10 Tips for Long-Distance Travel

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” Ralph Waldo Emerson hit the nail on the head with this profound statement. When the big decision to travel is finally made, whether it is in our home country or on the other side of the planet, we tend to start focusing on where we are going to end up and not on how we are going to get there. It is on the road, with the people we meet and the things we do not expect to see, that will really influence the overall experience of our adventures.

When travelling through Europe, overland travel will become a big part of any journey. The most convenient and scenic way to explore the continent is from the seat of a fast-moving train or reclined in a comfortable modern bus. These modes of transport have become ‘rites of passage’ for many of Europe’s most dedicated travellers. There are many advantages of choosing ground transport over air, but at times the voyage may take up a good chunk of your day or night. By following these simple tips for long-distance travel you will make sure that the trip does not need to be an arduous one and it will allow you to truly enjoy the journey on the way to your destination.

packing food for travel

1. Stock up on Supplies

On longer bus journeys the trip is usually broken up with pitstops along the way. However the restaurants that you stop at are often expensive and the selection can be limited. For trains there may be a carriage decked out with a restaurant or cafe, but again the prices will be well above the average. The best thing you can do is bring a big bottle of water with you and some snacks such as fruit, pre-made sandwiches, bags of crisps, biscuits or crackers. It is easy to forget to stay hydrated on long trips and having the water with you as well as something to eat will not only keep you feeling satisfied, but will also save you money!

2. Wear Comfortable Clothing

You may find yourself to be in the same position for hours on end. Unfortunately on most buses and trains space is at a premium. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes to make sure you can stretch out in any way you can and not end up feeling too cramped.

3. Keep Your Phone or/and Laptop Fully Charged

Some long distance buses now have free Wi-Fi on board. What an age we live in! You can be zooming through the Spanish countryside and keep in touch with all your friends all over the world! A lot of trains also have USB or power outlets so you can keep your items fully charged. But just in case they don’t have that power option, charge before you leave. You don’t want to find yourself halfway to Barcelona with a dead phone and no way to listen to music or translate directions to your hostel.

reading a book while travelling

4. Have a Good Book to Read

Travellers these days often struggle to find the time to read a good book. There is always something to do, people to hang out with and delicious food to eat! Sometimes the only chance you get to flick through the pages of that latest novel you’ve been itching to finish is when you are relaxing on journey with hours to spare. Make the most of it and knock a few chapters out!

5. Make Friends With Your Neighbour

As soon as you find out who is seated next to you, introduce yourself. Sometimes they are not really in the mood for a conversation, or might not speak the same language as you, and that’s ok. However you’ll be surprised how often you can make a new friend, trade stories and advice of destinations you have been, or maybe even end up with a prospective travel buddy! Some of the best times I’ve had in foreign cities have been with people I met on a bus, train or plane. Don’t miss  out on this opportunity!

Swiss Alps train

6. Admire the Outside Scenery

How many times will you have the chance to be staring at the Swiss Alps towering above you on both sides? Will you ever be travelling through pristine French landscapes again? Every now and then take a break from your book, put your phone down and appreciate the beauty all around you. You might even be inspired to return just to take in the views again!

7. Bring Something to Keep Warm

Air conditioning on buses are usually set to be colder than most would consider comfortable in order to not end up with a bunch of passengers sweating profusely. No matter how hot it is outside you will probably end up feeling quite chilly at some point during the trip. Pack a light sweater, towel, sarong or small blanket to throw over yourself in these situations. You’ll be glad you did!

8. Take Overnight Transport on Longer Journeys

If your trip is going to take up more than a few hours, consider taking an overnight sleeper train or bus. The benefits are wonderful. One is you won’t end up spending an entire day looking outside the window wishing you were on the other side of the glass. The second is you save money on a night’s accommodation. Safety records of transport in Europe is exceptional, especially compared to some other regions around the world, and drivers often swap shifts halfway and take adequate rest breaks so there is usually nothing to worry about. Highly recommended!

9. Pack a Padlock for Your Gear

If you are the kind of person who can sleep on moving transport, congratulations! It is a true gift and one that should be embraced! However it is easy to become paranoid about pickpockets and bag snatchers when you are trying to get some shuteye. Unfortunately theft can, and does, happen on some particular routes. For peace of mind lock your bag with a sturdy padlock or consider investing in a cable lock. These are brilliant because you can tie your backpack/suitcase to an immovable object such as your chair, eliminating any chance of a would-be thief walking off with your gear.

10. Be Productive and Learn a New Skill

It would be a shame to let your mind stay passive on long journeys. How many times a day in your normal life can you just sit and think for upwards of 12 hours? Use this time effectively to work on a new skill or activity: Practice your photography skills on the passing scenery; have a sketchbook handy and let your artistic side come out; bring a phrase book and learn a new language. You might even be able to start chatting to your new friend sitting next to you in their mother tongue!