I took an 18-hour Amtrak ride from Chicago to Washington DC. Here are 17 things I'm glad I packed.

·7 min read
The writer looks out the window of Amtrak car; Half of a Jersey Mike's sub sandwich
I made sure to pack the essentials for my 18-hour trip.Nylah Burton; Martha Sorren
  • I'm no stranger to Amtrak so I knew what to pack on an 18-hour ride from Chicago to Washington DC.

  • Wearing pants with pockets and bringing a sturdy backpack is a great way to save space on the train.

  • I always take a snack and a sandwich with me so that I don't have to skip meals on a long trip.

I always recommend wearing pants with pockets.

gray T-shirt, blue jeans, and leopard slip-on shoes on a hardwood floor
I keep some essentials in my pockets.Paige Bennett

Rummaging through my bag for every single thing is incredibly annoying in any travel situation, so I like to keep hand sanitizer, a credit card, and anything else I might need in my pockets.

A good backpack holds a lot of essentials.

Backpacks sitting soccer ball rug
A lot of supplies can fit into a high-quality backpack.Zalena Photo/Shutterstock

When I first traveled by train, I used a Herschel bag that was too deep and didn't have any pockets so I had to dig to the bottom every time I needed something.

Since then, I upgraded to a Sandqvist bag, which is still deep but has lots of pockets, including a cool one at the bottom where you can put shoes (though I used it for toiletries and stationary).

There are plenty of options, but I strongly recommend getting something big with a good organizational system.

Sunscreen and lotion ensure your skin doesn't get dried out.

The writer holds two black tubes with gold text saying "Black Girl Sunscreen" and "30" on them
Don't forget to bring sunscreen.Malayna Fernandez

Your skin can be exposed to UV rays through the windows, so it's good to reapply sunscreen if you're traveling during the day.

I also bring a luscious coconut body butter from Trader Joe's to moisturize after applying harsh hand sanitizer.

If I'm going to get my period, I download the Glow app and bring pain relievers, tampons, and a heating pad.

Panty liners in and around a yellow toiletry bag
I'll also pack plenty of period products.Isabel Pavia/Getty Images

Every time I travel, I use the Glow App to see when my period is going to arrive, and I was cutting it close this time.

I just made sure to bring all the essentials so I was as comfortable as possible in case of any surprises.

I usually pick up a snack from Trader Joe's before I travel.

trader joe's dark chocolate plantain chips beside white and green bag
Trader Joe's has a great selection of chips, fruit, and other snacks.Savanna Swain-Wilson

Having good snacks makes all the difference on these long hauls and these sweet flowers are amazing.

I usually like to snack on dried hibiscus flowers from Trader Joe's.

Sanitizing wipes can help clear out some germs.

hand holding pack of sanitizing wipes
It's good to be prepared with wipes.Carly Caramanna

Since seeing a video of Naomi Campbell cleaning her airplane seat, I've always taken some wipes and cleaned every surface where I'll be sitting, including the windows and overhead bins that I'll be touching.

I feel better wiping down the area I'm sitting in since this will help stop the spread of germs.

I always bring some essentials to take care of my skin and hair.

Blue and pink satin bonnets laid out with white background
I always bring a bonnet with me if I'm sleeping on the train.oowee_78/Shutterstock

Traveling is so rough on your skin, but you also can't exactly do a 12-step routine on a moving train in coach.

Instead, I bring some basics: Sephora Charcoal exfoliating wipes, Beia daily hydration and setting mist, Origins GinZing moisturizer, Biossance Squalene and Vitamin C rose oil, and my Fresh Sugar Blood Orange hydrating lip balm.

A lot of my products were free samples since I frequently buy things from Sephora, which save way more space (and are less expensive, being free and all) than travel-sized items.

I also like to bring a Moroccan oil hydrating treatment, flexi rods, and a satin bonnet so I wake up with bouncy curls instead of a tangled and dry mess.

A throw blanket and pillow keep you comfy.

a pillow, blanket, and headphones on a seat
Make your seat a little more comfortable with a pillow and blanket.Rachel Dube

Any throw blanket will do, but I prefer something that's warm without being too thick, for ease of packing.

I like to shape my throw pillow around my body when I sleep or rest in my cramped seat.

Keep clean with a toothbrush, body wipes, and deodorant.

A woman holds a blue stick of deodorant
Brushing your teeth or applying deodorant always feels nice, especially the longer the trip.Jenari/Shutterstock

Sleeping on a train all night or on a long trip makes you feel gross in the morning, so having supplies to clean your teeth and body is always nice.

Keep any dirty clothes separated with a laundry bag.

Black and white striped laundry bag at top of staircase
A sturdy laundry bag will come in handy.Peter Titmuss/Shutterstock

I hate dirty clothes touching clean fabric or even the cloth of my suitcase, so I love bringing little travel laundry bags.

I bought mine from Marshall's a long time ago, but you can also find a bunch online.

I always pack any medications I may need.

Pill bottles on a shelf in a medicine cabinet
I always bring my anxiety medication.Tetra Images/Getty Images

I have pretty bad anxiety, so I always bring my medication with me when I travel to eliminate the likelihood of panic attacks on the train.

I also recommend making sure you pack whatever medications you might need during your train ride.

I pack a Jersey Mike's sub for one or more meals.

Jersey Mike's
I think a sub sandwich is one of the most practical things to bring.Martha Sorren

I don't like the train food unless it's the traditional dining menu, which is only available on the Western lines and for sleeping car passengers, which didn't apply to this trip However, I figured a sub sandwich was the perfect thing to pack.

You can eat a little for dinner and some for breakfast or lunch, especially if you bring an insulated cooler.

Lactaid relieves any stomach aches.

Boxes of Lactaid on shelves at store
I bring Lactaid pills because I'm lactose intolerant.Jenari/Shutterstock

Eating a sub sandwich with cheese on a train is a dangerous activity for someone who's lactose intolerant, so I like to bring these pills with me to avoid tummy aches.

Bring something to work on.

book open in front of train window
I brought some books I'm reading.Sojourner White

I had a lot of work to do on the train, so I brought books I was reading, my laptop, pens, and paper tabs.

Usually, I would download some movies but I was simply too busy this go around.

Relax with a self-help journal with lots of colored markers and pens.

Person drawing and writing in a sketchbook
Journaling can be a calming way to kill time.Fellers Photography/Shutterstock

Although my trip was for work, sometimes I need to take a break.

I really love my journal by Monica Sweeney because it's calming, fun, introspective, and sometimes hilarious.

It's never a bad idea to bring extra masks.

Black and white face masks on a plate
I like to mask up if I'm close proximity to other people.lawenawenn/Shutterstock

There's almost nothing worse than wearing a dirty mask because it's not good for your skin or your immune system.

When I travel, I bring a Ziploc bag of almost every mask I own. I also double mask on the train since I'm in close quarters with others for a long period of time.

I like to document my travels in a sketchbook or notebook.

Person writing in a journal
Writing thoughts while you travel can make the journey more memorable.Astrakan Images/Getty Images

These kinds of books have lined and sketch pages, so you're able to both draw and write about the things you see.

I believe travels should always be documented, and notebooks are a great way to do that.

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