It’s October, and the United States’ vaccination rate continues to roll along. Soon enough, the long awaited 70% fully vaccinated plateau will be reached. Soon enough, Americans can truly celebrate the beginning of the end of the Coronavirus pandemic. As the 70% plateau draws near, now is the time to put traveling plans into high gear. Everyone knows what to pack when they’re flying. Of course, travelers have to follow the dreaded 3-1-1 rule referring to gels, fluids, pastes, and liquids carried in toiletry bags. That’s the tip of the iceberg. When it comes to traveling on any Amtrak train, the essentials are far less stressing than what’s involved in air travel. Same as traveling on the airlines, there is checklist of essential items for passengers to carry with them. Besides the iconic engineer’s hat, here are the top 5 essentials for traveling on Amtrak.

#5 Camera: Whether it’s the Nikon used at every family event, or the handy-dandy cell phone camera with the multiple features, no Amtrak journey is complete without a camera. In fact, it’s best to pack both. No one knows what memorable photo opportunities will arise throughout the trip. Crossing bridges, racing across desert terrain, and snaking through mountain ranges make great moments to share with friends and family at home. Onboard any Amtrak train, it’s “Whistle, camera, action!”.

#4 Additional nourishment: Regardless of route, taking along additional nourishment is vital to a successful Amtrak journey. How many visits can one passenger make to the cafe car in one trip? The average passenger makes at least 3 trips to the cafe car. The cafe car features a wide selection of hot items, snacks, libations, and of course-hot and cold beverages. However, multiple trips to the cafe car can prove expensive. To avoid going broke or overheating the credit card, passengers are welcomed to bring along additional food items from home. Passengers should pack in an insulated cooler bag extra sandwiches, fruit trays from the store, and additional snack items from home. Also, additional cold beverages such as seltzer, fruit juices, and pre-bottled milk shakes should be packed. Why must additional nourishment be taken along? Passengers who may be diabetic, or with any medical needs should always carry additional nourishment, just in case delays occur. In the midst of any delay, food supplies can run low. Having additional nourishment on hand is always not only vital, but essential to an enjoyable journey.

#3 Photo identification/vaccination card: In the post-COVID era, traveling by train has changed for the “long-haul”. When it comes to traveling on any Amtrak train, the term “long-haul” is not to be taken lightly. On any Amtrak train, it is the conductors’ decision if he/she asks for photo identification in addition to tickets. A valid driver’s license or passport suffices. Passengers should also have with them their vaccination cards, just in case. There’s no requirement for vaccination when traveling on Amtrak, however, all passengers who have been fully vaccinated should have their proof of vaccination ready for inspection. It’s the latest form documentation which all travelers will need to present at any time during their trip. Vax and tracks-perfect together.

#2 Good reading material: It’s with great regret that Amtrak’s onboard magazine “The National” has been discontinued. In lieu of “The National”, there are plenty of options. With Amtrak’s official onboard magazine gone, it’s vital for all passengers to pack plenty of good reading material. Favorite magazines from home, a good book, a book on Amazon Kindle, and the daily newspaper are good ways to pass the time. If an avid Amtrak traveler is looking for a good recommendation, a current issue of Passenger Train Journal is the proper fit. Yes, a current issue of Trains magazine would suffice. Good reading material is not just a must. It’s nourishment for the traveler’s mind. Whether the trip is 3 hours, 9 hours, or even 14 hours, plenty of good reading material is a must-have on the Amtrak traveler’s packing checklist.

#1 Endless hours of entertainment: There is simply no better way to pass the time on a long journey on the rails than with endless hours of entertainment. What constitutes endless hours of entertainment? A Walkman, portable DVD player, or tablet are perfect examples. A Walkman with over 400 hours of songs is the perfect form of entertainment for passengers to have in their carry-on baggage. A DVD case with at least a dozen movies for both adults and/or children is perfectly adequate. All passengers must remember to be considerate of fellow passengers. All electronic items must have earphones or headsets attached. Yet, the best entertainment is the scenery racing by outside the window. Above all, the best sound is the engine’s horn sounding while at speed.

No matter what car passengers choose to sit in, cell phones should be set on vibrate. In addition, passengers must have their cell phone on a charging cord. Cell coverage can be spotty at times, causing the phone’s battery power to dissipate significantly. Finally-all passengers should be respectful of the tranquil onboard environment, each other’s privacy, and most important-each other’s vacation time.

Yes, the Coronavirus pandemic took a toll on the travel industry. One month into the pandemic, Amtrak lost 97% of business. That was then. Amtrak has bounced back gloriously. Long-distance trains are back to a normal daily schedule. Still, passengers are required to wear facial coverings regardless of vaccination status. That won’t be for long. As the pandemic winds down to a long-awaited conclusion, now is the time for Amtrak travelers to look forward to their long awaited vacation. Before heading for a nearby Amtrak station, travelers should implement the above checklist. Whether it’s their first time on Amtrak or their fiftieth, the checklist should be followed every time, all the time. All travelers must have a reliable camera to capture the memories throughout their journey. Before leaving home, Amtrak travelers should always take along additional nourishment. Just like traveling by plane, Amtrak passengers should carry valid photo identification, plus their vaccination card. Predominantly, it’s imperative for passenger to take along endless hours of entertainment along with electronic devices deemed necessary. As always, the sound of the engine’s horn is the best surround sound an Amtrak passenger could have. These and all the necessities on the Amtrak travelers’ checklist are what make every journey on the rails both enjoyable and best-memorable.

About Author

David Kriso has been a travel writer since August 2011. He is a contributing writer for both of his hometown's newspapers, The Gazette, and The Observer. His articles focus on cruise and railroad travel. David is also published online at, a cruise magazine based in Vancouver, Canada and at Amtrak's story site, David also writes for the publication On, he writes about cruise and rail travel. David is a long-time train traveler, avid cruiser, and a Disney traveler since age 4.

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