Hello folks! It’s Ashley, ISIC Manager for Travel CUTS. I just arrived in Vancouver from Toronto after being on VIA Rail’s The Canadian for four nights and three days. During my journey across the country I learned some tips and tricks about economy train travel that I wanted to share with you all. If you’re considering taking a long-haul train ride, whether in Canada or elsewhere, here’s some helpful items for you to consider before you depart on your journey:
- Bring a travel pillow and blanket. This is may seem like a silly tip, but it will make your overnight journeys much more comfortable. I ended up forgetting a blanket myself (and didn’t feel like buying one on board), so I used my coat. It wasn’t the most comfortable thing but it did the job. I did however purchase an inflatable backpacking pillow from a camping store before I left and this saved my nights and my neck.
- You are allowed to bring food on board with you, so feel free to pack a bag of non-perishable items to eat. I brought granola bars, almonds and apples. The train had a toaster for riders to use, as well as hot water, so you could also bring some bagels, instant soups, etc. After many days of living off granola I started to crave vegetables like crazy. Fruits and veggies that don’t necessarily need to be refrigerated like bell peppers, cucumbers, avocados and oranges would also be good to bring.
- I noticed that the water from the onboard drinking tap was colder and fresher after we left major station stops. Turns out the train gets refueled and refilled on water during most of these, so after these stops would be a good time to refill your water bottle.
- If you’re travelling solo, make friends. Having companions to talk to while onboard can make the trip more comforting and enjoyable. It can also reduce the cabin fever you may experience.
- If you’re a fast reader bring more than one book (or an e-reader). I was only able to pack one novel as my backpack was stuffed and I ended up finishing it by the end of the first day. I regretted leaving my other novels at home and was quite bored at times because of this.
- Create a playlist for your journey. Not only will it keep you entertained but every time you’ll hear those songs afterwards it’ll remind you of your time away. You can do as I did and chose a theme for your song selections (Canadian musicians in my case), or just gather your favourites.
- Be trusting but not naive. You can leave your bags at your seat and nothing will happen. However, if you do wander don’t leave your items lying around unpacked to advertise what valuables you have with you. Be safe and smart.
- Be courteous. Keep the aisle clear, don’t play your music on your headphones too loud, don’t talk too loud during early/late hours of the day, keep your area tidy, etc. It’s common sense. You don’t want to get on anyone’s bad side, especially when you have to travel with them for thousands of kilometers.
- Bring a smaller bag with the items that you’d like to keep handy packed in it. I kept my big backpack in the overhead luggage rack and my smaller bag at my feet, it makes for easy access.
- Economy riders on The Canadian do not have access to the showers. Bring baby wipes and dry shampoo to help you stay fresh during the ride.
There are probably many more tips that you will pick up along your own journey, but these are the ones that were most prevalent to me. Most importantly, have fun! Long-haul train rides are often once-in-a-lifetime experiences so savor every moment and enjoy the ride.