5 Things to Know About Taking the Train Home

With the Siena long weekend starting October 17 and Thanksgiving break fast approaching, some of us on campus will be preparing to board the Amtrak train and set off on a homeward journey. If you’re about to ride the Amtrak by yourself for the first time, there are some basic facts you’ll need to know. You don’t want to end up in the middle of Penn Station during the holiday rush, lost, confused, and tired (trust me, I know from experience).

1) No matter how long your ride is, bring food – Depending on where you’re headed, a train ride out of Albany can last anytime between an hour and nearly three hours. Hunger is an inevitable fate to be faced on this ride. Pack some snacks and fill your water bottle before leaving campus and do not succumb to the allure of the shiny convenience shop at Albany Train Station. I recommend granola bars and maybe even a salad or sandwich if you don’t have time for a proper meal before leaving school. Definitely remember to hit up Casey’s for some food on the go!

2) Go with the flow yet know what to expect – If you’re Long Island-bound and getting off Amtrak at Penn Station, you’re in for a crazy experience. Handling Penn on your own for the first time and finding the LIRR terminal after leaving Amtrak can be a little overwhelming, especially if it’s the week of Thanksgiving. Just follow the crowd up the stairs at the Amtrak platform and you should end up right by the LIRR tracks. Then, it’s just a waiting game to see what track your train home is on. Remember, the station names popping up on those screens are the route lines, and your specific station may not appear. Find out what line your final stop is on beforehand so you’re ready to find your train the minute its track pops up! Honestly, you’ll feel pretty great the first time you conquer the maze of Penn Station.

3) Bring some form of entertainment – I mean, if you’re super ambitious you can always do homework on the ride, but chances are that you will be more than ready to take your mind off school for a while. That magazine you bought at Walmart a week ago? Take the time to really read through it and enjoy it. The DVDs you brought to school with you but haven’t had the chance to watch yet? The Internet doesn’t work on Amtrak, so you may as well bring a movie or two to pass the time. Charge your electronics before leaving, although there are outlets at the seats for any battery emergencies. And then there’s always looking out the window and daydreaming if you want to just spend the time doing nothing.

4) Keep your ticket close by – Have your Amtrak ticket out before boarding the train. Amtrak employees will most likely ask to see it before letting you board. Once you’re seated, keep it nearby in your lap or your purse for the first fifteen minutes or so of the ride. A conductor will come around to scan everyone’s paper very soon after the train leaves the station. Also, I recommend asking your parents to send you a LIRR ticket a few days before you come home. That way, you don’t have to worry about buying one after getting to Penn and can take the first train leaving for your station. I am not an expert on how Metro-North works, but if that advice also applies to it, great!

5) Your ride to the Albany station is (mostly) taken care of – If you’re going home for the October long weekend, you’re out of luck, but for any other school breaks, Siena provides free shuttles to the airport, train, and bus stations at various times. Informative emails usually go out at the beginning of the week before a break, and you can sign up for a certain shuttle time at the SSU ticket window. I usually sign up for the one that is an hour before my train leaves. That method should give you more than enough time to arrive at the train station and relax a little before having to board.

May you have the best of journeys with as little stress and delay as possible!