How Much Luggage You Can Bring on Trains: A Complete Guide

Amtrak Train

Table of Contents

There’s just something about train travel that evokes the feeling that you’re Harry Potter on his way to Hogwarts for the first time, isn’t there? ⚡

So when you’re preparing for your magical train journey, it’s only natural to want to grab Hedwig in her owl cage 🦉 and pack an enormous trunk to take with you. And while pets are allowed on Amtrak (with restrictions), there are some limitations to the size and weight of luggage you can bring on trains in the United States and Canada. Sorry, enormous trunk, maybe next time.

Before you pack your bags, take a moment to read through this guide to help you pick your bags and make sure the size and weight of your luggage do not exceed the train company’s allowance. Because sadly, Hermione’s handbag with endless cargo space is only a fantasy.

Although, if you’re really attached to the idea of a Hogwarts trip, check out these tours that journey on the real-life Hogwarts Express, the Jacobite Train in the Scottish Highlands.

General Packing Tips

Don’t forget the essentials

We’re talking your ticket (printed out or on your mobile device) and a valid ID for boarding. Without these two things, your trip will be over before it starts!

Other “essentials” may vary by traveler, but in your carry-on bag, you’ll likely want to pack your phone, a phone charger (since trains do have outlets!), your wallet, and some form of entertainment like a book or headphones. It’s generally safest to keep valuables in your carry-on bag, which will be with you at your seat.

Tag your bags

Many bags look alike, and it can be difficult to tell whose bag belongs to whom without a name attached. Unless you’re Voldemort, in which case, “You Know Who” generally does the trick.

To avoid confusion or any other dark arts 🐍, make sure to add a luggage tag to each of your bags with your name and contact information clearly displayed. If anything were to get lost, this gives you the best shot of getting your stuff back.

Consider your destination

Packing for a scenic Amtrak journey along the Pacific Ocean in SoCal might look a little different than packing for a last-minute getaway from Toronto to Montreal in the winter. Of course, this is just common sense, but hey, it might have been a while since you last traveled!

Remember that it’s easiest to dress on vacation if you pack clothes that can be mixed and matched, and check the weather forecast to see how heavy of a jacket you might need. And don’t forget to pack socks in case you meet any house elves in need of freeing! 🧦 R.I.P. Dobby.

North American Train Carrier Baggage Policies

Amtrak is the largest passenger rail network in the United States, and likewise, VIA Rail is the largest in Canada. So when you’re traveling in North America, these two train carriers will be your best friends for scenic, comfortable, and affordable train travel.

One of the benefits of traveling by train is that trains offer higher baggage allowances than most buses. Amtrak and VIA Rail have similar policies but see the details here for what can be carried on and checked with each train company.

Amtrak

Amtrak allows two different kinds of luggage: carry-on and checked bags.

Carry-On Baggage: Each passenger is allowed to bring two personal items (under 25 lbs, or 12 kg, and smaller than 14 x 11 x 7 inches each) and two carry-on bags (​​up to 50 lbs, or 23 kg, and 28 x 22 x 14 inches each).

Carry-on bags will be kept with you during your trip, either at your feet or on an overhead shelf in the train car. If you need to bring additional carry-on items, Amtrak will apply a $20 excess baggage fee per item.

Checked Baggage: Not all Amtrak trains and stations allow for checked baggage, so be sure to check with Amtrak ahead of time that your route accepts checked baggage. Usually, staffed stations offer checked baggage service, and unstaffed stations do not. The easiest way to confirm if you can check bags is to search for your departure station on Amtrak’s site and reference the Baggage section of the station’s details.

For routes that accept checked baggage, each passenger can check two bags (each up to 50 lbs, or 23 kg, and with a length + width + height adding up to 75 inches).

If you want to check additional items, each additional checked bag incurs a $20 excess baggage fee. If you have any oversized bags to check (whose length + width + height adds up to be between 76 and 100 inches), each oversized bag will cost $20.

If you’re checking bags, you will need to check your luggage at the station at least 45 minutes before your train’s departure time. You will then pick up your bags at your arrival station.

For additional baggage information, including prohibited items and how to check special luggage like bicycles, please contact Amtrak directly or reference their complete baggage policy here.

VIA Rail

VIA Rail allows two different kinds of luggage: carry-on and checked bags. The allowances for each type of luggage does vary slightly based on the fare class of your ticket.

Carry-On Baggage: Each economy class passenger is allowed to bring one personal item (under 25 lbs, or 11.5 kg, and smaller than 17 x 6 x 13 inches) and either: 2 small bags (under 25 lbs, or 12 kg, and smaller than 21.5 x 15.5 x 9 inches each) or one large bag (up to 50 lbs, or 23 kg, and with a length + width + height adding up to 62 inches).

Each business class passenger is allowed to bring one personal item (under 25 lbs, or 11.5 kg, and smaller than 17 x 6 x 13 inches) and two large bags (up to 50 lbs, or 23 kg, and with a length + width + height adding up to 62 inches).

Carry-on bags will be kept with you during your trip, either at your feet or on an overhead shelf in the train car. If you need to bring additional carry-on items, VIA Rail will apply a $40 CAD excess baggage fee per item.

Checked Baggage: Not all VIA Rail trains and stations allow for checked baggage, so be sure to check with VIA Rail ahead of time that your route accepts checked baggage. Usually, staffed stations offer checked baggage service, and unstaffed stations do not. The easiest way to confirm if you can check bags is to search for your departure station on VIA Rail’s site and reference the Services section of the station’s details. If “Baggage Service” is listed, this means your station will accept checked bags.

For routes that accept checked baggage, each passenger can check two bags (each up to 50 lbs, or 23 kg, and with a length + width + height adding up to 62 inches).

If you want to check additional items, each additional checked bag incurs a $40 CAD excess baggage fee. If you have any oversized bags to check (the length + width + height of which adds up to be between 62 and 71 inches, or the weight of which is between 50 and 70 lbs), each one will cost $40 CAD.

If you’re checking bags, you will need to check your luggage at the station at least 45 minutes before your train’s departure time. You will then pick up your bags at your arrival station.

Please contact VIA Rail directly or reference their complete baggage policy for additional baggage information, including prohibited items.

All Aboard!

As you can see, Harry Potter’s steamer trunk probably wouldn’t be accepted on any North American trains since that thing definitely weighs more than 50 pounds.

Luckily you’re not leaving from the Dursleys,’ and you are now well-prepared to pack more manageable-sized bags for your train journey.

And although Hagrid won’t be hand-delivering your train ticket, Wanderu is here to help. Consider us your smaller, app-sized version of Hagrid! Simply search for your destination, and Wanderu lets you compare all the available bus and train tickets to secure the best price. 🧙‍♂️ Like magic!

Travel Safely

At Wanderu, we want to make sure you are equipped with all the information you need to plan a safe trip. Please visit our COVID-19 Travel Guide for the latest tips & advisories.

Like what you read?
Spread the word:

About the author
Bryn Culbert

Bryn Culbert

A planner at heart, Bryn loves nothing more than researching and creating a detailed travel itinerary. She is partial to quirky museums, hole-in-the-wall coffeeshops, and overstuffed bookstores in the cities she visits.