Traveling by train is an excellent way to explore a country, whether you want to take the scenic route, enjoy slower travel or simply avoid planes. You can take your trip to the next level with train travel gadgets to make your trip more comfortable.
Not only is packing the right items important for an enjoyable train trip, but learning some valuable train travel tips will help you get the most from the experience. Armed with this information, you’ll be riding the rails like a pro.
What can you take on a train?
This depends on where you’ll be traveling by train, but if you’re traveling in the U.S. and parts of Canada, most Amtrak services have the same luggage regulations. All passengers can bring two personal items and two carry-on bags. Each personal item can weigh up to 25 pounds and measure 14 inches by 11 inches by 7 inches. Each carry-on bag can weigh up to 50 pounds and measure 28 inches by 22 inches by 14 inches. Plus, on most services, you can check an additional two bags of up to 50 pounds each free of charge.
Some items are prohibited when traveling on Amtrak services, including knives, swords and incendiary items. Others, such as firearms, are allowed in checked baggage with some restrictions, but not in carry-on luggage. If you’re unsure whether you can take something on your train trip, check the full list of prohibited items.
Train travel tips
To make your train journey as smooth, comfortable and enjoyable as possible, it’s important to be prepared. Following these simple tips will help you make the most of your trip.
Amtrak tickets are sold in price buckets. The cheapest ones are sold first with the price increasing as enough are sold to move into the next bracket. This means you’ll always get a lower price the further ahead of time you book. Train providers in other countries often follow similar price structures too, so booking early usually saves you money. Not to mention that popular routes can sell out.
Check in early
Arriving at the station early gives you time to check bags and solve any issues that could arise before your train departs. If you’re close to the start of the queue at check-in time and ask nicely, you may be allocated the best seats. On some trains, one side has a significantly better view than the other, so these seats are always more desirable and get allocated quickly.
Consider a sleeper accommodation
When traveling overnight, you should seriously consider paying extra for a sleeper accommodation. It can mean the difference between arriving at your destination refreshed or groggy with a crick in your neck. There are different types of sleeper accommodations available, including bunks in shared rooms and private suites. Check what’s available, and pick according to your budget and needs.
Be prepared for all temperatures
Amtrak trains are air-conditioned, but temperatures aren’t always ideal. Sometimes, the AC runs cool, and you might need a blanket or sweater. Other times, the AC is ineffectual, and you’ll greatly appreciate a handheld fan. When traveling in other countries, don’t count on there being AC or heating, so make sure you have what you need to stay at a comfortable temperature.
Sanitize your surroundings
Even before COVID-19 struck, trains haven’t always felt like the most hygienic of places. It’s worth bringing antibacterial wipes to clean any areas that get touched a lot, such as seatback trays and toilet door handles.
Check out sightseer lounges
On certain scenic routes, Amtrak trains have sightseer lounges, which are observation cars with large windows and seats facing toward them for comfortable viewing. These are free for all passengers to use, but seats are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Checking out the sightseer lounge is a great way to view the scenery at its best, but be conscious of not spending too long in these seats to give other passengers a chance.
Take advantage of fresh air breaks
Fresh air breaks are longer breaks at stations that give passengers the chance to get off the train and stretch their legs. Make note of when these breaks are and try not to nap through them or eat your meals during them because you’ll want to take full advantage of them on a long journey. They’re usually 10 to 15 minutes long, and you won’t be able to leave the platform, but you can walk up and down it.
What you need for comfortable train travel
Whether you’re traveling overnight in coach or you have a long day trip and might want to catch some Zs, this compact travel pillow is an excellent choice. It offers ample support without looking silly or taking up too much luggage space. Sold by Amazon
This compact travel blanket is warm yet lightweight and breathable so you won’t overheat. It’s great for naps or when the AC is up too high. Sold by Amazon
Padded and contoured, this comfortable eye mask will help you get some of the best sleep possible on a train. It comes with a pouch with a carabiner, so it’s perfect for travel. Sold by Amazon
The AC on trains can be unreliable, so if you’re traveling during the summer, it’s worth bringing a small fan with you, just in case. This one hangs around the wearer’s neck and blows air upward for hands-free cooling. Sold by Amazon
While it’s a steep investment just for a train trip, if you’re looking for a decent pair of headphones anyway, now might be the time to invest. These noise-canceling headphones block out sound around you extremely effectively, so you’ll feel like you’re in a private compartment even if you have noisy neighbors. Sold by Amazon
You’ll likely be relying on tech to keep you entertained during your trip, and you don’t want to run out of battery 12 hours into a 36-hour train ride. That’s why you should bring this portable charger that has enough power to recharge most phones six times and most tablets twice. Sold by Amazon
Spending half your train journey thirsty because getting hold of water is a hassle certainly counts as an uncomfortable experience. Bringing your own reusable water bottle is wise, and this collapsible one doesn’t take up an excessive amount of luggage space. Sold by Amazon
A long train journey is an excellent opportunity to catch up on your reading. Rather than lugging several books on board with you, this compact e-reader will do the trick, plus the front light makes it easier to read in darkened cars or compartments. Sold by Amazon
While there’s Wi-Fi on Amtrak trains, it’s often slow and can be unreliable on some routes. Instead, consider bringing your own travel Wi-Fi hot spot so you can stream video or music to keep you entertained on your trip. Sold by Amazon
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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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