What to Pack for a Rocky Mountaineer Journey

What does one pack for a luxury train journey through the Rocky Mountains? I’m so used to air travel in wretched coach class, I wasn’t quite sure how to approach a two-day train trip in famed GoldLeaf Service on the legendary Rocky Mountaineer train. Top hat? Ball gown? Dungarees? 

Errr, no. Now that I’ve been on the First Passage to the West itinerary from Vancouver to Kamloops to Banff, I’ve compiled some tips so you’ll know what to pack when you go.

LUGGAGE

Checked Bags

Suitcases are transported magically from your originating hotel in the morning to your room at the destination hotel in the evening. This means you never have to cart luggage on and off the train – it just appears in the evenings and disappears in the mornings. (Can I please have GoldLeaf Service every where I go?) Each passenger is allowed two suitcases with a maximum of 66 pounds.

Carry-On

Your magically disappearing and reappearing checked luggage is not accessible once you’re on the train, so be sure to pack a small carry-on with everything you need for an 8-10 hour non-stop adventure – medication, glasses, a book (though I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the scenery to focus on reading!), sweater, lip balm, laptop (but you won’t use it), eye drops, tissues, hand lotion… Anything that’ll make you feel comfy during the journey.

ELECTRONICS

Portable Charger

There are no accessible outlets on the train, so bring a Mophie or a Jumpack and accompanying cords to make sure all your gear has juice throughout the journey. Cell service is spotty at best and there’s no WiFi on the train, so even though you’ll likely just be using your phone for photos, it’s wise to have a charger on hand just in case.

Camera

No matter your level of photographic professionalism, a camera is a must, but now is not the time to splurge on a crazy new setup and try to figure it out while zipping through the countryside and the mountains. Bring what you’re most comfortable using! I brought my Olympus E-PL5, my iPhone 5s and my GoPro. Sure, I wish I had a fancier lens when we whizzed by an adorable bear, but this little setup worked really well for me – and wasn’t too cumbersome for my carry-on.

CLOTHING

Tuxedos and Top Hats

Just kidding! Though you will certainly feel like you’re on the Fancy-Pants Express, ball gowns and top hats are not required onboard the Rocky Mountaineer – even in Gold Leaf Service! The key to traveling in style is comfort. I wouldn’t go so far as to recommend Pajama Jeans, but regular jeans, leggings, jeggings and slacks are all within the realm of possibility. A skirt or dress is fine, but once the train begins to climb in elevation, you will wish for covered legs.

Layers

While it’s completely acceptable to sit in the toasty glass-domed car drinking Bailey’s on ice all day, at some point you’ll want to wander downstairs and out to one of the open-air vestibules. In Alberta, British Columbia and Washington, the weather varies greatly based on time of year and even time of day, so layers are the key. Depending on where you are on the journey, it might be very cold or even snowing – hello, Rockies! Think about bringing multiple layering pieces you can doff and don with ease – scarves, hats, zip-up sweaters and a coat. Fingerless gloves are super helpful if you’re using a touchscreen device to snap photos outdoors.

Flat Shoes

The train is no place for heels, especially if you’re going up and down the stairs and taking photos outside in the vestibule. Ballet flats, sturdy-soled boots and tennis shoes are the way to go.

SUSTENANCE

Your Appetite

I always pack emergency snacks when I travel just in case, but that’s because I’m usually traveling on airplanes, and I’m usually delayed, for hours, with no granola bars to tide me over. You won’t have a chance to get hungry or thirsty, especially in GoldLeaf Service. The Rocky Mountaineer’s onboard chefs will handle every tasty nibble during the journey, so please, leave your snacks at home!

You get gourmet breakfast and lunch every day in the downstairs dining car, plus second breakfast and second lunch snacks and booze (or tea or soda – whatever you’re into) delivered to your seat all day.

Those with dietary requirements are asked to let the staff know at least a week in advance so they can prepare. It’s not like they can just stop the train and find gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free whatever in the middle of the wilderness, you know?

It’s a pretty simple packing job now that I think about it. Just bring cozy clothes, camera gear and your appetite and you are all set!

Tell me: have you been on the Rocky Mountaineer or is it on your bucket list?

The Rocky Mountaineer hosted me last year on the inaugural 25th anniversary journey. As always, all opinions presented on AngieAway.com are my own.

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  • February 12, 2016
    charmaine

    The rocky mountaineer is definitely on my bucket list 🙂 this article just made it seem so much more achievable and REAL 🙂

  • February 18, 2016
    Sandy

    September 2016 – can. not. wait!!! Thanks for these tips – especially the clothing ones!

  • February 18, 2016
    Lucille Jensen

    Explain Gold Leaf and what is alternate? I am 91, tire quickly but recover quickly. Dreaming of a trip up the west coast with my daughter, starting in Seattle, time in Alaska, then train across the Rockies to Calgary, or Edmonton, or one such where I and my dtr would fly non stop to home in Houston, Texas.

  • February 18, 2016
    Hughes family

    End of April 2016. Thank you for the advice. We’re sure looking forward to the trip.

  • February 19, 2016
    Penny Bate

    We did Vancouver to Banff last August and I can honestly say it was one of the best trips we have ever taken…….well worth the $$$ spent! Can’t say enough good things….even tho we encountered some smoke from Washington stare fires it was still a fabulous time……our glorious country is so beautiful…..the staff was phenomenal and the food incredible. I could go on and on but I think you get the idea that we really really had a marvellous trip! Thanks Rocky Mountaineer for all the wonderful memories!

  • February 22, 2016
    Annie Lingard

    It’s on my bucket list!!

  • February 22, 2016
    kay tuli

    V much on my bucket list!thx for the tips…v handy!
    hoping to do this soon,,,,,,,

  • March 10, 2016

    From where does the trip embark ?..

    • March 10, 2016

      Depends which route you take – could be Vancouver, Jasper, Banff, Seattle. Up to you!

  • February 04, 2017
    Sandra Beckett

    I was fortunate enough to travel on the Rocky Moutaineer last June and went from Jasper to Vancouver. . This was the most wonderful experience and something I shall never forget . The icing on the cake was when we purchased souvenirs to take home there was the book ‘ Fraser Bear a cub’s life ‘. Obviously we purchased a copy and what a fascinating book it turned out to be .It was a gift for our. elder. grandson who earlier last year was baptized Fraser Bear Perry . We could hardly believe it ! He is now the proud owner of both the book and the ‘salmon bear ‘.This is a true story and I just hope that one day he will be lucky enough to follow Grandma’s footsteps !

  • July 12, 2017
    Judith

    Thanks for the great advice, was wondering about what to pack and you made it simple.

    Travelling in Gold Leaf Service on July 16 from Vancouver to Banff Springs …

    Looking so forward to this once in a lifetime journey!

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