This post is sponsored by Chocolove.
A checklist of what are the best foods to bring on an Amtrak train trip. Learn what food travel well. Also find out what food you can buy aboard the train.
It something many people talk about doing overseas, but rarely do you hear people talk about doing in the United States.
Some people I have talked to didn't realize we even had trains that run across our country.
Whenever people are taking their first train trip it comes as a very foreign experience. They don't know what to expect. And they really don't know what they are going to eat.
Having recently completed my 10th cross country train trip, I have had plenty of experience with life aboard the train and have eaten a lot of food on the train.
Can You Bring Food on Amtrak Trains?
The first question you might have is can you bring food on Amtrak trains? Absolutely. That is allowed.
Now you aren't allowed to eat your own food in certain areas due to food health code restrictions. That would include bringing your own food into the dinning car or the tables right next to the cafe (on a 2 level train car that only means the bottom level).
Challenges of Eating on the Train
Let's first talk about what food is available for you to buy aboard the train.
One of the challenges of traveling long distance by train is the food. You can buy food in their dining car, but you are going to pay through the roof for it. The quality while not terrible is not worth the cost. On a 2-night journey, I try to limit myself to one meal in the dinning car on the day I am on the train the entire day.
Amtrak Dining Car Menu
What I have eaten in the dinning car, I usually go for lunch and get a pretty decent hamburger with kettle chips (sorry no fries, deep frying on a train, not a good idea!). And i order a side salad to go with it.
Here is a link to an example of a dining car menu .It many vary depending on what train you are on.
There is talk about getting rid off the dining car so soon that may not be an option or it may look quite different.
Amtrak Cafe Car Menu
You can also eat in their cafe car, but one of my goals in life is avoiding paying $5 for a microwaved hot dog. Your best bet is to try and pack as much food as you possibly can.
Those that need coffee, do not worry you can get it aboard the train.
Here is a link to an example of a cafe car menu .It many vary depending on what train you are on.
How do I eat on the train while still keeping My "Eat Like No One Else" mindset. I have worked on it over the years and think I have come up with a pretty good system.
Amtrak Train Trip Snacks
Here is a list of the food I packed. In creating this list I wanted foods that traveled well on a train as well as including the best snacks.
- Quality Chocolate
- Cheese & Crackers
- Beef/Pork Jerky or Sticks
- Canned Tuna
- Nut/Seed Butters
- Dried Fruit
- Fresh Fruit That Travels Well
My first suggestion is to not go the cheap way out. Yes I am trying to avoid paying too much for food on the train but I also don't want to buy food that is not satisfying just because it's cheap. Cheap food doesn't satisfy. I end up just eating more of it, and that's not a way to save money on food on the train.
Chocolate is the best example. Sure I could "save money" by buying cheap chocolate. But you know what I am going to do then? Eat all of it at once. Then really how cheap is it?
For the trip I choose to bring along Chocolove chocolate. These bars are a higher quality chocolate that you don't have to take out a loan to buy. I find when I get Chocolove I don't have to eat the whole bar at once. I savor it more. Typically I find their bars going for $2-3 a piece in the store in my area.
Apply these same quality principles to the rest of the food on this list and you will be satisfied with the food you bring. Think about the brands that you like the best. That is what you are going to want to bring.
Cheese & Crackers
To me there is no better snack. I have no issues with bringing cheese with me as it will be ok outside the fridge for a few days. I wouldn't do that with fresh cheeses like cream cheese or cottage cheese. Perfectly good for cheddar, jack, colby, etc.
I pack the crackers in my suitcase that I will access on the trip. Don't put them in the front of your suitcase where it could get crushed.
Beef Jerky or Sticks
Beef jerk or sticks is always a good option to give that protein fix without the need to keep something cold.
On my last trip I took with my some dried pork belly bites. I put them into a Cup of Noodles that I got from the cafe car. I made it more of a meal.
For even more protein, bring along some tuna. Look for tuna that comes in a can with a ring, so that you aren't bringing a can opener with you.
I know some people don't like the smell of canned tuna, so just be conscience of that and take care of your trash after your done eating.
Instead of bringing bread on the trip, bring bagels. They have a tougher exterior, so they are less likely to get smashed.
I once brought croissants on a trip. They work too as they are so airy, that even if they do get smashed then tend to pop back.
Nut or seed butters like sunflower butter, peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, etc. are a great way to fill your belly. You can buy single serving pouches or bring along a jar. Don't worry if you forget a spoon or knife they have plastic ones in the cafe car.
While I am not going to say don't bring peanut butter, if you can bring an alternative I recommend just in case you run into someone with a peanut allergy. Trains can be tight quarters.
If you do bring peanut butter, try to just enjoy it as your seat and do a through job of cleaning up.
One trip we had some small jars of jam that we had made. They were the perfect sized for a single meal, so we brought them along and made PB&J with bagels.
Dried fruit is a great snack on the trip.
I recommend choosing dried fruit that doesn't have a bunch of added sugar. Last trip I brought along some dried white peaches, with no added sugar. Read the labels before you buy.
Look for fruit chips, like apple chips, they can be a yummy snack to bring.
Fresh Fruit That Travels Well
Some fresh fruit is also great to have on the trip. Some fruit doesn't travel all the well like bananas and berries. I would never bring berries.
Oranges or mandarins are a wonderful choice. They can be packed without being bruised up like apples or peaches.
I do have to say on my way home from my last trip, I had a leftover apple and peach from that I had gotten for the hotel. I gave them a lot of padding with a couple paper bags and put them inside a pouch that was inside my suitcase.
When I pulled them out of the pouch they were in great shape still. So it can be done if you pack carefully.
Nuts are very durable and filling snack and although I don't really like them, they are good choice for someone who does. Sunflower seeds are a cheaper option that you can bring along. I like flavored pumpkin seeds.
You can bring cereal and buy milk for it in the cafe car for breakfast in the morning.
A Few Other Tips
Here are a few other tips I can think of for eating and drinking on a train trip.
Do I Need to Bring Water?
No, they do have water on board the train that you can use for free. And you can buy bottled water.
I bring a water bottle with me and fill it up on the train. It usually takes a while to fill from the water spouts they have, so you need to practice patience.
Take Your Opportunities to Eat Before Hand
One additional tip about eating while traveling by train, is to get on the train with a full stomach.
Our train left Chicago at 2:45pm. So we ate an early lunch of sandwiches and yogurt, then we also ate at the train station before we had to leave.
Since we had full stomaches we just did some snacking for our dinner.
Also look to see if your train will be making an extended stop at a station. Our train stopped for over a half hour at the station. This gave us a chance to get off the station and find a little cafe, so that became our dinner. But don't count on these as train delays can change everything. and you cant' say for sure you will have enough time.
Bring Ginger or Mint
Ginger is a great for an upset stomach. It can help out when you have motion sickness something I haven't experienced on the train but people more sensitive to that could.
I also like to have something minty. It just helps freshen the breath and makes me feel cleaner even thought I may not have showered that day.
Let's Hear From You
We would love to hear about the food that you like to pack for an Amtrak trip.
Leave a comment below sharing what food you have brought on your train trip.
If you have any questions about what food to take, you can also ask them in the comments below.