How to Survive Public Transportation without Going Crazy

I use Amtrak to travel back home almost every other weekend. Going home and back ends up being a 10-hour commute involving both train and bus, so I've quickly learned some good techniques to keep the trip safe, smooth, and comfortable.

Pack Light

Pack your bag ahead of time so you can pick out a few items of clothing that can be mixed and matched. It's no fun to carry heavy luggage, especially if you have a limited amount of time to board on and off at train stops. I always bring a tiny rolling weekender, and a backpack to carry my textbooks and laptop for studying over the weekend.

Be Smart

Traveling with other people can be fun and exciting, especially if you meet an interesting person. That being said, trust your instincts. If someone is giving you a weird vibe, don't sit next to them or engage in conversation. To avoid getting stuck next to a strange character, I'll either put my bags on the seat next to me so I can sit alone, or I'll find a girl my age to sit next to for safety.

Ask Questions

If you don't know if you're boarding the right train or if you're at the right bus stop, just ask someone. The best place to do this is at the front desk. One time, a guy noticed I looked lost as I was wandering around the train platforms, and then asked me for money after he showed me the right place to go. If you don't have time to go to the front desk, just ask someone next to you who looks like they know where they're going. It's much better than boarding the wrong train and forcing your parents to drive for hours to come get you.

Take Advantage of the Time

I always bring my textbooks or an interesting book to read when I take the train. It's a luxury to have so much uninterrupted time, so embrace the opportunity and get tons of reading done! If you're planning on doing work or reading on the train, be sure to put your bags on the seat next to you to avoid sitting next to a chatty person.

Pack Water and Plenty of Food

Some trains have cafes to buy food and beverages at, but they can be expensive. It's better to pack a fun lunch the night before to enjoy later while you watch the scenery go by from the comfort of your seat. When it's cold outside, I like to bring a food thermos of hot apple cinnamon oatmeal to eat for breakfast while I wait for the train. Hot coffee or tea is always nice to bring too.

Dress in Layers

You're going to be experiencing a wide range of temperatures when you wait both outside and inside to get to your destination. Wearing a cardigan and a light hooded jacket over a t-shirt gives you various options. Throwing gloves and a scarf into your backpack will also provide for colder weather should you need them. Avoid sandals and flip-flops to protect you from being hurt in case a stranger steps on your toes or you accidentally drop your bag on top of your feet.

Bring Some Comforts

Packing a few luxurious items can make you feel like you're traveling first class. I like to bring scented lotion and hand sanitizer, a fun snack (like chocolate covered pretzels), a soft scarf that can double as a warm blanket to snuggle in, and my iPod.