Earlier this month I took a road trip to Iowa to attend a cousin’s wedding. The first half was spent on the never ending drive through Nebraska with my great aunt Jayne, her granddaughter Ivy, and my stepdaughter Lily. We stopped at the Omaha Zoo and made a comfortable adventure of the journey.
To return from the wedding, since I needed to be back to work before Jayne planned to return, my stepdaughter and I could either fly, rent a car, or how we decided – take the train.
The Amtrak’s California Zephyr runs through Iowa, and we caught it about an hour south of Des Moines. From there one journey’s overnight before arriving in Colorado around 7:00 a.m. making the train journey approximately 12 hours depending on delays.
The train was only around $130 for the two of us one-way in basic economy seating. We sat on the top floor of the double decker economy cars and with ample leg room and the ability to walk around it never felt particularly cramped on the journey. No it was not luxury accommodations and a bed would have been nice, but for one overnight journey it was a reasonable price and journey.
I would say if you were to journey much longer, then a sleeper car of some sort would have been ideal. If only to be able to stretch out properly and have some privacy. Amtrak offers Roomettes and Family Rooms, depending on one’s budget and preferences.
Naturally, train travel is not the fastest or most efficient, but the experience is worth having and it’s an economical means for some routes. Additionally, trains are not nearly as crowded as buses I have traveled on or even planes, meaning you feel less cramped and trapped by everything.
Here are some of my tips for making the journey more comfortable:
- Pack light
- Most train stations will not have the ability to check your bags, so you will have to carry on suit cases and they need to be small enough to fit overhead. A larger carry-on bag is ideal
- Keep comfortable items closed
- Have a smaller personal bag with you to have by you and your seat, here it is ideal you have things like books, phones, laptop, and a toothbrush or any night creams and other items you may want handy. This includes snacks.
- Keep the kid(s) happy
- I brought the Nintendo Switch from our house to keep Lily gaming until I felt we should sleep. She also had books, snacks, and other items to keep her comfortable.
- My emergency kit for all kid-related items includes wet wipes, chapstick, lotion, hand sanitizer, and a game of some sort.
- Wear comfy clothing
- Like with a flight, wear items that are comfortable to sit in for 12 hours + and that are stretchy or okay for swollen feet, and other discomforts of travel.
- Keep medicine handy
- Sometimes aches and pains happen, as well as the inability to sleep, keep your medicinal items handy for easy treatment.
- Walk around
- The journey will be much longer if you don’t move around, so make sure you check out the dining car, observation car, or simply journey the aisles to get some legs stretched.
- Avoid the food
- This may be a no-brainer, but food on flights, and apparently trains, are not like the Hogwarts Express as I had hoped. Everything was overpriced, greasy, and lacked flavor. For my next train adventure, I plan on bringing my own oatmeal and other noms
- Stay hydrated
- The train offers water bottle/cup refill stations, take advantage of this to avoid buying bottled water. AND it’s ore environmentally friendly. (For other tips, check out Ditching Disposables.
- Have Fun!
- Travel can be hard, no matter the means, make it a time to enjoy things you don’t usually. Watch the sunrise, have a glass of wine on a train, talk about silly things with your kiddo, or write in your journal. Sometimes just being is the ultimate treat.
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