As you may or may not know (if you follow me on Instagram you for sure know – there’s a whole story highlight alllll about it) I took an absolutely epic two-week train trip on Amtrak a few months ago. I traveled from my little town in New Hampshire all the way to Chicago then Texas and back again! I haven’t been a huge traveler in the past, but since I’ve deemed this my #AdventureYear and the opportunity happened to present itself well with timing and logistics all falling into place, I decided to venture out on my own for two weeks of meeting up with friends and checking out the country from the window of this epic transportation method.
I had, as per usual for my nerdy self, done as much research as possible as to what to actually bring with you on a long-distance train trip, but was seriously disappointed when I was only able to find one or two articles that were actually helpful on the subject! So I pieced that information together along with my own knowledge of what I personally don’t like to travel without and hit the road.
Although I would probably take most of these items on me for loads of different types of trips, each of these was particularly useful to have on my train trip across the country. Honestly, I’ll probably bring most of them on my next trip, too, even though it won’t be by train – Christopher and I are planning a short road trip this summer!
I’ve separated the items into four categories – Comfort, Health & Wellness, Convenience, and Other. All links used are affiliate links for amazon which makes sense since that’s literally the only place I ever buy anything anymore, tbh. Now without further ado…
-Travelrest Travel Blanket with Pocket: When you’re taking a long-distance train trip you’re going to want to be comfortable. I spent 70+ hours in transit during my trip, in both coach and sleeper cars, so I wasn’t about to sacrifice comfort. This travel blanket is off-the-charts amazing and I’m 100% going to take it on our next trip. It was large enough that it fully covered me as a blanket, but there’s a hole for your head so it doesn’t fall off of you. I found this especially helpful when I was sleeping in coach – I could fall asleep with my blanket on and when I woke up it was still on, not balled up on the floor of the train touching who knows what. (Gross.) ALSO this thing has a pocket! The pocket is made when the blanket is completely unrolled from the pouch it comes in, and the pouch then becomes a zippered pocket. I LOVED this feature and used it to hold my phone while I slept – it was concealed and close to my body so I didn’t need to feel nervous falling asleep with it out, even while I fell asleep listening to music in my seat. This comes in two sizes and two colors, although I went for the larger size and the grey color, but even the larger size folded back into a convenient-to-carry pouch that easily fit into the bottom section of my weekender bag.
-Wenzel Camp Pillow: Most of the articles I could find on train trip essentials said that, if you could, you should pack a full-sized bed pillow to help aid in comfort for your travels. Although that’s totally a great idea, I was traveling solo and therefore needed everything I brought with me to be easily packable and convenient for me to bring across the country myself and a bed pillow was just going to be too cumbersome for my needs. But when I saw this cute camping pillow on amazon for less than $6, I figured it was worth a try! This little guy is small, but was honestly the exact size I was looking for, especially when I was seated in an aisle seat and just needed a little something to keep my head from falling down while I catnapped. It was also super portable, and even in the sleeper car proved to be more comfortable than the provided pillows, so I actually ended up using this camping pillow a lot! It also comes with its own carrying case, which is great to help keep it clean along the journey. I loved this little pillow and – especially for the price! – was extremely happy I brought it along.
-Cozyphones: This last item in the “Comfort” category might be the one I’ve gotten the most use out of, since I even use it at home! Last night, in fact, when I was having trouble sleeping I threw these guys on, chose some calming music, and drifted right to sleep! Cozyphones, if you’ve never heard of them, are headphones made with a fleece headband that are meant to use while sleeping. (Apparently they’re also great to double-up as an eye mask, although I didn’t ever try them that way.) These things are SO COMFORTABLE you guys. They’re super soft (but also mesh-lined so you’re not gonna get weirdly sweaty with them on), the actual headphone part is so thin, and the sound quality totally holds up! These would make awesome gifts for the travel lovers in your life, or just anyone who likes to fall asleep listening to music or podcasts. I got them in the grey color, but they also have a pretty purple here or even unicorns or other animals for kids here.
Health and Wellness
-Source Natural Wellness Formula Capsules: I’ll be honest with you guys, I’m a huge skeptic of a lot of the “wellness formula” stuff that I come across, but when I went to San Francisco in February my best friend Erin told me about these and after taking them consistently on my train trip, I’M A BELIEVER, Y’ALL. I’m just gonna come right out and say that I’m really not sure exactly how or why these things works, but essentially you’re supposed to take them immediately when you feel like you’re starting to get sick (6 capsules, twice a day… it’s serious, you guys) and they keep you from getting too ill. Like I said, I’m always a massive skeptic of things like this, but I knew I’d be spending a lot of time in a lot of super germy places during this trip (hello, train bathrooms!) so I figured it couldn’t hurt to buy a bottle and try it out. Well, it worked! I felt “meh” a few times on the trip, and when I did I immediately took these as described and I never once got full-blown sick during the entire trip. Not. Once. I’m now a total believer in these things, and take the recommended amount for immune support daily and have seen a serious decrease in getting sick in my general life!
-Supergoop Setting Mist Sunscreen: Let’s just start off by saying that, yes, this is a $12 bottle of travel sized face sunscreen and no, I don’t care. This stuff was AWESOME on my trip! It’s a spray sunscreen but NOT an aerosol and it’s just a regular pump mechanism, so it’s not going to get on your stuff or, more importantly, on anyone else on the train with you! It’s easy to use, smells amazing (but not perfumey – again, you’ve gotta respect the people you’re riding with!), and it is SO IMPORTANT to remember to wear sunscreen, even on the train! Even though you’re not outside, sunlight does obviously come in through the massive train windows and it is 100% possible to get a sunburn from those rays, even sitting inside the train. I used this sunscreen on my face, of course, but also on my arm closest to the window when I was in a window seat. And this super-pale ginger managed to avoid getting a sunburn for the entire trip! I’m not kidding, whether you use this fancy schmancy stuff or not, do NOT forget to bring and use sunscreen on your journey!
-A good water bottle (I brought this one from Smarter Image in the color Blush): Although different people have different comfort levels with drinking water from the train itself, having a high-quality, reliable water bottle is so important for your journey. (FYI, trains have separate fountains for drinking water – please do not use the water from the bathrooms. Yikes bikes.) Even if you’re not going to fill it on the train itself, filling one at home or at your hotel or train station lounge right before your journey means that you know you’ll be able to keep hydrated and have access to free water for your trip. There are no restrictions on bringing liquids onto trains, so a nice, large water bottle is something you should really take advantage of. Although it’s possible to buy plastic water bottles on the train, it’s much more expensive for you and worse for the environment than bringing a reusable bottle with you.
–Belkin SurgePlus Travel Surge Protector: THIS. THING. YOU. GUYS. Just like the Cozyphones, I use this surge protector around my house all the time now. It has three standard outlets as well as 2 USB ports, so it’s literally perfect for charging your various devices on the go. One of the awesome things about train travel is the surplus of outlets around in coach class, but if you have a seatmate or you just have several things you’d like to charge at once, it can easily become awkward to try to manage. Even moreso, the sleeper cars tend to have only one outlet per car, so this came in very handy when I was traveling in those, as I could charge my phone, Kindle, and Fitbit all at once! It’s surprisingly light, amazingly portable, and can swivel in whatever direction necessary in order to be plugged in. I seriously love this little thing and intend to never travel without it again!
-A Sturdy, Comfortable Backpack (I used this travel backpack): You’re allowed to take a ridiculous amount of baggage onto a train. Seriously, it’s kind of absurd. I used a carry-on sized standard suitcase for my clothes and whatnot, but I brought along a backpack with me to carry my books and other entertainment items, pajamas, some small snacks, toiletries, and any other items I wanted to keep on my person during the train ride. The traditional luggage was either stored above my seat or in a luggage rack near the front of the train compartment I was in, so it was extremely useful to have a sturdy, convenient backpack with all of my personal items inside it. A backpack is great rather than a tote bag or large purse because it can zip and it’s easily transportable anywhere in the train – even in the skinniest of train hallways. Although I did also bring along a small purse (this one, actually! I told you, I get basically everything on amazon these days…) to carry items that I wanted to make sure never left my person, such as ID cards and cash, I was very happy to have a backpack with all of my essentials easily with me at all times.
–Amazon Basics Packing Cubes: I know some folks are unsure about packing cubes, but I got a few slim-style ones from the ebags brand for my backpacking trip to Europe a few years ago and I’ve never looked back. The convenience and organizational uses simply cannot be beat. Packing and unpacking is a total breeze. Your suitcase looks amazing. Seriously, I do NOT travel without these anymore, period. The reason I’m recommending these amazon basics ones are because they were super cheap but good quality! I’ve taken them on four separate trips at this point and they’ve remained strong. Rumor has it that the ones in black can have some color bleeding onto clothes, but I purchased the light grey ones and have had no issues with that whatsoever. Honestly, whether you go with the amazon brand or the ebags brand or whatever, packing cubes have made my traveling life 100 times easier and I recommend them to all!
–Colgate Wisps: Okay, so it might not be wise to spend that much money on 4 wisp brushes, but however you procure them bring some of these on the train with you! Although I obviously brushed my teeth morning and night while on my trip, it was SO NICE to be able to have a few of these wisps if I just wanted to quickly freshen my breath or even just give myself a little jolt of minty energy and scent while on a sometimes stuffy train. I’m kind of a weirdo about keeping my teeth clean, so maybe it’s just me, but being able to feel instantly fresh in the middle of a crowded train is very important! I feel like this is one of those things that you might not think you’d miss if you don’t have it, but you’ll be thanking your lucky stars if you want one and you did bring these along!
–All Aboard: The Complete North American Train Travel Guide: If you read one book about train travel before or during your train trip, this is the one to read. It includes an absolute plethora of information about not only insider tips and tricks for Amtrak, but also on how trains work, the prettiest route options to take, and so much more! I never pegged myself for a total train enthusiast (read: nerd) but this book was fascinating and really helped me get excited for my upcoming adventure!
So there you have it, my list of must-have essential items for an epic train trip! If you or someone you know is going on a long-distance train adventure, this list will help make the trip as comfortable, cozy, healthy, and awesome as possible! ALL ABOARD! Happy traveling 🙂