I’ve been in a long-distance relationship for about four years, I’m also currently studying at a university over three hours away from home so I definitely know a fair bit about train travel.
I met my boyfriend back in 2013 – he lives in the east of Scotland and I live about 400 miles away near Nottingham in England. Travelling between our two homes takes 6+ hours and travelling between our universities takes 7+ hours. I’ve basically got train travel down to a fine art, so here are my top ten tips for long train journeys.
- When you first get on the train and find your seat, keep your tickets and railcard/passes easily accessible. Nothing is more awkward or unsettling than having the ticket collector standing over you while you struggle to find your tickets. Just keep any tickets in the front pocket of your bag or in your pocket, this way it’s also easier when you arrive at your destination and need to get through the ticket barriers.
- If possible, pack everything into a soft duffel/hand-held bag which you can store above your seat. This means you won’t be worrying about someone making off with your suitcase if you can’t see the luggage rack. Also, it’ll mean you can manoeuvre more quickly and easily if you need to change trains. If you need large luggage, try to book a seat near the luggage rack so you can keep an eye on your things.
- When buying your train tickets, book a seat! Normally this is a requirement anyway, but you can choose where to sit. I would always recommend going for a priority seat near the luggage rack if one is available, because you can see your luggage and priority seats have much more leg room than regular seats.
- Wear layers. I don’t know why the temperature on trains fluctuates so much, but it does. Sometimes I’ll be on a really hot train with no open windows, other times it’ll be freezing and there will be cold air blasting down on everyone. Layers mean you can add or remove clothing depending on the temperature. Also, I always take a hoodie or lightweight coat in my backpack so that if I want to fall asleep I can use it as a blanket.
- Pack a few mini toiletries. I keep my full-size beauty things stored away in my bigger case so to save having to get up and root around, mini versions in your backpack/handbag are super handy. I always take hand sanitiser with me because UK train bathrooms are truly disgusting and often the sink is broken – hand sanitiser just keeps me feeling clean and fresh. I also usually pack a mini deodorant, a perfume tester and some chewing gum to freshen up before I arrive.
- Pack your own snacks. Train food is so horrendously overpriced, I try to avoid it whenever I can. I usually take pasta salad or sandwiches, crisps, a sweet snack, at least two pieces of fruit and a bottle of water. Sometimes I’ll buy extra snacks if I arrive at the station early, or if I have a long stopover when I’m changing trains. Having food and drinks on me just makes me feel more prepared and at ease.
- Have cash on you. I would always recommend packing your own snacks and drinks but sometimes you just don’t have time or space in your bags. Having cash means it’s easier to pay for things from the refreshment trolley (even though they do accept card on most rail services). Having cash also means that when you arrive at your destination you can get a taxi if it’s raining or you’re not sure where to go.
- If possible, take a portable charger with you for your phone. Most train services will have plugs but there’s nothing worse than getting stuck on a five-hour train with a dead phone. The portable charger also means you can charge your electronics at stations while you wait so you can always get in contact with people and can keep yourself entertained.
- If you own an iPad or something similar, download some things to watch. I have the iPlayer app and Netflix on my iPad so I usually download a few films and shows. I also make sure to download a few playlists to listen to offline on Spotify just in case I want to rest my eyes but there’s someone noisy on the train (there’s always someone noisy on the train).
- Don’t forget your headphones! I’ll repeat, there’s always someone noisy on the train. Don’t be that person who plays their music out loud or plays a game on full volume. Headphones will keep you sane and your fellow passengers will thank you for the quiet.
- Bonus tip! I’m sure most of you will already have considered this, but buy a railcard! If you travel regularly then it can save you so much money. For me, tickets to Scotland aren’t cheap and having a third off the cost with my 16-25 railcard is such a big help. I got my current railcard free when I signed up for a student bank account with Santander, so shop around to see if you can get any similar deals. If you aren’t a student, don’t worry there are lots of different types of railcard available here.
Those were my top ten (ish) tips for long train travel. Good luck on those pesky trains, and remember to keep yourself safe. Happy travelling!