How to stay sane on the train

The best train survival tips to turn you from rail rookie to rail master

Riding the rails is a smart option for savvy commuters. Trains can be relatively cheap, offer some lovely views, and give you prime time to sleep between destinations. But those who aren't in the know can quickly find torture in train travel. Whether you're traveling on the Metro North, the RER, or aboard a Shinkansen, knowing a few handy tips can help you avoid a train disaster.

Be timely

If you know me, you'll know that I am perpetually early. Early to a fault. So when it comes to mass transit, I cannot urge you enough to be early. There is nothing more sad/embarrassing than to see a person running down the platform in heels, suitcase twisting and flopping, screaming in ironic slow-mo for the conductor to wait. Don't be that person. Know what time the train leaves and set your watch 15 minutes early. Oh, and be sure you're on the right platform. Sometimes, commuter trains wait until the last minute to decide which platform on which they'll be arriving, so keep your eyes on the schedule and be prepared to bolt if you need to. (Wear sensible shoes!)

Be safe

I will be blunt: trains do not rank #1 in safety among other methods of transportation. Recent years have seen a handful of train accidents prompted by derailments or collisions. If you're paranoid, it's wisest to sit in the middle cars of a train, where it is much less likely to be hit. Though you are giving up a sacrifice if you are a quiet car-seeker like me. Often, quiet cars will be located in the front or rear of a train. If you must, try to sit in a rear-facing seat, which will help minimize impact in an emergency braking situation.

Maybe this is the germophobe in me, but another aspect of train safety is train cleanliness. I always like to wear a coat with a hood, so I can comfortably lean my head back without worrying about contracting lice or whatever from the previous person who rubbed his or her potentially dirty scalp all over the seat head. I also like to sit on my coat if I can, to minimize contact with the questionably "clean" seat. I search for seats that have less worn upholstery which will likely mean that they are cleaner.

I also like to avoid the train restrooms if at all possible. If you're interested in reading about train toilets, you'll find this a fascinating read, but if you're more on the squeamish side, I'd just keep reading. While some trains are making huge advancements in their "hands-free" bathrooms, they are often uncomfortable because of the incessant shaking that railway travel imparts on trains. I once tried to insert contact lenses in an Amtrak bathroom and almost poked my eye out. Not fun. Plus, some of them have questionable soap…

When you're sitting in your seat, you'll see many train passengers with their headphones in, in an attempt to tune out. But please be careful, kids, and don't turn your headphones up too high so you can't hear train announcements. Also, you should know that excessive headphone volume can put you at risk of serious hearing damage. While trains are often soporific, be careful about sleeping on them. Though I sometimes can't help but surrender to near-unconsciousness on trains, I always sleep with one eye and ear open.

Be comfortable

Trains are usually more comfortable than economy class on planes, but most of them are nothing too spectacular. There are a few things you can do to help amp up your level of comfort. First, always take a window seat. This will of course give you the best view, and you won't have to move in when someone inevitably has to sit next to you. Go for a 3-seater over a 2-seater, because the new person will likely sit on the aisle seat, giving you that extra breathing room of the middle seat.

To maximize space, stow any additional luggage overhead. (If you have poor arm strength, like me, look around for a kind and handsome stranger to help you out.) But make sure that you have all your necessities in a carry-on on your lap or under your seat. You will not want to be that person who has to reach up into their overhead bag half-way through the journey. Also, don't eat any offensive smelling things or perform any ablutions, like nail clipping or makeup applying. This is never appreciated by anyone. But you know this.

Be savvy

The next most sad/embarrassing thing to someone running in heels down the train platform is someone fishing for their ticket for hours, infuriating everyone around him or her. Keep your ticket in a transparent compartment in your wallet, so you can just flash that puppy whenever you need to. (Or, if you're really ahead of the curve, a lot of trains now have e-tickets that you can buy straight from your phone.)

Other wallet essentials? Extra cash. You should know when your train is peak or offpeak, but just in case you have a brain spaz, always have a few extra shekels around in case you need to adjust your ticket. Don't argue about it; just pay it.

Oh, and if you're in the quiet car, be quiet.

Trains can be awesome or trains can suck. The choice is yours.

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There are several things about wine that can confuse the average person. If you haven't spent the last few years of your life learning everything there is to know about wine, you can be forgiven for picking up a box of the good stuff every now and then. However, if you want to know a little bit more about how to choose a good bottle, we can help you out. We've created a beginner's guide to picking a bottle of wine so you can enjoy yourself a little more.

Know What Type of Wine To Choose

First things first, you're going to need to decide the type of wine that you're looking for in order to narrow your search. Are you looking for a red, white, sparkling, or rosé? The choices may seem overwhelming, but try to focus on what foods you'll be pairing the wine with. Reds go great with heavier meals like red meat, while whites tend to lend themselves towards lighter dishes like fish and cheeses. If you'll be drinking the wine on its own, consider what you've tried in the past and what type you tend to gravitate toward.

Know How Much You're Willing To Spend

It's no secret that a penchant for wine can become an expensive hobby. If you're just getting into the idea, don't waste your time or money with the extremely pricey bottles. A good place to start looking for decent bottles of wine is somewhere between the $10 and $30 price range. This will keep you from buying something too low quality without breaking your bank in the process.

Read the Labels Closely

A good bottle of wine will often give tasting notes right on the bottle. Because everyone's palette is different, you may not get the same notes when you try the wine, but it's a good place to start. Choose something with tasting notes that you already enjoy like berries or cocoa and try to see if you get any hints of that as you drink. The labels may also tell you about the wine's acidity, or how tart it is, and the wine's body, or the way it feels in your mouth.

A beginner's guide to picking a bottle of wine can only go so far without being overwhelming. The next part of your wine journey will need to be undertaken on your own. Try various types of wine and see what tastes best to you—that's what wine is really all about.

Distillery tours went on hiatus in 2020, but there are high hopes for 2021. While bourbon leaps immediately to mind when thoughts turn to distillery tours, interest in other spirits and how they're made is increasing. Here are a few of the best tours to thrill tequila lovers.

Tequila Herradura

Ride in style on the Herradura Express, a distillery sponsored train ride that runs from Guadalajara to the town of Amatitán for a distillery tour and tastings, followed by lunch featuring live entertainment. The train then takes visitors back to Guadalajara by evening. Herradura is housed in the last tequila-producing Hacienda in the world, Hacienda San Jose del Refugio. Casa Herradura will be closed for visits and tours until Mexican health officials declare the coronavirus emergency over.

La Rojeña

Producer of Jose Cuervo, La Rojeña has a train of its own called the Jose Cuervo Express (currently on hiatus due to COVID-19) to bring visitors to the oldest distillery in the town of Tequila. Jose Cuervo offers distillery tours, tastings, and tours of the agave fields. Mundo Cuervo (Cuervo world) also has its own hotel, Solar de las Animas. Check for COVID-19 hours and restrictions before booking.

Casa Sauza

Founded in 1873, Casa Sauza offers four levels of tours including a visit to the La Perseverancia distillery, a visit to the Quinta Sauza estate, and for those willing to spend more, barrel tastings and a barbeque or a three-course meal. Casa Sauza is on hiatus until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, but should go on the distillery tour bucket list.

La Cofradia

The only tequila distillery with a hotel inside, La Cofradia offers many experiences in addition to distillery tours. Choose a hike through natural trails, biking, or horseback riding through the agave fields. Rooms made of giant tequila barrels sit among the agave plants for a unique stay. Visiting La Cofradia is sure to be a tour that thrills tequila lovers. Contact the hotel directly for information about lockdown closures.

A distillery tour offers education about tequila's history and manufacture. Bone up on your tequila terms and tips for choosing quality tequila before you go, so you'll understand what you're tasting.

We don't know how to feel about winter this year. Sure, nobody likes the cold and dreary months, but there's something special about the Holiday season that just seems to be missing. Maybe the thought of staying inside and cozying up to a nice book isn't very enticing given the last few months. The joyful winter wonderland that we usually associate with winter seems to be missing.

That's why our editors decided to take it upon themselves and spread some delight with seasonal meals, courtesy of HelloFresh. For those who don't know what HelloFresh is, it's a meal-kit delivery service with dozens of easy-to-prepare recipes to choose from. Simply select which meals you want as well as how many servings and a neatly organized cardboard box will arrive at your doorstep within the week. Nobody wants to go out in the Winter anyway, and with HelloFresh, you don't have to!

To celebrate the arrival of the coldest season, we decided to highlight some of our favorite (and heartiest) recipes from HelloFresh that are perfect for the Holiday season. Here are five wholesome and balanced meals that will warm you up in no time.

Veggie Loaded Kale & Risoni Soup

A hearty and warm soup is a Winter staple and this veggie loaded kale and risoni soup from HelloFresh absolutely hits it out of the park. All anybody wants during the colder months is to feel cozy and nurtured--just like the flavorful bowl of nutrients. Warm and creamy risoni compliments the seasonal veggies perfectly and the side of garlic bread is a sure-fire cure for any winter blues. With 22 meals to pick from each week, this one is sure to be a household favorite.

Cheesy Red Pesto Chicken Melts

Everyone is familiar with classic green pesto, but have you ever tried red pesto? Red pesto offers way more complexity and oomph than its green counterpart. It is incredibly bright with rich notes of umami, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh basil and garlic. This rendition also features hits of chargrilled capsicum for a little extra zest. You get the exact amount of each ingredient and seasoning, as well as super detailed recipe cards, that make meal prep a breeze. Spread it over a glistening chicken bread and sprinkle with cheese for delectable chicken melts.

Winter Risotto

Risotto is a great winter warmer. It's packed full of veggies so your body will light up like fire, but it's also silky, sumptuous and a real crowd pleaser. HelloFresh's Winter Risotto features a heart helping of kale that pairs perfectly with nutty Parmesan and crunchy walnuts for a robust taste. Did we mention that it also comes with fennel seeds sprinkled throughout? This unique seasoning adds a distinctive, yet delicious flavor to this classic winter staple. We know these meals are pretty hardy, which is why we love having the option to pause our subscription or cancel a week when need be.

Cheat's Italian Pork & Veggie Bolognese

A bolognese that only takes 30 minutes to make? Sign us up! This one is chock full of all the rich flavors of a classic Italian sauce. In fact, we're getting some serious Italian grandmother vibes with this recipe. Silky baby Spanish and grated carrots melt into a hearty meat sauce, offering a mouth-watering meal for anyone looking for a little zest. It's delivery quality, but much more affordable, plus you get to cook it yourself!

Smokey Mild Chorizo & Bean Chilli

Yet another clever twist on a weekday favorite! The paprika and garlic flavored cured sausage is a staple in our chopping baskets since it goes well with practically anything. Not only is Chorizo loved for its taste, but also for its ability to infuse sauces with its tantalizing flavor. This time around, HelloFresh has decided to spice up a classic bowl of bean chili with Spanish styling of a smokey mild chorizo. The end result? A mix of chorizo, red kidney beans, corn and avocado, and an irresistible flavor that everyone will love. This is just one of dozens of unique HelloFresh recipes you won't find anywhere else!

Gone are the days of trekking through the frigid cold just for a few groceries. Sign-up for HelloFresh today and get your ingredients delivered right to your doorstep. Time to start cozying up the right way, with a delicious meal and a nice cup of hot cocoa.

Update: Our friends at HelloFresh are extending a special Black Friday offer to our readers. Follow this link to get $90 off across 4 boxes including free shipping!