After the kids watched a Christmas movie about a young boy who travels to the North Pole on a
train they decided that they wanted to go on a train journey during the following holidays. The fact
that I’ve always sort of romanticized this type of transportation didn’t hurt either! I will never forget
that journey nor will I forget the sometimes hard lessons about train travel that I learned either. I did
a little research online and finally chose a cross country trip that lasted two nights and three days
(although this actually worked out to two full days on the train).
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Planning for the trip might involve a lot of different expenses, not only the price of the tickets.
Rememer to be prepare yourself for all kinds of situations and get everything you need in advance,
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Book In Advance
Long distance train travel is not as cheap as you might have believed. Depending on what train line
you’re traveling on and how ‘luxurious’ the compratment is, it could cost as much if not more than
a plane ticket. But by booking in advance as well as taking advantage of any applicable discounts, I
was able to save a fair amount on the total price.
Train travel is not like plane travel in that you have an hour reserved for boarding, then a bit of a
wait before you’re finally taxing down the runway. Trains have a schedule to keep and they’re very
often running behind so you have a maximum of about 15 minutes to board and get settled before
you’re pulling out of the station. So, whatever you do – make sure you arrive early! At least 30
minutes when you have kids with you, although if they’re very much into the whole experience you
might just get away with arriving an hour beforehand. This will also give you time to make sure
you’re on the right platform and find out anything you need to know from the info kiosk or
Power points are becoming more common on trains but they’re still pretty hit and miss so don’t
count on them. You may be able to make sure of this beforehand, we booked a sleeper that
specifically stated there was an outlet available, but again – no guarantee! Some carriages will have
power outlets at every seat, others will have just one in some weird location like the roof. The
power outlets in the dining or ‘common room’ carriages will have queues waiting to use them so
you may be considered a god if you happen to have a power strip in your luggage!
Small Space Entertainment
There is only a little more freedom to move around on a train than what there is on a plane so pull
out your small space entertainment kit. Remember that power isn’t guaranteed so bring along items
that don’t need to be charged, are not going to annoy you or fellow passengers and that don’t have
small parts that can be misplaced. Coloring/puzzle books with triples of each color, matchbox cars,
action figures and a couple of reading books are great ideas, but if you like child friendly tablet
games then I would suggest investing in those ‘battery packs’. If you’re using a laptop for movies,
games or anything else then maybe buy extra batteries – both of these are an investment that will
never really go to waste!
Pack A Picnic
Pack your own food for the journey and make sure you have plenty of bottled water. The food on
most trains is exorbitantly expensive and not always edible so you’ll be doing your pocket and your
stomach a disservice if you don’t have your own snacks and meals. Keep an eye out for stops where
you can hop out to refill water bottles but do not get out if the train is only stopping for a few
minutes because they will not wait for you! You won’t have microwaves or anything like that so
pack a cooler with ice bricks and choose picnic food that is best eaten cold and will keep for a
while. Things like cold meats, bread rolls, chicken pieces, salads, cheese and crackers as well as a
couple of soda pops and packets of crisps are good choices.
My last tips are to stock up on baby wipes even if you’re absolutely sure you’ll have shower/basin
facilities and also your own toilet paper because running out is a highly unpleasant experience for
everyone involved! But most of all have fun, play a few train games, take plenty of photos and
watch the scenery rolling past while the clacking of the train lulls you to sleep!
This is a guest post.