Be prepared, as the Boy Scouts would say. And definitely planning ahead for your Amtrak trip can make or break your comfort level. Here are the items we highly recommend you pack for your journey.
Even if meals are included with your ticket, bringing on board your own provisions can add some substance, snacks or pop of freshness to a long train ride or to supplement a train that doesn’t have a dining car. Some recommendations include:
- General snacks like nuts, energy bars, crackers, pretzels
- Fresh fruit and greens (meals can be carb heavy on trains)
- Sweet tooth? Don’t forget chocolate, candy or other treat
- An entire meal or two if you are sitting in coach or just lack a dining car (cafe choices can be limited). Large rail stations like Penn in New York, and the union stations in Chicago and D.C. all have food courts, so you can get a salad or sandwich to go before you board the train.
Tip: A small cooler can count as one of your two carry-on bags.
2. Warm Layer or Blanket
Many riders have had uncomfortable rail journeys due to being cold on the trains, even in summer. Be sure to pack a sweatshirt, fleece jacket, sweater or small blanket. Some people recommend a hooded sweatshirt as it can also provide some privacy and padding if you’re trying to sleep in coach.
3. Motion Sickness Medicine
Especially on cross-country train tips, motion sickness medicine can be a life saver. Trains often sway on the tracks and it’s no fun to be queasy. If you are prone to motion sickness in general, it might be a good idea to pop a pill before the train departs on a long route.
4. Cleaning Wipes
Mixed reviews are out there on the cleanliness of some of the trains. It doesn’t hurt to pack your own cleaning wipes for quick wipe down of your seating area or the shared bathrooms. A clean train is a happy train!
Just to state the obvious, especially on long trips or in case of delays, books, magazines, crafts, coloring books, playing cards, toys and other games can keep you entertained. Most of the long-distance routes do not have WiFi, and parts of some routes have poor cell phone reception, so it is always good to have some tech-free things to do.
6. Tech Accessories
Headphones are key for listening to music, playing video games or watching movies, especially if you plan to enjoy your tech in a coach seat, in the cafe or in the sightseer lounge. Additionally, don’t forget to bring your phone charger and any other charging cord with you in a carry-on bag vs a checked or stored suitcase. Power outlets are available on Amtrak trains in sleeping accommodations, cafe cars and at most coach seats.
Don’t forget to bring cash so you can tip employees. Red cap attendants can help you board/find seats if you’re in a large group or need extra help with luggage. Minimum $10 tip is suggested. Also, for those traveling in a sleeper car, don’t forget to tip your car attendant, especially for a quality experience. The typical range is $5 to $10 per night, and some people tip higher than that for excellent service.