If you’ve got a long journey ahead of you trains are often the among the cheapest and most convenient ways of doing it. Rather than resigning yourself to a lengthy road trip or adding to your carbon footprint by making short distance flights, you can use the train as a chance to catch up on work, or your reading, or simply gaze out the window and enjoy the view. Booking your journey is easier than ever thanks to online services such as Direct Rail, but actually surviving the trip itself can be another matter entirely.
A long train journey can be a trial, and there’s no small amount of luck involved as well. If your train ends up crowded, or unexpectedly delayed, an otherwise pleasant journey can turn into an epic slog. The key to preventing your journey from changing from one to the other is preparation.
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Step 1: Charge Everything Before You Leave
I don’t know how many gadgets you’re going to be taking on this train journey. Your phone? Your iPod? Your laptop? Your Kindle? It doesn’t matter how many gadgets you’re taking with you, the important thing is to make sure they spend their time in the run up to your leaving plugged firmly into the wall. You want all your batteries to be at full capacity when you head out. Even if you’re not planning on using all your gadgets while you’re on the train this is still a good idea – I was once able to make some crucial phone calls from a mobile with a dying battery by charging it off the laptop I’d also brought along.
Step 2: Take Your Own Food
Even if you’re lucky enough for your train to be one with a buffet car, paying for your food en route means you’re going to be paying way over the odds for food that tastes just a little bit better than its own packaging. Put together a nice picnic lunch before you head out, as well as lots to drink and plenty of snacks.
Step 3: Keep Your Plans to Hand
When you’re trying to work out travel times and routes you don’t want to be frantically rifling through tickets or travel passes. Write down every change, departure and arrival time on a separate piece of paper, which you keep in a pocket all to itself where you can grab it on demand. It might seem like a simple step, but in terms of keeping your stress levels down this is invaluable.
Step 4: Be Prepared to Sleep
Some people don’t feel all that comfortable sleeping on trains, but if it’s a long journey you may find it’s inevitable. Unfortunately, this is a task with varying degrees of difficulty depending on how crowded your train is going to be.
If at all possible, book yourself a window seat, otherwise you’ll find yourself stuck in the aisle and, if you aren’t careful, being rudely awakened every time your head lolls onto the shoulder of your nearest fellow traveller.
Bring a sleeping pillow of the type often used on plane flights to keep your head in a comfortable position. Alternative, pack your valuables into a smaller bag and use that to rest your head on – reducing the risk of having your valuables stolen while you sleep!
Finally, set some alarms on your phone before you head out, making sure you wake up a few minutes before you’re supposed to get off the train. Being rocked to sleep by the train just before I’m supposed to get off it has taken me to some unexpected places before!
Step 5: Entertain Yourself
Finally, and most importantly, give yourself plenty to do. Bring a long book, your laptop, and a nice long play list. Particularly, if you’re listening to music or audio books, it’s important to get hold of a good, quality set of headphones. These not only help filter out the crying children/obnoxious phone calls/the music of the less considerate passengers, it also means you won’t be inspiring a deep and burning hatred in the hearts of anyone unfortunate enough to sit within earshot of you.