What would those annoying pre-departure airline checklists look like if they were for trains?
Leave your shoes on. Arrive at the station no earlier than 30 minutes before departure. And don’t forget to pack as many liquids in as big of bottles as possible.
✅ Download tickets.
That’s right, paper tickets are fast going the way of the Dodo. Europe’s railways now offer reliable mobile apps where you can purchase and save your tickets. Just make sure the tickets are downloaded to both the railway app and your phone’s wallet app. Why? Because redundancy is a good thing is a good thing.
✅ Download entertainment.
Sure, the scenery outside will probably suffice, but particularly long or solo train trips may warrant a little distraction. Before leaving WiFi at your hotel or Airbnb, download podcasts, YouTube videos, movies, streaming shows or a language learning app like Babbel (get up to 60% off using that link). While many railways now offer in-train WiFi, service is spotty and too slow for downloading or streaming.
✅ Buy delicious snacks and drinks.
Liquids? As big as you want. Consuming your own alcohol? Enjoy! Laying out a charcuterie spread? Have at it. A train picnic is one of life’s simple pleasures. I like stocking up at the morning market or at gourmet shops the night before, but train station convenience stores will do in a pinch. At the very least, I’m boarding with a sandwich, wine, coffee and bubbly water.
✅ Double check carriage and seat number.
Unless you’re traveling without a seat reservation, something I don’t recommend on high-speed lines and/or popular routes in peak summer season, check your carriage and seat numbers. Instead of doing the I-didn’t-check-my-seat-number walk of shame through numerous carriages, embark on the correct carriage directly from the platform and check the seating numbers listed above the doorway for the correct section.
✅ Keep passports handy.
Okay, this may be the only dovetail with air travel, and it’s really only necessary if you’re entering or leaving the Schengen Zone. But ticket inspectors will sometimes ask for identification, so I keep it ready. (Just remember to put it back into your luggage after inspection as I strongly recommend against forgetting valuable documents on trains, something readers of Europe by Milk Run will surely appreciate.)
✅ Stake your claim.
Even if I have a seat assignment, I like to sit down straightaway and unload my belongings. That way, I can kick back and daydream with my whole world (for the next few hours) at my fingertips. So, what’s on my seat-back table and pocket? Notebook and pencil (I prefer pencils to pens…who’s with me?). Power charger and electrical outlet adapter. Paperback book. Phone. Ear buds. Laptop. Picnic supplies. Yeah, it gets a little crowded in Rory’s seat, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
✅ Recline, relax and enjoy the ride.