4 Tips on How to Survive a Long Trip on the Train

Updated on September 28, 2018
Haley Shatrau profile image

Hey guys! Since moving to NYC, I do a lot of traveling home and have somewhat mastered it. So here are some tips that will hopefully help yo

The only lame part about living so far away from where I grew up is that the trip home is a real journey. It usually involves a subway ride (or two), a train ride, and sometimes a few hours in the passenger seat of a car. Most times it rounds out at about 6 hours (sometimes more or less depending on how much time I spend waiting or being delayed).

Luckily for you, I’ve become somewhat of a “professional traveler” based on the number of times I’ve taken this trip, and I'm ready to share my top travel tricks with you. Here are my best tips for surviving long (and boring) trips back home or to wherever you want to go.

Tip 1: Pack Light

Carrying heavy bags through the subway and up and down stairs in any station while you’re traveling can be absolute misery. So do your best to pack light, especially when you’re only spending a few days somewhere and not attending any special events.

I get it; once in a while we need to pack extra because we have a wedding or a party to attend. And that’s perfectly fine. I find that picking out an outfit for the event in advance (shoes, accessories and all) and trying it on helps ensure you’re not over packing.

I recommend a backpack or some sort of large tote bag as a “carry-on”. Something you can jam your smaller handbag in but still have room for things you’ll want for the trip. It’s much easier to have one bag while trying to maneuver through aisles of a train car or bus. Also be sure to check the limits for your specific type of transportation. Some have weight limits or bag limits for luggage depending on what you choose.

Tip 2: Get the Best Seat

Ok, this is probably the most important tip I’m going to give you. If you’re anything like me and like to have your choice of seat and are also mad awkward about asking complete strangers if you can sit with them, then listen up. Get there earlier than you think you need to be.

I’m serious. If your ticket or reservation says “passengers should arrive 20 minutes prior to departure for boarding,” get there 30–45 minutes in advance. Trust me, you’ll beat everyone there and most likely be at the front of the line, if not the first person in line (I have been first before and it’s great). This is also important because most buses and trains do not have assigned seats. It’s a first-come-first-serve basis.

Pro-tip: If you want to cop a seat alone, get there early, grab a window seat and jam all your shit in the seat next to you. Then pop in some headphones and look longingly out the window. Most people will be way too considerate to interrupt you to ask if they can sit there. (The only time this doesn’t work is when there’s a full train/bus and every seat has to be used.)

Tip 3: Bring Entertainment for the Journey

When it comes to packing things for a long trip, here are some essentials. These also come in handy when there are delays (yes, they are inevitable sometimes) and you need to pass some time while you wait.

  • A good book. I love packing a book, whether I’ve read it 3 times already, just started it yesterday, or it's been sitting on my shelf for months. There is no better time to get into a book than on a long, quiet train ride with nothing else to do.
  • My laptop. It’s always with me for numerous reasons. One is the fact that I write a blog and I never know when inspiration may strike or if I'll need to get a post up while traveling. I also love being able to watch Netflix or YouTube or browse online when the onboard Wi-Fi works.
  • Headphones. These are essential for me anytime I set foot outside my house, but especially on a long trip because I find that listening to music passes the time just as much as reading a book does. It’s also the perfect time to find new music or explore different playlists.
  • Snacks. Buying food on a train is soooo expensive, so don’t waste your money on that. And obviously there is no café car on a bus, so I prefer to bring my own snacks and usually water (lately sparkling, or a seltzer because I’m obsessed with them). Bring easy things like nuts, chips, or fruit that doesn’t make a mess. Don’t go whipping out your mom's homemade lasagna. Trains rides are usually smooth but not that smooth.

Tip 4: Deal With Annoying Passengers

We know it’s going to happen once in a while; that noisy kid that won’t stop screaming in the seat behind you or that guy that’s talking mad loud on his phone the entire ride. The thing I’ve learned while doing all this traveling is that you can’t control other people. You can just be a good human and hope that others will follow your lead.

I try my best to help anyone who hasn’t traveled much and is confused or lost, and I always act respectful of others' personal space and the public spaces I’m sharing. But, if someone is doing something super annoying, don’t be afraid to talk to the staff on the train or bus. You paid for your ticket just like everyone else, and you deserve to enjoy your trip. Or if you’re gutsy enough, stand up to the person yourself and express your opinion about their rude actions. It may save you and your fellow passengers some headache.

I hope these tips will help make your next trek a little easier. Comment below if you have any other useful tips to share, I’d love to hear them!

Thanks for reading!

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