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Traveling by train? Experts suggest packing these essentials for the ride

When traveling by train, it's important to pack items that will help combat the less desirable side effects of travel.
Kara Birnbaum / TODAY

All aboard! Travel is officially back in full swing and many wanderlusters are electing to catch the nearest passenger train for a traffic-free (and cost-effective) vacation. But whether you’re eager to head on the “Rock N Roll Train” or the “Midnight Train to Georgia,” it is imperative to arrive at the station with all the necessary travel accessories to warrant a smoother ride along the tracks.

From top-rated makeup bags to comfortable footwear, we’ve found several essentials to pack for your next train trip to guarantee a successful excursion. We also spoke to true experts to get the lowdown on how to master train travel, whether you’re a novice or a repeat rider.

Why train travel? | Expert tips for packing | Train travel must-haves | What to consider for overnight trips | Overnight must-haves | How we chose | Meet the experts

Why should you consider train travel for your next trip?

“[For starters,] the ability to travel with small pets within the U.S., a café car, large spacious seats with ample leg room, no middle seat and some of the best views of the country you can’t see anywhere else,” says Amtrak senior public relations manager Jason Abrams. “In addition, traveling on the train is a lot more sustainable than car and plane for those who are conscious of the carbon footprint."

“Traveling by train is often a less stressful experience than flying and takes less of a physical toll on the body, as well,” suggests Gingerlily founder Deborah Fiddy. “Being based in London, this is especially true when traveling within the UK and Europe. Also, you simply can’t beat the view of the landscape from a train window — it can be very therapeutic!”

Expert tips for packing for a train trip

Stay connected

If you’re traveling on a passenger train, you will certainly want constant access to your electronic devices. “With an outlet available at every seat, bring your chargers so you can stay connected and power your devices,” suggests Abrams. “This also makes headphones essential for listening to music or a podcast or watching your favorite movie.”

Don’t leave home without…

Whether your goal is to pack weeks ahead or last-minute, you’ll want to be sure to bring these items recommended by Abrams:

Books, a deck of cards, a journal, binoculars and a camera to capture the passing landscapes.

Comfortable shoes are a good idea so you can walk around and move around the train.

Travel documents and IDs are needed for travel, as well.

Abrams also suggests consulting the Amtrak website before leaving home, as it specifically identifies items that are prohibited onboard.

“When traveling by train, it's important to pack items that will help combat the less desirable side effects of travel, such as dry skin, dull hair and fatigue,” recommends Fiddy.

“It’s also a good idea to pack a pair of earplugs and a good book to block out any unwanted noise and help pass the time. With these essentials, you’ll be well-prepared for a comfortable and relaxing journey,” Fiddy adds.

Advice for first-time train travelers

If you’re a rookie when it comes to train travel, Abrams suggests remembering a few other tips to ensure a smoother trip:

Arrive early so you have time to locate your platform and ready any bags you want to have checked.

Only pack what you can carry unless you're checking it.

If you're in search of a place to unwind during your train ride, Quiet Cars are available onboard many corridors and short-distance trains. In a Quiet Car, phone calls are not allowed, conversations are limited and low overheard lighting is used.

Products to shop for train travel

Sea-Band Acupressure Wristband

Washable? Yes | Reusable? Yes

Do you suffer from motion sickness? Fear no more! These acupressure wristbands are clinically proven to relieve nausea while traveling, according to the brand. Each package comes in a set of two as one should be worn on each wrist to work effectively.

Classic Embossed Travel Journal Diary

Colorways: 7 | Pages: 160 | Special features: Refillable

Document your travels by writing down or illustrating all the landmarks you witness en route to your final destination with this embossed notebook. Featuring a compass on the cover, this travel diary is made of high quality pu leather and is super durable to hold long-lasting memories.

“I love the quality, and the vintage look and feel of the leather cover and the archaic, rustic coarse pages. I almost don't want to write in it,” said one verified buyer.

Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2024

Pages: 224

What's better than a good book to keep you busy during a long train ride? If you're a book lover who has been bitten by the travel bug, you will love this bestseller from Lonely Planet. Experts selected five ranked lists of the top 10 destinations to visit in 2024. Whether your next vacation destination is Paris or Philadelphia, you'll surely appreciate learning more about these memorable places.

Travel Makeup Train Case

Colorways: 16 | Sizes: 4 (S-XL) | Lining: Nylon

Safely store all your toiletries while traveling with this bestselling cosmetic case. Made of high-quality Oxford fabric, this makeup bag includes enough storage space for including your favorite lipstick, foundation, mascara and more.

“Its durability and good quality has made it easy to travel with, and it withstands any bumpy rides. It is also easy to clean any stains that may arise - a huge plus!,” adds one five-star reviewer.

Anker Portable Charger

Battery capacity: 10,000mAh | Compatible with: Most phone providers

Have you ever been streaming your favorite sitcom when your phone suddenly runs out of power? Always keep your devices fully charged with this Anker power bank that is Amazon’s Choice for portable chargers.

“This large capacity and slim profile battery pack is great to have on hand for emergencies, whenever there is a prolonged power outage, or when traveling and you don't have easy access to a power outlet,” one satisfied customer said. “I charge my phone daily and rarely need an external battery pack, but this has come in handy whenever there is a power outage and during travel.”

Darn Tough Vermont Blossom Crew Lightweight Lifestyle Sock

Colorways: 2 | Sizes: S-L | Materials: Merino wool, nylon, lycra spandex

Keep your feet warm and cozy with these crew socks that are made of odor-repellent materials and designed for long-lasting comfort. These lightweight socks are the ideal option for traveling as they are performance fit, which means no slipping or bunching.

National Parks Playing Cards

Dimensions: 4 3/8" L x 3 1/4" W x 1 1/2" H

It’s game time! Stay entertained on a long train ride with these National Parks Service playing cards. Each card includes a vintage-style photograph of one of our many acclaimed parks. We have no doubt you’ll ace this round!

Hydro Flask Wide Mouth with Flex Straw Cap

Colorways: 12 | Dishwasher-safe? Yes

Stay hydrated from morning to night with this 32-ounce wide mouth water bottle from Hydro Flask. This BPA-free bottle features a leakproof flex straw cap and keeps drinks cold for 24 hours and hot up to 12 hours. Now available in pastel shades like dew and grapefruit, personalization is also available on the brand’s site so you’ll never lose your water bottle again!

Eagle Creek Pack-It Reveal Cube Set

Colorways: 4 | Material: Recycled 300D Poly fabric, recycled double diamond poly mesh | Water-resistant? Yes

Keep all your clothes wrinkle- and stain-free with this set of "deceptively roomy" compression cubes, a recent Shop TODAY Travel Gear Awards winner. Pack all your essentials into these cubes that can be zipped up to flatten. They also feature handles on the exterior to make them easily accessible if you're digging around your luggage.

Quince SuperSoft Wide Leg Pants

Colorways: 4 | Sizes: XS-XL | Material: Tencel™/modal, recycled polyester, rayon, spandex

Feel like you’re wearing pajamas with these laidback drawstring slacks. Another recent Shop TODAY Travel Gear Awards winner for best budget travel pants, these super soft, eco-conscious bottoms are designed to offer plenty of stretch to fit all shapes and sizes.

Dr. Scholl's Jetset Slip-Ons

Colorways: 12 | Sizes: 6-11 | Heel height: 3/4"

These lightweight slip-ons from Dr. Scholl's earned raves from Shop TODAY Travel Gear Award testers for comfortable features like their built-in arch support, molded heel cup and anti-microbial foam footbed, landing a spot on the winners list for Best Budget Walking Shoes.

Modern Picnic The Pouch

Material: Vegan leather | Dimensions: 11” L x 4.5” D x 10” H

It’s no doubt you’ll start to get extra hungry on a long trip without packing a few yummy snacks. The pouch from Modern Picnic is the adult lunchbox you never knew you needed until now. This vegan leather exterior and insulated interior pouch is the perfect contraption for storing all your favorite fruits, veggies, nuts and more.

Dagne Dover Vida Cotton Tote Bag

Material: Organic cotton canvas | Dimensions: 18.5” L x 6.25” W x 14” H

Keep all your carry-on essentials close with this cotton “weekender” bag from Dagne Dover. This 100% vegan tote contains no pesticides, GMOs or pollutants, according to the brand, and features a wipeable interior lining. If you’re looking for a space to safely store your computer, this chic tote will also fit most 16” laptops in its interior slip pocket.

What to know about overnight train travel

If you’re traveling overnight on the train, it's important to bring items to keep you extra comfortable and help you get some decent shut-eye. Abrams suggests keeping the following in mind to make your evening on the train more relaxing:

Stretch before sleeping. "Before settling in for the night, take a few minutes to get up and stretch your muscles...This will help you relax and reduce the risk of cramping and stiffness. If you wish to be more discreet about your stretching, there are plenty of effective stretches that can be done while seated, especially for your neck and shoulders."

Bring a neck pillow. "A neck pillow can make a huge difference in your comfort level when sleeping in Coach. It will help you keep your head and neck relaxed, reducing the risk of stiffness or pain. You can make more comfortable use of sleeping in a forward position while resting on your arms atop the folding table in the seat back in front of you when you come equipped with a neck pillow."

Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. "Loose-fitting clothes that are made of breathable fabrics (think: athleisure) will be your best bet for feeling cool and unrestricted as you sleep. Likewise, your shoes should feel equally comfortable so it’s important to wear ones you can sleep in."

Block out distractions. "If you are a light sleeper, earplugs and an eye mask can help you block out noise and light, creating a more comfortable sleeping environment — this is especially helpful if a Quiet Car isn’t available to you. If you’re the type of sleeper who needs white noise like a box fan to help mute your brain, you’ll probably find that the general ambient train sounds will suffice."

Pack a blanket. "Whether or not you’re traveling in the winter months, the added comfort of a soft blanket goes a long way toward a restful night on the train."

Skip the towels and sheets. "If you have a sleeper car reservation, there are linens provided for you. Just like a hotel!"

Save room for special toiletries. "We [also] provide shampoo, soap and bottled water in all of our rooms. If your beauty regimen requires something special, please be sure to bring it. That includes, toothpaste, mouthwash, body lotion, hair conditioner, hair spray/gel, hairdryers and shower caps. The best part about traveling by train? No liquids restrictions!"

Products to shop for overnight train travel

Alaska Bear Silk Sleep Mask

Material: Organic mulberry silk | Hypoallergenic? Yes

This sleep mask and eye relaxer with 28,000+ verified five-star ratings is designed to reduce friction and prevent marks that could cause wrinkles, according to the brand. You’ll wake up refreshed and rejuvenated while ready to take on whatever the day has in store for you.

Bedsure Fleece Throw Blanket

Colorways: 28 | Size: 50” x 60”

Snuggle up in your seat while bingeing on your new favorite streaming show with this comfortable, lightweight fleece blanket. This soft, warm flannel maintains the perfect balance between weight and warmth, so you won’t be left shivering.

“Seams are even so the blanket folds well. It's super soft so everyone wants this blanket. Still soft and no fading after a few washes. I recommend this blanket!” said one verified reviewer.

LED Neck Reading Light

Charge length: Up to 80 hours | Brightness levels: 3 | Special features: Rechargeable

Dying to finish the last 50 pages of your juicy romance novel? You won’t have to wait until morning for the ending to be revealed with this neck reading light. Each head has an independent switch for three brightness levels and is rechargeable for up to 80 hours of reading time. The LED light features a special narrow beam angle (90 degree) design, so it is bright enough to easily read the words on the page while dim enough to not disturb your neighbor.

Amika Perk Up Dry Shampoo

Size: 5.3 ounces | Hair type: Oily

A Shop TODAY Beauty Awards winner for best overall dry shampoo, this talc-free product is designed to absorb excess oil to prevent greasy hair. This shampoo has 12,000+ verified five-star reviews on Amazon and is designed to add volume to your hair.

"I have used this product for years. I always have it in my travel kit and it’s great pick up even if you are going to wet shampoo later. Smells fabulous!" said one verified reviewer.

Cabeau Evolution Earth Neck Pillow

Material: Memory foam | Washable? Yes; cover only

Get some much-needed shut-eye with this evolution Earth neck pillow from Cabeau. With its memory foam core and 360-degree support, this sustainable neck pillow features soft, eco-friendly RPET fabric made from recycled plastic bottles. This super comfortable pillow features raised side supports, chin strap technology and a slim flattened back.

Loop Earplugs Experience Plus

Colorways: 4 | Reusable? Yes | Ear tip sizes: S-XL

Lay back and drift off to the sweet sounds of silence with these reusable Loop earplugs. With up to 18 dB of filtered noise reduction, these earplugs are designed to keep your ears safe and come with four interchangeable ear tip sizes for an optimal fit.

“What I love most about Loop Quiet is how easy and comfortable they are to wear," one Shop TODAY writer said about her experience wearing these. "With foam earplugs, I have to roll them, insert them into the ear canal and then wait for them to expand. To wear these, you simply pop them into your ear canal, making sure the entire silicone tip is inserted, then twist the loop handle up to create the seal."

Beis The Carry-On Roller

Colorways: 7 | Dimensions: 15.7" W x 22.8" H x 9.8" D

This carry-on suitcase by Beis is certainly pretty in pink... or any of the other six colors it is available in. Featuring 360-degree wheels and an expandable body, this darling roller will easily store all your train travel essentials.

"This carry-on looks chic, sophisticated and like you paid a lot more for it than you actually did. I’d been eyeing it since it was first announced that the color Maple would be coming out soon but it kept selling out before I could purchase it. I jumped at the chance when it came back on restock and I’m glad I did. You’ll be a standout walking through the airport," said one verified five-star reviewer.

How we chose

The items to pack were chosen based on expert insights, market research and verified customer reviews. We selected products that offered comfort for long trips on the train and also would aid in uninterrupted rest for passengers traveling overnight.

Meet the experts

  • Jason Abrams is the senior public relations manager for Amtrak.
  • Deborah Fiddy is an entrepreneur and founder of Gingerlily, which specializes in silk-based travel and bedding products.