Planning on riding the rails for a short or long Amtrak train trip? Maybe you are traveling across the state or country and are wondering what items you might want to pack for the journey. I’ve taken many long and short train trips and I’ve learned a few things along the way! Here are my trips and tricks for what to pack for an Amtrak train ride.
Wipes will come in handy whether your train ride is just a few hours or a few days. What can you use them for? Well, I wipe down the area around my seat as soon as I sit down. While the trains are cleaned by the staff, I don’t think they are scoured very thoroughly. Wipe down the plastic and metal on the armrests, the tray table and anything else you might touch. If you will be staying in a roomette or compartment you will appreciate the wipes even more to clean the area around where you will be sleeping.
Wipes are also super useful for cleaning your hands before and after you eat.
If you are on a longer train ride, wet wipes are wonderful for refreshing your face and body without taking a shower.
Personally I do not like anything with a fragrance, and I try to go for an eco-friendly option. Here are some I like called Water Wipes or check out these biodegradable wipes from Naty. But you might prefer antiseptic wipes like these individual packet singles or these scented with lavender.
If you are on a long-distance Amtrak ride and staying in a compartment your meals and drinks will be provided. If not, there is usually a dining car on board where you can purchase meals and snacks, even beer and wine! But whether your train ride is a few short hours or all day, I recommend bringing some snacks and water.
You can bring granola bars, a salad or sandwich, or just a bag of chips. But take care not to pack anything too smelly. You don’t want to annoy other passengers with your fragrant meal.
Sometimes the train will stop at stations for a bit longer, like 30 minutes. In that case it may be possible to run into the station to buy a bottle or water or some snacks. But don’t count on it! The station shops might be closed or delays on the track might mean shorter stops. The train might also be delayed and you might wish you had drinks and snacks with you. Yes, this happened to me and I didn’t eat anything all day long. I was pretty jealous that my fellow travelers had crackers, fruit and cookies in their bags. Better to be prepared in advance.
If nothing else I recommend bringing a refillable water bottle. The train has taps where you can fill up or get water at the station stops. If you like hot beverages, these insulated drink containers from Zojirushi will keep your drinks hot for up to 6 hours (maybe more!!) They will also keep your drinks cold and ice won’t melt for many hours. I was happy to have my Zojirushi with me on my last train ride, sipping hot coffee all day long!
I always travel with a large scarf. In the summer I usually pack a lightweight cotton scarf and in the winter I bring a big wool blanket scarf. These double as blankets that are ideal for naps on the train.
If you are traveling overnight in a sleeping compartment you will receive a blanket. But you may want another one if you tend to be cold. Of course you can ask for an extra but I like the comforting feeling of my own cozy blanket that doesn’t smell or feel strange.
You can do like I do and bring a scarf that can be used as a blanket or you can bring an actual blanket or even a sleeping bag. One overnight Amtrak ride I noticed several people got comfy in their sleeping bags while reclining in their seats. People bring their pillows too!
Here are some cozy scarves that can double as light blankets for a long train ride. Click the links to see the variety of colors and patterns.
On a recent overnight train ride I brought along a Kelty bestie blanket that packs up into small stuff sack. It was perfect for keeping warm and cozy! The blanket has a nylon material on one side and soft fabric on the other. There are other similar blankets that are much pricier but who needs to spend a ton on a travel blanket? Check the Kelty out here!
An achy neck is not delightful when you arrive at your destination. Why not bring a travel pillow along for naps on the train? The pillow can even be comfy for simply resting your head while reading or looking out of the window.
If you will be on a long train ride you’ll probably want to take off constricting shoes or boots. Unlike with airplane travel your feet shouldn’t swell from the pressure, but still it is comfortable to remove your shoes.
But don’t annoy other passengers with your bare feet or smelly socks! Bring along a pair of comfortable shoes or slippers that you can slide on for visits to the bathroom or walking to the panoramic car.
In warm months you can bring a pair of slip on sandals and in the cooler months you might want cozy shoes or slippers. I always pack a pair of clean, warm socks to put on as soon as I board the train.
Want to take a nap on your train ride? You will likely appreciate having an eye mask and earplugs to drown out the lights and sounds of the train. Even in a sleeping compartment you will hear noises from the train as it rattles and rocks down the tracks and although there are curtains, light can seep into your space.
I like these ear plugs for travel and I always carry them. Check out these comfortable eye masks too.
Do you like to listen to audiobooks, podcasts and music while on a journey? Me too! Don’t forget to bring a set of earphones. You might like noise cancelling headphones like these or prefer something sleek and simple.
A long trip is the perfect time to catch up with a good book. If you like to read, be sure to bring along a few books, or download some onto your Kindle, phone or tablet. Do you prefer audiobooks? If you aren’t already a member, sign up here for Amazon’s Audible and get free trial with free audiobooks each month.
If you have a local library card I recommend taking advantage of Overdrive. It’s an awesome app where you can use your library card to access ebooks and audiobooks for free by checking them out from your local library online.
Not a fan of books? Be sure to download your favorite podcasts, movies or TV series before you leave. WIFI isn’t always reliable when traveling through remote areas on the train. Just don’t forget your earphones!
Traveling with a companion? While the time away by playing games. There are so many fun card games you can play on the train whether with a standard deck or something special. UNO is always good choice, and many people find Exploding Kittens to be very entertaining.
If you are traveling solo you can download games to play on your phone or tablet or simply indulge in a bit of solitaire. However I am sure you could find a friendly stranger in the observation car who would love to play cards with you if you’d prefer that!
Most Amtrak trains are quite safe but for peace of mind be sure to keep an eye on your valuables. One way to do that without staying awake and alert all the time is to bring a simple cable lock. You can put it through the zippers of your bag or even lock your bag to the footrest or other metal part of the seat if you get up to walk around.
I use cable lock like this and I like it. It’s versatile and simple. I wouldn’t lock a bike with it but it is enough to deter a quick crime of opportunity. The end of the cable will fit through the holes on most large zippers.
Most people have an alarm clock on their phone, but I add this here to remind you to use it! Maybe your stop is in the middle of the night or early morning or you tend to fall asleep as soon as the train starts its gentle rocking motion. If so, be sure to set your alarm so you don’t miss your stop.
If you are staying in a sleeping compartment the attendant will sometimes wake you if you request it, but set the alarm just to be sure!
I hope these packing tips help you enjoy your Amtrak trip! All aboard!
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