The summer has unofficially concluded. Not so fast. Just because the summer is perpetually over doesn’t mean that the travel bug is over too. There’s still plenty of traveling to be done. Taking the train anywhere on a long journey is the ultimate road trip. Everyone’s heard the line “One for the road, two for the show”. When it comes to traveling on Amtrak, it’s the other way around. It’s “One for the show, two for the road”. What does this mean? Amtrak does have a wide array of long-distance routes; the Lake Shore Limited, Silver Meteor, Crescent, Cardinal, and Capitol Limited. They all share one thing in common. All of these long-distance routes are overnight trains with dining cars and all of the desired amenities. What about the long-distance routes that are all-day journeys, trains that don’t feature a dining car? What is the approach to a satisfying journey from beginning to end, without the tiring need of going to the café car? It’s comes down to two words; additional nourishment.

Aside from an array of overnight long-distance routes spanning the country, Amtrak does have a handful of long-distance routes which stretch an entire day. These routes include but are not limited to the Palmetto (New York City-Savannah, GA), Pennsylvanian (New York City-Pittsburgh, PA), Carolinian (New York City-Charlotte, NC), and the Vermonter (Washington, DC-St. Albans, VT). Each and every one of these routes comprise an entire day of traveling. During the long journey, regardless of destination, passengers are sure to use the café car. Passengers purchase cheese/meat/cracker trays, bagels, croissants, microwaved pizza, microwaved hot dogs (if brave enough), an array of sandwiches, along with snacks, coffee, tea, beer, personal bottles of wine, and soda. For a three hour trip to Washington, DC or a four and a half hour ride to Boston, the menu selection is satisfactory.

What if it’s a long train journey which passengers are going to be on board from beginning to the very end? Sure enough, passengers are not going to live off the café car from the very start of their journey. There is an approach which passengers should and must consider. On any all-day long-distance Amtrak journey, passengers should take along a soft cooler bag. According to Amtrak baggage policies, passengers are allowed up to two carry-on bags not including pocket books and laptop computers. So, there is nothing wrong with taking a soft cooler bag as a carry-on item. The soft cooler bag should be stocked with freezable ice packs. How many ice packs? Passengers should pack the soft cooler bag with at least two ice packs. For any all-day long-distance Amtrak journey, it pays to travel well-prepared. Being prepared for these long-distance journeys goes an exceptionally long way.

It’s the eve of the big journey. The luggage is packed and the carry-on bags are packed. It’s time to take along additional nourishment. Now that passengers know this for the long run, what exactly should they take along as additional nourishment in the soft cooler bag? The list is lengthy. Passengers must note that the food supplies in the café car are known to run low. Passengers should and must be prepared for this. Plus, its paramount that passengers with dietary needs or medical needs must pack additional nourishment. Before assembling the a mass assortment of food items, passengers must note that Amtrak trains such as the Palmetto and the Pennsylvanian don’t have dining cars. They do have a café car. Dining cars have refrigerators, primarily for storing ingredients for dishes on the dining car menu. All day long-distance trains don’t have these amenities. Passengers are encouraged to be creative, but be mindful of how certain food items will fair throughout the journey. Ice packs are known to last a long period of time. However, certain food items don’t last a long time. Ice packs do melt! What food items are passengers encouraged to pack for an all-day long-distance Amtrak journey?

The day before the journey, passengers should go to their local supermarket. The best place to find all the food items to suit their long-distance train travel needs is the deli case and produce area. Passengers are encouraged to purchase sandwiches at the deli counter, pre-packaged meats, dry meats, fruit salad, Hillshire Farm cheese/cracker/meat trays, Sargento cheese sticks, and a container of hummus. These are some strongly suggested items. The list goes on and on. Passengers must do this for the return trip, too. In preparation for the return trip, passengers can visit large convenience stores such as Wawa and Quik Chek. Both stores have refrigerator aisles. They also have deli cases with freshly prepared meat items, sandwiches. salads, etc. Another idea to consider but not strongly encouraged, is purchasing food items in the station terminal. For instance, at Washington, DC’s Union Station, trains change engines from electric to diesel and vice versa. While the engine and crew are being changed, passengers can go upstairs to the Sbarro’s Pizza bar and purchase whatever they wish to bring on board. There’s also a Hudson News store with a refrigerator and deli case. Passengers are welcome to purchase additional food items there. Passengers can also purchase pretzel dogs at Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, or a meal at McDonald’s in close proximity to the track platforms. Note: Passengers MUST NOT waste time in the terminal. It’s grab-and-go time.

Once the train has changed engines and crew, and is given the green light, passengers are back on board with their coolers well-stocked for the remainder of the long journey ahead. Undoubtedly there is nothing better than sitting at the window, chowing down on finger food, and sipping a can of beer or soda. The taste of dry salami, a fresh salad from the store’s salad bar, a favorite brand of yogurt, and having cheese slices on Triscuit crackers from home all make the remainder of the journey worthwhile. Watching the scenery race by, gazing at the sunset outside the window, and surprise appearances of other trains scurrying by, add to the nostalgia of the journey. Passengers cannot enjoy the journey more without the additional nourishment. All are happy that they brought a wide assortment of food along. Of course, after the train ride is over, passengers are sure to head to a restaurant in their destination city. At best, all of that additional nourishment which passengers packed in their soft cooler bag held them over considerably until the last savory moment.

Traveling on Amtrak is the ultimate road trip. The long-awaited opportunity to visit a favorite destination or any destination city for the first time via Amtrak is all the more special. There is never a journey memorable enough without packing additional nourishment. That’s why all-day long-distance train journeys are there. The opportunity to do some food shopping before the long journey, and at best-planning what to eat when makes the journey worthwhile. Long-distance journeys such as Amtrak’s Palmetto, Carolinian, Pennsylvanian, and Vermonter are routes which passengers should pack additional nourishment. It’s not just these routes, but even Northeast Regional routes may require passengers to take along additional nourishment. One-way or round-trip, additional nourishment is the legitimate approach to traveling long-distance. No matter how big a passenger’s appetite, the journey is always one to remember. As long as the appetite for adventure equals the quantity and quality of food taken along, the journey is sure to be appetizing and above all-savorous.

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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