- Be prepared for unconventional sleep schedules. Unlike when you travel via air, there are rarely choices regarding what time of day you arrive or depart your location. For example, as I’m writing this (8:30 pm MST), I’d love to be curled up in bed, but my train leaves in 3 hours, so I can’t sleep until I get on the train. My latest train departures are midnight (two of these); offhand that doesn’t seem too late, but…
2. Don’t forget about time zone changes! If you’re on the train overnight going east or west, you’ll encounter a time zone change. The train schedules are timed such that you cross time zones overnight, meaning there’s no confusion during waking hours about what time it is. But it still comes into play when you get to your destination and haven’t been able to completely adjust to the time change. The longer you’re on the train without a break, the more this has an effect.
Bring what you need to sleep comfortably. The trains can get cold, so be sure to pack a sweatshirt and/or blanket to use overnight while you sleep. It’s also a good idea to bring some sort of travel pillow- my choice is the NapAnywhere, which props up your head at whatever position is comfortable for you, but folds flat for easy packing. Unlike on most airplanes, there’s no adjusting the headrest on train seats, so a travel pillow of some sort is necessary in order to sleep comfortably.
Pack efficiently. On a typical trip, I try to organize my packing so like items are packed together- i.e., all my toiletries in one pocket, all my shirts together, etc. But for a train trip, this turns out to be an inconvenient way to pack. For example, if you want to brush your teeth on the train but aren’t going to take a shower, then your toothbrush and toothpaste should go in an outside compartment of your bag, while shampoo and soap don’t need to take up that precious space- you can dig them out when you get to where you’re going. The same goes for a change of clothes: if you want, say, pajamas for the nighttime portion of the trip and regular clothes for during the day, then pack the outfits you want in the outer compartment of your bag. I’m using a TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible from eBags, and love it!
- Bring things to do. I packed plenty of books and activities for this trip, but counted- naively- on having internet access for most of the trip. The reality is that none of Amtrak’s cross-country trains have WiFi, and mobile data is sparse in much of the country, especially when traveling through areas that aren’t populated. It takes actual preparation as well as mental preparation to travel this way!
FTC Disclaimer: I received a free NapAnywhere in exchange for review. This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions expressed are my own.