AmtrakAmtrak Tips

9 Essential Items You Need On Your First Amtrak Vacation

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We took our first Amtrak Vacation this year and loved it so much that we took 3 more in the months that followed. Along the way we realized there were some things that were essential to having a great experience on an Amtrak Vacation.

Amtrak Vacation Baggage Allowances
You Can Bring A Generous Amount of Bags On Your Amtrak Vacation


Flip Flops

You’ll want these anytime you go to the bathroom in the night on an Amtrak train. If you are asleep with you shoes off, you won’t want to spend the time putting on shoes. It isn’t a good idea to venture to the bathroom in bare feet in the middle of the night!

We bought comfortable flip flops and put them right by the door in our roomette. These are the flip flops Rob uses on the train.

Billabong Men’s Offshore Impact Sandal Flip-Flop
  • Vegan nubuck upper strap with sbr padding
  • Boat friendly non scuff outsole

Last update on 2023-03-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

USB Power Pack

Power outlets are limited in the roomette’s, at only one per room so charging electronics overnight can be tricky. With one of these adapters, you’ll be able to charge you camera, phone and tablets overnight while you sleep. There are additional outlets in the observation car if you need to charge a bunch of things quickly.

INIU Portable Charger, 22.5W 20000mAh USB C in & Out Power Bank Fast Charging, PD 3.0+QC 4.0 LED Display Phone Battery Pack Compatible with iPhone 14 13 12 Pro Samsung S21 Google LG iPad Tablet, etc.
  • ✅【From INIU–the SAFE Fast Charge Pro】Experience the safest charging with over 38 million global users. At INIU, we use only the highest-grade materials, so we do have the confidence to provide an industry-leading 3 years warranty.

Last update on 2023-03-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


You are allowed to bring food on the train and you should really consider doing it. Even if you are in a roomette with free meals, the dining service isn’t open late and may not be open when you are hungry. On one of our trains the cafe was closed most of the day because of a cash register malfunction. The food is generally very good and reliable, but it can turn into a big deal if there is ever a problem.

Our go to snack on the train is Nugo Protein Bars!

NuGo Protein Bar, Orange Smoothie, 11g Protein, 170 Calories, Gluten Free, 15 Count
  • Families love NuGo Protein bars! Keep your whole family healthy and strong with NuGo Bars. Packed with delicious gluten free ingredients, vitamins and minerals and the taste of real milk chocolate or delicious yogurt, this snack bar will have you and your family hooked and energized to take on the day.

Last update on 2023-03-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Suction Mount Camera Holder

GoPro Gooseneck Suction Cup Mount Holder on an Amtrak Train
The Easiest Way To Take Photos and Videos on the Train

The number one thing we got asked about on our Amtrak Vacation was our mount for our GoPro and phone. Even the staff of the train was asking where they could get one.

We saw plenty of people struggling to get good video or pictures on a bouncing train. There are plenty of window in your roomette or the observation car where you can attach a suction cup mount and take smooth videos or good pictures.

JOBY Suction Cup with GorillaPod Arm for GoPro HERO6 Black, GoPro HERO5 Black, GoPro HERO5 Session, Contour and Sony Action Cam
  • CAPTURE SUPERIOR PERSPECTIVES. Look at life from a different point of view with as you mount this suction cup action camera mount to any non-porous purpose. The flexible GorillaPod Arm maneuvers 360 degrees letting you get the angle you want, for the shot you need.

Last update on 2023-03-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Good Toiletries Bag

You’ll be venturing to the bathroom often on your trip and sometimes the best bathroom may be on another level or in another car. You don’t want to carry everything you need by hand and there isn’t counter space in the bathroom to set everything down. A hook on the back of the door is provided to help you in this process.

SaleBestseller No. 1
BAGSMART Large Toiletry Bag Travel Bag with Hanging Hook, Water-resistant Makeup Cosmetic Bag Travel Organizer for Accessories, Shampoo, Full Sized Container, Toiletries
  • Large Capacity – 12.6 x 9.1 x 4.3 inch (rolled); 12.6 x 33.5 inch(open) 4 separate compartments with zip and back open pocket for great organization. Suitable for your family trip to pack all men, women and kids toiletries.
SaleBestseller No. 2
Relavel Travel Hanging Toiletry Bag for Men Women Travel Kit Shaving Bag Waterproof Large Makeup Bag Wash Bag Makeup Organizer Cosmetic Case for Bathroom Shower Black
  • Waterproof Material: This travel toiletry bag is made of attractive Nylon material, water resistant and durable. The interior of the bag is securely lined with a special material that can handle accidental toiletry spills and can be easily cleaned.
SaleBestseller No. 3
Narwey Hanging Travel Toiletry Bag Cosmetic Make up Organizer for Women and Men (Medium, Orange Leopard)
  • ✅ PRACTICAL 25cm TALL – The main compartment has a practical height of 25cm (9.12″) which could easily fit travel-size shampoo & conditioner, lotion, face wash, toothpaste, toothbrushes, hair brush and daily makeups. Medium size is suitable for overnight or short trips.

Last update on 2023-03-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


If you are in coach you’ll have people getting on and off the train most of the night so you’ll want something to block out the sound. If you are sleeping in a roomette it is less of an issue unless you just want to drown out the sound of the train.

We generally travel with wireless headphones so our phones can be tucked away safely while we are sleeping. Allie uses these Bose Sleepbuds II on the train and loves them! She doesn’t hear a thing while sleeping.

Bose Sleepbuds II – Sleep Technology Clinically Proven to Help You Fall Asleep Faster, Sleep Better with Relaxing and Soothing Sleep Sounds
  • Sleepbuds, not headphones: Designed for sleep, Sleepbuds may look like tiny headphones, but they don’t stream music or podcasts, instead they deliver relaxing and noise-masking sounds to help you fall asleep and stay asleep all night.Note : If the size of the earbud tips does not match the size of your ear canals or the headset is not worn properly in your ears, you may not obtain the correct sound qualities or call performance. Change the earbud tips to ones that fit more snugly in your ears

Last update on 2023-03-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Downloaded Entertainment

Many Amtrak trains don’t have Wifi and on some of them you’ll be in remote parts of the country away from the highway and cell service. It’s a good idea to download any movies or shows and music you want to listen to before you start the trip. We were surprised at how much of the trip we had no service at all.


Cash may not be accepted on the train to buy food, as of this writing it isn’t, but it is still accepted by the staff for a tip. You may want to tip the room steward, dining car steward or cafe attendant if they are helpful to you. Cash is the only way you’ll be able to tip them. Tips are not mandatory like on a cruise ship, but from what we saw about half of the people in the roomettes tipped.


Depending on your train and the time of year it can get cold on an Amtrak train, think Empire Builder in December! A small blanket would be great to bring with you to the observation car or curl up with in your seat as you watch the world pass by.

Do you have any other items that you find essential on an Amtrak Vacation? Let us know in the comments what you need each time you board the train.

If you are having trouble deciding between coach and a roomette you may find our Amtrak Sunset Limited coach review helpful.

If it is your first time riding Amtrak you should also check out our Amtrak beginners guide.


  1. I enjoy watching your videos and reading your blog post. Did you book your vacations through Amtrak Vacations and how do you keep your clothes so neat from day to day on a train?

    1. Hello, we booked them directly on and just used our own hotel choices. There are some hangers in the Roomettes and Bedrooms that help to keep clothes neat when you are going overnight.

  2. My family took the train California Zephyr to Chicago and back at Christmas about 4 years ago. We didn’t have sleeper berths–just the regular seats. Here are a few suggestions I have. 1) Meals aren’t included if you don’t have a sleeper berth so you have a choice of going to the dining car, picking up some simple food options in the snack bar or eating food you brought with you. We did some of each. 2) We met super nice people sitting near us one direction and had happy hour with them. I wished we brought more wine and noshing food to share. 3) Because the foot rests are so far from your seat, you may be more comfortable have a bag or a cooler to put under your feet when you are sleeping. 4) The bags you “check,” i.e. don’t have with you at your seat, are stored in a place accessible to all passengers so make sure anything valuable is in the bags you are keeping with you at your seat. 4) Seats are in pairs so if you have an odd number of travelers most likely one of you will be sleeping next to a complete stranger. It is really nice to have a blanket you can kind of hide under at night. 5) Think about having clothes that will be comfortable to sleep in but be in public. Sweats? Flannel pants? 6) I also second you video comment about bringing wet wipes. The shared bathrooms are kind of gross. Do yourself and others a favor and do a good cleaning on the one you will most early in your trip so you can enjoy a cleaner bathroom then wipe surfaces as needed for the rest of the trip.

  3. My first experience on the Empire Builder, I brought a transistor radio with ear plugs. It was nice to hear the news of the world. I could always find a station. It might not have been the clearest at all times but it was a nice diversion from always feeling like I had to look at my phone. I plan to take a radio again on my next trip in mid December on the Builder.

  4. Hi Rob & Allie,

    Found you guys on YouTube after booking my first sleeper car experience on the Coast Starlight. Going from Oregon to California coming up in late June of this year. I have ridden coach once before, but your videos were awesome. I have watched a tour of our bedroom car, to what to pack and yes I did use a lot of the suggestions and Amazon happily took my money, haha.
    I just watched your Switzerland trip, OMG how stunning was that.
    Now I want to do a long distance train experience or European train experience. Thank you guys for sharing your wonderful experiences. I love it and will continue to follow.

  5. My husband and I have the Amtrak bug after watching your YouTube videos, thank you so much. We are planning a trip late November – early December 2022 on the Empire builder. from Milwaukee to Everett, WA. Round trip. We have booked a roomette it’s #3 both ways, I thought I heard you say something about the best side of the train to be on, any idea if #3 is a good side?
    Thank you again for your inspiration, this is going to be fun, visiting our daughter and granddaughter in WA. Wish us luck!

    1. Hi, sounds like an awesome trip! On the Empire Builder the best side is facing north, but you can’t really tell from the numbers which side you are going to be on as sometimes they switch the direction of the cars. So, you really just have to wait and see when you get there. Your room is upstairs though, and next to the attendant who is in room #1 usually, so it is a great room overall.

  6. Rob and Allie, love your channel. I am considering going to California to visit my parents at the end of the year (thinking of possibly leaving on Christmas Eve, getting back Jan 1st or 2nd) and considering this route: Indianapolis -> Chicago -> Emeryville -> Salinas. With the Cardinal getting into Chicago at 10 a.m. and the Zephyr leaving at 2 p.m., would it be too tight of a connection to get into Chicago and depart on the Zephyr the same day?

    1. It might work, but there is a pretty big chance you’d miss it. We would do that route but just book a hotel in Chicago and stay 1 night there and then you’d be sure to make it.

  7. I’m retired at age 51 and have been waiting for this pandemic to end to travel more. 🙁 Anyway, I have a couple of questions, please. Do you fly to Europe, or do you take a cruise? Also, how do you handle your mail when you travel for a long time? Do you use a digital mail scanning service?

  8. Love the videos and the information provided. Doing a round trip from LA to Chicago and back over Thanksgiving. Any idea on what it’s like on the train on Thanksgiving Day? Will be on the Southwest Chief on that day.

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Robert Marmion
Rob is married to Allie and together they have been traveling the world for the past 5 years. Rob is one of the most published photographers in the world, having published over 1 million images in the last 20 years. He enjoys doing landscape and astrophotography while on the road.