Hints for Riding the Rails

Today’s post comes Barbara in Rivertown


Our recent train trip to the west coast was lovely and relaxing during the two days we traveled each direction. Here are a few tips to the uninitiated, while the experience is fresh in my mind.


– Have one carry-on bag with everything you’ll need for however long you’re on the train, including a fresh change of clothes. That way you can be free from pawing through your large suitcase – it can just stay in the vestibule with the others.


– Good not only for when you’re trying to sleep. They will not, however, help awakening at the lurching as the train crosses the track-merge connections. Not to worry, the rocking and the clickety-clack will (probably) lull you off to sleep again.

– Earplugs may also be good if you want peace and quiet in the Lounge Car. You could consider creating a “Megaphone Award” prize for each day aboard, to hand out to that one person in the Lounge Car whose conversation can be heard through the entire car. Alternately, you could just chime in with the conversation and yell comments back.


– If you have a roomette (or other sleeping quarters), three meals a day are included in the dining car. Although not a 4-star restaurant, the food is pretty darn good. (However, the same vegetable will be served with all entrees until the train turns around and heads back the other way.) Remember that you are not getting all that much exercise, and consider eating partial portions, or at least split the dessert with your companion.

– Unless you are a party of four and fill up the whole booth, you will be seated with other travelers, and will meet an array of interesting people at these meals. You may want to have a paper and pen available to exchange addresses with the most compatible of these.


– It is amazing how many sore muscle you can get from a lot of sitting! Try and get up to walk around every hour – take a trip to some other part of the train. Beyond the Dining and Observation Cars (located in the center) are the Coach Cars – follow to the end so you can see the track recede as you watch where you’ve just been. Be sure to walk with a wide stance with hands held out to catch you when you fall against the seats, and understand that if this were being filmed, you would look like you have just drunk at least one bottle of wine.

What sort of travel tips do you have to offer from your journeys?

59 thoughts on “Hints for Riding the Rails”

  1. Morning all. My two tips for air travel. #1: Sleep going east, stay up going west. #2: Once you arrive at your destination, change your watch immediately to the current time and ignore what time it is back home.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. my sleep is perfect the second day after doing a real long day on route. a little puncy at the end of that one 40 or 50 hour day but man do you sleep . 6 or 7 hours cures everything


  2. When traveling by bus, understand that you are in very close quarters. Getting up and walking around will not likely happen. If there is a rest stop, take full advantage of it. Stretch. No really – stretch while you are off the bus. Bring snacks you can share with your seat mate (or anyone else). Be kind to the drivers – they are getting you to your destination safely. If you are headed to a rally in Washington DC, know that you will be standing a lot when you get there. Although you feel cramped now in your seat with no leg room, appreciate it while you can – you are about to stand for most of a day. And remember stretching? Do lots of that again before you step back on the bus.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My tip is for air travel. If flight attendants designate you to leave your seat, scream like a banshee and flail your arms when they drag you along the aisle. Expect some pain and lost teeth, but if you can get a good lawyer this single moment will be so profitable you probably won’t have to work again, ever.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Steve could fix the color in the photo; he’s good at that. 🙂

      It’s a decent photo; I like the mood that the clouds lend to it and the tracks are so nice and bright that the feeling of traveling is heightened.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I fly into MSP tomorrow early evening….a three hr flight but I go back 2hr time. Ive been listening to MPR every morning so feel not quite so far away. Don’t envy husbands drive home but he has a wedding, family, golf and granddaughters softball games to look forward to over the weekend.

    Sounds like I’m in for chilly weather…and damp. It’s been up to 100 dry heat the past two days…air conditioning. The heater will go on as soon as I get back to the lake. Cousin is collecting me and Bandit so the ride home will be a fun conversational fast couple of hours.

    Don’t have any travel tips…just packed light as I have Bandit….and husband put me in first class for more room….nice guy. Flight was booked months ago so got a good deal…nice all around. I haven’t flown in approxamately 25-30 years so any extra comfort will help. Also having Bandit in my lap will be nice. A lot of ‘nice’ coming out this morning!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. When we went to Wales, we got ourselves each a soft suitcase with a shoulder strap, a side handle and backpack straps. They open on the side, like any suitcase, and are just small enough to carry on the plane. We got by just fine for two weeks with the clothes we could fit in those packs. When we got home, we got rid of some of the larger luggage with wheels and handles we had used previously.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Smaller luggage and packing light are definitely the way to go no matter how you’re traveling. And for purposes of making it through airport security, shoes that slip off and on with ease. But really, Ive come to detest the entire flying experience, I prefer to go by some other means of transportation.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. “I’ve come to detest the entire flying experience” . . . oh, I hear you! I swore I’d never fly again. Now that issue is, uh, up in the air. My daughter wants me to fly to Michigan when we go. She’s ready to pay for a first class ticket. All in all, I’d probably rather drive because it will cost more to ship my car than it is worth.

    Some of you might remember that I drove from Saint Paul to Portland in two days, but to do so I stopped taking a medication that I really should have taken. I was in the hospital here for three days after that trip, which is a dumb way to cut time off the travel.

    Decisions, decisions.


      1. Not so easy. I absolutely adore my car. I’ve driven it 14 years without the slightest problem. Haven’t even had to change a light bulb yet. Everything works perfectly. The car isn’t even very “old” in terms of miles (89,000 miles). For what I could get for it here I would never be able to buy anything nearly as good.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, now that you know that stopping taking the medications was a stupid idea, this time keep taking them. You’re retired, what’s you hurry? Take your time and make it a fun road trip. Some good music, perhaps a recorded book and two, and you’re all set. It’s a nice time of the year to be driving.


        1. Sometimes you have to put yourself first, Steve. I wouldn’t trust you to drive that distance if I knew you were hell bent on doing it in record time, but if I knew I could trust you to stop, get some rest, and some decent food whenever needed, I’d sure say go for it.

          Liked by 1 person

    2. I bet you could find some college student or graduate student willing to drive the car for you across country for a fee.


  7. Don’t plan on driving in Wales unless you are comfortable with a manual transmission. Automatic transmissions were unavailable no matter what level of rental you choose. This may still be true of Scotland as well. Not only do you have to sit on the right side of the car and reorient yourself to driving on the left but you also have to shift with your left hand. Pedals are in their customary spots.
    Unexpectedly, one of the most difficult things about driving from the right side was how it affected my ability to judge the left side boundaries of the car.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The trade off is that, if you don’t drive yourself, you are more limited to the main arterial routes traveled by public transportation and the schedules intrinsic to that means of travel.


    2. I’ve driven in Wales (and England and Scotland) on tiny little roads in cars with right-hand driver seating. Whew! I learned to shift with my left hand but other controls confused me. When I wanted to signal a turn I ended up most of the time turning on the windshield wipers. I took comfort from my notion that UK drivers seeing a car waggling its wipers would recognize a tourist and give me wide berth. Then I learned the UK drivers were worse than I was (they don’t drive most of the year but do on holiday).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Only places I drive (besides around here) are Maui, Kau and and the Big Island because they have a lot fewer rosds so I can’t get lost as easily.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. A friend was renting a car in Scotland. He asked the rental agent, “Do you have a sign or something I can put in the window to let other drivers know I’m a foreign driver?”
        The rental agent replied, “Oh, they’ll know.”

        Liked by 3 people

  8. My tips:
    When traveling by train and traveling coach (i.e. no beds to sleep in), know that 3 days and 3 nights of trying to sitting most of the time and sleep in those seats at night is too long. Your butt will hurt; your shoulders will hurt (from trying to lie down on the seat if you are lucky enough to not have to share a seat), and you won’t get nearly enough sleep. So either take a shorter trip or take a break in the middle of it.
    Pack snacks. Unlike BiR, the trains I have been on do not have good food.
    Make sure that the bathroom door locks and stays locked before you do anything that you don’t want anyone else to see. I had the fun of being in a bathroom that would unlock itself when the train swayed too much (luckily I was just brushing my teeth). So next time I was waiting for a bathroom, I refused to go in that one and told other people why. They didn’t believe me (because the door did lock, they thought it would STAY locked), but one guy told me when he exited: “You’re right.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I discovered there is a lot of difference between newer and older cars, mainly by the bathroom arrangements and locks…

      Totally agree about sleeping in coach (or trying to), which I did on my marathon trip back in ’98. I could only do two nights at a stretch, but luckily that got me to my next stop for a few days.


      1. Taking the empire builder to and from Seattle isn’t bad; two nights and one day (or a bit more if it runs late) is doable.


        1. When I did it, just a couple hours going to Seattle. Eight hours late coming back. Eight! And no getting out of the train when it runs that late. I was going a little buggy long before we reached the twin cities – I really wanted to be outside and off the train. And of course the rumor going around the train was that a couple hours after I would be getting off the train, everyone would get a free dinner to sort of make up for being so late. I had totally run out of snacks hours before I got home, so even train food sounded good to me.


  9. I have little travel experience. I would recommend, though, that you always bring socks, even if you don’t think you’ll need them. They don’t take up much space, and you never know, it might be cold. You’ll feel better if you have socks.

    Liked by 5 people

  10. Late to the conversation here but I wanted to add our story. Back in 1990, Kelly and I took the Empire Builder back from Seattle as part of our Honeymoon. (Flew out, train back).
    We couldn’t afford the sleeper so spent the 2 nights / days in the seats. We remember hitting Fargo in the middle of the night and being surprised at the number of people hanging out at the train station at 2AM.
    And the loud ‘Cliff Clavin’ type guy who sucked up all the oxygen from Fargo to St. Paul. Wish we’d have had ear plugs.
    And the toilet overflowed and the carpet all got wet…
    Course without those memories, there wouldn’t be much to remember about the train trip home. 🙂


    Good friends are headed to Italy in a couple weeks. He’s been reserving cars and hotel rooms.
    Although the first car he reserved was in FLO, which is Florence South Carolina. FLR is the Italy Florence.
    Boy, he never would have heard the end of that from his wife.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks Barbara for posting about train travel here in the US! It is something that is so under-appreciated, and Amtrak is a beautiful way to see the country and well-worth taking the extra time to get there. People travel by train for many different reasons… I am not a good flyer, and so I once persuaded my boyfriend at the time, to take the train from MN to NYC for his brother’s wedding. Like a good sport, he went along with it, and really loved the experience. I’ve taken it for shorter trips from Mpls to Milwaukee and also took it from Iowa to the Flagstaff area with my mom and family. That trip was really wonderful, and the train does make stops here and there, and you are able to get out and stretch your legs every so often, but you must be on the ball and not miss the train’s departure. Along the Flagstaff route, there were some Native Americans who were selling beautiful blankets and other items at some of the stops so that was really fun to get out and browse around. Next time I take the train, I think I will sign-up for a sleeper-car and get the meals. The journey can be the best part of the trip when you take the train. The only funny/smelly experience I had on the train was when, near Albuquerque, when 90 !! Boy Scouts got on after they had been camping for 2 weeks… and then proceeded to take off their shoes. WHEW!


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