I am a sucker for train travel. What other transportation alternative offers ample leg room, no security lines and no traffic jams?
In fact, the mere mention of the word “rail” evokes romantic thoughts of long afternoons spent gazing at gorgeous scenery while happily chatting with the person in the next seat.
Unfortunately, I have also had my share of nightmare train experiences. I’ve spent hours sitting on cold station floors, I’ve been stuck in a cramped fetal position in Eastern Europe because I thought the cheaper ticket was the better deal, and I have dealt with my share of screaming babies.
Fortunately I have learned that although things like screaming babies are impossible to plan for, there are a whole lot of other variables you can control to ensure a pleasant trip by train.
Here are some key-pointers for keeping your train ride enjoyable, convenient and inexpensive:
It may sound obvious, but the more you know, the better prepared you’ll be.
Check out the train traveler’s bible at www.seat61.com. With everything from timetables to train photos, the website offers just about everything you can know without boarding the train itself. Grab your spiral bound notebook and start taking notes.
First Class Can Be Cheap
When purchased in advance, many train companies, especially in Europe, have promotional offers that sometimes include the luxury wagons. If you know your travel dates and can commit to booking in advance, you may have a chance at a first class ticket for just a little over the regular price. Just remember to freshen up before taking your seat next to a local businessman.
Turn Long Trips Into Overnight Trips
If several train journeys are on your itinerary, consider making the longer ones overnighters. Even the best of travelers can get antsy during long train rides and unless you are devoted to enjoying the scenery, save your travel energy and book a night ticket.
Trains are often calmer during the night hours and if on a budget, you will end up saving one night’s accommodation. On top of it all, what can be better than falling asleep in one city and waking up the next morning in a whole new one?
Get Up And Move Around
Train rides, especially long ones, are more enjoyable if your body feels fresh and energetic. Stretching your legs every hour will give your blood a chance to circulate and perk you up. Not only will you feel better, but walking around the train can often lead to interesting conversations with the locals, giving you lots of juicy bits for your travel blog.
Keep Track Of Your Luggage
Even in the safest of countries, always keep a good eye on your luggage. As any mindful traveler knows, money, passport and other valuables should be kept on your body. In regards to your backpack or suitcase, try to stow it as close to your seat as possible.
If forced to place it at the end of a wagon, or out of your view, get up every once in awhile to go and stand by it for a few minutes – this way people know that you are keeping it under surveillance.
Pack Essential Food
Remember the days of packing a school lunch? Train travel is no different. Depending on the country, train food can be one of three things: Expensive, Unappetizing, Non-existent.
Don’t take the risk; before boarding your next train, go to the local market or grocery store and pack your own lunch. Stock it full of high energy food like fruit and nuts, which will keep you feeling healthy throughout the ride.
And don’t forget to stay hydrated!
Do you have any train travel stories or tips of your own? Share in the comments!