How to Plan for a Rail Vacation

Planning a vacation is hard enough, but the nice thing about a rail tour is that typically rail travel agencies already have a plan for you. They’ve mapped mostly everything out–where you’ll be going, where you’ll be eating your group meals, and where you’ll be taking tours together. Think of a rail vacation kind of like a cruise–but rather, on steel rails gliding through countrysides and roaring through town–you take the train with your rail tour group, you might take a couple of stops along the way for some guided sight-seeing, but at the end of the day, you’re on your own.

Even though the travel agency has probably lined the trip with excursions, tours, and other great opportunities, there’s still more planning on your part to be done!


An obvious one, but it has to be done. Packing for a rail vacation is not the same as packing for a road trip or an airplane. There are a lot of different rules that come with riding on a train. Amtrak recently announced that it’s going to start charging people for extra checked luggage, similar to airplanes. Still, rail passengers are usually allowed a lot more carry-ons than on an airplane. Be cautious though. Check with your rail vacation railway to see what their policies are, and remember to be considerate of others–don’t be lugging a massive suitcase on the train that could take up someone else’s space.

Plan for Spare Time

While you’ll be spending most of your time on the train seeing a lot of new places and taking pre-scheduled tours, plan for your spare time. The travel agency’s itinerary will tell you when you’ll have the most downtime and when you can venture out on your own. Plan ahead and figure out what sights might be in your best interest and schedule any tours that might not be on the itinerary. Give yourself enough time though. Sometimes the best time to plan for your own adventures are in the evening when your group is settled in a hotel.

Plan for Elevation

A lot of train tours make their ways through the mountains, resulting in excessive or extreme altitude that can affect the body in many ways. Bring any medicine to counteract the effects. Contact your travel agency and ask what the highest elevation points are on a particular trip. Some rail travel agencies have the information directly on their site.

Consider Travel Insurance

Some agencies will provide travel insurance, while others will facilitate the process of giving you the proper insurance information. There are a variety of travel insurance companies to shop around for. Ask your rail travel agency which they recommend. Travel insurance is a valuable option as it provides coverage for any lost luggage along the way or unforeseen severe weather that might hinder your travel plans.

About the Author: James is a guest contributor from America by Rail, offering comfortable and convenient rail vacations all throughout North America, Canada, and parts of Europe.

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