When we went to Montana earlier this month, my friend and I wanted to have an adventure, so we decided to take the Amtrak. It felt like the perfect mode of transportation to take to the mountains! The trip from St. Paul to Whitefish was scheduled to be 24 hours, but we knew going in that the Amtrak can easily be delayed since all other rail traffic gets priority. I didn’t keep a close eye on the time, but I think the trip there and the trip back turned out to be about 26 – 27 hours long. That’s a long time to be on a train! While it wasn’t always comfortable (especially our trip there), I’d love to take the train again, especially because this first train trip taught me a few things that I think would make future train trips much more comfortable. Here are my tips for surviving 24 hours on the Amtrak.
STEP OUTSIDE AND GET FRESH AIR WHENEVER YOU HAVE THE CHANCE
After a couple of hours on the train the air can start to feel a little stale and you don’t have any control over the temperature of the car. On our way to Whitefish, it felt like they were pumping heat through our train car and there were moments when we felt like we needed to step outside and take a deep breath of fresh air. So when the train stopped and we were allowed to get off, we did. We didn’t stay outside for long; once people pulled out cigarettes we went back in. But just a minute or two made all the difference.
MAKEUP REMOVING WIPES CAN BE USED TO FRESHEN UP
Since showers aren’t an option on the train, if you’d like to find a way to freshen up, makeup removing wipes will be your friend. It’s not the same as soap and water of course, but it can make you a little bit more comfortable. For washing my face, I also brought along a bottle of micellar cleansing water and some cotton rounds. I don’t consider this a makeup remover or a face wash on a daily basis, but for the train it was quick and easy!
But not actual food. (The smell of spaghetti is nauseating in the stale air. I, a spaghetti-lover, speak from experience.) (Rotisserie chicken doesn’t smell that great either. Again, experience.)
Snacks on the train will cost you a small fortune, so if you’d like something to munch on throughout your trip, make sure to come prepared. And really think through what you’re going to want to munch on throughout a day on the Amtrak. On our way there we only had peanuts and granola bars, but we didn’t want to snack on them throughout the day. Before we came back we stopped at Target (the motherland!) and bought some chips and chocolate. Not the healthiest, but nothing about train fare is healthy. And we didn’t eat a ton of it, but if we felt like we needed something we’d grab a few chips.
BRING ENOUGH ACTIVITIES TO KEEP YOU OCCUPIED.
I can settle in with books, read for 24 hours straight and be totally satisfied, but my friend wanted a little variety in her activities. It’s not as easy to move around on the train as you might think and people camped out in the observation car. (That’s also where families with small children congregated and, well, we work in a school.) If you think you’d like variety in your activities, it might be worth it to bring a computer (or tablet) filled with movies. There was no wi-fi, so you either need to have discs or they need to be downloaded to your device.
TRY TO GET A SEAT WITH A WORKING FOOTREST.
A working leg rest is an extra plus! Sometimes the footrest was the only way to find a comfortable position–and it was the only reason I got any sleep on the way there! My friend didn’t have a working footrest on the way there and she was miserable. The first thing we did when we looked for seats on the way back was check to be sure the foot and leg rests worked.
RIDES THAT START IN THE MORNING ARE MUCH BETTER THAN RIDES THAT START AT NIGHT.
I thought it would be the opposite, but if you wake up at the crack of dawn because of all the hustle and bustle on the train like me, you’re just in for a day of one long and exhausted ride. If you get on well-rested, you can have a decent day filled with whatever you brought to occupy yourself and after a restless sleep you’re at your final destination.