Our trip to Sweden featured reliable trains, wide sidewalks, ubiquitous bathrooms—and no car seats
ACH TIME I TRAVEL, I find that the most disorienting part of the trip is what I eventually end up wanting to replicate at home. This summer, I sat on a subway platform beneath Stockholm, mulling how I could bring a stress-free transit-riding experience back with me.
My three-year-old sat next to me, enthralled by a wall of colorful geometric graphics on the station, each of which was decked out in a different theme. My nine-month-old babbled to other babies in strollers better designed than most cars, making their way underground thanks to efficient, ubiquitous elevators.
My husband and I were pleased that we knew exactly how long we would be waiting, thanks to accurate real-time arrival information on a screen above us. I looked up: three minutes—a headway unheard of in our city.
Like the pickled herring marketed as a parting memento at the airport’s duty-free shop, I wanted to find a way to stash this feeling in my carry-on and deploy it during my daily journeys around Los Angeles.
We try to use public transit as much as we can in LA, where we live. But using Stockholm’s family-friendly transportation system was almost jarring at first because we never really had to “decide” to use it—transit was always right there front of us, and it was the easiest way to get around, period.
From the airport, the fastest path to our hotel was an express train to the city center. When we went to visit friends in the countryside, a regional train provided a direct route to get out of town. When we traveled to another city, we booked seats on a high-speed train. We didn’t even take car seats to Sweden for our two kids. We didn’t need them.
It wasn’t always a completely romanticized vision of European travel: We missed stops, traveled the wrong direction, paid almost triple the amount we should have for a transit pass by accident, and were delayed five hours by a train that broke down in rural Sweden. (Actually, for my three-year-old, the excitement of having to change trains in a cow pasture was a highlight of the entire trip.) Continue reading