A Little Time and a Keyboard: 13 Train Travel Tips for Long Distance Train Travel

13 Train Travel Tips for Long Distance Train Travel

Sunday, May 5, 2019

13 Train Travel Tips for  Long Distance Travel

13 Train Travel Tips for  Long Distance Travel Including on Amtrak's Empire Builder

Last summer, we crossed a big section of the country from Chicago to Seattle and back from Portland to Chicago on Amtrak's Empire Builder. The adventure truly was an adventure of a lifetime and we were able to see incredible sections of the American landscape from the windows of the Empire Builder. Such a unique way to see the country! We enjoyed the novelty of the travel and being able to relax while crossing the country.  If you are considering traveling on the Empire Builder or another long distance train, I have a few tips for you from our adventure:

  • Pack Food and Water: Even if you plan to enjoy meals in the dining car or items from the snack cart, I highly recommend bringing plenty of food and water. Selections on the train are limited. Additionally, there are times when the cars are closed. Delays are common on the train, so you also want to be prepared for supplemental food for when travel goes a little unexpected.
  • Be Prepared for Delays: There are many reasons why your train may be delayed. Amtrak does not own the tracks the Empire Builder travels on. So, we had to wait for freighters to pass us on several occasions. At one point, we also had to switch engines. In general, be prepared to be delayed so have flexibility in your schedule. You never know what will pop up and it is best to be prepared!
  • Sleeper Cars are Worth it: We LOVED having our own sleeper on the train. We had our own windows, so we did not have to fight for seats in the observation car. Plus, we loved the privacy for reading books in quiet, napping when we wanted to, etc. At night, we were able to sleep on  a bed which was nice as well. Meals were included, so another perk! 
  • Familiarize Yourself with the Train Schedule: Having a general idea of the train schedule and stops will give you better idea of when you reach your destination and how on track you are in regards to time. It is easy to lose track of where you are when on a long trip!
  • Go to the Dining Car when It Opens: The dining car can get backed up. Plus, items can run out. So, be sure to get there right away. If you wait too long, you may have to get on a list.
  • Be Prepared to Sit With Others: Even if you reserve a sleeper, you may need to sit with others in the dining car unless you are in a group of four. Tables are for four and they fill the entire table so that they can accommodate everyone. Our group of three only had our own table on one occasion during our travels. However, we had a BLAST talking to other travelers and sharing stories.
  • Bring Books, Games and Other Diversions: While we did enjoy the changing landscape, you will have some time where things may not be so exciting or in the evening when you would like something else to do. Plus, you may be delayed in one spot for awhile. So, packing fun items helps!
  • Be Prepared to Not Have a Wifi Connection: Most likely, you will have long patches without internet. So, you can't rely on that for entertainment or work!
  • Do Get Out at Stops When the Conductor Allows: Some stops will be long enough to get out and stretch your legs. Don't skip them -- it is a great opportunity for fresh air.
  • Stay By the Train When You Get Out: Most of the stops are very brief. You will want to stay by the train to get back on when the conductor calls. The train WILL leave you. Additionally, if you have to cross tracks to get to a station another train may block you from returning.
  • Do Not Book Close Connections: A number of people on our train had quick connections after arriving. This became a problem when the train became delayed. Instead, I would probably plan an overnight or two in between arrival and your connection. If it looks like you may miss connections, check with the conductor.
  • Be Sure to Stretch Your Legs: Get up and walk the train once in awhile to keep from getting stiff. 
  • Wear Comfy Clothes: You will be sitting for awhile, so wear something comfy.
Enjoy your next train trip!

13 Train Travel Tips for  Long Distance Travel

1 comment

  1. I've certainly traveled quite a bit by train in Europe, and I've even traveled by train in the U.S., Canada, and Peru, where it is not as common. Taking a train is one of my favorite ways to travel, especially to destinations where one can get around without a car. However, longer train trips can get uncomfortable. So, implementing your tips would surely make a train trip more enjoyable. Great post!