17 Train Hacks That Will Take Your Trip to the Next Level

Traveling across the country by train is a dream that many people have, but when you actually plan to do it, you'll have a lot of questions. I recently took Amtrak from San Francisco to New York and learned a lot of pro tips on my journey. If you're planning to chug over to a new location, make sure to check out these hacks — they'll totally improve your journey for the better.

  1. Get a window seat. On a long ride, you'll be surprised by how many outside sights keep you entertained.
  2. If you take Amtrak, sign up for guest rewards. The rewards program will help you rack up points based on how much you spend. You can use those points for future trips.
  3. Make sure to bring earplugs. The train can be loud, and if you want to get some rest, earplugs will drown out the noise.
  4. Bring your own alcohol on the train if you have your own room. It's so much cheaper to bring your own bottle rather than buy the drinks sold on the train; the only catch is that you have to have your own room — you can't drink your own liquor in coach seating.
  5. Ask for blankets. The attendants will happily provide you with as many blankets as you need to keep cozy.
  6. Go to the viewing car for a change of scenery. When you're sick of your seat, you can go to the viewing car to sit in a new chair and be surrounded by different people.
  7. If you need to bring a lot of luggage, go ahead. Each passenger can take two carry-on items and check two pieces of baggage for free.
  8. Go to the dining car to meet new people. The car has community seating so that the train can accommodate every passenger, so you often sit across the table from strangers to befriend.
  9. If you are an AAA member, you can get 10 percent off your trip. There's also discounts for children and seniors.
  10. Bring lots of games. Reading can be tricky on trains if you easily get motion sick, but other activities like cards and dice are a great way to pass the time.
  11. Listen to the Trails & Rails program. Certain trains have National Park rangers over the loudspeaker who will narrate your trip as you look out your window.
  12. Keep an eye on the SmartFares offers. On Amtrak's website, the SmartFares section will sometimes offer up to 25 percent off coach seating.
  13. Buy food at the snack cafe, not the dining car. The food at the cafe is way cheaper than in the dining car. If you're going frugal, get your grub there.
  14. Stretch your legs at train stops. Your train will likely stop several times on your journey. Some stops are only 10 minutes long, while others can be an hour or longer. It's a great time to stand up or even explore the surrounding area — just make sure you get back to your seat before departure!
  15. The cafes have microwaves that you can use for hot water. No food allowed, but they will totally let you use the microwave to heat water for a beverage or ramen.
  16. If the closest bathroom to you is really tiny, explore the train. There are larger restrooms available in different cars.
  17. Keep your personal items organized and easily accessible. You won't have a ton of space to spread your belongings out, so make sure anything you'll be needing on your trip is easy to get to.