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How to pack for a journey by rail
Packing for a journey by rail
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How to pack for a journey by rail

What should you bring and how should you pack for a train trip? Here are some expert tips

Those who have had the pleasure say thereʼs no better way to see Canada than by rail. No longer just a means of getting from point A to point B, some rail journeys (the best kind) harken back to the era where travel was luxurious and unhurried. Hop on, stretch out and enjoy the scenery without ever having to stop at a gas station , consult a map or kill time in an airport lounge.

So congratulations if you’ve decided to take a trip by train. (And if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?) Now…how best to prepare for one of these trips?

There’s nobody better to ask than a rail travel expert. Wendy McMichael, train manager with the onboard guest experiences team at Rocky Mountaineer, which offers luxury train journeys to destinations including Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper, Alta., says that you won’t have to worry about transporting your suitcases to and from your overnight stops - they’ll take care of that for you. In fact, since you won’t have access to your luggage for the duration of your journey onboard Rocky Mountaineer, what you should think about is what to have with you in during the day. Youʼll want to have certain essentials close at hand, she says, whether itʼs an extra layer of clothing, additional batteries and chargers for your electronic devices, or any daytime medication.

She suggests keeping those items in a lightweight day bag that you can strap onto your back, leaving your hands free and helping you to maintain your balance as you walk. Choose a bag made from a water-resistant fabric that can keep contents dry in adverse weather conditions. Look for one with padded shoulder straps, easy-to-open zippers, roomy compartments and a padded inner sleeve for electronics.

What should you pack in that bag to be well prepared for the daytime portion of your rail journey? McMichael, who has been riding the rails for more than seven years, offers the benefit of her experience.

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Come prepared with gear to go

Illustration by Maia Grecco

Gear to go

Come equipped with camera, smartphone and tablet, so you can share with family and friends some photos and videos of the incredible scenery and wonderful experiences you are bound to have. Make sure your devices are fully charged (electrical outlets onboard are limited) and bring auxiliary battery packs as backups. Photo buffs are encouraged to bring a telephoto or fast lens for low-light conditions.

Souvenirs to share

With so many international visitors onboard, Rocky Mountaineer guests often bring patriotic souvenirs such as pins and keychains to trade with fellow travellers, McMichael says. You never know who you will meet when you take photos from the outdoor viewing platform or join other guests for afternoon tea.

Temperatures can fluctuate, so pack layers

Illustration by Maia Grecco

Lots of layers

Temperatures can fluctuate, depending on the route, location, time of day and season. McMichael recommends you wear layers of clothing that can be peeled off or added as necessary, bring along a light jacket or sweater, and wear flat-soled shoes with some grip because of the natural movement of the train. Have sunglasses or a hat at the ready when sunlight pours through the wraparound windows of your coach.

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Leave the laptop

Why lug your laptop when youʼll probably never get around to opening it? The Rockies are so beautiful, McMichael says, you wonʼt want to take your eyes off the scenery. If you sit there staring at a screen, you might miss out on some pretty spectacular views, she says, mentioning route highlights like Mount Robson, Pyramid Falls or Castle Mountain.

Bring binoculars

Illustration by Maia Grecco

Bring some binoculars

If you’re eager to view birds and other wildlife during the journey, bring a good pair of compact binoculars and nature books to identify what you might see, which can include bald eagles, osprey, elk, moose, and even bears, if you are lucky.

Don't leave home without these

According to McMichael, there are two crucial things every guest should bring on their Rocky Mountaineer adventure – “a smile and the anticipation of going on a trip of a lifetime.”

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Is it time to explore?

Rocky Mountaineer travels across four routes through the Pacific Northwest and into the heart of the Canadian Rockies. Its GoldLeaf Service, launched in 1995, features bi-level, glass-dome coaches with stunning panoramic views on the upper level and a dining room and outdoor viewing platform on the lower level. SilverLeaf Service features oversized windows, delicious meals served at your seat, and the same impeccable service and astounding views.

This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's Globe Content Studio.
The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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