Long-distance Train Travel

the Sierra Nevadas as seen from the viewing car on Amtrak's California Zephyr

Traveling by train is a comfortable, affordable way to see more of the country while you're getting to where you're going.

What to bring

The main objective is to control your environment as much as possible. That means you'll need ways to regulate your hunger, body temperature, and senses of smell, touch, sight, and sound.
Most of the following suggestions are common sense / what you'd want to do for any kind of long trip, but it helps to have a checklist:

  1. Headphones
  2. Sunglasses
  3. Warm sweatshirt
  4. Warm socks
  5. Camera
  6. Internet enabled smartphone
  7. Phone charger
  8. Sleep mask
  9. Bottle(s) of water
  10. Small travel blanket
  11. Travel pillow
  12. Reading material
  13. Chapstick
  14. Hand sanitizer (you might not need this every time, but when you do...
  15. Wet wipes
  16. Snacks (trail mix, jerky—anything that doesn't require clean up)
  17. Fresh fruit—apples are great as they're durable (sorry bananas), easy to eat, and don't drip much
  18. Petty cash
  19. A scarf (the best way I've found to control your sense of smell is to wear a scarf, bandit style)
  20. Tylenol or Ibuprofen

Assorted Train Wisdom

Sit far from the bathrooms. And anyone who seems crazy because they will be too chatty. If you train has a viewing car, camp out there. Stretch every few hours. On long distance Amtrak trains there are leg rests that extend from under the seat; look for the black knob on the arm rest (it looks like a joystick) that you can pull back.