Posted 25 February 2007 - 11:17 AM
My list of tips for sleeper car riding:1. Bring a lot of one dollar bills on an overnight trip.
2. Bring a laptop with wireless. (Don't forget portable headphones or earbuds!) As the train approaches towns, especially train stations, a good wireless system may pick up a connection and you can check your e-mail. I was able to do this with my wireless MAC Power Book (only once, on the Capitol Limited, from Washington to Chicago), but my Sony Vaio was never quick enough. Go figure.
2a. More on laptop: Before you leave, go to www.guba.com and download stuff in IPod format on your laptop. Store these files on your laptop to view with Quicktime. You can get older British Comedies and Mysteries, among other things. These are much handier for viewing than toting around a lot of DVDs, though I think taking a couple DVDs with you is also a good idea. You will need a lot of room on your laptop for 30-60 minute programs. Any way that you can convert DVD shows to avi files and store them is handy, but that's too geeky of a discussion for this venue.
4. Pack a cloth tote bag in your suitcase. Load it with your toiletry items and a change of clothes and keep it on top inside your suitcase. When it is shower time, just go down to the luggage hold area in the sleeper car, and extract the tote bag. Hang it up on the back of the door in the shower room and you are ready for the adventure of trying to get a shower in a moving train.
5. There actually are people who sneak aboard at stops and steal from the sleeper carriages. I'm sure it's not frequent, but it happened on one of my first trips. Buy a money belt or travel pouch and keep your cash and credit cards with you, under your clothes, as close to your skin as possible. I also carry a small strapped "purse" (actually a nike runners pouch) that straps on like a fanny pack except the pouch is forward. I wear this on the outside or carry it like a purse. Every morning I put 10-20 dollars into that and use that for tipping, buying beverages, etc. But the majority of my money is out of sight, on my person.
6. Bring a single film of Pepto Bismal tablets or other stomach soother and a tiny container of Advil or other painkiller. If you get sick on the train, you do want to have some relief until you can get to your destination.
7. Dress in layers, and I mean layers: undershirt, top shirt, and over shirt. On a two-day trip, I just pull off the over and under shirts and sleep in my clothes. I get a shower the next day and change, but why bring pajamas? For longer trips I bring cotton running slacks and a heavy cotton tee for night clothes.
8. Bring an IPod or music player. I have a Columbia Sportswear jacket, and it has a lot of hidden pockets. I keep my IPod in one of those and keep the jacket hung up in the tiny closet in the sleeper, with the inside pocket that has the IPod in it furthest from the closet door.
9. Tip the waiters after each meal and the sleeping car attendant at the end of the journey, and always greet them with a smile and kindness. Everybody appreciates pleasant company when you're all cooped up together. Say Please and Thank You.
10. If you have an unlucky trip that results in you having to board a bus to make your connection, don't blame the "little people" on the train. It's not their fault. Travel is like life; it's uncertain. I hate the busses, but they are a risk of Amtrak travel.
11. Keep your cell phone with you. They are a hot commodity for theft and can be quickly resold.
12. Keep your laptop either in the closet or under the chair of your sleeper. Keep the door closed and curtain drawn both when you're in and out of the room. It may seem unfriendly (but not if you say please and thank you to verybody!), but it's the surest way of keeping your presence an unknown. You can alternate the open and closed states when you're in the room, but I just keep the door closed and curtain drawn all the time.
13. I buy those little mini-bottles of Kalhua, brandy, and Bailey's Irish Creme. They are great when added to the coffee on board the train.
14. I collect those mini-containers of shampoo and creme rinse when I stay in hotels. I use these on the train when I am in a sleeper car. They are so portable and such a small luxury! You can get two or three shampoos from one small bottle.
For non-sleeper travel:
For any trip over two hours, Business is always better than coach. It's worth the extra $ in terms of more room, a better chance to relocate once you are on board (like if you want to go from an aisle seat to window seat or vice versa), a quieter journey (usually), better communication with the attendants, and free non-alcoholic beverages. Laptop/Ipod with ear buds a must! But in a pinch, a good John Grisham novel works well.