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Long-distance coach travel tips
From VARPs On Track newsletter, summer 2007
By Jim Churchill, VARP executive vice president and board member
Long-distance train trips are long, but they are an unforgettable experience to see what the majority of Americans never see. You should enjoy it!
As you glide along, youll see mountains, streams, rivers, flat farmland and prairies as far as the eye can see. Youll see stars so bright they shine through tinted glass. Youll see great cities from afar and backyards and junkyards maybe closer than you wish. Youll see hundreds of people going through their daily lives, many of whom find the time to wave to you as you pass through. Wave backuse a white napkin or cloth so they can see you waving through the tinted glass.
Here are some more tips to help you enjoy a long-distance coach trip:
- Keeping clean: Pack some soap, small towels, tissues, and moistened towlettes for cleanup in conventional rest rooms. Long-distance coaches usually have a shower available, cramped, but serviceable. Dont forget your toiletries and prescriptions.
- Eating can be expensive. Use the diner when youre hungry for a full meal; use the cafe for light meals and snacks. Pack some drinks and snacks that keep at room temperature.
- Carry a light blanket for overnight sleeping.
- Remember that the sightseer lounge or other lounge car is available to all, so go ahead and use it. The sightseer lounges have curved windows that extend into the ceiling, making it easy to view mountain scenery.
- If you use a camera, remember to bring it along.
- Take phone numbers and addresses of friends you might want to call during the trip (and stamps so you can send mail and postcards; buy an extra card for yourself).
- Remember tickets and a photo ID. Try to be at the departure gate an hour early; its not required, but it helps you get good seats.
- Once on board, remember your assigned seat number and car number and leave a paper or magazine behind on the seat when you roam the train. Keep your ticket stub and ID handy.
- Use redcaps for your luggage. They can help get you pre-boarded. Tip $1 to $3 per bag.
- If leaving bags for the day, give a small pre-tip.
- Have a schedule handy so you know what places are coming up. Obtain a route guide from Amtrak before the trip or in the station.
- Unfortunately, long-distance trains often are delayed a few hours. Plan your trip so that a delayed arrival at your destination wont spoil the rest of your trip.
- Get off the train at scheduled servicing stops to look around or buy souvenirs. Listen to the crew about reboarding times, and keep an eye on your watch.
- Carry a small flashlight to make finding your seat easier at night.
- Dont be shy. You will meet interesting people from around the country and the world. You can certainly strike up conversations, but its usually better to wait and let others introduce themselves. Youll be surprised about what you learn.
Enjoy your trip!