6 Tips to A Better Overnight Train Ride- A Wandering Scribbler
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6 Tips to a Better Overnight Train Ride- Without Paying for a Sleeper

6 Tips to a Better Overnight Train Ride- Without Paying for a Sleeper

metroTrain travel, depending on where you are, can be a cost-effective way to get around. Especially traveling overnight can get you where you need to, and avoid paying for a hotel.  But, traveling by train and trying to sleep isn’t always the most comfortable, though it’s definitely better than a bus.  When I can, I love traveling by train as a way to an easier, less expensive alternative than flights, transport to the airport, and just a great way to view the country you’re visiting.  And because I like traveling this way, I’ve come up with a few tips to a better overnight train ride, so you wake up in the morning at your new location ready to have a fulfilling day.

  1. Save the seat next to you- This might not be possible depending on what type of train you’re on, and the sitting arrangements. But if you have standard seating, two seats, all facing forward, you can easily pretend to be arranging yourself and your belongings on the seat next to you as people file in.  This way you don’t seem stingy, even though you really are.  But think how much better a night you’ll get if you could lie down, even across two seats, or just being able to stretch out a bit more.  But obviously if the train is getting crowded, move your things, you don’t want to be that annoying person.
  2. Drink tons of water- Everyone says this about air travel, because of the altitude or cabin pressure or something, but it’s important all the time.  Especially on trains or in uncomfortable situations I tend to just feel gross because I’m not moving, I’m a little annoyed, and I can’t really eat what I want.  While drinking more water will maybe make you get up for the bathroom more, you will probably not have a headache (which I get a lot), you will feel less famished, and you’ll generally be more refreshed. Especially if you’re waking up early and starting your full day, you’ll want a less fuzzy mind, and a little more energy.
  3. Take a natural sleep aid- I like Melatonin because it’s more natural than taking a sleeping pill.  I’m not dependent on it, and it doesn’t “make” me go to sleep, it just gets my mind ready.  This is good for overnight transportation because a busy train, or just the the uncomfortableness of the seats is enough to make you not ready for bed.  For me, melatonin just gives me a little push that says, “it’s bedtime” and I can usually sleep better, with less interruptions.
  4. Chose your seat wisely (if you can)- this is different than just saving the seat next to you.  You need to find one that’s not too close to the doors, because people going in and out, slamming the doors, sending cold air and the squeak and rumble of the tracks to your sleeping ears. Something close to the middle of the car is best, and know where the bathrooms are.  You will probably need them at some point.
  5. suitcaseUse your luggage– Sometimes keeping luggage safe is a hassle, or in the very least it makes it for a long night of restlessness, maybe worrying about it.  Again, depending on what type of train, you can use your backpack as a pillow, your suitcase as a footrest, or some combination. This way you may have a little more comfort and also maybe sleep a little easier knowing you can feel your luggage.
  6. Pack a snack for the morning- This isn’t really about making the night easier, but it will make the morning better.  If you have something to eat in the morning, you might wake yourself up easier.  You won’t have to drag yourself to the dining car to eat something that might weigh you down, making you feel worse.  Something light like fruit or granola bars will give you energy without costing a ton of money, or being something gross.

And What You’ll Need:

  • A large water bottle- You can fill this up before you leave and hopefully it will last most of the trip.
  • Sleep Aid- I use melatonin a lot when at home because no matter how tired I am I just continue to think when I’m trying to sleep.  For me, melatonin usually gets me to sleep faster, and I tend to wake up less tired.  I don’t feel any kind of tired or “hungover” feeling like some sleeping pills, and I’m not a zombie if I have to wake up a few hours after I’ve taken it.  So it’s great if your plans may change.
  • Coat, scarf, or sweater- These are both for keeping you warm and to use as a pillow.  Even if you are using a bag to rest your head, it’s probably not going to really nice to put your head.  Either because you have lumpy, pointy, uncomfortable objects that will poke your face, or because the material of a bag is not super nice on the skin.  A sweater, scarf, or coat will be an added layer of padding, and will be nicer against your face.
  • Wet wipes– I love wet wipes so I would have these with me anyway.  But like traveling on overnight flights it’s nice to have any kind of refreshment as possible.  You can use these to take your make up off so you don’t look like a clown in the morning, or just use it after a long day to get you a little more ready for bed.  You can also use them in the morning for a small pick-me-up.
  • Eye Mask- I’ve found that trains usually levee the lights on, even overnight so it can feel like there’s a spotlight on you.
  • Ear Plugs- I’m usually fine without them, and I joke that I can sleep through even the noisiest hostel dorms, but crying babies are another thing.  I’m not sure if anyone can sleep through those wails.
  • A snack/ breakfast- Fruit like apples, bananas, and oranges travel well, and granola bars, or a peanut butter sandwich, will give some energy and don’t take up much room.

With these tips you can try to have a better night on a train and arrive at your next destination without feeling like a zombie.

Do you have any tips that I haven’t mentioned?  Let me know in the comments below!

  • Eileen
    Posted at 13:39h, 13 April Reply

    Great tips Mackenzie! I haven’t yet conquered a big train trip yet, but it’s high on my list.

    • Mackenzie
      Posted at 16:31h, 13 April Reply

      Thanks, Eileen! I definitely think train travel is worth it (in most cases) and it’s a great experience in itself. Hopefully you get to soon!

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