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Useful Tips for Long-Distance Train Trips

Slow living, slow cooking, and now… slow traveling! Nothing beats a long-distance train ride when you want to unwind, read a great book, and experience stunning scenery without having to lace up your hiking boots.

Long train trips are the perfect setting for deep conversations, frequent naps, and thoughtful contemplation.

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01Pick accommodations that suit your needs

Couple traveling by train martin-dm / Getty Images

On long train rides, there are usually several options for accommodations. Depending on your needs and tastes, you may prefer handicapped-accessible sleeping rooms, family rooms with bunk beds, or a roomette where the chairs convert beds and a shower and bathroom are available for the roomette passengers. Sometimes, there are bedrooms where the sofa converts to a bed, and you have your own small closet and bathroom with a shower. What you choose comes down to the level of comfort you want and how much you are willing to spend.

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02Plan your luggage and travel light

Young couple running to catch the train martin-dm / Getty Images

Ensure you know how much luggage you're allowed to bring, and plan with care when you do your packing. If you're packing big suitcases for an extended stay, it's a good idea to also bring an overnight bag for essentials; you can stow your large bags in the luggage rack.

Consider which types of climates you'll be passing through so you have the appropriate clothing. PJs or a robe and flip-flops are great to have handy, as are toothpaste, earplugs, and an eye mask. Other things that will make things easier are a multi-plug adapter, multiple chargers for your electronics, and a travel-size pillow.

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03Bring cooling equipment for meds

Child and Reflection in Window LUVLIMAGE / Getty Images

If you need medications that require cooling, such as insulin, check there are proper facilities for this. Often there aren't, and then you need to bring your own cooling solution.

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04Look for discounts

Japanese train ticket Photo by Evelyn Liow on Unsplash

When you're traveling by train, there are often a number of discounts available. Those may apply to seniors, children, military, students, people with disabilities, or simply travelers opting for the less popular days in the week. In addition, you may earn points if you book with your credit card, or you can use a code from an affiliate and save some money. Sometimes, there are also discounts for groups and families, so make sure to do thorough research before you book.

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05Download movies in advance

Man on a train looking at his smartphone Photo by Frame Harirak on Unsplash

While many trains offer free WiFi, that's not always the case. And even so, access is usually intermittent since the train is moving through different zones. Therefore, it's a good idea to download any movies, books, or videos you want to watch on your journey well in advance.

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06Find travel buddies on social media and forums

Two women on a train looking out the window Photo by Fredrik Öhlander on Unsplash

Are you traveling on your own? Trains are fabulous for that, both if you prefer to keep to yourself or if you enjoy striking up spontaneous conversations with strangers. There are also many social apps and forums for train travelers, where you can find like-minded people to hook up with if you're so inclined.

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07Know the stops and take advantage of them

Freelancer girl in the train. Girl looking to the train window, drinking coffee and holding the phone in her hand. Maria Korneeva / Getty Images

Certain tasks are a bit more challenging when you're on a train, and everything is constantly moving—such as removing your contact lenses or shaving. Check the time schedule or ask the conductor about the next stop so you can take advantage. Then you can do these essential tasks without poking your eyes or another mishap.

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08Take pictures but turn off the flash

The Queensland Rail services most of the coastal areas in the Queensland territory. A woman photographs the sunset while traveling on the train. Matthew Micah Wright / Getty Images

Taking pictures through a train window can be tricky, but the results can be stunning when you pull it off. If you're shooting through the glass, keep in mind to turn off the flash, or all you will capture is a big blob of light reflected in the window.

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09Plan your trip and make reservations in advance

Close-up portrait of a woman and man at the railway platform, embracing and feeling in love. Romantic moment after a period of separation gruizza / Getty Images

While it may feel romantic or exciting to just buy a ticket at the railway station and see where you end up, it's perhaps not the best idea in reality. The more you plan and book in advance, the more relaxed you will feel on your trip. In high season, trains can get fully booked, so it's good to plan ahead.

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10Remember to stretch your legs often

Train on bridge surrounded by forest Photo by Jack Anstey on Unsplash

Sitting for too long is not healthy and may cause your legs to swell. Getting up regularly and taking a walk along the train is an advisable and fun way to pass some time. You can head to the restaurant area for drinks, eavesdrop on snippets of your fellow travelers' conversations, and stand by a window for a while to watch the landscape rush by. Just be careful if you're carrying hot drinks, as the train is constantly twisting and turning.

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