All aboard Via Rail for junk food!
Bright and early on Friday morning, my husband and I were brave souls and boarded a Via Rail train so we could travel for five and a half hours from Montreal to Toronto to attend my sister-in-law's wedding. With our two daughters. Aged three and six. Yikes!
I wasn't worried because I have two horribly behaved demon children; I was worried because I have two fairly typical children, children who get bored and antsy after awhile. I was terrified of being That Family that gets the hairy eyeball the entire trip. In the end, other than my youngest having a minor meltdown for a few minutes each way, it was all fine. We had coloring books, crayons, notepads, pens, books, snacks, and an iPod. The problem ended up not being the kids, but rather the train's "menu".
When you're traveling that short of a distance, Via doesn't provide a dining car. That would have been fun to have just because it would have given the kids something else to do, but it's completely understandable that a dining car is excessive.
However, I did expect that the snack cart would come with a wide variety of foods. Alas, although they had some healthy choices, most of the selection was not. On the way I managed to find some yogurt with granola to stir in, but that was essentially it. The most visible things they sold were potato chips, Doritos, chocolate bars, brownies, cookies, and pop. They did have sandwiches but they were underwhelming options - egg salad or bologna.
I didn't expect to be served caviar, I'm not trying to be high society picky. But it would have been nice to have some good, healthy choices of foods to buy for my kids (and for ourselves, for that matter!). My kids certainly eat candy and chips, but to me those things are treats to give them AFTER they've eaten something that contains some vegetables, you know?
I also know it's limiting because we're talking a wee tea cart being pushed down a narrow aisle on a moving train, but even so there are other, better things - whole fruit like apples and bananas, cheese and crackers, fruit cups, applesauce in cups or tubes, things that don't contain 75% of your daily recommended sodium.
On top of the nutritional value, none of the food was particularly filling. We ate breakfast at 7 am at home, and boarded the train at 10 am. We arrived in Toronto at 3:30 after eating a lot of crap and we were all starving so much that I'm amazed none of us ate any of the other passengers.
To be fair, I don't travel by train regularly; the last time I was aboard a train was in late 1999. It's entirely possible that they generally have more choices and we just ended up hitting a bad weekend for food. Still I can't help but think that it's mostly due to a lack of a bit more effort. Via is a good company and I was happy overall with our travel experience, but it really wouldn't take much to offer up a more diverse, nutritional menu.