I took a 52-hour train ride from Chicago to California. Here are 10 things I wish I had packed.

The silver, blue, and red Amtrak train at the concrete platform
I rode Amtrak's California Zephyr line for 52 hours.Sojourner White
  • There are some things I wish I had packed for my 52-hour train ride from Chicago to California.

  • Earplugs and an eye mask would've helped me sleep even better in my roomette.

  • I should've downloaded movies and brought a deck of cards to fill downtime.

Even though my 52-hour trek on Amtrak's California Zephyr was my first long train ride, I think I created a pretty solid packing list.

However, there are a few items that could've made the trip from Chicago to California even better.

Ginger chews may have helped with nausea

Bringing ginger chews is something I thought about after the fact.

Though I had Dramamine and sea-nausea-relief bands, ginger is a natural motion-sickness remedy, so I would've loved to see just how well it worked.

I wish I brought my own pillow for extra comfort

Four pillows leaning against a brown headboard on a bed with white sheets and comforter
Even a neck pillow would be good to bring.Suksamran1985/Shuttershock

I don't normally travel with an extra pillow, but I think it would've been good to have in my roomette for additional comfort. Even a neck pillow would've been nice.

That said, Amtrak provides roomette passengers with a pillow and blanket, so you don't have to bring your own if you don't want to.

I'd bring an extra blanket on fall or winter rides

I also love sleeping with a big comforter.

The blanket Amtrak provides isn't too thin, but it's not as thick as a comforter.

For future fall and winter rides, I'll probably pack an extra small blanket for more warmth and enhanced comfort.

I should've downloaded a few movies

Looking back on it, I wish I had downloaded movies from Netflix ahead of time, as the train doesn't have WiFi.

I needed to write, so I wanted to focus on that, but it would've been much more relaxing to fill the time by watching a movie (or three) in my roomette.

A deck of cards could've made for a fun pastime

Deck of cards with a red ace of hearts on top on a gray surface
I love card games.AwaylGl/Shuttershock

I love playing card games, so not bringing a deck with me was a missed opportunity.

It could've been a screen-free activity for when I wanted a break from my laptop and phone.

Plus in a post-COVID-19 world someday, I would love to take a long train ride and play card games with other passengers, which could be a fun way to make friends as a solo traveler.

Next time, I'll pack my favorite bottle of wine

I had no idea that you can bring your own bottle of wine in a roomette.

The wine Amtrak provided was delicious during meal times, but I would've also liked to have brought my own bottle to enjoy as I relaxed in my space.

I'll definitely bring my favorite red or white on my next train trip.

I should've brought even more snacks

pretzels spilling out of clear snack bag
You can even pack a cooler of fresh snacks.anna zandstra/Shuttershock

Even though I brought snacks, I wish I had packed more.

Amtrak's meals were better than I expected, but it would've been nice to have other snacks to switch it up.

I saw someone with a little cooler and thought that would've been a good idea for packing fresher snacks instead of just packaged ones.

A jelly air freshener could've brightened up my roomette

Keeping in mind that some travelers are allergic to certain scents, I still would've liked to pack an air freshener just in case.

The train didn't stink at all, but after a few days, I wanted a fresher smell. Packing a jelly air freshener or spray could've brightened the roomette up a bit.

Train travel can be a bit loud, so earplugs would've come in handy

Red earplugs by plastic container on light wood table
The train can be a bit noisy at night.modustollens/Shuttershock

The other passengers weren't noisy at all, but the train itself could get a little bumpy and loud at night.

Earplugs would've been nice to have on the first night to adjust to sleeping on the train.

For complete darkness at night, pack an eye mask

I'm normally a heavy sleeper, and I slept pretty well on the train, but a little bit of light came through the door at night.

On the second night, I realized I could block most of it with my backpack in front of the door — which also worked as extra security — but I still would've loved an eye mask to make it pitch black.

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