View Full Version : Travel by Amtrak ?

December 31st, 2014, 12:48 AM
This is completely unrelated to quilting, but I don't know a wide variety of people in America who travel by train.

I am planning to take my 6 year old to visit my sisters and her cousins (one of my sisters is my bestest crafty friend and her daughter is my daughters best friend) for a few days this summer. To travel from ATL to CT is the same cost by train or plane, so I was thinking about taking the train up and flying back. Costs are comparable no matter how we go... So here is my question:

Has anyone travelled on a long train journey with Amtrak? Would we be comfortable overnight in coach seats, or should I " go all out" and get us the roomette? Mostly I am interested in the experience for her. We would board in Atlanta at night, so most of the trip is overnight, when she wakes up, I would love to do breakfast in the dining car and enjoy the views until lunch, we would change trains in New York and the last hour or so would need to be coach, but I'm okay with that, she and I have done the short trips before and she loves the train.

When I was her age my mother and I travelled from LA to NY on train, because I had ruptured eardrums and was not able to fly home. I remember that despite being terribly ill, I loved the experience. I guess I'm wondering if anyone has travelled more recently on an overnight train, do you think the sleeping room would really be worth it if I can save up for it? Or am I overly romanticising it because I loved it once myself?

Carrie J
December 31st, 2014, 01:01 AM
Lou, it's been many years since I traveled via Amtrak, used to take it to Upstate NY to see my Grandfather when he was still alive. Got the sleeper car and it was a very enjoyable experience. Of course, bear in mind it was a long time ago, I'm talking the late 70's. The dining cars were great as was the food. I loved it, and traveled quite often from Central Florida to NC a lot to during that time as well. Sorry, I'm not more informative on how it would be now. I preferred traveling that way as I hated to fly and still do!

December 31st, 2014, 01:06 AM
I took Amtrak from Chicago to Kansas City last year. Riding different routes coming and going. Although they were only dawn to dusk rides, it was quite nice. I cannot say whether or not you need a roomette, but I was quite comfortable in coach. I am excited to do the trip again some day!

December 31st, 2014, 01:46 AM
When I was a kid, we rode the train from Tacoma to Minnesota every summer and then back at the end of summer. The train did not go thru South Dakota, so they had to drive to Minnesota to pick us up. All I can say is it was terrible and I dreaded it every single year. I would be violently ill within thirty minutes of leaving the station until we got there. We always rode in coach as there was my mom and five of us kids. Of course, I always rode in the bathroom! Back then there was a little love seat thing in there I would lay there the entire trip, getting up only to throw up again, which was often. My mom would check on me throughout the day and make me eat crackers, but nothing would stay down. Dramamine did no good because I am allergic to that, so I would just be sick the entire time.

When I was a teenager, I had to ride the Trailways home from California. That experience was not any better as I got sick then too. At least it was only a one day ride compared to three! The most memorable part of that trip was falling asleep in the bathroom on the bus (they only had one) for probably two hours and when they were finally able to wake me up, there were three very cranky old ladies about to burst at the seams!

MM travelled back and forth to Portland a lot on the train and he said they are greatly improved over the trains of my childhood. He tried to talk me into riding with him, but I won't. Just thinking about it makes me get that funny spit in my mouth that shows up right before you throw up!

That said, I would fly!!

I should say, Tyler, our oldest grandson, travelled back and forth from Portland to Tacoma on the train a lot as well! He would ride by himself and loved it! Heather and both the boys would ride it too, and they have a car set up as a playroom for the kids.

Sheep Farmer
December 31st, 2014, 01:48 AM
I love riding trains!
I'm usually in a hurry when I travel so I don't do much by train.
Also, I do not like really long trips via train due to the cost of the little rooms.
But for just one day, you will be fine in the coach seats.
You'll enjoy dining in the dining car and do spend time in the observation car.
Trains go where cars do not, so you'll see countryside views that you would not normally see in a car.
Enjoy your trip!

December 31st, 2014, 02:02 AM
I love the train. Next to cruising, best way to travel. I am not comfotable sleeping sitting up, so we most often got a roomette. What I did was make the train trip a part of our vacation. We met many people over the years we traveled while my youngest was growing up. The other two were already out on their own. We had a blast. Our trip was on the auto train most times. But, it is awesome!

December 31st, 2014, 02:10 AM
About 13 years ago I traveled from Springfield IL to Spokane WA and back 4 times. I went coach the first time and it was okay. The nest time, Amtrak called and offered to upgrade me for an additional $100 and that included all meals. After that I always booked coach and then called a few days before the trip and asked to upgrade and was always able to do it for around that $100. For the meals alone it was worth it. I LOVED traveling by train! I met so many interesting people and enjoyed the scenery. Having breakfast while traveling through Glacier National Park was the highlight. Another plus is that you can take more luggage so you can take your sewing machine with no problem. Train travel is by far my favorite mode of transportation!

Jean Sewing Machine
December 31st, 2014, 02:14 AM
I love train travel, and would take a long train trip in a heartbeat if I could. In 1999, my brother and I went from St. Louis to Seattle and back on a very huge 5000 mile trip. When we got to Seattle, we took a bus to Vancouver, BC and rode the Rocky Mountaineer across BC, and then flew back to Seattle. It took several weeks, as we stopped along the way, but it was great fun. We had a sleeping room because we were many nights on the train. I would love to take my grandkids on a train ride. The train is great because the kids can get up and move around. Plus you can see things along the way. If costs are similar and you want an adventure, I say, GO FOR IT!

December 31st, 2014, 02:19 AM
The ride across Canada is supposed to be a fantastic one.....I just can't do it. Remember, back when I rode it.....when you flushed the toilet, you saw the tracks! I'm sure it's not like that anymore!

Jean Sewing Machine
December 31st, 2014, 02:28 AM
The ride across Canada is supposed to be a fantastic one.....I just can't do it. Remember, back when I rode it.....when you flushed the toilet, you saw the tracks! I'm sure it's not like that anymore!
Not sure about the potty, but when you showered, the drain went straight out to the ground! I can imagine that being rather cold if you traveled in winter!

Yes, the ride across BC was fabulous! We had the premium service in observation cars, we were fed like babies, every 2 hours! Chefs were busy right under us baking fabulous smelling goodies!

December 31st, 2014, 02:36 AM
Not sure about the potty, but when you showered, the drain went straight out to the ground! I can imagine that being rather cold if you traveled in winter!

Yes, the ride across BC was fabulous! We had the premium service in observation cars, we were fed like babies, every 2 hours! Chefs were busy right under us baking fabulous smelling goodies!

Oh my gosh. The Canadian Rail trip is on my bucket list. The one I want to take is over 2000 dollars. Maybe my kids will send me on one of my birthdays. Ok, wishful thinking. Maybe when I turn 70. Only 9.5 more years. Or, I coyld win the lottery.

December 31st, 2014, 02:45 AM
I don't think I've ever traveled by train. But I was going to suggest looking up your trip route on tripadvisor.com and see if they have any information or reviews for train travel in that area. Good luck. :)

Judy, USMC
December 31st, 2014, 03:42 AM
By coach you would sit side=by=side. The roomette has the seats facing one another so someone would have to sit riding backwards which is nauseating for some people. If you can sleep sitting upright coach is fine ... but if you have a problem with swelling ankles the roomette allows you to completely stretch out on either the top or bottom bunk. On the social side of things the roomette is a bit isolating because of the walls ... but it is quiet .and you can keep your door open if you get claustrophobic. Sometimes coach can be a bit loud. With the roomette you could travel to the observation car if you wanted to socialize and go back to the room for some peace and quiet if you get sleepy.

But the roomettes are small; just enough room for the beds when they are open and maybe another 10 inches until you reach the door.

When I was a kid we got a bedroom from Chicago to Altoona, PA since dad worked for the railroad and had a pass! And I'll still take the last dining call. I hate to be rushed eating so the crew can clean up for the next diners.

Good luck on this adventure and have a load of fun.

December 31st, 2014, 04:28 AM
I always vote train. Especially with kids.
The roomette is super comfy, and makes napping worry free (at least for me). And if I remember correctly the rooms come with meals included. Along with outlets for keeping phones and whatnot charged. We've gotten in the habit of packing along evening snacks (since to get to my mother's from Austin involves a 5hr layover on the side track in San Antonio). Hot chocolate in a thermos, already popped popcorn or other crunchy treat food, and movies. Then a breakfast and we're there in time for a late lunch.
It isn't as fast as by plane, or driving... But it sure does make finding a potty for tiny butts a heck of a lot easier.

Coach seats on a not crowded run are just about as nice as the room, though I have a lot of trouble sleeping... the kiddlets do just fine. And if your neighbors don't mind, movie night goes ahead as planned. It's amusing how many people will sing along, and anybody else with kids is super happy generally. Headphone splitters are courteous to have just in case.

My dad carted us around by train every chance he got. They're some of my best memories of him.

December 31st, 2014, 08:47 AM
I travel by train to my folk's in Virginia from Chicago a couple of times a year. We've also taken the train from IL to Albuquerque to visit our son. Both are overnight rides. I don't have any problems sleeping sitting up mostly, but they don't dim the lights very much. I prefer the lower level (where available) if I'm going coach. There are fewer people, and no through traffic in the aisles.

The last trip to Virginia was tough because the train was late leaving and later arriving because of freight traffic in the corridor. Make sure to have plenty of videos and games to keep the young ones occupied, and if going coach, get a sleeping mask and bring a quilt or blankee with you, sometimes they're chilly.

December 31st, 2014, 08:56 AM
My daughter has traveled Amtrak quite a bit. She gets the roomette and I believe it incudes a meal or meals. She really enjoys traveling that way.

December 31st, 2014, 10:55 AM
I took train from DC to Tampa with an infant( many years ago!). Got a room. It was a great trip. Have done many trips from DC to Philly, NY and Princeton and back. Less hassle than plane trips and the train stations are closer to my destination than airports are.

December 31st, 2014, 01:10 PM
A plane ride would be quick, though stressful due to airport hassle. However, once that was over, you would have more time to enjoy the destination!

I took my 8 year old on the amtrack from KC to Chicago last year. We had a roomette. It is a long ride, and the roomette I reserved was worth it weight in gold. I would not attempt another long trip on the train without it. I also took a shorter trip before that as a test from KC to St. Louis in coach with my then 6 year old and 8 year old.

One issue with coach is privacy and napping. When I needed to use the restroom, I would have to leave the children un supervised. There were lots of people getting on and off the train at stops on coach, so this made me nervous.

In the roomette, meals were included, we had a table where we could play games and do activities, a plug in for devices, and a bed that she could nap in! I plan to do the roomette trip again with my son once he is older (8).
Enjoy your trip!

Long overnight trip on train vs. plane with a 6 year old. I would honestly vote plane, bring gum or something to suck on for the ears, and an iPad with headphones and a movie!
(Mom of a 6 and 9 year old)

December 31st, 2014, 02:10 PM
I should say that we are expert travelers, and my motive would be to make it part of the vacation!

She has travelled by train many times for 3 -4 hour trips between NJ and CT. She loves it, and so motion sickness is not an issue.

We will travel from Kazakhstan to Atlanta about 2 weeks prior to this trip, From door to door that trip takes us about 32 hours, and thinking about it, she does not settle easily into sleep when sitting up on the flight. Part of my motive to go by train is to avoid flying and to make it a fun little adventure for us. We would only go on the train in one direction, and I think the train overnight makes more sense than to take the entirety of the trip during the day. Almost all flights from ATL to Hartford require a change, often in Chicago, which is just a ridiculous waste of time. The last thing we need is extra flights over the summer, so I try to fly direct as much as we can!

Our Itinerary for the summer already includes:
Kazakhstan to Atlanta (stay for 5 weeks)
Atlanta to Milwaukee (to visit DHs mother and cousin) (4 day stay)
Milwaukee to NJ (6 day stay)
NJ back to Kazakhstan (about 28 hours, because it is faster when leaving from NJ so we do that to shave a few hours off the trip. When you have a 4 and 6 year old making these trips, every hour counts!)

I'll be squishing this trip into our time in Atlanta, so I think I need to call Amtrak for more information. I need to know about the hours of dining available, and when I look into booking online they have us changing trains in Penn Station and then again in New Haven, when I know that if we took a longer layover in Penn Station that we could be on a direct train to our final destination. I prefer that because I would love to grab some New York Bagels and could easily spend a few hours in midtown.

I'm going to wait to have more details ironed out for our long haul travel, but I'm inclined to go for it, and get the room for the experience of it. Also, one less airport experience is a good thing, though Lil' Miss is no trouble to fly with at all. She's my easy and adventurous traveller, which is probably why I want to do this with her, whereas her little brother is a bit of a challenge still, and far more so than she was at the same age.

Thanks for all the feedback!! I'll let you all know what we decide!

December 31st, 2014, 09:52 PM
Sounds like fun and I say go for it with the roomette. I'd love to go on another train trip someday.

December 31st, 2014, 10:19 PM
I would love to take that trip! Can't wait to hear about your adventures and see pictures!

December 31st, 2014, 10:19 PM
I usually take the train to Rhode Island. If you are a people watcher and not too fussy, you will enjoy it. If I had a six year old, I'd definitely get a compartment. Even though they are tiny, she at least can move around and talk. You will both be more comfortable. I love trains, they are not as luxurious (although you can't tell by the prices!) as they were when I was a child (72) but they still have a charm about them. Enjoy your wonderful trip!

January 1st, 2015, 10:57 PM
Rockin Lou, I could volunteer to be you nanny for the trip. My only problem would be getting to the start of the trip. It sounds better than our trip from DC to our cabin in Sioux Narrows with a 100 lb. dog and an 90 lb. dog. But perhaps my hubby is the worst traveler of the trip. He is so hot to get to the cabin that he can hardly stand it! All this because of a stupid fish...and it's one that you can't even eat! <<<shaking head>>>. I come with good references, from 4 grandkids from 2-7 yrs, past den mom of 9, and past head chaperone to 170 HSers and a band director that was probably more work than the kids, to keeping track of a VP, 4 Managers, and 175 analysts. Please????????????? Have a wonderful trip and take a list of quilt shops to see. I think there is a current book of shops across the states that is out.

January 4th, 2015, 08:14 PM
I took my three girls (13, 10, 7 at the time) from Mt. Pleasant, Iowa to Flagstaff, Arizona on Amtrak. I didn't get the roomette as I couldn't afford it, so we slept in our seats. They reclined out quite well and we had enough room to sleep comfortably. Take a small blanket as the cars can get chilly at night when you are sleeping. We also took a few snacks and drinks as they were expensive (I thought) on the train but we did eat meals on the train. My youngest daughter spent a lot of time in the dining car with some other children playing and the other two were in another car most of the time watching movies. The train staff was very friendly and accommodating. It was such a scenic route and they girls got to see a lot of wild animals on the way. Even a black bear. We stopped in Alburquerque for about an hour and passengers were allowed to get off and wander for a bit.

I think it was a wonderful experience and would do it again.

February 27th, 2015, 03:09 PM
UPDATE: I've been browsing the Amtrak site ever since I first posted, and prices just kept going up!! Then tonight by some crazy stroke of luck, I was able to book our overnight train WITH the sleeper car for exactly the same cost as one way flights!! So, we are taking the train for sure :-). Yay!!!

February 27th, 2015, 09:40 PM
Have fun! :icon_wave:

February 27th, 2015, 11:23 PM
trains are great but make sure the whole trip is by train and no connectors by bus!

Judy, USMC
February 28th, 2015, 03:03 AM
UPDATE: I've been browsing the Amtrak site ever since I first posted, and prices just kept going up!! Then tonight by some crazy stroke of luck, I was able to book our overnight train WITH the sleeper car for exactly the same cost as one way flights!! So, we are taking the train for sure :-). Yay!!!

Great news! I'm sure you will have a lot of fun.

February 28th, 2015, 03:56 AM
Took the auto train from Florida to DC a few years ago with my son. We had a sleeper room. Very comfortable, the meals were great. Is brought our own snacks. He loved it and would do it again, but now he is 6 feet 5 inches and the room is too small.
Hope you all have a wonderful time. We have fond memories of our trip.

February 28th, 2015, 09:50 AM
I told her this morning and she literally did a happy dance in the living room!! We're excited to make a vacation day out of traveling, we log a LOT of air hours over the summer, so it will be nice to get to our destination by other means. She's so cute though because she is most excited to be sleeping on the top bunk of bunk beds. I forgot how cool that would be to a 6 year old :)