Numads travel a lot. Like, a lot a lot. Right now, I'm on Amtrak heading north to my home in Boston after a short 20 hours in New York City to celebrate an opening night at one of our Off-Broadway clients, Primary Stages (by the way, check out the stellar review they got in The New York Times).
I love the train. For the convenience. For the fact the most every time it is on-time (okay that may be a stretch). For the chance to watch the beautiful countryside and waterways of the northeast coast pass by.
In other words, I heart you, Amtrak.
Most of the time.
Today may not be one of those times... and it's totally on me.
For the past two and a half hours, I've been sitting here working. And freezing. Shivering visibly, actually. I'm wearing one of my many go-to City Sports Boston tee-shirts (I have about 20 in different colors because they're cheap and good quality). Outside, it is 95 degrees... which means I left my blizzard-ready parka (and a sweatshirt for that matter) at home.
My near-ice-sculpture state has prompted me to take a pause from the workday to share my advice on how to travel on America's railways in the best way possible (for instance, bring a sweater!). Really, this is a reminder to myself:
- Buy a coach ticket. I have yet to understand the benefit of first class on Amtrak. There's plenty of leg room in coach. The seats are equally comfortable. You're closer to the cafe car. You save the client money. Plus... if you don't have to take a phone call, you can enjoy your travels in the peace and quiet of the Quiet Car.
- Buy your coach ticket at least two weeks in advance. It'll be cheaper. Plus... penalty-free cancellations and rebooking! Sometimes I know well in advance when I have to travel, and even if is is a "maybe", I get the ticket. If I don't need it, I cancel it. I bet I've saved more than $200 per journey as a result.
- Time the journey from home to the station. I'm lucky. I can walk from my home in Boston to South Station. And I know it takes me exactly 13 minutes (give or take 20 seconds). I can't say train stations are exactly... um... nice. Nor clean. That means I leave home with enough time to walk through the station to the platform and onto the train, minimizing my time in the station. For delays, I've got hand sanitizer (I'm not allowed to leave home without it... true story).
- When you arrive at the station, don't look at the departure board... look at the arrivals board. In many cases, your train is coming from someplace else. By looking at the arrivals board, you'll know where you're on-time, and what platform it will be on, before they make the announcement. You save yourself the madness that is the rush to the platform when they finally do make the announcement.
- Sit in the cafe car. I'm tall. And I don't like to waste any time. So I always try to get on the train first, and I beeline it to the cafe car. With its benches and tables meant for eating, it is the perfect place to sprawl out my moving office. Outlets right next to the table ensure I stay powered up. My MacBook Air sleeve doubles as a mousepad. I order a coffee to both justify my spot in the cafe car, and because I run on caffeine. I literally cannot believe the amount of work I'm able to get done while on the move.
- Bring a sandwich or a healthy snack with you, but buy the booze on board. Let's be candid: The food on Amtrak is pretty awful. Yesterday on my trip down to New York City, I neglected to get something before boarding the train. I ordered... wait for it... a vegan burger (I'm trying to get vegetarian again). They microwaved it. It was nastiness on a bun. If you want to eat healthy, and keep some money in your wallet, grab something before you board. That said, there's always a great selection of drinks: soda, juices, even adult-beverages. I buy my drinks on board to justify where I'm sitting (see #2) and so that I don't spill hot coffee all over my sleeve as I juggle luggage and train tickets.
- Download the mobile app, and use the e-ticket system. If for no other reason, it's good for the environment.
- Bring a sweater. Let me repeat, bring a freaking sweater with you... no matter how hot it is outside. I forget to do this every single time. And so I sit on the train, teeth chattering. Goosebumps on the arms. Icicles on my eyebrows.
- Brings some noise canceling headphones. Unless you're sitting in the quiet car, train passengers are oftentimes loud. They talk on phones. They talk to the neighbors. Sometimes they talk to themselves. I prefer the Beats by Dr. Dre that use the Bluetooth technology (no wires!).
What did I miss? What are your tips for train travel?