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January 18, 2024 by Marie Rossiter
Train travel can add a new dimension to your vacation, letting you take in the scenery at a relaxing pace, and letting someone else do the driving. For those who love the journey as much as the destination, taking the train is the way to go. But what do you need for train travel?
Whether you’re planning a family train trip or solo travel across the country, there’s more to consider than just where you want to go. You’ll need to prepare for the journey to make sure you’re comfortable and have everything you need at your disposal. In fact, even if you commute by train to work, you shouldn’t hold back on putting together a collection of must-have train travel items to make your ride pleasant.
We spoke with travel experts to get their recommendations on what to bring on a train, so whether you’re planning a train-based vacation or want to make your work commute a bit smoother, here’s what you’ll need.
1. Travel Pillows
All the travel experts we connected with listed a sturdy travel pillow at or near the top of their must-have items when traveling by train.
“Train rides can be long, and having a good neck pillow makes all the difference in getting some sleep or just relaxing during the journey,” said Rachel Coleman of Easy World Travels.
Collen Clark, an attorney who lives in Washington, D.C., and loves traveling by train, told us a quality neck pillow can not only make a difference during a trip, but afterward.
“A neck pillow not only provides much-needed support for a nap but also helps prevent post-travel stiffness,” he said. “It’s a small investment that pays off big time in terms of comfort.”
The napfun Memory Foam Neck Pillow is the top-selling travel pillow on Amazon. It provides full chin and neck support with adjustable memory foam. This pillow can even be used for seats with headrests.
2. Noise-Canceling Headphones
Our experts all talked about the importance of having a pair of noise-canceling headphones. When you’re ready to tune out your surroundings, they can be a lifesaver.
“Train rides can often be noisy, whether it’s the sound of the train itself or fellow passengers,” said James Kinsella of Turtle Trip. “A pair of noise-canceling headphones can transform your journey into a peaceful retreat.”
Kinsella recommends the Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones, which “block out almost all of the background noise and allow me to fully immerse myself in a movie on an iPad or drift off to sleep.”
Amazon currently has the Bose QuietComfort 45 Headphones Bundle on sale for $299.99, marked down from $329. This bundle includes the headphones, an airplane headphone adapter, a 3.5 mm/2.5 mm audio cable cord, a 12-inch USB-C charging cable and a carrying case that will protect your headphones even if they get jostled around in your bag.
3. Sleep Mask
As you’re settling in for a nap or a night’s sleep, you’ll want a sleep mask to maximize your comfort and block out the surrounding light. When looking for a sleep mask, you want to find one that doesn’t apply too much pressure to your face.
The Nidra Deep Rest Eye Mask was ranked the top choice by The New York Times for its contoured shape and deep eyecups that don’t press against your eyes while sleeping. Their experts also liked the wide design and “unstructured nose gap,” which made the Nidra Deep Rest Eye Mask a better, more comfortable fit.
For a limited time, you can buy the Nidra Deep Rest Eye Mask from Amazon for just $19.99.
4. Lightweight Travel Blanket
You should consider bringing a portable, lightweight blanket to complete your relaxation travel collection.
“I highly recommend packing a light blanket when traveling via train, as it can be slightly cooler once the sun goes down,” shared Amanda Harper of Plugged In Travel.
For a comfortable blanket that doesn’t take up much room in your bag, consider picking up the EverSnug Travel Blanket. It comes in six colors and folds up neatly to ride on top of your roller luggage for convenient transport. Right now, it’s marked down 13% to $29.95.
5. Portable Chargers
Your computer, smartphone and other electric devices can make your trip more enjoyable. However, you don’t want to get caught with the dreaded low-battery warning mid-trip.
While many trains have a plug or charging port either built-in to the seat or nearby, experienced travelers told us not to always depend on those.
“The amount of times I’ve opted for a seat with a plug or charging port, sometimes even pay extra, only to find it’s broken or is incredibly slow to charge my devices,” said Ryan Walker, CEO of Beyond Academy and a businessman who often travels by train.
The Iniu Portable Charger has a slim design and USB-C ports. Its high-speed charging ability can bring an iPhone up to 78% within an hour.
6. Travel Document Organizers
One of the most challenging things about travel is keeping all your travel documents in one place that’s easy to access. Between passports, tickets, and all the other loose papers you need to get from one place to the other, it’s enough to drive even the most experienced traveler crazy.
All of the experts we spoke to suggested purchasing a travel documents organizer. These compact, convenient bags have loads of pockets to keep everything neatly organized.
The Boacay Family Passport Holder has room for multiple family members’ documents, cash and whatever you want to keep tucked away yet have easy access to on the train.
7. Carry-On Bag
A quality messenger bag for men and women can mean the difference between a relaxing trip and hours (or days) of inconvenience and hassle.
Vanessa Gordon of East End Taste told us the Conmigo Ulti travel bag is her go-to for whenever she travels by train.
“The bag is perfect for train travel. It has a built-in, multi-purpose padded cushion, allowing you to ‘upgrade your seat’ while in transit,” Gordon said. “It also allows you to safeguard your possessions during travel.”
8. Toiletries/Makeup Bag
You can’t forget to bring your medication and basic toiletries when you’re on the go. With small bottles containing creams, pills, makeup, toothpaste and the lot, you need a way to keep all of the little things from scattering everywhere.
Gordon uses Nordstrom’s Tropea Ivory Martha Large Briefcase Cosmetics Case for makeup essentials. It features four removable compartments and is made with sustainable materials. You don’t have to worry about creams exploding and ruining the rest of your bag’s contents. And there’s plenty of room for all your toiletry needs.
9. Medication Organizer
If you need a system to keep your medication organized while you travel but want something a little more stylish than the traditional plastic pill box, check out the Lewis N. Clark Travel Pill Organizer on Amazon.
Instead of bulky boxes, this wallet-style organizer has zip-seal bags for you and a travel companion to keep up to eight days’ worth of medication.
10. Collapsible/Refillable Water Bottle
“Staying hydrated is essential during travel,” Coleman reminded us, “[and] a refillable water bottle ensures that you always have access to clean drinking water without constantly buying plastic bottles.”
We recommend getting a collapsible water bottle like Amazon’s Special Made Collapsible Water Bottle. When full, this bottle holds 20 ounces of water and stands just under 8.5 inches tall. When collapsed, it is only 1.97 inches high and 4.33 inches wide. The plastic can withstand temperatures from -58 to 158 degrees Fahrenheit.
11. A Travel Journal and Pen
Consider us old-fashioned, but there is something special about keeping a travel diary during a vacation. And, on a train trip, you’ll have extra time to write about your journey.
You can use a traditional blank notebook, but why not get something a little nicer with some prompts to help inspire your writing? This Cosmo Jr Travel Journal and Notebook has a customizable table of contents, plenty of pages with prompts to help you capture your memories, and even space for photos and other mementos.
12. Non-Electronic Entertainment
Our smartphones and computers have many entertainment options, including music, e-books, video, and games. However, sometimes it’s nice to unplug our brains and keep ourselves busy with other things.
In addition to traditional books, you can always enjoy some time with a deck of cards and collections of puzzle books, like this group of 8 Pocket-Size Activity Books for Adults. The set is marked down to only $15.95 for a limited time.
You get eight books filled with popular puzzles, including sudoku, word search and crosswords. More than 1,000 are packed into this collection. This set also includes three pens and a magnifier.
Snacks are essential on any trip, whether you’re an adult or a child. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll want to pick up the Cravebox Variety Pack, which includes 50 different snacks. From granola bars and cookies to candy and crackers, this collection has something for everyone.
And if you want something a little healthier, try the Premium Penguin Healthy Snacks Variety Pack for Adults. You’ll get Veggie Straws, almonds, granola bars, Kind bars and much more.