10 Train Travelers Share How They Pack Their Bags for Long Train Rides

Packing for train travel might seem easy, but it’s so easy to miss something and make things less comfortable than they need to be!

As with any other packing job, it’s difficult to choose what to bring. You don’t want to risk ending up with a bag that is heavier than necessary – or risk missing that wonderful snack in the middle of nowhere.

To improve how we pack our bags, we have talked with 10 experienced train travelers and asked them to share their best advice.

Read on and learn from their best tips and tricks (all 10 have years of experience, so they know what they are talking about!).

Train at a station


The 10 Train Travelers


Jen Avery

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

We bring e-readers (Kobo), a portable charger (to keep devices charged on long trips), and Aeropress coffee maker. An e-reader is great for saving space on books, and is a great way to pass the time on long train rides. Reading is useful for helping you fall asleep and keeping you entertained (especially if you have no wifi). A portable charger is a key practical device for preventing your electronics from dying while in transit, especially if you have no charging outlets. Finally, an Aeropress coffee maker is a must for us. it saves us a lot of money on buying coffees and is a breeze to use.

How do you bring things with you?

We use a Deuter 28 litre when packing ultra light for backpacking trips. This is sufficient for us when we pack one of these each, plus a day bag if travelling in warm climates as this means smaller/compact clothing items, plus we are willing to do laundry as needed. We use the larger models (the Deuter 50+) for trips that require more luggage such as winter clothing or camping gear. Packing cubes are essential for us to keep everything organized and tidy.

What are your top tips for other train travelers?

The key to packing light is just being smart with what you choose to bring. Pack clothes that are versatile, can be layered, and match easily with various tops and bottoms. For train travel, pack a smaller day bag that can stay with you during your train ride (you should also pack your valuables in this bag too).

In terms of tips for making your dream trip happen, make that adventure a priority in your life. Start saving up money, researching estimated costs, curb your spending, and find creative ways to earn more money such as freelance, online, or sharing economy jobs (e.g. renting our your couch, doing tours in your own city, house sitting, and so on).

Visit Jen Avery’s website


Travelling Tom

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

If i’m tavelling by train I always make sure to have a small bag on me with my valuables. Being a travel blogger I always have at least two cameras on me, plus other equipment for shooting. It helps keep me safe from pickpockets and makes it easier to get to things like tickets and money when inspectors and the food cart come calling.

If i’m travelling on my own i’ll Take my selfie setup – a mini tripod with smartphone clamp and Bluetooth remote. It’s not necessarily a train essential, but it’s a great way for solo travellers to avoid awkwardly asking other people to take pictures for them!

The third thing I take is my own food and drink. I don’t mind buying things like water on a train, but food and drink in general tends to be more expensive than you’d find at a convenience store or supermarket. Stock up before you go and save yourself some money.

How do you bring things with you?

I usually pack my things into a regular-sized suitcase and have a mini suitcase for hand luggage. When I am out in the day I always make sure I’ve packed a small rucksack which comes in handy for keeping my valuables close and in a zipped-up compartment.

I probably take more than I need to, and more frugal travellers will almost certainly be able to travel with half the stuff I have. But, then again, I suppose that’s the life of a blogger!

What are your top tips for other train travelers?

Always get there at least a few minutes before your train. Trains do tend to leave on time and you don’t want to be frantically rushing through a massive station looking for your platform.

Plus, if you get there early enough you can make sure you get space on the luggage rack and get a seat, making for a more comfortable and pleasant journey.

Visit Travelling Tom’s website


Jim Loomis

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

I most often travel in a Superliner roomette which has no ensuite lavatory facilities. To avoid having to get dressed to go “down the hall” during the night, I pack a soft pair of gym shorts, a T-shirt, and a pair of rubber slippers. I sleep in the T-shirt and gym shorts and when I go to the lavatory during the night, all I have to do is roll out of my berth and put my feet into the slippers.

I bring a scanner so I can listen to the radio conversations between the conductors and the engineers and the engineers and the dispatchers. When other passengers are asking “Why are we stopped?”, most of the time I know.

I bring a reporter’s notepad–the kind that slips easily into my hip pocket–to jot down interesting things that happen during my train trips. Then I post something about many of those incidents on my blog.

How do you bring things with you?

I travel light. One smallish wheeled suitcase that I can bring into the roomette with me, and one carry-on bag that fits under the seat on the plane. (I live in Hawaii, so the plane is what takes me to the West Coast where I catch Amtrak to wherever I’m going on the mainland.) I try to arrange for a couple of days in the middle of my trips where I can get laundry done. But I can stay away almost indefinitely. Typically, I combine a week or more of train travel with a 3 or 4 day business meeting in the middle of one of my trips. In those cases, In those cases, I will FedEx a box with a jacket, another pair of dress slacks, a couple of dress shirts and two ties to the hotel where the meetings will be held . I call ahead and alert the concierge and send the box to his/her attention with instructions to have the clothes pressed and hung in the closet of my room upon my arrival. When the meetings are over, I FedEx those clothes back home and continue on my way. Bottom line: there is no excuse for dragging heavy luggage on a pleasure trip!

What are your top tips for other train travelers?

The secret to traveling light: tops, tops, tops! You need a clean shirt every day, but you can get away with wearing everything else more than that. I pack 8 or 10 polo shirts which can be worn with slacks or jeans (I bring one of each) without wrinkling very much and, in a pinch, I can wash lone or two by hand in my hotel room and they’ll dry overnight. But the secret is tops!

(Most of this is in my book: All Aboard–The Complete North American Train Travel Guide (4th Edition)

Visit Jim Loomis’ website


Devesh Joshi

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

Top 3 things I bring:

  • A long quick-drying scarf that I use as a towel because it dries quickly and helps multi-ways: as a towel, as a cushion, as a bandana to wrap around the head.
  • A power bank. Because if you ended up sitting in the aisle and the person with the window seat (and a charging socket) is not very affable, a power bank becomes the most important thing in life.
  • My Kindle, to keep me entertained.

The most useless thing people bring: (A lot of) extra food and snacks “just in case” — especially in a train journey, where you traverse through places, you should always hit a store on the train station and try something local at each travel destination. This particularly applies to trains in India.

How do you bring things with you?

I always carry two backpacks while travelling in train: one that has all the unessential things like clothes etc and I keep them in the big rucksack (though still front zip in case I need something quickly), and the other one is the Lowepro Fastpack Camera bag that I use as a daypack. It includes my camera, laptop and daily essentials like useful toiletry, a few eatables and so on.

I think carrying two backpacks, with one that has all the daily essentials makes it for enough room in my bags. I always keep my daypack camera bag with me. The rucksack, however, goes on the overhead or the under-seat luggage compartment.

What are your top tips for other train travelers?

Tips for other travellers:

  • Though a train journey, in most parts of the world, is more comfortable than that of a bus or an aeroplane, some basic items are still needed to help make the journey more comfortable. Consider bringing a travel pillow, eye mask, small blanket, ear plugs, and a comfortable hoodie.
  • A train journey is often a long journey, so make sure that your clothes are comfortable. Eg in a train journey, I always wear a pyjama and a drapy t-shirt to feel more at easte.

Something I see a lot of train travellers doing wrong is USING THEIR PHONE ALL THE TIME AND NOT ENJOYING THE JOURNEY. I advise them to put their phone away and enjoy the journey. I’ve had some great conversations on my train trips and met piles of fascinating people. If someone is not a good conversationalist, it’s only by simply gazing out the window they can enjoy the journey.

Visit Devesh Joshi’s website


Carol Perehudoff

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

Guidebooks are great, but I like to bring a novel or nonfiction travel book set in the country I’m travelling in. It’s a great way to while away time on the train and to add a layer of depth to the land I’m passing through. The second essential for train travel is a cashmere sweater. I freeze on trains and nothing says cozy like cashmere. It’s also light so it doesn’t weigh down my suitcase. Number three is a train map. I’m constantly confused when I travel and convinced I’m going to miss my stop. I feel more secure when I can check where I am. It also opens up new destination possibilities I might not have thought of, like the time I was travelling to Bad Wildbad in Germany but decided to get off in Baden-Baden instead. Just because I could. Train travel and being spontaneous go together.

How do you bring things with you?

I’m a travel writer so my luggage goes through hell. Right now I’m using a set of Victorinox. The zipper pull is gone and I have to punch the retractable handle to make it move, but it feels like home. I also try to combine my infatuation for designer bags with my need for the lightest handbag available so I carry an over the shoulder Prada bag made of nylon parachute material. I’m considering opting for one of the new waves of designer fanny packs, but am weighing the fact that they’re butt ugly with my desire to save my shoulders from carrying a heavy purse.

What are your top tips for other train travelers?

I’m not good at packing light, so I’ve been buying light instead. (See Prada purse info above.) My latest thing is buying shoes that aren’t heavy. Seriously. I weigh them in my hands before I try them on. I’m also after the lightest luggage known to man, so if you have any suggestions let me know.

Visit Carol Perehudoff’s website


Jaclynn Seah

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

Ear plugs or in-ear headphones are a must, because you never know who you’ll end up riding with. Even if you don’t listen to music, the in-ear phones are good for shutting out crying, loud chatters, unwanted attention or just overall train noise in general. You don’t realise how much ambient sound there is from the tracks until you shut it out.

I always have a scarf and a light hoodie on hand as well. I get cold easily, and in case your seat isn’t the cleanest you don’t feel like you’re putting your head somewhere gross. Scarves are useful in case of bad smell as well – I was once in a coach with the world’s worst smelling toilet, and wrapping the scarf around my head helped me survive that ride.

I always have a spare small lock or two on me just in case you need to secure stuff. It won’t stop a serious thief but it will make life harder for petty ones and makes them think twice about the hassle. At one point I had 5-6 locks on my person, which was double the number of bags I had on hand and seemed excessive, until 3 of them got damaged or disappeared at some point during my 6 month trip.

How do you bring things with you?

These days I try to stay as compact as possible, more so for plane travel than train travel, but having smaller bags on a train means I can keep an eye on things right at my seat instead of worrying about it in the luggage area on the ends of the cabin.

I carry a CabinZero 44L backpack for my travels, it works from weekend to 6-month trips. I usually have a smaller daypack on hand for my important day-to-day stuff – right now I’m loving the Riutbag Crush that has zips on the back and folds up really small, I just think the design is pretty smart for city travel and makes it harder for petty theft. I used to be a big wallet type of girl but nowadays I keep most things in my phone case holder.

It kinda depends on the trip – it’s made me cut back on souvenir buying but I always have a spare duffel on hand just in case.

What are your top tips for other train travelers?

I love train travel because it’s more relaxing compared to air travel and less cramped than a coach and you don’t get traffic jams. You usually get more scenic views so I always want the window seat.

Always be early for your train, and check constantly because sometimes platforms change unexpectedly and running for your train is not fun at all, especially if schedules are as clockwork precise as Japan’s for example. I usually stock up on snacks at a supermarket before heading to the train station because stuff is usually a little pricier in and on the train.

Sometimes it’s worth shelling out for the sleeper cabin instead of the seat because it really is so much more comfortable.

Visit Jaclynn Seah’s website


Jack MacHugh

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

  • Playing cards (Interrail Planner branded, of course!) because they are both great for passing time on long train journeys or while you’re waiting for transport, and great for games in hostels to meet new people.
  • A pen – something that a lot of people seem to forget. Very useful to have, especially when you have to fill out something like an Interrail pass or if you are writing a journal!
  • A two-way USB charger. Most hostels have just one plug, so charge your phone and anything else with one plug socket!

Useless things – pack for what you need, don’t pack for what you might need. Mainly comes down to bringing far too many clothes. Also bear in mind that you can buy things while travelling.

How do you bring things with you?

I have an Osprey Farpoint 55 backpack and it’s the perfect size for a two or three week trip! It’s helpful to bring a separate drawstring bag to store your washing separately within the bag.

It’s a front-loading backpack so nothing gets stuck at the bottom, meaning you don’t need to be as organised when packaging everything and it’s also great for moving around from city to city as it’s easy to repack!

I also carry around an Osprey Quasar day pack. It’s slightly bigger than the day pack included with the Farpoint so I prefer it for carrying around my laptop and other valuables.

What are your top tips for other train travelers?

Be prepared for different weather but don’t overpack. All hostels have washing facilities, so plan how many washes you’ll do and pack for so many days accordingly. You can always pick up cheap clothes on your travels!

Visit Jack MacHugh’s websites, Interrail Planner & Eurail Planner


Michela Fantinel

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

For long train journeys I take:

  • A silk scarf so useful to protect you from cold/warm air-conditioning.
  • A soft foasm eye mask to relax and as a sleep aid.
  • A small refreshing kit (hands/facial) that helps avoiding long queues at toilets.

I have seen people travelling on trains with huge pillows, blankets and even umbrellas. Do you really need them?

How do you bring things with you?

I always travel with a Pacsafe Venturesafe 25 lt which is spacious and allows me to pack lots of stuff. I love the anti-theft features and the lightweight of this day-pack. For longer trips I pack my stuff on a wheeled carry-on and the day-pack too. I never pack in there anything that I need during my trip on the train. The carry-on snould be safely stored and not be used again till the end of the journey. Yes I feel I have enough space on my Pacsafe Venturesafe. Usually the food choice on train is poor and it does not match my expectations so I make sure to have enough of the right energy food and plenty of water with me. Magazines, a book and my laptop are also items that I usually pack on long train journeys.

What are your top tips for other train travelers?

To pack light is essential but not so easy to implement. Make sure that you have not more than 2 pieces of baggages with you, so if you have a carry-on, then a day-back is great choice to moving around hands-free. Don’t take bulky stuff, if you can resize eveything like toiletries and pack travel clothes that are lightweight. Prefer wheeled luggage. Wear the heaviest clothes and shoes on the train to make luggage lighter. At train stations I see travellers carrying around too many stuff and at time uncessary things that can fit into their luggage, like extra shopping bags.

For train journeys make sure you know what to expect on the trains you have booked. Train Service in different countries are widely different, and often time there are huge surprises; things that you take for granted are simply not available. So checking wih the train service which facilities are offered and what exactly to expect onboard is worthwhile.

Visit Michela Fantinel’s website


Chris King

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

I carry standard stuff with me on trips and not anything which is too different. I’m not a gadget geek so don’t bring too many things of those things apart from my Mac and cameras.

Three things which I always bring which others may not, include:

  • Two small tripods (sometimes three!)

    I’ve got two Joby GorillaPods – for my DSLR and compact camera – which I always bring on train trips. It’s easier to have dedicated tripods depending on what I’m filming and the camera I’m using.

    For me, the changing scenery is one of the most enjoyable aspects of train travel, so I do a lot of filming outside. Sometimes, I also shoot inside the carriages. It’s essential to keep the camera as steady as possible while on a moving train.

    I’ve even been known to bring three small tripods with me!

    You get plenty of funny looks when people see you hanging a camera out of the window or taking photos of seats – but hey, as long as you’re not doing any harm, who cares!

  • Japanese Food: The Original ‘Point-and-Speak’ Phrasebook

    From travelling extensively in Japan (by Shinkansen of course!) I know how difficult it is to appreciate Japan’s fantastic food. Most menus are in Japanese, and I’ve got a long way to go before I can order from them. I’m working on a project called Food Tours Japan to help visitors (especially foodies!) appreciate the wonderful world of Japanese cuisine.

    The second thing is a Japanese Food: The Original ‘Point-and-Speak’ Phrasebook is essential to help me savour Japanese food, and in turn, do research for my project. It’s an excellent guide to Japanese food with photos and images to illustrate dishes, accompanied by Japanese and English language. The book is perfect for travellers as it includes regional speciality food from popular and off the beaten track places.

    More generally, ‘point and speak’ style guidebooks are much handier than dictionaries or standard text-based phrasebooks. With photos and illustrations, it’s easier when trying to converse with the locals. This is particularly important when you want something desirable – like Japanese food – but don’t have a clue to how to ask for it!

  • Camelbak Groove bottle with filter

    The Camelbak Groove 0.6 litre bottle with built-in filter keeps me hydrated and (depending on where I’m travelling) eliminate buying bottled water. I’ve got a stainless steel bottle which is sturdy enough to take some knocks. I’m not a fan of needless plastic waste which is tricky to recycle while travelling. There are plenty of brands which sell water bottles with built-in filters.

    As for useless things that other people bring, I don’t go looking for it. But you can’t help but notice travellers struggling – especially on trains – with big four-wheeled bags. They’re not very practical which I go into below.

How do you bring things with you?

I always travel with a wheeled bag and a versatile camera bag which doubles up as a day pack. When you’re on a train trip – getting on and off trains frequently and walking – it’s essential to have gear that is lightweight and easy to control.

The wheelie bag must be lightweight but sturdy enough to take a battering when being moved around. A two-wheel wheeled bag with a robust telescopic handle is essential.

And it must be versatile with lots of handles which make it easy to pick up and carry. Mine has handles on the top and side and two concealed straps on the back so it can be used as a backpack.

Two-wheeled bags are much better all-around than four-wheeled bags. Two wheels make it easier to move about on different surfaces and are stable when upright. It’s awkward to walk with four-wheeled bags, especially on uneven surfaces and they slide around on moving trains.

Currently, I have two main bags which fit this criterion – a Berghaus Optimus 40 litre and a Solo Tourist Abroad Carry 43 litre.

The Berghaus Optimus 40 litre has served well over a dozen trips, and it’s so strong, it will last for plenty more years. Berghaus make excellent travel gear, and it’s a brand I highly recommend. I always use the Berghaus for summer trips or short hops away in winter. It’s small, lightweight and effortless to travel with.

I specifically bought the Solo Tourist Abroad Carry 43 litre bag for a winter trip in Hokkaido, northern Japan. The Solo Tourist bag is a larger bag and more so as it’s a big 43 litres, compared to the Berghaus which is 40 litres but on the small side.

Again, the Solo Tourist is lightweight, sturdy and ticks all the boxes for what I need. It’s practical, has lots of useful compartments and built to last – things you’d expect from a Japanese brand.

To keep everything organised, I use a combination of packing cubes and small bags you can get from 100 Yen shops in Japan. This means I can get to my stuff quickly and keep it organised while frequently changing hotels.

I have two camera bags which I use depending on the time of year and duration of the trip.

My favourite camera bag is a Hakuba GW Advance Peak 25 which I use most of the time and always on winter trips. Most importantly, it gives excellent protection for my camera equipment and has lots of compartments.

At the bottom of the bag, there’s a padded compartment which is big enough for my Canon 70D camera and an extra lens. A handy opening at the side means you can get quick access to the camera, essential when a fast train appears, and you want that perfect photo!

The top of the bag has lots of space for my Canon G7X, travel books, camera accessories and an article of clothing. It’s easy to keep everything neat and tidy with four small pockets and one with a zip for valuables.

I take my Canon G7X with me everywhere which takes excellent photos and video. In fact, it’s the perfect camera for filming scenic rail journeys for The Train Hacker.

Along the inside back of the bag, there’s a snug compartment to keep my MacBook Pro safe. A combination of the hardback and a padded front protects it from damage.

Along the outside front of the bag, there’s a long pocket which is ideal for a waterproof jacket and trousers. It’s separate from the main bag, so there’s no chance damp clothes will make your equipment wet.

On the outside, there are two compartments for a water bottle and some snacks. An easy access waterproof cover in a pocket at the bottom keeps the bag dry when it rains.

I love this Hakuba bag! It’s so light when it’s empty which is so important when it’s got a DSLR and bulky camera equipment inside. Hakuba (another Japanese brand) make excellent camera bags which are versatile for general use.

My second camera bag is an old Kata DR-468 DL bag (Kata are now owned by Manfrotto) which I use for day trips and sometimes in summer.

Again, it has a padded compartment at the bottom to protect my DSLR and lens. As well as taking care of my kit, it’s quick to access, so you don’t miss a shot.

On both the inside and outside it has lots of useful pockets for camera accessories. There’s not much space at the top of the bag but enough for a light sweater.

Like the Hakuba, it has two compartments on the outside for storing a water bottle and snacks. And there’s also a waterproof cover to keep your equipment dry.

Generally, while travelling by train, it’s essential to have the smallest possible bags due to limited storage space. The main bag should be narrow, so it’s easy to wheel along the carriage aisles.

What are your top tips for other train travelers?

Top tips for train travellers for packing and enjoying their trip:

For your main luggage, invest in a lightweight two-wheeled bag which is easy to stow away.

Bring a versatile, lightweight day bag which protects your camera, laptop/tablet etc. and small enough you can keep it with you at all times.

Clothing: Lightweight, layers and laundry! Always bring lightweight clothes, use the layering system and ensure you can get them clean and dry overnight. Comfortable synthetic garments are better than cotton.

Clothing colder climates: I do a lot of my travelling in winter. If I’m not on the train, I’ll be outside walking and generally exploring. A layering system is essential if you’re getting off warm trains to freezing conditions outside. Some of my favourite gear includes Helly Hansen base layers, Haglof trousers, Rab tops and Berghaus waterproof outer layers.

For overnight trains bring earplugs and an eye mask. And you’ll also need an alarm that’s loud enough to wake you up when it’s your stop!

Security: Always keep your valuables with you at all times. Make sure your main bag can be locked. And on overnight trains, at night time secure your day bag.

Get pocket wi-fi rather than a local SIM card to connect online. Pocket wi-fi connects multiple devices so you can hook up your phone, tablet/computer and other devices.

Check the luggage storage dimensions for the trains you’re travelling on to make sure your kit can be stored away easily. If you’re on a more extended trip, it’s worth investing in new luggage.

Make sure you can power up your devices on the trains you’re travelling on. Bring extra batteries and the correct regional plug adaptors. An Anker PowerCore 10000 is an ultra-compact and fast-charing powerbank which I highly recommend.

Stock up on food and water for long journeys, especially so if you’re not sure about the local cuisine. Personally, I love the local food on trains whether that’s haggis in Scotland, ekiben bento in Japan or chai and samosas in India. Definitely stock up on water to keep you hydrated, especially so in hot climates.

Single duvet case and pillow cover! While travelling in India, I brought my own clean bed linen. In some countries, you’ll get a pillow but if not put some of your clothes inside a pillow cover.

While travelling with kids, you’ll need to keep them entertained with books and toys. Take them for frequent walks along the train, so they don’t get bored.

It’s all well and good bringing the right stuff, but the main thing is you enjoy yourself!

Travelling by train offers a unique experience where you get to meet the locals and fellow travellers while enjoying the marvellous scenery along the way. Some of my most memorable travel experiences have been on rail trips – the best one meeting my wife!

Get out your comfort zone and go and explore the world by train!

Visit Chris King’s website


Silvia Festa

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

Camera, book, and portable charger.

I travel by train most of the time. The journey by the train itself is like a break from hectic routines and the demands of a busy schedule. There is something soothing about watching and capturing the scenery go by out the window while riding through the European countryside at pace.

It’s a great time to read a book, update your Instagram, continue planning your next stop in Europe, or just having conversations with fellow travellers. The next thing you know, you’ll be on the way to completely new destinations in Europe that you wouldn’t read about in a guidebook or online.

How do you bring things with you?

I travel light; a small cabin luggage or a backpack should do and I always spare some room in my bags for souvenirs! It’s a must to bring something back from the destinations I visit, just a little reminder of the trip.

One of the great benefits of travelling by rail is that there are no luggage restrictions, but it doesn’t mean that I have to overpack, especially when travelling on a whim and always need to be ready to hop on and hop off of trains.

What are your top tips for other train travelers?

Don’t plan too much on what you’re going to wear as comfort is the most important when it comes to travel by train! Pack light and just bring the essentials!

No matter how far or how long for you are traveling, a lighter suitcase translates into easier mobility. And if you are desperately running to catch your train, carrying a backpack or a small carry-on will raise your chances to make it!

Visit Silvia Festa’s website



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