Amtrak Cross Country Trip: First Time Train Trip Adventure

Amtrak Cross Country Trip: First Time Train Trip Adventure


we started our cross country amtrak tripOur grandchildren live in Ontario, Canada.  We live in California.  We have not been able to visit them since just before COVID.  My wife and I thought about driving across the country because we have a motor home.  Then, we decided to make an adventure out of the trip doing something we have never done.   We decided to make a Amtrak cross country trip.

Scheduling an Amtrak Cross Country Trip

Although Amtrak has a website, it is difficult to navigate with all the options.  So, I went to the station and asked the clerk to make our reservations for us.  I was glad I did that.  There were a lot of things I didn’t know about scheduling our trip.

Pricing for Amtrak

As departure time approaches, cruise lines reduce the price of rooms.  They upgrade people if more expensive rooms are open in hopes of selling the less expensive rooms.  Amtrak is just the opposite.  The closer you book to your departure date the fewer seats may be available.  As seats sell out, the remaining seats become expensive.  Book your trip well in advance, if possible.  Also, check with a ticket agent about departure days at both end of the trip.  Some days are normally busier than others and are more expensive to begin with.

Booking Rooms for An Amtrak Cross Country Trip

There are a variety of rooms available on most Amtrak trains.  Pricing is based on travel datesour room on our Amtrak Cross Country Trip.  The roomette is big enough for two people.  There are two opposing seats, a fold down table and large window.  An upper bunk drops down and the seats fold out for sleeping.  There is no private bath.  A bed room is bigger with a couch and chair and private bath.  Of course, this is a more expensive room.  Each train has a family size room and an accessible room.

My wife and I booked our roomette a few months in advance.  I got the room instead of a coach seat.  At the time, the roomette was not very much more expensive that the seat.  My wife bought a seat, but, of course, shared the roomette with me.  Amtrak then was able to sell her coach seat again.  meals on our Amtrak cross country trip

The roomette included all meals for both of us.  The meals were amazing.  There were a least 5 menu options at each meal.   We had the choice of eating in the dining car or having meals served our roomette.  We ate in the dining car.

One thing we did not think about  was the location of our room.  With two floors of rooms, upstairs is quieter.  The center of the car is best away from stairs and bathroom.  The station attendant also booked rooms so we could see the ocean coming home but could see the mountains heading east.

The Cosmopolitan Lounges

the cosompolitan lounge on our Amtrak Cross Country tripOne more important perk with any Amtrak room are the Cosmopolitan Lounges.  At every major station there is a Cosmopolitan Lounge.  When we waited to catch the train from Chicago to Detroit, when we waited in the Cosmopolitan Lounge.  There are comfortable chairs, television and free or inexpensive food and drinks.  When we headed north from Los Angeles on the trip home, we waited in the Cosmopolitan Lounge.  Free redcap service with shuttles to help with bags and getting to the train is leaves from the Lounges.

Scheduling for an Amtrak Cross Country Trip

first station on our amtrak cross country tripTight scheduling during a long train trip is not a good idea.  We were 13 hours late getting to Chicago from just outside San Francisco.  Because this was our first cross country train adventure, we didn’t care.  But if we had tight connections along the way, it would have been upsetting.

Our train arrived late to begin our trip because track waswe hit a car in our Amtrak Cross country trip washed out somewhere along the way.  That delayed our departure by 4 hours.  Halfway to Chicago we hit a car.  Fortunately, no one was hurt but between the police, railroad inspectors and changing engines, we were delay another 5 hours.  Other little delays here and there added up to 13 hours late.

When we travel by train again, we won’t schedule anything during the trip that can’t be cancelled or changed.

What to take on a Amtrak Cross Country Trip

Because we were visiting family for ten days on top of the train trip, we took a lot more stuff than we needed.  Our thought for the future is to take one, carry-on bag each and a back pack.  For the sleeping cars, there was a place to store bags so they are accessible.  In the roomette, their was enough room two back packs, and a few other items.

good bags for an Amtrak cross country tripCarry-ons should be hard.  With hauling them off and on the train onto stationgood back pack for an Amtrak Cross country trip carts and up platform stairs, they take a lot of abuse.  Good handles are essential.  Spinner wheels make it easy to walk with the bag when walking through the station to a Cosmopolitan Lounge.  Bag packs can be carried the traditional way or strapped to the carry-on handle.

Towels, soap, shampoo and linens are provided on the train.  Personal items should be carried on.  There is no place to buy items on the train.

Things to do on an Amtrak Cross Country Trip

Eating and Sleeping

On any trip, these are two important things to think about in terms of expense and comfort.  On the train, each group of rooms had a Steward assigned.  That person scheduled and ordered all meals.  At the time requested, the Steward set the room for sleeping.  We just had to show up for meals and when ready, climb into bed.  Of course, there was also a shop in the lounge car to buy snacks and drinks.

The Lounge Carobservation car on our amtrak cross country trip

Our train had a lounge car.  Some trains have observation areas on a second level.  We could go to the lounge car, buy a snack and drink to sit and watch the scenery go by.

All the passengers had access to this car so there were times when the seating was taken.  Fortunately, we had a large window in our roomette.  We went to the lounge car to stretch our legs.

Station Stops

sales on our Amtrak Cross Country tripEvery couple of hours there was a brief station stop with time to get outside and walk a bit.  Three times in our trip, we stopped long enough time to look at things local people had made for sale and to walk around the town close to the station.  These stops were a good chance to get fresh air.

 

The Best Part

For us, the best part of the entire train trip was being together on this adventure without having to worry about driving or accommodations.  In our room, we played cards, read, talked, slept and looked out the window.  That might sound boring, but it is just what we needed.  We had a great time with our grandkids.  But, that’s another adventure.

 

 

 

 


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JT
JT
10 months ago

Amazing trip!  Thank you for sharing your thoughts on using Amtrak as a mode of transportation across the country.  My wife and I recently used Amtrak to travel to New York City.  The cost was very similar to paying for gas, tolls and parking in the city.  Plus the bonus of not having to drive, so we could sleep, watch a movie or just talk with each other, with the ability to get up and move around.  We did experience some minor delays, but nothing that would deter us from using Amtrak again.

admin
Admin
10 months ago
Reply to  JT

We intend to take the train again when it is practical for a long trip.  We may try getting off a few places and staying a few days to see what that kind of travel is like.  Thanks for your comment.

Jim

Michel Maling
Michel Maling
10 months ago

Wow these trains look amazing compared with the ones we have here in South Africa. I am planning a trip to the US next year and was thinking of doing a road trip but this option looks far less stressful. You don’t even need to worry about cooking. I love that you can also spend time looking at the gorgeous views which you miss a lot of if you are driving. 

admin
Admin
10 months ago
Reply to  Michel Maling

It would take a lot of planning, but you can book the train trip so you get off a stops where you want to spend some time and then get back on the train when you are ready to move on.  Many people do this.  They buy a seat and use it and stay in motels when they stop which is cheaper/ night that the roomette.  I hope you enjoy your trip. Thanks for your comment.

Jim

Liam Tremblay
Liam Tremblay
10 months ago

Hi there, It’s a pleasure to read your post. I like the whole idea of sharing your experience with us, the story of your trip with your wife gives me a lot of ideas. The last time that I eat trains food I got sick and I didn’t feel well for a long time. As you mentioned the best part of this trip is that allows you to spend more time with your family.

admin
Admin
10 months ago
Reply to  Liam Tremblay

The food was really good, but there was too much of it.  Thanks for taking the time to read the article and comment.

Jim

Anoth
Anoth
10 months ago

Your Amtrak cross-country trip sounds like an amazing adventure! It is great that you decided to take a train instead of driving and turned it into an exciting experience. Your insights about scheduling, pricing, and room types on Amtrak trains are very useful for anyone who is planning a similar trip. Your decision to book a roomette and buy a coach seat for your wife is smart, and it was great to know that the meals were included in the roomette. Also, your tip on choosing the location of your room on the train was helpful, as it would help other travelers make a better decision.

admin
Admin
10 months ago
Reply to  Anoth

We intend to travel this way often in the future.  No stress at all.  Thanks for your ccmment.

Jim

Joseph
Joseph
10 months ago

What an excellent article and fantastic idea for this AMTRAK CROSS COUNTRY TRIP: FIRST TIME TRAIN TRIP ADVENTURE James, I am going to have to plan a trip like this in my near future and am sure you have inspired others to take similar trips as well.

I think I would have to opt for a bedroom over the roomette because it’s hard to fathom not having a private bathroom. Five meal options takes a little of the edge off my anxiety of exactly how accommodating the meals would be though.

Is the Cosmopolitan Lounge as luxurious as it looks?

admin
Admin
10 months ago
Reply to  Joseph

The bedrooms are nice, but they were more than we wanted to spend.  The meals were great.  The dessert were even better.  Thanks for your comment.

Jim

Alice
Alice
10 months ago

For people who love to travel and hate to drive, an Amtrak cross-country trip is ideal. It might take longer to get to your destination but I think the comfort it offers during travel time is worth it.

I am glad to hear that your Amtrak cross-country trip to Canada from California went very well. Sure; you had to book months earlier but you were able to get the room instead of a coach seat. That alone spells comfort, right? ☺ But as you said, the best part of your Amtrak Cross-Country Trip, aside from not having to worry about driving, was that you were able to spend time together with your wife during this adventure.

Oh, by the way, since your trip wasn’t that bad, would you recommend it to other senior couples who might be thinking of visiting their children and grandchildren? 

admin
Admin
10 months ago
Reply to  Alice

I would recommend that train trip for anyone.  We had a great time.  When we got to Detroit, we simply rented a car to finish the trip in Ontario.  Thanks for your comment and your quesition.

Jim

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