Taking The Train Isn't As Glamorous As Harry Potter Made it Seem

“Oh my gosh you take the TRAIN home?” This is the response I hear every time I tell people my plans for fall break. This almost always comes from someone who has seen the Harry Potter movies and imagines me sitting in a plush seat while the trolley comes rolling down the aisle. I am sorry to say this is not how it goes. However, the train has some serious benefits if you learn a few of the dos and don’ts of the trip, but why go through the work of taking the train when you can let me do it for you? Just sit back, relax, and allow me to share some tough tips for train travel.


#1 Getting to the station.

One thing that can make or break your trip is whether or not you make it to the train station on time. You need to plan ahead. This will change depending on your departure time, but the train I take leaves at five am, otherwise known as the “butt-crack of dawn”. Not many Uber drivers are around during that time, so I suggest either preordering a taxi or getting on your hands and knees and begging a friend to drive you at four in the morning. Also, don’t stay up the night before instead of trying to get as much sleep as you can. I can promise you that you will regret it and you will get sick.

DISCLAIMER: The taxi drivers that are working during this time can best be described as: unique. I had the same taxi driver both times I’ve needed to catch my train and those were probably the most memorable car rides I have ever had. He was a good driver and a nice person, I never felt unsafe, but to make a long story short he is part of the mafia and lives in Lawrence now because it is gay friendly and it was a safe place to live after his uncle broke him out of prison in Florida. But again, he was an extremely nice guy.

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#2 The Lawrence Amtrak station.

Going along with my previous tip, finding a friend to drive you would be ideal. I doubt many of you have been to the Lawrence Amtrak station or even knew it existed, but it is not what I would call the gem of Lawrence. It looks like it has been perpetually been under construction since 2002. It has a nice brick building with seating and heat, but around this nice building there is nothing but scraps of metal and forest. In extension to this, something I wish I would have known when I first took the train is that it is often delayed. The nice brick building I mentioned earlier is opened by an Amtrak worker that isn’t required to be there until 30 minutes before the train arrives.

Let me paint you a picture: I have never taken the train before and I arrive at the station half an hour early, so I don’t miss my train. When I get there, I am all alone, my mafia taxi driver has left, and the doors are still locked. I get a text that tells me my train has been delayed till 5:45, almost an hour after it was supposed to arrive. Now I am stuck outside in the freezing weather that no one ever sees because it is 4:30 am. Don’t worry, more people came and I got inside, warmed up, and got on the train, but what you should learn from this is to make a good friend with a car or pack an extra pair of sweatpants.


#3 Printing out your ticket.

Print out your ticket. It makes it so much easier for the conductors to scan and mark. That’s it, moving on.


#4 Napping

I don’t know about you guys, but I have nightmares where I miss my stop. Doesn’t matter if I’m on a bus, train, or subway, but I can imagine myself dozing off and waking up hours from my destination. My advice for this would be to nap smartly. Know how long you’ll be on the train and plan accordingly. I’m from Wisconsin so my train rides average about 10 hours. My general routine is to get my napping done right when I get on the train and I’m the most tired, wake up to get homework or anything else done so I don’t have to worry about it over break, then relax with some pre-downloaded Netflix. I’ve seen the people that walk around the train cars wake people up when their stop is coming up if they’re nice, but I have also seen people wake up in panic. Don’t depend on them to wake you up. In addition to that, listen to the announcer and know your destination, they’ll announce every stop and if you’re wondering where you are, ask. They want you to get off at the right stop just as much as you do.


#5 Explore

I know that you’ll be tired and want to kick your feet up and recline, but you need to check out the train. On long train rides there is always an observation car that is just covered in windows. You can just sit and watch everything roll by outside. There is also always a snack car. Now the food may not always be fresh, and it may not always be warm, but it’s there. I personally always go for a nice hot chocolate that I sip on in the observation car. Now train travel sounds nice doesn’t it? On the plus side this food will not be expensive, so don’t bring your $100 dollar bill that your Nana just gave you for your birthday as your only cash, so you have no choice but to use your debit card and please bring small bills.


So, train travel may not be as magical as it is made out to be in Harry Potter, but if you really embrace the entire experience it can be really memorable and even kind of enjoyable. If nothing else, remember that in a train you never have to wait for a rest stop, there is always a bathroom when you need it. And THAT is pretty magical.

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