10 Best Packing Tips for an Amtrak Overnight Train Trip


After dozens of cross-country Amtrak trips, I’ve put together a list to help you to pack for your Amtrak overnight train trip.  Whether you’re onboard for one overnight or even four, here’s what to pack to help make your long distance train journey even more memorable.

How to pack for an Amtrak overnight trip if you have this deluxe bedroom sleeping accommodation
Deluxe bedroom sleeping accommodation – with private bath and shower, too.

10 best packing tips for an Amtrak overnight train trip

Imagine yourself all cozy in your little roomette or tad larger bedroom (with an ensuite bathroom) heading out for an overnight train trip.   Or you choose to travel in coach.  How you pack for your trip could mean the difference between a restless night or a good night’s sleep. 

Whether your cross-country train trip goes east or west, your train will slowly cross up and over towering mountain ranges, race across high desert plains and stop at iconic train stations.  Remember, weather changes will also affect what to pack.

Pack for a cross-country Amtrak train trip

Long-haul Amtrak trains with nostalgic names like the Empire Builder, Southwest Chief and California Zephyr offer some of the most beautiful, off-the-beaten-path scenery in the USA.

Most likely, you’d stay a couple of days at either end of your trip, or even break up the trip with a night or two at a station stop along the way.  Either way, one of the most important aspects to a great train ride is to know what and how to pack for an overnight train trip.

Let’s say you’ve planned a cross-country train trip from New York City to Los Angeles.  That’s a total of almost four days and three nights on the train.  You’ll need more than just a change of clothes.

View of Glacier National Park aboard Amtrak Empire Builder
Last glimpse of Glacier National Park aboard Amtrak Empire Builder.

1.  You’ll need tops and shirts

For a three-night cross-country trip, I suggest three tops to change into, plus one to wear on departure day.  No matter what season you travel, one of these should be some kind of sweater or sweatshirt-type top.  Whether in coach, a sleeping room or dining car, you never know how cold it could be in there.  

2.  Comfy train pants

Since you’ll be sitting most of the day, be sure to pack one pair of comfy pants like sweat pants, yoga pants (you know…stretchy!) then pants or jeans for the dining, café or observation car.  So, three pants is good:  one comfy, two for daytime (in case you spill something on one pair)

3.  Ditty bag

For the shower room down the hall if you don’t have a deluxe bedroom – pack a little bag with your shampoo, conditioner, tooth brush, tooth paste and flip-flops for the shower plus a pack of Clorox or Lysol wipes for the bathroom countertop, faucet and door handle/lock.

4.  Shoes

Easy-on shoes (slip-ons) and pack the sneakers / flip flops(for the shower, see above) / slippers for your room.

Read next: Cross-country aboard Amtrak Southwest Chief

5.  Snacks and beverages

You’re allowed to bring alcohol onboard for your sleeping compartment.  Want a pre-dinner cocktail?  Pack a small cooler with a jar of olives and munchies and ask your room attendant for ice.

Amtrak overnight train deluxe bedroom with towel duct-taped to cover a broken air vent.
Never set out on an Amtrak overnight train trip without packing a roll of duct tape and scissors.

6.  ALWAYS Pack Duct tape and kid-scissors

I never travel on an Amtrak overnight train trip without these two items.  You’ll find that there are rattles and clanking sounds that can drive you nuts.  Occasionally I’ll use a wash cloth to cover the ceiling vent when the control slider doesn’t work.

READ NEXT:  Follow my California Zephyr journey across America

7.  Water

Some trains are trying to limit the amount of bottled water per compartment.  If you’re like me and drink up to 2L a day, ask for a bottle of water every time you’re in the dining car or order a meal.  It’s complimentary and will get you through the journey.

8.  Luggage tip

You’ve reserved a roomette, traveling with a little too much luggage and prefer to not check a bag.  Rather than hoist your luggage onto the top bunk, sleep on the upper bunk and keep your luggage on the lower bunk at night.   If you’re on a Superliner, there’s a storage rack downstairs.  

Downstairs luggage area on Amtrak Superliner
Downstairs luggage area on Amtrak Superliner

9.  Keep your space clean

Last but not least, long before the pandemic hit, I always packed Clorox wipes, hand wipes and sanitizer.  As soon as I’m in my roomette, out pop the Clorox wipes.  I clean everything, from the metal flip-over door locks to the slide-out tray table and the flat surfaces and everything around the sink area.  This includes the toilet area whether in my room or the public ones.

10.  Stretch out 

Unless you’re lucky enough to afford to travel in a deluxe bedroom, it’s important to remember that roomettes are tiny.  An Amtrak overnight train trip with two grown-up people in one roomette can be a challenge.

Amtrak overnight train trip in a roomette
You can see the two lower seats that convert into a bed at night. There’s a pullout little table between them.

If it’s within your budget, try to reserve two roomettes across from each other.  This was no one feels crunched and gives you a view from both sides of the train, too.  

Enjoy your overnight train ride!

Whatever Amtrak cross-country train you choose, follow these overnight train packing tips and you’ll be prepared for a wonderfully relaxing and memorable journey.

READ MORE:  29 Onboard Tips for Your Amtrak Overnight Train Trip



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