When I say long train trip, I mean, you sleep in the train or at least spend a considerable number of hours in it. But let’s say that you’ve got to sleep at least one night onboard.
A train trip is the essence of Slow Travelling. You usually know when you are living, even if sometimes your departure is delayed, but you can’t say for sure when you’ll arrive. You will say that it’s now the same for a plane trip. The difference is, in the case of a train trip, you are completely taken in charge and can go on with your life onboard! How comfortable this is!
We recently took this dreamed trans-Canada train trip and had a blast! But we were prepared, and it was fun because we had everything needed to be comfortable. If you are not ready, you can quickly end up complaining and counting the minutes before you reach your final destination. What a shame it would be for such a worthwhile trip! Long train trips are a treat, a once in a lifetime experience. So you wouldn’t want to spoil your journey because you are missing something that could have changed your life onboard!
What you can check on the train company website before leaving
There are several things you can check before you go. (For example regarding the Via-Rail trans-Canada train, this post is not sponsored.)
Depending on the level of comfort you choose, you will already know if you have a private bathroom or not, a toiletry kit, towels, some privacy (meaning a private compartment), your meals included or simply some tea, coffee and water at your disposal. All these must be taken into account because you don’t want to spend several days without being able to take a shower. On the other hand, you don’t want to take useless things onboard because private compartment or not your personal space is limited.
My advice here: check and double check, eventually in case of doubt ask the company, what’s included with the tickets you’ve booked.
My ultimate list of things no one will tell you about for a long train trip
a small backpack
The train is in constant motion, and it means that you’ll sometimes have some difficulties to keep your balance. You’ll also have to go from one coach to another; it means opening heavy doors, in the winter it could be when standing on a slippery floor. You’ll have to be able to hold yourself at any time. Especially if there are some panoramic coaches available, meaning you’ll have some stairs to manage. Even if you have a private compartment, you will only be able to lock it from the inside. Therefore you’ll have to carry all your valuables with you. Hence the handy backpack. It will allow you both to carry all these valuables belongings with you and have the use of your hands without losing balance while managing a heavy shoulder bag.
a carry-on suitcase
Any small luggage will do. Anyway, you are allowed only small luggage onboard. Your more significant pieces of luggage will be checked in when you get onboard, you will have them back at the end of the trip. Why a suitcase preferably? Well because it’s easy to manage in the corridors, you can have your small backpack on and pull your suitcase. Once again you won’t lose your balance trying to carry a big bag on your shoulder. It fits perfectly under the beds or benches in the train. Eventually, you can add a small lock if you want a little bit more security during your train trip.
a pair of light shoes
I don’t say slippers because you won’t always walk on perfectly cleaned areas. People get in from the outside regularly and don’t have clean shoes, especially during the wintertime. So this applies more to a wintertime train trip. You really don’t want to stay on the train all day long wearing winter boots, or even simple boots. Light outdoor shoes are more appropriate and comfortable.
a pashmina and a cozy jacket
The pashmina will be used as an extra blanket, a scarf or a shawl. Sometimes it’s cold onboard, especially when the train opens its doors to let passengers get down. During the wintertime, I will add a comfortable woollen jacket or a hoodie. It will also cover you when you need to go to the bathroom. It will especially be useful for people who don’t sleep in a private compartment.
a comfy covering PJ’s
For the same reason as the previous one. You can be asked to get down the train at any moment if the worst cases. You wouldn’t want to be in the middle of nowhere during the wintertime wearing a light nightgown. For those who don’t sleep in a private compartment, even better! Think that anybody is walking through the corridors, and if there is a curtain to hide you from indiscrete looks, you will sleep better if you know there is nothing to see anyway. Forget elegance and opt for adequate and warm.
a mask and earplug
If you are sensitive to noise when you sleep, if you can’t get other the background noises, you will need them. Background noise is consequent during a train trip! Personally, I can be awakened by a tiny sound, but I don’t mind background noises. I sleep rather well during a train trip because the background noise covers the tiny unexpected ones!
Books and audiobooks
I can get unexpectedly sick during train trips, or not at all. I didn’t take the chance and opted for audiobooks. It was a brilliant idea; I read several books that were on my list for quite long. Be careful to choose audiobooks you don’t need to mark or underline, like novels. Other books are perfect too if you are not sensitive to transport sickness. Remember you’ll have few distractions, so consider how long will last your train trip and take enough books. It’s the perfect occasion for ebooks because you can take more than you’ll need without adding too much to your carry-on suitcase.
Music (and movies) and card games
I added movies because of my teenagers who would have wanted to watch one or two during the trip. But honestly, they managed without any. If I say music that’s because chances are you won’t have Wifi or signal, so you can’t count on the Internet. These long slow days are the perfect occasion to enjoy good music. Be prepared and download your favourite ones before leaving your home. Regarding the games, you’ll have time to play with your family. Think small games, however! That’s why I favoured card games.
any kind of earphones
The ones you are more comfortable with for a long listening time! I chose headband earphones because it looked comfortable, and I was planning to listen to all the books I wanted to read. It was a first, and I was happy with them. Beware that the sound is not the greatest though, it’s not the same match as earplugs. Anyway, it’s comfortable, and if you want, you can use them during your sleep to cut the background noise with some relaxing sounds.
We forgot ours and did not miss them because the snow was highlighting enough what we could see. Nevertheless, I believe there can be quite a lot to see during the summertime. So I will definitely make sure to take them on our next train trip this summer.
The slow pace of a train trip
All these will definitely help your journey without taking too much room in your suitcase. Always think minimal when travelling! These long trips can be obviously long. We were supposed to have 4 nights and 3 days onboard. Eventually, we had a 5 nights and 4 days trip in the end. We foresaw that, so everything was in control, we had no stress at all. It was all extra pleasure to enjoy the train a little longer.
My last advice will be this one, enjoy the slow journey!
If you want to know more about our train trip this winter in Canada:
If you want more packing ideas: