remained closed, and the train took off.

a man in a blue shirt

Okay – this picture is a staged re-enactment. I wasn’t QUITE so calm under pressure to take a picture of him as he sailed away by himself!! 🙂

The rest of our family had not made it to the platform yet (not even close, really). As the train moved away – I yelled at him through the window: “NEXT STATION!”

What do do if you lose your child on the subway

Thankfully, we have talked about and trained for this with the kids. Our two family rules for subway travel are:

  • If you get on a subway when everyone else doesn’t get on (or can’t get off when everyone else gets off), then GET OFF AT THE NEXT STOP AND STAY THERE. We will come and find you
  • If everyone gets on a subway car and you don’t, then just STAY WHERE YOU ARE. We will come back to find you.

Ian shared his rules for what to do if you lose your child on the subway a few months ago and he came up with the same rules, so I’m thinking they are good ones.

Again, I was thankful that in addition to having gone over these rules with our family many times (including earlier on this trip), we had 3 other things in our favor:

  1. It was my 17 year old son, who is nearly (?) an adult and is big enough that nobody was probably going to mess with him.
  2. It happened on a Sunday morning, and the subway system was pretty much empty so it was definitely a lot less chaotic.
  3. And because we all have Sprint and use the Sprint International Plan, he had a cell phone and we were able to be in contact with him via text messages.

So while I was mildly concerned, I had nowhere NEAR the worry that I probably would have had if it had been my 7 year old daughter with no cell phone who had been on the train by herself. And following my 2 rules for when things go wrong, I at least thought “well this will make for a good blog post later :-D”

Sure enough, our family all got on the next train 6 minutes later, and one stop later, I was quite pleased to see this smiling face waiting for us on the platform.

a man in a blue shirt

Of course, he had gone down the platform some, so he had to run to catch up with our car, but we were easily reunited.

a man running in a subway

Have you talked about what to do if you lose your child on the subway? What are your rules?

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